Ten interesting things about census in Australia

1828 census example

1828 Australian census

When doing genealogy, a census is a great wealth of information. However in Australia, our census hasn’t provided us with the wealth of information that other countries have. It was really a task in counting off convicts initially and making sure there was enough rations.  Then there is the fact that not many were kept, they were deemed not worth keeping.  However when looking into census in Australia I noted  some interesting points that tell us more about our Australian history and how far we have come.

  1. The first Australian census was taken in November 1828 and it is the only complete surviving census in Australia.  This census is available to search on the Ancestry.com website.
  2. Censuses were taken in 1833, 1836, 1841, 1846, 1851, 1856, and 1861. Beginning in 1901 they were conducted once every ten years.
  3. In 1882, 50 years of NSW census information was engulfed in flames at the Garden Palace in Sydney where the records were stored in the basement.
  1. When the first official census taking started in 1901, it was written in the constitution that “no full blood native” would be counted. This changed in 1967, when a referendum was taken to include Aboriginals.
  1. The census information of 1911, 1921 and 1933 that recorded deaf mutes, helped to make a link between rubella and birth defects. We were the first country able to make a firm and direct link to the effects of rubella.
  1. Not every census collected the same information. So comparing census information is rather difficult.
  1. Muster records and electoral records are available and can cover some of the information that was lost with the accidental burning of census records.
  2. In 2001, people were offered the opportunity to have their data archived in the National Archives of Australia and not have it released for 99 years. 54% of people agreed to have their information saved.
  1. In 2013 the ABS released a game called ”Run that town” based on real census data.  You can run your neighbourhood and see whether you can do better than your local politician. http://runthattown.abs.gov.au/
  1. Categories like religion are being updated in the 2016 census, this is to reflect the changing demographics. I wonder whether Jedi will be included after 70,000 Australians recorded themselves to be that on the 2001 census.  In 2006 the numbers were down to 65,000.
  2. Currently New Zealand is looking into collecting data for their census through government information already captured. Australia is supposedly considering doing the same but hasn’t as publicly said so.

Census taking is an amazing feat of organisation. I can understand why census takers going door to door really didn’t have the time or understanding to find out a lot of information. But I think we are on a wave of technology that will make gathering information so much easier and so much more assessable.  Today we can hover over graveyards of our ancestors with our mouse so just imagine what we can do with census data in 100 years.

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