The reference for censuses is Hillman, Thomas A - Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1891 - NAC (1987)
Canada has had a census every ten years from 1851 and occasional censuses in other
years. These are available online at
The same site has an 1842 census of Canada West (Ontario) but none of the Peterborough area is there. Some information on these censuses below at the end..
The first nominal census (ie one listing all people) was 1851, however there were numerous local censuses before that, usually associated with raising taxes or militia needs. These censuses were kept locally but have been microfilmed by the AO. The censuses taken in Colborne District (ie up to and including 1841) are on nine reels of microfilm in MS 16 in the AO. The townships, dates, type of census, and reel number are below. All the known censuses for a particular township are together on the microfilm, not necessarily in date order.
There are two types of census on these reels. A Head of Family census (marked HF below) contains the name of the head of the family, sometimes his age, the number of males under and over 16, the number of females under and over 16, and usually the number of people belonging to a particular religion (typically Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, and none – but check the headings!). Read the headings, particularly on the ages since it is sometimes “over and under” and other times “under and over”.
An Assessment census (marked A below) contains the name of the head of family, the location (Concession, Lot, part in various orders – check the headings), total acreage , acreage cultivated, sometimes amount of livestock, perhaps something on crops, and the amount of assessment (in pounds and shillings). Note that there can be both HF and A censuses in the same year and, since they contain different information, you must look at both. Some of the censuses were both HF and A; they are marked HFA below.
They are hand written, usually on handmade forms. Some are beautiful to read, some are absolutely terrible. On the bad ones it is easy to find omissions.
Be careful when reading the title at the beginning of each census. It usually says “Census (or Assessment) for the year ending the first Monday of January 18xx” so, for example, the 1838 census has 1839 written at the top of it.
Asphodel Twp MS16 Reel 1
The ones marked * were of Asphodel and Belmont and follow the Asphodel censuses on the microfilm. The ones marked @ were of Asphodel and Otonabee and follow the Asphodel/Belmont ones on the microfilm.
1821HF, 23HF@, 23A@, 24HF@, 24A@, 25HF@, 25A@, 26HFA, 27HFA, 28HFA, 30HFA, 31HFA, 39HF*, 39A*, 40HF*, 40A*, 41HF, 41A
Belmont Twp MS 16 Reel 1
The ones marked * were of Asphodel and Belmont and follow the Asphodel censuses on the microfilm.
1839HF*, 39A*, 40HF*, 40A*, 41HF, 41A
Douro Twp MS 16 Reel 4
1826HF, 26A, 28HF, 28A, 29HF, 29A, 30HF, 30A, 38HF, 39A, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
There is a Douro and Ops census, thought to be around 1810, following Douro.
Dummer Twp MS 16 Reel 4
1839HF, 39A, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
EnnismoreTwp MS 16 Reel 4
1827HFA, 28HFA, 30HFA, 39HF, 39A, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
There is a Smith/Ennismore census of about 1820 following Smith on reel 9.
Harvey Twp MS 16 Reel 6
The ones marked * are of Verulam and Harvey and are on reel 9 following Verulam.
1838HFA*, 39HFA*, 40HFA*, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
Monaghan Twp MS16 reel 7
Note that this is Monaghan Twp. It was not split into North and South (in Peterborough and Northumberland counties respectively) until 1838.
1819HF, 20HF, 20A, 21HF, 21A, 22HF, 22A, 23HF, 23A, 24HF, 24A, 25HF, 25A, 26HFA, 27HFA, 28HFA, 28HF, 28A, 29HFA, 30HFA, 31HFA, 32HFA, 33HFA, 34HFA, 35HFA, 36HFA, 37HFA, 38HFA, 39A, 40HFA, 41HF, 41A
These are not in MS 16
Microfilm M7743 has 1819-41
Microfilm C1344 has 1842
Otonabee Twp MS 16 Reel 8
The ones marked @ were of Asphodel and Otonabee and follow the Asphodel/Belmont ones on the microfilm, ie on MS16 reel1.
1821HF, 22HF, 22A, 23HF@, 23A@, 24HF@, 24A@, 25HF@, 25A@, 26HFA, 28HFA, 30HFA, 36HFA, 39HF, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
Smith Twp MS 16 Reel 9
1819HF, 20HF, 21HF, 21A, 22HF, 22A, 23HF, 23A, 24HF, 24A, 25HF, 25A, 26A, 27HFA, 27A, 28HFA, 29HFA, 39HF, 39A, 40HF, 40A, 41HF, 41A
There is a Smith/Ennismore census of about 1820 following Smith.
This Nominal census (ie naming all people) was carried out in 1852 Jan so the “Age Next Birthday” column refers to the birthday in 1852.
The following townships have entries: Asphodel, Belmont, Burleigh (but no residents), Douro, Dummer, Ennismore, Harvey, Methuen, Monaghan North, Otonabee, Peterborough Town, and Smith.
There were two parts, a Nominal census and an Agricultural census. The following townships have entries: Ashburnham Village (no Agriculture census), Asphodel, Belmont, Douro, Dummer, Ennismore, Galway, Harvey, Monaghan North, Otonabee, Peterborough Town (no Agriculture census), and Smith.
For the first time, all of the townships in Peterborough County are listed.