1921 Canada Census: Place of Habitation
This is an examination of the “Place of Habitation” on the Canadian 1921 Census in regards to the agricultural lands of the prairie provinces to better meet the needs of genealogists and other researchers who will make use of information and data from the Canadian 1921 census. It is erroneous to use the census enumeration district or sub-district name as a place of residence, as it would be incorrect to use the rural municipality name as an ancestor’s address. A rural municipality does not correspond to a city, town, village or hamlet.
A rural municipality is a region which is governed by reeve and councilors in much the same way that a city’s infrastructure needs are determined by a mayor and aldermen. Rural Municipality is often abbreviated R.M. In the prairie provinces, an average sized rural municipality is approximately six townships in size, each township encompasses an area of six miles by six miles making a rural municipality eighteen miles by eighteen miles. A rural municipality has the closest correspondence to the usage of the term “county” in other countries. The seat of the rural municipality may be an office located in a town or city within the perimeter of the rural municipality, however the town or city is governed independently with its own mayor and town(city) council. A rural municipality formed to make local improvements to the area in the form of sidewalks, roads, bridges, fire protection, &c. Early homesteaders could help in these community projects in lieu of paying taxes under special arrangements.
For a place of residence, early farming residents would provide the nearest Post Office to their homestead location as their address as is often seen on the World War I Canadian Expeditionary Force application files. As towns, villages and cities became established, post offices became established in these urban centers, and there was a departure from the rural postmaster operating a post office in their residence. In correspondence, a rural land owner may say they live in a certain “district”, which usually would refer to the school district in which their farm was located and where the family children attended the one room schoolhouse.
When referring to the 1921 census it is important to distinguish between the terms used on the census enumeration form. The first few columns refer to column 1) number of dwelling in order of visitation by the census enumerator, column 2) number of family, household, or institution in order of visitation column 3) name of each person whose place of abode was in the household. The next set of columns refer to place of habitation. For rural dwellers with agricultural holdings, this location was usually referred to with the legal land description with columns allocating the section, township, range and meridian. The next column was entitled “Municipality”.
For rural residents, this “Municipality” column holds the name of the “Rural Municipality”. For an example; referring to the original document District 217, Sub district 11 in the province of Saskatchewan Page 5 It cannot be said that the city, town nor village is named King George. Looking at the 1924 Rand McNally Map (or another historical map) for the area of the first entry on page 5 of the census mentioned above, a John Smith, who is the head of the household residing at section 13 township 26 range 12 west of the third meridian – Municipality King George.
It is easily determined by using the township and range nomenclature that the cities, towns and villages which are near to township 26, range 12 west of the third meridian are the placenames of Mosten, Steeledale, and Wiseton which happens to be on the Canadian National Railway line. In this case, the municipality does indeed refer to the King George Rural Municipality Number 256. Unless it is a specific rural municipality map, rural municipality names are not mentioned on provincial highway or historic railway maps. If a larger area is shown for example on an atlas map, it usually refers to an electoral district, either provincial or federal depending on the atlas and its key.
Placing the legal land location for the John Smith residence, section 13 township 26 range 12 west of the third meridian, into the Prairie locator one obtains the GPS conversion. The resulting GPS location, in this case, is 51.2198, -107.5509 which would locate the section which is an area of one mile by one mile. Now this GPS location is approximate for the actual farm land holdings, as some farmers did own an entire section of land, but pioneer homesteaders usually started out on a quarter section of land, which would be one half mile by one half mile in size, and usually referred to as either the south west, south east, north west or north east quarter of the section [see diagram]. There are on the internet a number of listings for the western land grants which were issued to prospective homesteaders to narrow down the quarter section of residence.
Now then, incorporating these GPS coordinates into the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB) by coordinates (latitude/longitude) reveals that the following towns, villages and cities are within a twenty kilometer (12 mile) radius from the aforementioned GPS location.
Placenames twenty kilometer (12 mile) radius:
Anerley is a nearby Unincorporated area 23 kilometers – 14 miles away.
Dinsmore is a nearby Village 14 kilometers – 9 miles away.
Forgan is a nearby Unincorporated area 18 kilometers – 11 miles away.
Glamis is a nearby Unincorporated area 27 kilometers – 17 miles away.
