What Census Records Do or Don’t Tell Us

The 1851 Canada West Census for Wellington County, Eramosa Township captured the family of my 2X great grandfather, Andrew Sims:
Andrew Sims, farmer, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 50
Elizabeth Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 40
Elizabeth Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 20
Mary Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 18
William Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 13
Sophia Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 11
John Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 8
Andrew Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 5
James Sims, born Ireland, Methodist Episcopalian, age 5

It pays to read the headings carefully as the age given is as of the person’s next birthday. The enumerator actually used ditto marks for the “born Ireland” and “Methodist Episcopalian” for the children either not being aware or just getting carried away in the context of where the children were actually born. But wait, nowhere on this census does it specify that these are sons and daughters of the couple. As well, the census information for Canada West was not collected in 1851, rather collection of the information began as of January 12, 1852. Perhaps we should check out the 1861 Canada Census.

The 1861 Canada Census for Wellington County, Enumeration District 2, Eramosa Township captured Andrew’s family more accurately as further research was to prove:
Andrew Sims, farmer, born Ireland, Congregational, age 61
Elizabeth Sims, born Ireland, Congregational, age 48
William W. Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 22
James Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 20
Ellen Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 19
Andrew Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 16
Mariah Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 14
Mathew Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 11
Janet Sims, born U. Canada, Congregational, age 9

This census had two columns which could be used to indicate whether each person listed was a male or female member of the family. All of the children listed were noted as members of this family. My research has proven that this census is more accurate because the children were listed as born in Upper Canada. Note that Upper Canada became Canada West in 1841. Again the age is as of the next birthday. The 1839 Assessment Rolls for the Township of Eramosa, District of Gore [note how municipal boundaries and names change around a family living in the same township] list an Andrew Sims which would seem to support these birth locations. But what of the two oldest girls?

Mary Jane (Sims) Scott, now married to William Scott, was captured in the 1861 Canada West Census, Wellington County, District 1, Eramosa Township. Her place of birth is accurate, Lower Canada [the present day province of Quebec]. A Presbyterian baptismal record from La Chute, Argenteuil, Lower Canada supports this place of birth for her.

Elizabeth (Sims) Scott, now married to Walter Scott, was captured in the 1861 Canada West Census, Wellington County, District 1, Eramosa Township. The place of birth is accurate as well, Lower Canada [the present day province of Quebec]. A Presbyterian baptismal record from La Chute, Argenteuil, Lower Canada supports this birth location for Elizabeth as well.

Census records can be inaccurate records because we don’t know whether the informant actually knew the correct information. We are not told who the informant was so cannot evaluate the information based upon his or her credibility. Occasionally the enumerator is a relative but that is not to say that the information is any more accurate in that case! Census records can be used as a guide but the information in them must be proved correct or incorrect using other more accurate sources.

Alan Campbell
Editor
Lambton Lifeline
Lambton County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society
lambtonnewsletters@ogs.on.ca
© 2018

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