Census question worries genealogists
Apr 13 2006
One small question on the May census could have a major impact for people researching their family history.
Statistics Canada is asking people to answer whether they want their census information released after a 92-year period. If people choose no, that information will be kept confidential forever.
And that has Sid Norman, president of the Nanaimo Family History Society, worried.
“People doing research in the future will never be able to look at census records which are really a mainstay in genealogy research,” Norman said.
He was able to discover valuable information about his own family tree with census documents.
“I knew nothing about my grandparents,” Norman said.
Through research he found not only their names, but also the names of his great-grandparents and their siblings.
“This is one of the things you use to find out all that information,” Norman said.
He said it probably won’t affect people today, but future generations seeking family information would use it.
“They personally may not be concerned about it but maybe their family in 20, 30 or 40 years may want to look for something and if it’s not there, they’re lost,” Norman said.
Census contains invaluable information to genealogists, such as family members’ names, ages, where they lived and occupations.
“If you’ve only got one name in the family then you’ve got a whole opportunity to pick up everybody else that exists in the family,” Norman said.
The question is a compromise from the government, which wanted to keep census documents out of the public domain.
He said it took five years and thousands of letters and petitions to Members of Parliament to get the question on the census, and he hopes that everyone responds positively.