King George No. 256 is a nearby Rural Municipality
Leach Siding is a nearby Unincorporated area 11 kilometers – 7 miles away.
Steeledale is a nearby Unincorporated area 5 kilometers – 3 miles away.
Wiseton is a nearby Village 12 kilometers – 8 miles away.
Using the CGNDB one can easily click on any of the above placenames to determine their exact location as well. So if one wanted to know the location of Wiseton, CGNDB provides the facts that Wiseton locates at section 17- township 27- range 12-West of the 3rd meridian at Latitude – Longitude : 51º 18′ 41” N, 107º 39′ 1” W and Latitude – Longitude (decimal) : 51.3113471, -107.6503142. Any location can be searched by place name or the name of the geographical feature as well.
Another source of locations would be the book, Geographic Names of Saskatchewan, written by Bill Barry, or the Library and Archives Canada Post offices listing which is online. The Post Offices and Postmasters Library and Archives Canada location result for Mosten – the closest placename to the John Smith 1921 census “place of habitation” is Section 6, township 27, range 11 west of the third meridian. The postal listing also lets us know that Mosten operated a post office between 1908 and 1941 under W.J. Stewart and Mrs. Eva Stewart (postmasters).
Studying the Search Saskatchewan Placenames will provide which Saskatchewan Gen Web area would be most likely to further genealogical or historical exploration on query boards, and mailing lists. The Search Saskatchewan Placenames listing provides over 3,000 Saskatchewan places some of which are no longer in existence. Contemporary Saskatchewan listings provide a very short amount of placenames in comparison to Search Saskatchewan Placenames as can be seen at the Saskatchewan City & Town Maps – Directory or the Saskatchewan Municipal Directory System . Many previous bustling centers which were villages or towns in the early twentieth century have now become unincorporated areas, ghost towns or hamlets.
When transportation was mainly done by walking or horse and buggy, settlements with stores, elevators and other amenities were located much closer together. It was quite common that homesteaders would walk from their farm into town for meetings or grocery supplies, and walk the distance of seventeen miles (27 kilometers) back home again. When the population relied upon automotive transport after the second World War, and highways were straightened and paved, the main urban centres grew exponentially, and the smaller towns, villages and rural areas began to see a shift of their population to the cities.
On the 1921 census, not every resident on the 1921 census lived rurally. The family of John Alfred Reynolds for example lived in the city of Regina in 1921. The first entry on the 1921 census for District Number: 225 Sub-District: Regina (City) Sub-District Number: 32 Page 4 does in fact provide the house address of 2040 Dewdney Avenue in the city of Regina. In another instance, Sidney Gordon Zapp is the first entry on District: Assiniboia District Number: 214 Sub-District Number: 52 Page 5
residing at 626 Second Street in the town of Estevan. (Estevan incorporated as a city in 1957 after the 1921 census).
Besides towns and villages which have disappeared since the early 1900s as mentioned earlier, rural municipality names and boundaries have also changed. The listing which follows provides a few of the name changes and mergers which have occurred historically in the province of Saskatchewan. The listing is not complete, as new updates regarding regional mergers and amalgamations come to light, they will be added.
