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LAC Answers Questions about Release of 1921 Census

On Monday, August 12, 2013 I was pleased to be contacted by M. Fabien Lengellé, Director General, Content Access Branch of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) who was very happy to answer questions about the release of the 1921 Census of Canada raised by members of The Ontario Genealogical Society.  I shall try to summarize his information below:

Why did LAC go to an outside source and eventually select Ancestry to manage this project?

Going to an outside provider:

  • Freed up LAC staff and funds for other important digitization projects such as the upcoming First World War commemoration project and the microfilm reel project with Canadiana, including the Upper Canada Sundries now available at:

Ancestry’s proposal was far better than the others submitted as it:

  • Offered  a fully bi-lingual solution, a robust IT platform and almost no production delays;
  • Was financially neutral to both users and the public purse – free access to the documents online; no staff time, effort or project coordination; no IT staff support; and, no cash investment from LAC;
  • Provides a broad network of free distributors across Canada – municipal libraries — which are covered by Ancestry province-wide licenses.  This provides free access almost everywhere and promotes libraries, which is one of the LAC mandates.

Does Ancestry now have exclusive rights to these images?

  • LAC retains all rights to the 1921 Canada Census and, after three (3) years, will get a copy of the index produced by Ancestry;
  • LAC will then publish the index on their own website through their recently redesigned census platform;
  • Other organizations are welcome to consult the census on the Ancestry site and prepare their own private index should it better meet their needs than the one created by Ancestry.

Why have the microfilms or images not been available at Library and Archives Canada until now?

  • LAC has a microfilm copy for preservation purposes only;
  • The free online images are a much better dissemination vehicle as they require no shipping and are available worldwide instantly.

How do people browse the free images?

  • Go to:; scroll down to the 1921 Census icon and click “Start browsing”;
  • Take a moment to read about the census, especially the questions asked;
  • Click “Start browsing” again;
  • On the right, choose a Province from the drop-down menu and a District.  Then scroll through the Sub-Districts below to find the description of the one you seek;
  • A screen saying “View Free Records with a Free Account” will appear the first time if you do not already have an Ancestry subscription.  This is not the same as a trial subscription;
  • Enter your name and an email address.  Ancestry requires an email address for this free account to browse free records but not financial information (e.g., credit card information);
  • If you are not comfortable providing your current email address, set up a free one first through Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo or others who provide this service and use that one with Ancestry;
  • Access through a library computer can be done anonymously.

M. Lengellé wishes to acknowledge the daily help LAC receives from members such as ours who report errors in their census collection.  This collaboration benefits everyone.  I wish to thank M. Lengellé for contacting me with answers to our questions and for seeking others during the day when members contacted OGS about errors and image problems.  We plan to have further conversations in the near future to continue the renewed dialogue between Library and Archives Canada and The Ontario Genealogical Society.  I look forward to this opportunity.

Thank you all for your continued vigilance on behalf of our archival documents.

If further questions arise, please contact me at

Shirley L. Sturdevant, President

The Ontario Genealogical Society

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8 Responses to “LAC Answers Questions about Release of 1921 Census”

  1. Shirley Sturdevant says:

    An additional comment from LAC clarifying access to these records:
    “Ontario is the only province with a province-wide license. Ancestry is available across Canada, nonetheless, with literally hundreds of service points. PEI, Nunavut and Yukon are the only ones with weak coverage, but LAC is fixing that.”

  2. Deb Wood says:

    I wonder where I can find the wording for the top of the page on the census – what question was asked?? I have been looking at multiple pages and it is not clear to read. There are categories for the kind of house you live in. I wonder what it says.

  3. Deb Wood says:

    Thanks, this was very helpful. I will continue checking in on the good information you provide.

  4. Gail Leonardo says:

    Hello: Can you please let me know where we can report errors that we found on the just released 1921 Canadian census? I have found errors in some family members, names & dates, etc and would like them to be corrected.

  5. admin says:

    Hi Gail,
    According to the latest information we’ve received from Ancestry, here is the procedure for reporting errors, submitting corrections etc.:
    “When you’re viewing an image from the Census, click on “Tools” in the upper right corner of the image viewer. Select “Report problems”. Then select the type of issue to report from the drop-down, and fill out the rest of the information. The most frequent issue reported at this time will probably be “Problem with an image (missing, wrong, unreadable)”. The other may be “Inaccurate information””.

    2. Or, contact our member services team directly by phone at (800) 958-9073.

    Here is a direct link to the census page:

    Hope this helps.

  6. Gail Leonardo says:

    Thanks so much for the info – I have reported several errors that I found and hopefully it doesn’t take too long to updated……regards, Gail

  7. admin says:

    You are welcome Gail.

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