This online resource was developed as part of the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure (CCRI), the primary mission of which is to produce a sample of microdata from each Canadian census conducted between 1911 and 1951. These data were initially made available to researchers through Statistics Canada's network of Research Data Centres This new site, open to the general public and to researchers from around the world, provides access to most of the non-confidential data collected by the CCRI: the microdata from the Canadian census of 1911 and the geographic files related to census divisions and subdivisions from 1911 to 1951. This site complements the online resources already hosted by the University of Alberta, as well as the database of contextual data hosted by the Centre interuniversitaire d'études québécoises (CIEQ).

Mission of the CCRI

The CCRI is a research infrastructure based primarily on manuscript records from the Canadian census enumerations conducted between 1911 to 1951. The infrastructure facilitates research on social, economic, cultural, and political change. When used in conjunction other databases covering the periods from 1871 to 1901, and from 1961 to 2001, the project provides researchers with an unprecedented ability to explore the transformation of Canadian society from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.

The data from the manuscript census returns prepared between 1911 to 1951 constitute the core of a much larger research infrastructure. To begin with, other primary sources, dating from the census periods, were used. These included documents produced by Statistics Canada (formerly the Dominion Bureau of Statistics), newspapers, and records of political debates carried on at both the federal and provincial levels. Secondly, a variety of secondary sources were used to facilitate research on the primary sources. The secondary sources ranged from introductory descriptions of the census enumeration process to highly technical discussions of data entry and coding issues, as well as bibliographies of census-research publications.

Together, these sources have allowed the CCRI to integrate data related to how Canada's decennial census was conducted and interpreted between 1911 and 1951. These "metadata" provide researchers with the information necessary to conduct informed and critical analyses of how the census was prepared, taken, and received within its historical context. Whereas the microdata derived from manuscript census returns enable research into the hidden history of the individual lives of Canadians, the contextual data make it possible to delve into the making and contemporary interpretation of that data. The ContextData database has been maintained by the CIEQ since 2009.

Integral to the entire project has been the creation of a geographic framework for historical census data allow users to locate, select, aggregate, and analyze microdata from the CCRI sample, as well as some aggregate statistics from published census documents. Online interface tools, which will make such geographic queries and analyses available to the general public, are currently being developed. These tools will be added to this website during the site's next major upgrade (planned for fall 2013). Geographic files (in Shapefile format) are already available on the site.