A large proportion of the census information held at the National Library is kept in microform format. Further information on how to find these items can be found in Family History Sources in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room. This guide contains selected print works only.
Regular population counts have been conducted in Australia since the time of the first British settlement. These early population counts, or musters, excluded military personnel. The first official census was held in 1828 in New South Wales and the first simultaneous census in each of the colonies was held in 1881. A uniform census schedule was developed for the 1901 census. In 1905, the new Commonwealth Parliament passed the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics was created the following year. The first national census developed by the new Bureau was held in 1911 and then at irregular intervals in 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954 and 1961. Since 1961 regular censuses have been held every 5 years. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Population Census - A Brief History)
Only a few colonial censuses contain personal names as the personal details from the majority of censuses were destroyed after the statistical data was extracted. No censuses containing personal names exist after 1901, however the 2001 census included an option for participants to agree to their name-identified personal details being kept by the National Archives of Australia for release 99 years later. This was referred to as the Time Capsule Project. The question was again included in the 2006 Census.
Catalogue Search Tips
Some examples of a Browse subjects search are:
Available on open access in the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room unless otherwise specified.
- Checklist of Nineteenth Century Australian Colonial Statistical Sources: Censuses, Blue Books And Statistical Registers. 1983.
- Arranged by state, this work also includes musters and provides location information for each resource. RF 319.4 HIS (Main Reading Room Reference Collection).
- Musters and Lists, New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1800-1802. 1988.
- Includes land and stock held by free settlers and emancipated or expired convicts in 1800, Governor King's Lists of 1801 and the Norfolk Island Victualling Book of 1802. RX 929.394 M991.
- Musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1805-1806. 1989.
- Includes the NSW General Muster, the NSW Land and Stock Muster, the Norfolk Island Muster and Marsden's Female Muster. RX 929.394 M991.
- General Musters of New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Dieman's Land, 1811. 1987.
- The first muster to include pre-arrival and arrival information for free settlers and convicts. Includes trial date, trial place and ship of arrival. RX 929.394 G326.
- General Muster of New South Wales, 1814. 1987.
- Includes references to the majority of people resident in New South Wales. Indexes include name, place of residence, ship of arrival, status, occupation, relationships. Individual entries appear for children over fourteen. RX 929.394 G326.
- General Muster and Land and Stock Muster Of New South Wales, 1822. 1988.
- The General Muster includes information such as name, age, arrival status, present status, ship of arrival, sentence, occupation, employer, place of residence and employment. The Land and Stock Muster includes name, how land held, owner's location, total acres held, number of acres for each crop, acres of cleared land and stock held. RX 929.394 G326.
- General Muster List of New South Wales, 1823, 1824, 1825. 1999.
- This is the last surviving muster return of the New South Wales population. Information includes name, family group, age, class, ship, year of arrival, sentence, colonial convictions, occupation/employer, nationality and relationships. RX 929.394 G326.
- Census of New South Wales, November 1828. 1980.
- First detailed census for New South Wales. Includes information such as name, age, status, ship, year of arrival, sentence, religion, occupation, employer and residence. (request through the catalogue)
- General Return Of Convicts in New South Wales, 1837. 1987.
- This was the last return completed immediately before the cessation of convict transport to Port Jackson. Information includes name, age, ship of arrival, where tried, name of master, name of district and remarks. RX 929.394 G326.
- A Colony Detailed: the First Census of Western Australia, 1832. 1979.
- The first census of the Swan River colony taken three years after establishment. Information includes name, age, condition, place of birth, country or town, profession or calling, ship and relationships. Also includes biographical notes on persons listed, a list of all colonists who died between June 1829 and July 1832 and a list of ships that called at Fremantle. RX 304.609941021 C719.