Some of the Rural Municipality mergers and name changes:
- Storkoaks Rural Municipality 31 adopted the new name; Storthoaks Rural Municipality 31 on March 15, 1912. Storthoaks Rural Municipality 31 originally incorporated on December 11, 1911.Source 1 2
- Hastings Rural Municipality 66 adopted the new name; Griffin Rural Municipality 66 on January 30, 1910. Griffin Rural Municipality 66 originally incorporated on December 13, 1909. Source 1 2
- Pipestone Rural Municipality 92 was renamed Walpole Rural Municipality 92 on February 15, 1911. Walpole Rural Municipality 92 originally incorporated on December 12, 1910. Source 1
- Bitter Lake Rural Municipality 142 disorganised January 1, 1951. Enterprise Rural Municipality 142 originally incorporated on April 18, 1913. Source 1 2
- Rural Municipality of Waldeck 166 was renamed Rural Municipality of Excelsior 166 on March 1, 1916. Rural Municipality of Excelsior 166 incorporated on December 13, 1909.Source 1 2
- The Rural Municipality of Keebleville, now named Fox Valley No. 171 as of November 27, 1926 On October 29, 1913 the Rural Municipality of Fox Valley No. 171 was incorporated.Source 1 2
- Enterprise Rural Municipality 172 disorganised January, 1951. [See entry under RM 142 above.]Source
- Vermillion Hills Rural Municipality 195 disorganised December 31, 1965. In the area of RM 195, is Rural Municipality Morse 165, larger than 3 x 3 townships, so investigating a merger there.Source
- Local Improvement District formed May 26, 1905. The Rural Municipality of Strasbourg 220 held their first council election December 6, 1909. On July 15, 1919, theRural Municipality of Strassburg 220 was renamed Rural Municipality of McKillop 220. Rural Municipality of McKillop 220 originally formed December 13, 1909. Source 1 2 3
- Millington Rural Municipality 249 disorganised December 31, 1951. In the area of RM 249 is the Rural Municipality of Mount Hope 279, a RM with boundaries larger than 18 mi x 18 mi, so investigating an amalgamation of area there.Source
- On June 29, 1912, the Rural Municipality of Girvin 252 was renamed Rural Municipality of Arm River 252. Rural Municipality of Arm River 252 was initially formed December 13, 1909. Source 1 2
- Mantario Rural Municipality 262 disorganised December 31, 1968. The Rural Municipality of Chesterfield 261 was formed from the merger of the Royual Canadian Rural Municipality and the Mantario Rural Municipality in 1968.Source 1 2
- Devil’s Lake Rural Municipality 274 disorganised November 29, 1909. Good Lake Rural Municipality 274 came together on January 1, 1913. Source 1 2
- Foam Lake No. 276, rural municipality was incorporated December 12, 1910. Foam Lake rural municipality No. 306 and Beaver No. 276 dissolved on December 31, 1952 becoming Foam Lake No. 276. Source 1 2
- “In 1966 the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Fairview #258 was disbanded to join adjacent municipalities. The western half of Fairview was amalgamated with the Rural Municipality of Snipe Lake #259, and the eastern half was joined to the Rural Municipality of Monet #257 to form larger, more financially viable municipal entities.” December 13, 1909 was the initial incorporation date of Rural Municipality of Monet No. 257. Rural Municipality of Snipe Lake #259 incorporated on December 11, 1911, whereas the Rural Municipality of Monet #257 incorporated on December 13, 1909. Source 1 2
- Kutawa Rural Municipality 278 disorganised June January 1, 2004. There would have been a boundary area change between the neighbouring Rural Municipalities, 279 to the west, 308 to the north, 277 to the east and 248 to the south.Source
- Hillsburgh Rural Municipality 289 disorganised December 31, 1965. Amalgation took place with the Kindersley Rural Municipality No. 290 in 1965, and the Rural Municipality of Elma No. 291 amalgamated in 1951.Source Email RM 290
- Elma Rural Municipality 291 disorganised June 1, 1951. Kindersley Rural Municipality 290 appears larger than an 18 square mile area, and there is also no RM 289 on current Rural Municipality listings.Source
- On March 14, 1914, the Rural Municipality of Roach 339 was absorbed into the Rural Municipality of Ayr. On February 27, 1931, the Rural Municipality of Roach 339 was also absorbed into the Rural Municipality of Leroy. On January 1, 1913, the original boundaries for the Rural Municipality of Leroy 339 were formed. Source 1 2
