Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My ancestor was just a farmer... Early Censuses

Tithe Apportionments - Devon, UK

I have heard many people say - "My ancestor was not very interesting, he was just a farmer. So there was nothing written about him." Well, without the farmers the soldiers, merchants and the Sieurs would not eat. So big Yaaaay for the farmers!

Actually, if your ancestor was a farmer, you may be in luck! Some of the early Censuses had an Agricultural schedule B, the most complete being the Canada Census of 1851 (1852). (Sorry, not every farmer's schedule B is available). This is what information I found for one of my husband's ancestors:

According to the Census of 1851 the family lived in a 1 story log house, and owned a "moulin a battre (vent)" valued at 15 livres.
They had 160 arpents of land, 100 of which were cultivated. 62 arpents was crops, 37 arpents was pasture, 1 arpent was gardens and orchards, and 60 arpents was woods. In 1851 they produced 40 bushels of wheat, 10 bushels of rye, 2 bushels of peas, 430 bushels of oats and 40 bushels of potatoes, as well as 3300 bales of hay. They had 1 bull, 11 dairy cows, 2 calves, 4 goats, 17 sheep, and 6 pigs. From these they got 600 pounds of butter, 300 pounds of beef and 600 pounds of lard. They produced 12 pounds of wool and lanolin, 15 yards of cloth, 40 yards of canvas and 26 yards of flannel.
Now I can picture these ancestors with their 10 kids in their log house on their farm, and how much work it must have been, but all the kids helping out.
If you do not subscribe to Ancestry, your local library probably does, or your local Family Search Center. In your search filters, in the Keyword space write Agricultural. This schedule B to the 1851 Canada Census is 4 pages, so don't miss any.

You can also get the 1851 agricultural census free at LAC. You go to the 1851 Census page and scroll down to Agricultural Census. Then choose East or West and open the pdf. From there you scroll down to the County, then find the township. In this sample you sill see in the Page column, 1d, 2a (3) then 2b, 2c (4) 2d, 3a (5)... etc.. That means that the starting page with the names is on 2a (right hand of page 3 ), then go to next page 4.. the pages with crops and product is a two page spread, 2b and 2c, then go to next page 5 and the last page of the form, 2d has animals. The next right hand page is the next batch of people, starting with 3a.


If you had ancestors in 1762 Quebec, their Census gives similar information, though not quite as detailed. Same for the 1765 Census of Montreal and Trois-Rivières
. Both are searchable on Our Roots.

If you are in Great Britain and Ireland you can look for the Tithe Apportionment or Valuation Rolls for your area of interest

Was this article helpful to find information on the farmers in your family tree?

Note:  At LAC you can find images of census for 1666 and 1667, but they are not searchable.  If you find them first on Ancestry or, then you can guess how far to go to find the image you are looking for.  It is tedious browsing, but worth it when you get the image of the original census.

Relevant links

See also article on Cadastres

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