A census is an official count or survey of a population that typically records details about individuals, while a poll tax records the names of heads of household in a given geographical area, for the purposes of collecting taxes based on property value or livestock owned.
Following Confederation in 1867, a census was taken every ten years by the federal government in Canada, and enumerated everyone in a household. Pre-Confederation census returns normally list the head of household and the total number in the household. On occasion, some districts will also record the wife’s name; and a few Acadian returns identify all members of a household.
Only the records from 1861 onward are complete for all parts of the province; the earlier records are very haphazard and incomplete even within individual returns.
Census, Assessment and Poll Tax Records 1767-1838 for Nova Scotia are available on this website.