- Plasterfield Rural Municipality 340 adopted the new name; Wolverine Rural Municipality 340 on March 15, 1912. Initally, the Rural Municipality boundaries were set on December 13, 1909 for the Wolverine Rural Municipality 340 Source 1 2
- Rural Municipality of Corman Park No. 344 started as a 3 x 3 township square RM, and expanded to a very large RM. It was formed in 1970 according to the Saskatchewan Gazette by combining the smaller rural municipalities of Cory 344, Warman 374, and Park 375. Rural Municipality 374 Warman and Rural Municipality 375 Park were disorganized at the end of 1969. Rural Municipality of Corman Park No. 344 incorporated January 1, 1970.Source 1 2
- On April 16, 1934, the Rural Municipality of Richland 345 was absorbed into the Rural Municipality of Loganton. The Rural Municipality of Vanscoy 345 incorporated December 13, 1909. Source 1 2
- Bushville Rural Municipality 348 disorganised September 1, 1950. Biggar No. 347, a neighbouring RM on old maps is larger than an 18 square mile area on current maps.Source
- Hudson Bay Rural Municipality 394 and Porcupine 395 both incorporated after 1921.Source
- Prairie Rural Municipality 408 disorganised June January 1, 1999. To the south of the historic location of RM 408 are RM 378 and RM 379, to the west is RM 409, to the east is RM 377 and to the north is RM 438.Source
- On January 15, 1921 the Rural Municipality of Eldersley 427 was renamed the Rural Municipality of Tisdale 427. On December 9, 1912, the Rural Municipality of Tisdale 427 was established. Source 1 2
- On February 28, 1938 the Rural Municipality of Carrot River 429 was renamed the Rural Municipality of Flett’s Springs. Rural Municipality of Flett’s Springs 429 incorporated initially on December 13, 1909. Source 1 2
- Rural Municipality West Eagle Hills formed in June of 1910 from Local Improvement District 438. The name changed to the Rural Municipality of Battle River No. 438 in 1911. On December 12, 1910, the Rural Municipality of Battle River No. 438 incorporated.Source 1 2
- Royal Rural Municipality 465 disorganised September 1,1950. On the subsequent boundary changes, the area was absorbed by the neighbouring RMs of Rural municipality Leask No. 464 and Rural municipality Meeting Lake No. 466 Source email RM 464
- Torch River Rural Municipality 488 incorporated after 1921.Source
- On February 28, 1938 the Russia 490 Rural Municipality was renamed the Garden River Rural Municipality. Garden River Rural Municipality 490 incorporated on January 1, 1913.Source 1 2
- Rural Municipality of Rozilee No. 493 incorporated on January 1, 1913, and changed the name to Shellbrook No. 493 on October 20, 1923. Shellbrook Rural Municipality No. 493 came together on January 1, 1913. Source 1 2
- Rural Municipality of Thompson No. 494 changed the name to Canwood on April 29,1916. Canwood Rural Municipality 494 incorporated on January 1, 1913. Source 1 2
- Shell River Rural Municipality 495 changed names to Shell Lake Rural Municipality 495 on November 30, 1935, then Shell Lake Rural Municipality 495 disorganised December 31, 1953.Source 12
- Paradise Hill Rural Municipality 501 disorganised December 31, 1953. Frenchman Butte Rural Municipality 501 organised on January 1, 1954.Source 1 2
- Lakeland Rural Municipality 521 which had incorporated on August 1, 1977, adopted the new name; District of Lakeland Rural Municipality 521 on June 1, 2011.Source 1 2
- On February 2, 1926 the Bright Sand 529 Rural Municipality was renamed Greenfield Rural Municipality. Greenfield Rural Municipality 529 disorganised June June 1, 1990. The Rural Municipality of Mervin 499 is a merger between Rural Municipality Greenfield 529 which had initially incorporated in 1915, and the original Rural Municipality of Mervin 499 formed in 1913.Source 1 2 3 Email Butch
- North Star Rural Municipality 531 disorganised December 31, 1951. .Source There has been a comment emailed in about this rural municipality (thank you kindly)
The North Star R.M. # 531 was actually in the St. Walburg area not Prince Albert. In the St. Walburg history book it says the R.M. of North Star # 531 was formed in 1914 at a meeting held in the home of A. Obert. The first Reeve was W. Rice, Counsellors were W. Chalmers, I. Trainor, A.N. Schneider, H. Bullen, J.B. Fuchs and Fred Burns.
In 1953 North Star R.M. # 531 and R.M. of Paradise Hill # 501 were joined together and are now called the R.M. of Frenchman Butte.
