Accessing E-STAT Historical Data on line

This guide is to provide for student or teacher use of E-STATdata within ArcView GIS in Nova Scotia schools. The original materials were produced by Carol Ann Organ and Doug Begg for a PD session in Strait Regional School Board. Full credit goes to them for simplifying the process for all of us. The tutorial has been updated three times to now reflect the new historical census data available, plus the need for checking the geographic area referred to in the Census Division GEOCODE in the tables.

Getting the data from E-STAT

A. Goto E-STAT at (

B. Click on language of your choice-English or Franšais 

C. Select Learning Resources, the second button on the left side banner.

D. Choose the link -STAT at the bottom of the page. E-STAT is free for Canadian educational institutions and contains current and historical data on over 700,000 business and socio-economic subjects. Transform these into colourful maps and graphs!

E. This takes you to Welcome to E-STAT page. Read the license agreement then click on Accept at the bottom of the page,

F. At the bottom of the page click Accept.

G. If requested to do so, log in and you should see the screen shown below, with blue arrows.

H. Click on your topic of interest, such as under the Census of Canada Category , the 1665-1871 theme


Now scroll down as shown on the next screen below.

and then select the DATA link on the bottom right of the page.

On the next screen, using the drop down menu, select the census database you wish to work with. 
Let's explore the 1861 Census of Nova Scotia (General) as our example.

Then Click on GO.


Your next option is to select the PROFILE, or the table of data that meets your data needs. This is done by scrolling down the drop down menu and selecting from the list. 

As we are working on a Nova Scotia Ship Building map exercise, let's select 1861 NS Table XII - Ship Building and Fisheries and then click on GO.

On the next screen, select the the characteristics (fields) in each data area (record) that you want to use. Normally it is easiest to choose Select All Characteristics by adding the check mark in the small box at the bottom to select all characteristics available in the dataset. 

Note: You can always delete information later using Excel or another spreadsheet program to edit the datafile after it has been downloaded and you can see all the data. This is especially true if you don't really know what specific fields you might need at this moment in the download process.


As census areas change over time, it is imperative to ensure that the area for the table selected, in this case the 1861 NS Table XII - Ship Building and Fisheries matches our 1996 Census boundaries. 

You will also have to check on the geographical area of the historical data table as your ArcCanada cd96.shp file may work with your downloaded historical data exactly, or you may have to alter the GEOCODE (the cd numbers such as 1203 which indicates NS Digby County) to match those in the ArcCanada cd96.shp file. 

NOTE: StatCan is aware of the disconnects in the historic CD geocode in their historical census files compared to today's CD files and may soon be updating the historical datasets to allow use without the extra work. This is due to the fact that Census Divisions are living entities and have their own historical geographic area life as well. 

In the meantime, this aspect of the historical data will have to be checked and if found to be inaccurate, the file will require data manipulation in a spreadsheet to match with ArcCanada 1996 CD or your CanMap EA codes located on the ESRI NS Local Data CD, that most Nova Scotia ArcView schools purchased under the IEI project. However the EA codes held by Nova Scotia schools are only for Nova Scotia, and as such other Maritime, Atlantic, Upper or Lower Canada type historic data will have to be matched at the CD level only. Your school may have other EA files from other sources, if you are outside of Nova Scotia.

Geographic Area Check Process

Step One 

To get this information, first observe in the previous image above, the first Option on the OUTPUT Format  Reduce or Sort Geo List.   Click on Reduce or Sort Geo List and you will get the geographical areas associated with the data table using a GEOCODE or Census Division as show below.

We will discover that the 1861 NS Table XII - Ship Building and Fisheries does have current Census Division codes for Nova Scotia indicated by the four digit number starting with the Nova Scotia provincial code 12.  Yet we also discover that the current 1996 CD codes indicate that 1203 reflects Digby County in Nova Scotia while as you can see above, Digby County is using an outdated historical code 1204

If the codes match today's 96CD.shp file Geocodes, then no further work in required and you may skip to the next section SELECTING THE FILE TYPE TO DOWNLOAD

Step Two

Print this page for future reference as you will need it to redo the geocodes after downloading the table data 

Proceed with the SELECTING THE FILE TYPE TO DOWNLOAD section now, and we will check the geographical data areas later..


At the bottom of the screen are the various data options that you can select. 

Choose the one best for your project. As we are going to be working with the data later in ArcView GIS, our selection will be a dBase (dbf) file format as that is easily introduced into ArcView as a new table, or edited using Excel.  

Select your data type by clicking on the associated symbol  for your data type. 


The screen below will appear, if you are using Netscape. Select the Save File option when the menu box appears.


The screen associated with Internet Explorer is similar and allows you to select Save this File to Disk option to download the data to your local drive.


Select a location for your download that allows you to locate it easily after the download is completed. Before you do the actual download, create a folder using a consistent file management approach. The surest way to disaster is to always just select the Save Icon default in C;\Windows Temp or LocalDrive\temp. Be proactive and structure your data by topic or project. 

Our data will be saved at D:\GISProjects\History11\NS_1861\StatCan for we are doing this download to support a new Canadian History 11 course and intend to use the data in a GIS exercise to add depth to the prepared ESTAT lesson on Nova Scotia Ship Building.

Choose a file name that makes sense, such as 1861_tableXII.dbf


No further work is needed...if the GeoCodes match. If they don't, then you have one last thing to do before you can join the tables in ArcView. That is to update the Census Division codes to reflect 1996 or 2001 CD codes. A Geographical Data Correction Tutorial has been done using the Table XII data as a sample.


1. Remember: where you saved it....what it is named and you are ready to use it in ArcView. You may wish to create a separate folder for data by area such as a "CB" folder for Cape Breton data, then name it to an easy reminder such as "cb_agegroups.dbf" For our data use the date and place of the census and the same table as used at ESTAT for easier reference.

2. It is important that the census codes of your datafile matches the census codes of the shape (*.shp) file you use in ArcView for the data to be useful.  If you have to modify the data, you can open the .dbf file you have downloaded in any spreadsheet program, such as Excel. Make your changes and save it again as a .dbf file.

3. Use an underscore _ instead of a space as this allows better file naming. This is especially true if the file is eventually going to be web based. HTML is not always pleased with blank spaces and gets lost links easier with a space than an _.

Now follow us for the ArcView part !