What does the term domestic mean in the 1901 Manitoba census?

A girl, age 7, who had been adopted by the family at age 3 is referred to as domestic rather than daughter.

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    Hi, welcome to G&FH.SE. Are you looking at a particular image? What does it say in column 21 in the 'wage earner' section?
    – Jan Murphy
    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:06
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    How do you know that the girl was adopted at age 3? Is it possible that she was a Home child? Those children were not adopted as members of the family, but placed in foster homes and often expected to work for their room and board.
    – bgwiehle
    Mar 12, 2015 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


The term domestic in a census record is very likely to refer to occupations that are associated with working in a household.

For an example, see this passage from Melanie Buddle's book The Business of Women: Marriage, Family, and Entrepreneurship in British Columbia, 1901-51, page 29:

...British Columbia had a large Asian population: at the end of the nineteenth century, up to two-thirds of domestic positions (servants, cooks, housekeepers) in the province were filled by Chinese men.

The instructions for the 1901 Census of Canada say (in section 60):

If married women, other female dependents or children carry on a gainful or wage-earning occupation n any capacity, the kind of occupation will be given, and they will be classed as employers or employees as the case may be ; but if they are only carrying on domestic affairs in a household without wages they are not to be classed as having any occupation.

The census instructions also say (section 42):

In the restricted sense of the term, a family consists of parents and sons and daughters united in a living and housekeeping community ; but in the larger sense it may include other relatives and servants. A household may include all persons in a housekeeping community, whether related by ties of blood or not, but usually with one of their number occupying the position of head.

And in section 48 the instructions say:

In column 6 the head of each family or household will be entered as such, and all others according to their relationship -- as wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder, lodger, partner, etc.

Bear in mind that in most census years we do not know who gave the information about the household to the enumerator. (Two notable exceptions are the 1911 Census in England and Wales, where the original schedules filled out by the heads of household survive, and the 1940 US Federal Census, where the enumerator was instructed to mark the name of the person giving the information with an X.)

Without other supporting information, I would not take any single record as a sign that a child was not viewed as a daughter by other members of the family. Records can have mistakes in them, and no single record is proof of anything.

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    A girl, age 7, who had been adopted by the family at age 3 is referred to as domestic rather than daughter.
    – lydia
    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:26
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    @lydia -- Thanks for the updated information. So that's in the relationship to head of household column? I'll update my answer. I've added your comment to your original question. Whenever you have information to add, you can do that by using the 'edit' link under your question.
    – Jan Murphy
    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:35
  • Domestic was commonly used in England to mean servant. Mar 13, 2015 at 2:08

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