I worked for R.m. 501 from 1980 to 1998 and have seen a map of both North Star and P. Hill R.M.s Hope this helps. Butch
- Paddockwood Rural Municipality 520, Big River 555, Loon Lake 561,Meadow Lake 588, Meadow Lake 588, and Beaver River 622 all incorporated after 1921.Source
Larger centers in Saskatchewan 1921
|Populations of Cities and Towns having over 5,000 inhabitants in 1921, compared with 1901-11. [page 108-109 1921 CYB]|
|Cities and Towns||1901||1911||1921|
|Population of Towns and Villages having between 1,000 and 5,000 inhabitants in 1921, as compared with 1901 and 1911 [page 112 1921 CYB]|
|Towns and Villages||1901||1911||1921|
|North Battleford (city)||-||2105||4108|
|Swift Current (city)||121||1852||3518|
In summary, the census do provide the place of habitation for ancestral research, corresponding with ancestral name and date. Realising the place of habitation correctly eliminates discrepancies and errors in future research. For example recording an ancestral address as “Kindersley” from the “Municipality” column, the researcher needs to take due care and diligence to determine whether it is meant the rural municipality of Kindersley No. 290 which has the communities of Brock, Flaxcombe, Kindersley and Netherhill within its perimeter, or if it is the town of Kindersley. The difference between allocating the address to the town of Kindersley or the rural municipality of Kindersley No. 290, for example, may mean the difference in locating or becoming lost in the search for the cemetery records or exploring a family biography or running into a brick wall when trying to delve into a local history / family biography book.
As an example, Delbert Acker has a place of habitation on fourth avenue in the town of Kindersley on page 14 Census enumeration district name Kindersley District Number: 217 Sub-District Number: 65 City, Town or Village: Town of Kindersley. Whereas on page 10 of Census District Name: Kindersley District Number: 217 Sub-District Number: 38 City, Town or Village: RM Kindersley records Angus Fletcher, a farmer, on section 6 township 30 range 22 west of the third meridian, municipality “Kin”. The placenames closest to 6 tsp 30 rge 22 W3 are Beadle, Viewfair, Kindersley and Netherhill. Online are a few listings of current rural municipality names in use now on wikipedia, Saskatchewan Genealogy Society cemetery index, the Saskatchewan Government’s Municipal Directory System or the Canada Gen Web’s Cemetery project listing. From these it can be seen that in all liklihood, the municipality listed as “Kin” above was an enumerator’s abbreviation for Kindersley when recording (in the case of these agricultural lands with sections, township and ranges, that the abbreviation “Kin” means the Rural Municipality of Kindersley No. 290. The abbreviation for “Kin” meaning the Rural Municipality of Kindersley No. 290 can also be confirmed by scrolling to the very top of the page to see that the enumeration sub-district No. 217 is located in R.M. Kindersley.
The overlap of placenames between census district name, placename [city, town, village or hamlet], and rural municipality may indeed be the same name, however each describes a totally different region. A census district name is allocated by the Department of Statistics, Government of Canada. The rural municipality is a rural civic administration district in the agricultural region of the prairie provinces, usually eighteen miles by eighteen miles in area with independently governed cities, towns, villages and hamlets within its perimeter. Please record the “Place of Habitation” information correctly in your genealogical or historical research so that yourself and others can follow the data flow, continue in their research endeavours with fewer brick walls, and many more successes.
Another note on abbreviations:
Using John Smith’s legal land location from above:
section 13 township 26 range 12 west of the third meridian this full nomenclature can be abbreviated as follows:
S. 13 Tsp. 26 Rge. 12 W3
Sec. 13 Twp. 26 R. 12 W of 3rd
13 – 26 – 12 – W3
For more information:
Pioneer Ways and Bygone Days in the West Eagle Hills. Prongua, Battle River, Lindequist, Drummond Creek, Cleveland. Prongua, Battle River and Lindequist History Book Committee. Turner-Warwick Publications Inc. North Battleford, SK. 1983.
Reflections of the Past. History of Parkside and the Districts of Bygland, Cameo, Hilldrop, Honeywood, Ordale and Spruce Glen. page 260. Compiled and published by Parkside and District History Book Committee. c1991.
Many of the sources for this article are embedded in the text.
Some of the sources came from email correspondences with the current Rural Municipalities as indicated.
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The purpose of the information on this site is to assist genealogists, historians and other interested parties in locating information from various cemetery records. Please e-mail email@example.com if you have any further updates or additions. Thank you.
To cite this article:
Adamson, Julia. 1921 Canada Census: Place of Habitation . Saskatchewan Gen Web. Rootsweb. Ancestry.com . Retrieved .
Please E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of other historic rural municipality names which are no longer in existence. Thank you.
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