Nova Scotia Archives

Census Returns, Assessment and Poll Tax Records 1767-1838

Census - 201217001

The database presented here brings together an assortment of early census, property assessment, and poll tax records, providing a total of 69,807 personal names. You can search the master database (Search box above) or if you want to narrow your search, each individual database (right-side menu). The databases link to the digitized records themselves. You should open and explore these pages to find details such as (depending on the type of record) number and age grouping for people in the household, value of the property, and sometimes occupation and family religion.

Two criteria have determined the selection of records for inclusion in this resource — the document must have survived in its original form, and the original must be in the custody of the Nova Scotia Archives. All indexing has been done from the originals and there has been no reliance on transcriptions prepared elsewhere. The resource presented here includes all census returns for Nova Scotia, up to and including 1838. The next census taken provincially was in 1851, followed by enumerations every ten years thereafter; these returns, up to and including 1921, have all been digitized and are available via the Library and Archives Canada website.

None of the census, assessment or poll tax records presented here is complete for the province — even if they claimed to be so at the time. None of the individual returns is complete internally either; people and households were overlooked, and sections of communities were undoubtedly missed. Many documents, or portions thereof, have been lost over the years; some have been destroyed — various pages of several early census returns, for example, were mouldy when they arrived at the Nova Scotia Archives 75 years' ago and were disposed of after transcription; others have deteriorated through time and handling — names that were legible 50 years ago have since literally crumbled away.

We will never know with certainty how many people really lived in Nova Scotia during these early years. Still, the records 'are what they are' — enduring testimony to individuals and families who once lived here and whose lives shaped and defined the province that we live in today.