Inverness County 1891 Nova Scotia Census Project Forword

Antigonish County 1891 Nova Scotia Census Project Forword

                           GEORGE N. McINNIS, Genealogist
                                 [email protected]


         During a number of years of genealogical research in Eastern Nova
         Scotia, I have often wished for some kind of Index, to facilitate
         faster access to the Census Records.  Finally, I decided to do it!

         The task began, with the 1881 Inverness and Antigonish County
         census, with the eventual objective of also doing Guysborough,
         Richmond, Cape Breton, and Victoria Counties, and to include all
         the Census 1871 and subsequent, as they become available.
         During the work, the 1891 census was released.  It
         has the advantage of showing "relationships", and has
         been given priority.

         It would have been desireable to re-check accuracy, but the choice
         was between the alternatives of greater perfection, versus the
         risk of leaving the task uncompleted, as old age is gaining on me.
         Having made the necessary practical choice, indulgence is
         solicited for such errors as have crept in.


         What has been done, is this:
             1.  The entire County Census has been transcribed from
             microfilm at the local Later-Day-Saint (Mormon) Library.
             Their assistance and cooperation are gratefully acknowledged

                 a. The microfilm was of fair quality, and the film readers
                 of the excellent "zoom-lens" type.  Even so, there may be
                 errors from reading a scratch as data, or smudges, or
                 blots, etc.  The photography of the 1891 Census is
                 inferior to previous efforts.

                 b. One becomes keenly aware of the luxury of handwriting,
                 as compared with typing!  The Census Enumerator could (and
                 occasionally did) scribble when he got a name he did not
                 know;  but it must be typed using the 26 letters of the
                 alphabet.  The written letters were interpreted as they
                 appeared -  right or wrong.  Sometimes it seemed that the
                 enumerator made a simple, recognizable error, and it was
                 tempting to "make it right".  So far as possible, that
                 temptation was resisted, but some obvious gross errors
                 were corrected.

                 c. The clarity of the handwriting of the Census
                 Enumerators varied widely.  In some Districts, the
                 handwriting is almost undecipherable.

                 d. Being of Scotch descent, most of the Scotch names were
                 familiar, which is most helpful when trying to decipher a
                 scribble.  However, some guesses in the French areas will
                 be inadequate, and possibly hilarious!

             2. The second phase was to transfer hand-written copies to a
                 computer "Data Base", which is then sorted into two
                 sequences:  Family (Census, or "as enumerated" sequence),
                 and Last Name/First Name. (Alpha sequence).  Finally, the
                 entire County is combined, and alphabetized.

                 Here is the result.  Hopefully, it will be helpful in
                 leading you to the records that interest you.  It would be
                 wise to look at the actual records, to assure your own
                 accuracy, after you have located your people here.


         One must make a number of decisions and judgments, in planning how
         to transcribe a Census.  Here are the major decisions:

             1.  Index vs. full-listing.  A name-only Index, would have
             been a much smaller work.  But, in the Counties of interest
             there were so many persons of the same name, that a name-only
             Index was not much of a gain over the raw census.  Thus, the
             decision to make a full listing.  [1871, 81, 91].

             2. The Census lists "Habitations" under the categories:
             Vessels", "Shanties", "Houses Under Construction", "Houses
             Uninhabited" and "Houses Inhabited"   For these reports, they
             are combined into a single category "Dwelling".  With this
             exception, ALL of the enumeration data is included, although
             in condensed, coded format.  Enumerators sometimes added newsy
             little notes, and these usually are included, as space allows.
             [1871, 81, 91]

             3. The Census displays a number of check-marks and similar
             markings, apparently made during the totalling process;  these
             may have been mis-interpreted as data.  This is especially
             true on the right-hand side of the enumeration sheet, where
             "Infirmities"  are listed, co-mingled with "counting checks'.
             Possibly a "counting check" has been mis-interpreted as an
             Enumeration Entry, and thus your grand-uncle is listed
             incorrectly as of "unsound mind".  If so, apologies are
             extended! [1871, 81, 91]

             4.  It is apparent that the Census was gone over, after the
             enumeration was completed, and some entries were altered. This
             is especially noticeable under "Occupation", where a two
             letter code is often inserted, both where the enumerator
             listed an occupation, and in many instances where no
             occupation is listed.  The code is listed in the rightmost end
             of the "Occupation" field; an "INDEX of Small Occupation
             Codes" is attached.  It may be possible to infer a missing
             "Occupation" via the code. [1891 only]

             5.  There is a code, entered by the Enumerator somewhat
             randomly, in the area designated for "Dwellings".  The entries
             are only made opposite Heads of Households, and are in the
             form "W 1/4" or "W 2/5".  It is assumed that this is intended
             to convey that "W 1/4" is a wood-construction, one story, four
             room house;  and that "W 2/5" is a wood-construction, two
             story, five room house.  "S", for Shanty, was enumerated in
             the column titled "Shanty", and when it occurs, there is no
             "W-code".  A "W-code" of "S 2/5" would be a 2-story stone
             house with 5 rooms.  [1891 only]

