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The first country-wide census was taken in 1881. National censuses have been regularly taken by the Australian government since 1911. However, to protect individual privacy, all national censuses were destroyed after statistical information was collected. Because of this policy, census usage in Australian research is different from census research in other countries.

Typically a census is a count and description of the population. Where available, census records can provide an ancestor’s name, age, occupation and/or employer, whether free or bond, religion, ship and date of arrival, marital status, birthplace, and family member relationships. Census returns can also provide clues that lead to other records. A census may list selected people or the whole population. The percentage of people listed depends on the purpose of the census and on how careful the enumerator was.

Australian states have also taken censuses—mostly from the nineteenth century on. However, many of the censuses do not survive because they were taken primarily for population studies and taxation. See the listing below for dates of the initial censuses in each state:

First Census by Australian State
           State
earliest census
New South Wales
       1788
Northern Territory
       1861
Queensland
       1861
South Australia
       1841
Tasmania
       1803
Victoria
       1836
Western Australia
       1829


The 1841 State census of New South Wales is indexed by surname at:

State Records NSW - Online search:Index to 1841 Census

For a list of existing census returns look under "6. CENSUS RECORDS" for each state in the following book:

  • Vine Hall, Nick. Tracing your family history in Australia: a guide to sources. Second Edition. Albert Park, Victoria, Australia: North Vine Hall, 1994. (Family History Library Call No. 994 D23v.)

Existing censuses have been published or microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. Look in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

AUSTRALIA, [STATE] - CENSUS

AUSTRALIA, [STATE], [TOWN] - CENSUS

The following is a register of the census records available as of 1991 in the Family History Library:

  • Index to the Australian Census Records in the British Collection of the Family History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Family History Library, 1991, 1985. (Family History Library Call No. 994 X22c 1991.)
  • 1913 Census FCT

Census Substitutes

In Australian research, other records can be used in place of census records. They are referred to as "census substitutes," and they list individuals who lived in specific places. It is rare, however, to find an entire family listed. Usually these records list only the head of household’s name, date and place of residence, occupation, age, value of property, and sometimes ship of arrival.

Records that can be used as census substitutes are:

Census substitutes can be found in most major archives and libraries in Australia. For a listing of these archives and libraries and their addresses, see Australia Archives and Libraries.

Population Musters. Because convicts were transported into Australia, the government found it necessary to survey the population at least annually. These surveys, known as musters, began in 1788. Information contained in the records might include an individual’s residence, status (convict, free, military), sex, name, ship of arrival, trial date, trial place, sentence, and remarks. Some early musters list children, wives, and servants. For a list of surviving musters, look under "6. CENSUS RECORDS" for each state in the following book:

  • Vine Hall, Nick. Tracing your family history in Australia: a guide to sources. Second Edition. Albert Park, Victoria, Australia: North Vine Hall, 1994. (Family History Library Call No. 994 D23v.)

 

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  • This page was last modified on 25 July 2014, at 18:22.
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