1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec)

The 1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec) is available at ancestry.ca (subscription-only), but also at FamilySearch (free of charge). At FamilySearch, the database is titled Canada, Lower Canada Census, 1842. At both sites (and it appears that FamilySearch is the source of ancestry’s census database), the census is searchable by name, and the search engine seems fairly powerful — capable of handling variant surname spellings, that is.

At both sites, I searched for George Vallely and immediately got a positive result with a listing for George Vallillee in the township of the Augmentation of Grenville, Deux-Montagnes.

1842 census search box

1842 census search result

And speaking of names, in my previous entry I noted that you will generally not find married women’s maiden names in the Canadian census returns. For this census (i.e., the 1842 census of Canada East), you will rarely find any women’s names at all, and you will not find any children listed by name. For both Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec), the 1842 census enumerated only the (generally male) head of a family by name, though women and children were counted (but not named).

Despite this obvious limitation (no names recorded for wives and children), the 1842 Census of Canada East can supply a wealth of information about your ancestor’s family and household economy — if you are willing to go through all 8 sheets (containing 89 questions, each listed in a separate column) of the census schedule.

Here is what I learned about the household of George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon, from the 1842 Canada East census return:

  • George Vallillee (Vallely) was listed as a Yeoman, but also a Non Proprietor of Real Property. This surprised me a little bit: when I see the term “Yeoman,” I expect to find a property holder; whereas, when I find someone who does not own property, I expect to see the term “Labourer.” And indeed, George Vallille appears to be the only Non Proprietor of Real Property in his schedule (which includes 30 names, representing 30 families or households) who is described as a “Yeoman,” with the other Non Proprietors either designated “Labourers,” or else defined as practitioners of a non-agricultural trade (e.g., “Shoemaker”). Perhaps his ownership of livestock (of which more below) made George Vallely seem more a yeoman than a labourer.
  • There were 7 people in the household of George Vallely in 1842, two of them natives of Ireland (that would be George Valley and his wife Anne O’Hanlon), and five of them natives of Canada (that would be Edward, John, George, Mary, and Catherine, all born between 1833 and 1841).1 Of the children, there were three (one male and two female) who were “five years of age and under,” and two males “above five and under fourteen years of age.” Of the two adults, one (George Vallely) was a married male between the ages of “30 and not 60,” and the other (Anne O’Hanlon) was a married female between the ages of “14 and not 45.”
  • All seven were Roman Catholic (“belonging to the Church of Rome”).
  • George Vallely appears to have been leasing an unspecified number of acres of land from a William Brown (who apparently owned 150 acres in total), of which 15 acres had been improved.
  • There were no servants recorded in their household.
  • Under the colums for “PRODUCE raised by each Family during the last year and estimated in WINCHESTER Bushels,” the census records the following for the household of George Vallely: 28 bushels of barley; 68 bushels of oats; 8 bushels of Indian corn; and 150 bushels of potatoes.
  • In the last season, the family had produced 20 pounds of maple sugar.
  • The family owned the following livestock: 7 cattle; 1 horse; 5 sheep; and 5 hogs.
  • In the last year, the family had also produced (“manufactured in the domestic way”) 10 yards of flannel or other woollen cloth, and 10 pounds of wool.

Given how little I know about this family, 2 the 1842 census offers some valuable information.

The enumeration of their agricultural output (this many bushels of barley and oats and potatoes, that many pounds of wool) and of livestock (this many cattle, sheep, and hogs), along with the information about the land they farmed (leased, not owned, and only 15 acres “improved”) suggests a family that was struggling to achieve the Ireland-to-Canada emigrants’ dream of land ownership. And what a struggle it must have been! At the time of this census enumeration,George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon had five young children, with the eldest son only 9 or 10 years old. While the older children no doubt had to help out with various chores about the house and farm, they were not yet old enough to serve as an effective labour force: much of those bushels of potatoes and pounds of wool must have been produced by George and Anne. And yet the family was not dirt-poor: to own a horse was no small thing, and they also had some cattle, sheep and hogs. And George Vallely was listed as a “Yeoman” in the 1842 census, even though, strictly speaking, he did not meet the criteria (was not a freeholder, did not own the land that he farmed).

George Vallely did eventually realize the dream of land ownership (100 acres in Bristol Township, Pontiac County), but his first wife Anne O’Hanlon did not. She died in 1848, “agée de quarante huit ans” (aged forty-eight years).

  1. An older daughter Catherine, perhaps their first-born child, died at Montreal in September 1832, at eighteen months old.
  2. When I first started researching my maternal grandmother’s family tree, the names Vallely and O’Hanlon were not even on my radar screen, and I had no idea that my French Canadian grandmother’s ancestry was a quarter Irish. I am fairly certain that my grandmother, who married into an Irish Catholic family, did not know about her own Irish ancestry.