My Census Life

We all know time flies but have you ever thought of your life in chunks of five or ten years at a time?

Census records are a vital resource for family historians researching their ancestors. They provide a snapshot of each household on a particular day over the years. Here is the snapshot of my life on census years.

1961

POP: 18,238,247-Prime Minister: John Diefenbaker(Conservative)

In the News: CUSO was formed and the CFCF (Canada’s First Canada’s Finest) Television Network began broadcasting.

Favourite song : Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”.

Travels included the family summer cottage in Knowlton (Eastern Townships).

My mother died of cancer leaving my father with four children under the age of 12. I was only four years old. We all lived in the house my father built ten years earlier in Montreal (Quebec). My father ran his own engineering company.

Four-year old me – 1961

1971

POP: 21,568,311-Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)

In the News: FLQ terrorized Montreal. Pierre Laporte and James Cross are kidnapped. Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons are a hit.

Favourite song: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.

Travels included winning a trip for two to Paris accompanied by my father and meeting up with my older sister living in England at the time and the Knowlton summer cottage.

I still lived in the same house…blessed with a stepmother (1964) and three more sisters. My youngest half- sister was born in June which gave me a focus to my 14 year-old angst-filled life. As a high school student in 1971, classes were regularly interrupted by bomb scares and evacuations to a shelter across the street. I regularly ran by mailboxes on my way to school “just in case”. I played badminton in the winter and, in the summer, tennis as well as horseback riding just like my older sister… never admitting that the beasts actually terrified me!

(Note: After 1971, the Canadian Census was taken every five years instead of ten.)

Riding “Sugarfoot” at the Knowlton Pony Club – 1971

1976

POP: 22,922,604 – Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)

In the News: The Parti Quebecois won a provincial majority and Bill 101 (the french language law) was being finalized. Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics.

Favourite song: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”.

Travels included a family trip to Kennebunk (Maine) beach and the Knowlton summer cottage.

All grown up at 19 years old, I worked at my first real job as a bank teller and moved out of the family home into my first apartment. By the end of the year, I had changed my mind and quit my job, moved back to the family home (with a cat) and signed up for courses at CEGEP (a Quebec college). Maybe I wasn’t quite finished growing up after all!

L to R – Me, my father, my three half-sisters, my Stepmother and my brother – 1976

1981

POP: 24,343,181 -Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)

In the News: All-time high prime interest rate of 22.75% and Rene Levesque’s Parti-Quebecois was re-elected after the failed Referendum.

Favourite song: The Pointer Sisters’ “Slow Hand”.

Travels included Barbados and weekends of golf in Magog (Eastern Townships).

My fourth attempt of moving out of my father’s house finally succeeded. As an adult of 24 years, my legal secretarial training in Ottawa landed me a job in NDG (west end of Montreal) near my new apartment. However, my interest in investments prompted me to take the Canadian Securities Course where I met a boy and, by the end of the year, I was engaged to be married.

1986

POP: 25,309,331 – Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Conservative)

In the News: The Canadian dollar hit an all-time low of USD70.2 and Jean Drapeau (responsible for the Metro, Expo 67 and Place des Arts) resigned as Mayor of Montreal.

Favourite song: Chris deBurgh’s “Lady in Red”.

Travels included Vancouver (British Columbia) and weekends in Magog (Eastern Townships).

My husband, our one-year daughter and I moved back to Quebec from Morrisburg (Ontario), where we operated a ten unit motel for a year until we quickly realized we were losing money. Real estate prices had increased so much in the one year since we left Dorval that we had to buy in a suburb further west of Montreal (Ile Perrot). Moving “home” was no longer an option once married and 29 years old!

Mother and daughter – 1986

1991

POP: 27,296,859 – Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Conservative)

In the News: The GST tax came into effect and Canadian forces participated in the Persian Gulf War.

Favourite song: Cher’s “It’s in his kiss”.

Travels included Vancouver and Victoria (British Columbia).

Now divorced and living with my six-year daughter in Magog (Eastern Townships) after closing our used bookstore since we were losing money…again. True to my flip-flop nature, I enrolled to study business at Bishop’s University as a 34-year old mature student. My daughter and I attended our respective schools and enjoyed a less expensive country life filled with seasonal sports and blessed with a group of supportive friends.

1996

POP: 28,846,761 – Prime Minister: Jean Chretien (Liberal)

In the News: Mr. Dressup’s last children’s show. Lucien Bouchard replaced Jacques Parizeau after the second lost Quebec referendum. Severe flooding of the Saguenay River (east of Montreal).

Favourite song: Sarah McLachlan’s “I will remember you”.

Travels included Glacier Park (Montana), San Francisco and Carmel (California), Los Cabos (Mexico) as well as cottage time at the lake.

My father died (1995). After five years of study, I graduated from university at 39 years old. My daughter and I moved back to Montreal (Quebec) to start my new career but mostly to crowd into an apartment with my boyfriend of three years and his two teenage children. We married two years later.

Cottage time at the lake as a family – 1996

2001

POP: 30,007,094 – Prime Minister: Jean Chretien (Liberal)

In the News: 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US and Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s space walk.

Favourite song: Westlife’s “Uptown Girl”.

Travels included Porto (Portugal) and an Alaskan cruise as well as cottage time at the lake.

My business degree enabled me to work full time while juggling my busy new family life but we still found time to travel. The events of 9/11 shook up the world, affecting the travel industry especially, so my husband took the early retirement package “offered” by Air Canada. So at the age of 44, I found myself with my new husband retired, my daughter finishing high school and a roomier apartment as the other two children were away at school in the United States.

2006

POP: 31,612,897-Prime Minister: Stephen Harper (Conservative)

In the News: Dawson College shooting, the fatal collapse of a Laval overpass (a suburb north of Montreal), the Québécois ethnic group officially recognized as a nation within Canada.

Favourite song: John Mayer’s “Waiting on the world to change”.

Travels included Lisbon (Portugal) and a Hawaiian cruise as well as cottage time at the lake.

The only one left in our “nest” was my daughter who attended McGill locally. We continued to enjoy travelling (on Air Canada passes) while I was still working at age 49 and my husband enjoyed his early retirement.

One of several cruises enjoyed with my husband

2011

POP: 33,476,688-Prime Minister: Stephen Harper (Conservative)

In the News: Extreme weather conditions with a winter storm in the Maritimes, a cold snap in Quebec, the Richelieu River overflowing its banks and Wild Fires in the West.

Favourite song: Adele’s “Someone like you”.

Travels included a Hawaiian cruise, England to meet our second grandchild, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Los Angeles (California) and Seattle (Washington) as well as cottage time at the lake.

My husband and I are very comfortable in our new house (2007) that we bought after all the children left home! The unfinished basement made a fabulous art studio that I enjoyed now that I was semi-retired. As a 54- year old grandmother of two, I had the time, love and energy to share with them…but sadly they lived in England.

Cottage time at the lake with the grandkids – 2012

2016

POP: 35,151,728 – Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau (Liberal)

In the News: Final concert of Canadian band Tragically Hip, Wild Fires evacuate Fort McMurray (Alberta).

Favourite song: Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”.

Travels included a Carribean cruise, a visit with the grandkids in England, a trip down my husband’s memory lane in Winnipeg (Manitoba) and cottage time at the lake.

My daughter married and lives only ten minutes away. Fully retired from office life at the age of 59, I enjoyed an active membership in two art associations. And, as one of nine writers in my genealogy group, my monthly creative writings were due regularly. I volunteered any spare time with the “stitch and bitch” group at my church.

Trip to England to visit the grandkids and the Disraeli House – 2016

2021

POP: 38,246,108 – Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau (Liberal)

In the News: Covid, Vaccinations, Closed Canada-US border and Canadian Indian residential schools gravesites.

Favourite song: All the Golden Oldies!

Travels were restricted to cottage time at the lake… which helped keep me sane.

The strange year flew by with very little in the way of normalcy. We kept safe in our house, wore masks in public, washed our hands frequently, only shopped when necessary and maintained our distance from others. At 64 years, staying fit and healthy had never been more important. The deck at the back of our house provided numerous opportunities for outdoor entertaining of family, friends and neighbours between May and September.

I wonder what my life will look like for the 2026 Census?

Perhaps someday my “great-greats” will find this story helpful and some of their research on my life will already be done!

One of my sculptures

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