             6.  Entries under "Relationship to Head of Family" vary widely
             between enumerators.  Some only gave relationship if the
             person was a member of the Head's immediate family; others
             entered relationship of grand-children, cousins, aunts, etc.
             The children of a married son living with his parents, might
             be listed as grand-children (the relationship to the Head), or
             as children of the son.  In many cases, especially when the
             relationship was listed as "Dom" (Domestic), the entry has
             been scribbled over with "mb", the meaning of which remains
             obscure, but perhaps means "member" of the family. [1891 only]


             1.  Spelling.  For a variety of reasons, there are alternate
                 spellings of the same basic name.  Accordingly, the user
                 of this listing should consider the possible alternatives,
                 when using the alphabetized list.

                 a.  There were differences between the way different
                 enumerators spelled a name.
                      Catherine  Catharine  Catherin  Katherin
                      Flora  Florah  Floria
                      McAskill   McKaskill
                      McFayden   McPhayden

                 b.  The use of diminutives or nicknames, especially among
                 younger persons.
                      Alexander  Alex  Alex'r  Sandy
                      Donald  Dan  Danny  Dannie
                      Isabell  Bell  Belle

                 c. Names which might have been spelled incorrectly, or at
                 least differently than current usage:

                      McEachen  McEachern  McEachran  McEachren McKichan
                      Boyd  Boyde

                 d.  Some names have "anglecized" versions, and may have
                 been enumerated in either the "old" version or the
                 "anglecized" version:

                      Seonaid  =  Janet or Jessie
                      Marcella =  Marjorie, etc.
                      LeBlanc  =  White

                 e.  It appears possible that the enumerator may have
                 occasionally inadvertently omitted the "Mc", as when:

                      Kenzie is enumerated.  Was McKenzie meant?
                      Phail  is enumerated.  Was McPhail  meant?

                 When suspected, and where possible, this lister
                 checked against the 1881 Census, and if
                 appropriate, added the "Mc", together with a
                 clarifying note.  This was done to list the name
                 in the alpha-lists, where a researcher might
                 expect to find the name.  However, if external
                 confirmation could NOT be found, the entry was
                 NOT corrected by adding "Mc".

                 f.  To facilitate rapid data entry, a computer technique
                 was used to enter with a single keystroke, a longer entry,
                 such as "occupation". Thus, occupations may be entered
                 uniformly, not exactly as enumerated, as "farmer" when the
                 enumerator acutally entered "farming", etc.  This
                 technique WAS NOT used on person's names.

             2.  Problems with enumerator's handwriting.

                 a.  Some of the handwriting was quite hard to read.

                 b.  Some handwriting is so "colorful", with flourishes and
                 embellishments, that it is hard to read all the letters,
                 or perhaps more precisely, it is difficult to eliminate
                 flourishes that look like letters.  I.e. it is often
                 difficult to tell if one is reading McDougall, or
                 McDougal, or McDougald.  Often, a name ends in an "e",
                 which might have been intended, or may have been a simple

             3.  Enumeration problems.

                 a.  Some persons who appear to have been husband and wife,
                 have had the "M" (for "Married") omitted by the

                 b.  It appears that some "occupations" were omitted by
                 enumerators.  Other enumerators found "occupations" for
                 most every adult.

                 c.  The material reported was not always consistent from
                 Enumerator to Enumerator.  Some gave the bare minimum, or
                 less; others wanted to enter more than the form

             4.  "Mc" and "Mac".  There were few instances of "Mac" in the
             1891 Census.  Where it was used, it was accurately reflected
             in this listing, even though it makes a problem in

            5.  "Ditto" marks.  Some enumerators used them as we now
             understand them.  But, others used them simply to fill an
             otherwise blank field, in which case it is not possible to
             determine when "ditto" means to carry down from the previous
             record, and when "ditto" is simply an indicator of a blank

         ERRORS: Of course there are errors!  And, these should be
         corrected, on the basis of this ground-rule:  If the census has
         been mis-read, that is a "correctable error", an error by this
         lister.  But, if the Enumerator got the information wrong, that
         "error" is not correctable here.  The author would appreciate
         learning of ANY errors, hopes you understand, and approve.

         A PLEA:  There is a real need to do this task for ALL of CANADA.
         If you have the time and equipment, please undertake a county of
         interest.  IF WE ALL USE THE SAME FORMAT, someday we will have an
         "all Canada" census data base, of tremendous value to future
         genealogists.  Please help if you can!

         What I have used is an IBM-type personal computer, and a
         "shareware" ("try it, and if you like it, pay a small fee")
         program called "PC-FILE".  Any database program would do the
         job. e-mail me if you might be interested in helping on this


Inverness County 1891 Nova Scotia Census Main page
Soccgs Home Page
Transcribed by George N. McInnis
[email protected]