Genealogists and family historians sometimes voice their frustrations with the work of enumerators on the historical census and voters’ lists. Why didn’t they…? How could they…? Didn’t they ask? Who on earth did they get that answer from?
Here’s an article from the Vancouver Sun newspaper, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Wednesday, 4 June 1930 (page 11), that may explain some of those missed, seemingly misspelt or cryptic entries.
ENUMERATORS HAVE MANY PROBLEMS
Dogs, Unwilling and Know-It-All People Are Handicaps
Enumerators seeking to register on the voters’ list all adult British subjects of one year’s residence in Canada are having their troubles.
Some people don’t like to answer the door for “pedlars”. Others keep dogs that don’t like strangers. Others blandly assure the eunumerators that they are already on the list. Others –many of them—are out.
Proprietors of hotels and rooming houses have been none too helpful in some cases, although this is not the general rule.
Mr. R.M. Edgar, returning officer for Vancouver Centre, instructed his enumerators to call in a policeman if the keeper of a lodging house denied them access to his tenants.
MAY BE OFF LIMITS
People who don’t answer the door for “pedlars” and people who are quite satisfied that they are already on the list may find themselves without votes on election day.
Nobody is on the list, because there is no list.
The whole Election Act has been changed and the only list will be that compiled by the enumerators now canvassing the city. There is no compulsory voting in Canada, so people who refuse to give information to the enumerators will themselves be the losers.
Enumerators find that they have to work early and late. In one rooming house they found that the management specialized in night workers. The tenants sleep all day.
In residential districts many households where both man and wife go down town to business all day were discovered. Evening visits are necessitated at such places as these.
Down town where large apartment houses exist there are precincts containing the requisite 200 to 300 voters consisting of one apartment house and half a dozen private dwellings in the same block. Further off a precinct may cover many city blocks.
WORKING IN PAIRS
One of the problems of the enumerators is that of working in pairs. Each precinct has had one Liberal nominee and one Conservative nominee appointed to work together and keep check on each other.
In some cases, one enumerator is a day worker and the other’s a night worker. How to get together under these circumstances proves a difficult problem.
The enumerators must complete their work by Saturday and turn in completely typed alphabetical lists of the eligible voters in their respective precincts not later than Tuesday next.
A few days afterward registers will be appointed in whose possession the lists will be open to public inspection so that corrections, amendments and additions can be made.
From time to time, the BC Genealogical Society offers these kinds of Glimpses into BC’s Heritage in its journal and on the website. If you come across a suitable story like this, please do contact the BCGS Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org