Uncovering Canada's Censuses 1665 to today
Open access Census portal - Portail de libre accès du recensement

Open Census Portal


To build a bilingal open Census discovery portal

  • Evolution of Canada's Census
  • Open access to Census data and materials
  • De-mystify the story of Canada's peoples and communities history
  • Fully bilingual "deep-dive" searching at the table or item-level
  • From the European "settlement" period: 1665 - present
  • The Inventory:

    In one comprehensive, bilingual inventory, bring together:

  • The component materials of the Censuses of Canada from 1665 to current and their access URIs - in English and French
  • Linked and original bilingual metadata for those materials,
  • New Census taxonomies (enhanced authority lists) to cover and harmonize changing Census concepts, geographies and diverse materials,
  • Information on the quality of the (mostly-digital) materials.
  • This Open Historical Census collections project was initiated by the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) Data Community in 2018.

    Historical Census Discovery Portal

    Project work:

    The project working group is building the foundation for a discoverable collection of bilingual, digital Canadian Census materials and to identify potential means of short and long-term access to the materials through a single portal.

    That foundation is based on building a comprehensive bilingual inventory of harmonized metadata, access links to materials, and assessment of the quality of the linked materials. The project will be completed with an outline vision document for a long-term bilingual Open Historical Census Portal.

    The following describes the main stages of project
  • Scope the project from a high-level to the conceptual design level,
  • Design the database model and metadata structure for the bilingual inventory,
  • Gather and inventory Census materials, at the item-level, e.g., table-level, for Censuses of Canada, 1665 to present,
  • The core of the inventory process is the creation (authorship) of searchable discovery metadata and quality assessment information at the item level,
  • Where possible, existing metadata will be re-used, through the use of the metadata crosswalk model.
  • Produce vision framework document for an envisioned project
  • for long-term access to historic Census of Canada machine-actionable data and materials in English and French,
  • through one comprehensive, searchable, downloadable bilingual historical portal.

    This project, begun in 2017, has been sponnsored by the Ontario Council of University Libraries, under the auspices of its Data Community and carried out by the Historical Census of Canada Working Group. The purpose of the project is to build the foundation for the envisioned project for a long-term bilingual collection available through an Open Historical Census portal.

  • High-level Inventory scope

    The project working group has developed the following scope statement: this project aims to inventory, to the best of our ability, all born-print and born-digital statistical tables, detailed data, and mapping products, as well as all relevant documentation, for all census years in Canada (pre-Confederation to the present day). The inventory will be completely bilingual. The inventory will be at the individual item level, (e.g., a statistical table: "Birthplace by Census Districts", 1901 Census, 98-1901(F) v.1, table 14), with the intention of eventually creating a searchable census platform that will allow for greatly enhanced discovery of specific variables available across census years. Some limitations on the scope of the project:

    Technical requirements and design

    The inventory design must:

  • bridge the numerous formats, concepts, types of information and geographies addressed by the Census of Canada from its earliest days
  • bring toegether historical Census materials in a consistent way with meaningful links between sources of information
  • Figure 1: Inventory Design, by the Historical Census of Canada Working Group, OCUL, 2019

    About the Inventory: Using bilingual Metadata to Connect to Census Information

    The Historical Census of Canada Working Group of OCUL has developed a series of standards (bilingual Census taxonomies, metadata cross-walk) as the foundation for building the bilingual Census inventory, comprising two databases: mirror English and French databases. We have taken this approach of inventorying item level information to ensure that the Open Historical Census Portal supports deep-dive data information discovery and access.

    At the end of this page are details on our standards and a note on the production platform we are using for data entry into the two inventory databases (mirror English and French databases).

    How does the database work?

    Data entry (metadata creation) is done in the Census materials table in the following ERD diagram. The tables around it are the authorities (taxonomies) used for the metadata fields in red. Again, the level of the materials being inventoried is at the item-level.

    Figure 2: Historical Census inventory database: Entity relationship diagram, by the Historical Census of Canada Working Group, OCUL, 2019

    For more details: