Census and muster records

Download the PDF version of Census and muster records: family history info guide [PDF 84kb]

What census records are available for Australia?

Prior to 2001 it was Australian federal government policy to destroy all name-identified census returns for privacy reasons, and all returns between 1901 and 2001 have been destroyed.

However, some 19th century census records do survive. These are valuable tools for locating ancestors in colonial Australia. Very detailed information about the dates, coverage and location of early Australian census records can be found in Tracing Your Family History in Australia: A National Guide to Sources, 3rd ed., by Nick Vine Hall (FAMHIS 929.394 2002). A copy of this book is held at the Family History reference desk on level 3 of the State Library of Queensland's South Bank building.

New South Wales

General musters

Included all the inhabitants of the Colony and were held annually between 1795 and 1825. Other musters, taken more frequently and at different times, included musters of livestock, musters of convicts or musters taken specifically to include only males, females or children.

The first census of New South Wales

This was held in November 1828 and is the only census to survive in full to the present day. It aimed to record all the inhabitants of the colony at the time, and provides the individual’s full name, age, place of residence, ship of arrival, occupation employer’s name and place of residence. The State Library of Queensland holds the 1828 Census of NSW in the Family History reference collection (FAMHIS 929.3 1980) and on CD-ROM (QCFS 929.394 2001).

Other printed musters and censuses held by the State Library include:

Next to the 1828 census, the 1841 Census is the most comprehensive of the early census records for the colony.  The Family History reading room holds a microfilm copy at MFL 929.3944 (AO/SR reels 2222, 2223, 2508, 2509) and there is an index to this census at MFL 929.3944 (AO/SR reels 1350, 1351, 1352).

The Index to the 1841 Census is also online at State Records New South Wales.

Note: Some of the above listed musters as well as the 1841 NSW census can be found on Ancestry (Library Edition), available, onsite only, at the State Library.

Australian census and muster records

The State Records Office of New South Wales provides a guide to all the musters and census lists that exist for New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). It includes records from the British Public Records Office, (filmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project) as well as records from the New South Wales State Archives. The State Library holds microfilm copies of many of these. A copy of the guide, Muster and Census Records (MFA 929.394 1986), is held at the Family History reference desk on level 3 of the South Bank building.

Archives Office of Tasmania - Index to Census Records 1837-1857.  Any results found through a search can only be obtained from the Archives Office but a digitised copy may be available to view and/or print.

South Australia 1841 Census [CD-ROM] / compiled by Graham Jaunay (QCFS 929.39423 2005)

You will also find a comprehensive listing of 19th century Australian censuses, and the institutions which hold them, at Graham Jaunay's website Adelaide Proformat

What international census records are available?

The State Library holds some census returns for the British Isles. These can be viewed in the Family History reading room on level 3 of the South Bank building. For details of our holdings, check under the County name in the State Library’s One Search online catalogue.

Census and substitutes for Ireland

Check the chapter on census records in John Grenham’s Tracing your Irish ancestors (FAMHIS 929.1072 2006) for further information and the catalogue for more census substitutes.

British Isles Census records

The State Library holds many British Isles census records on CD-ROM.  The following CD-ROMs are only a few of those available.

Check the One Search online catalogue for further records.  The CD-ROMs are not networked but can be viewed in the Family History reading room.

Are any international census records on the Internet?

Findmypast.com.au - available onsite only, at the State Library, to search British census records for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1891, 1901 and 1911. Also available is the "1939 Register", which was taken at the outbreak of war and contains the details of 41 million people in England and Wales. It was the basis of the identity card during WWII, and was maintained up until 1952 when identity cards officially ceased. It includes marriages and divorces, and provides exact date of birth.

Ancestry.com - (Library edition) available onsite only, at the State Library, to search British census records for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1891 and 1901. Census records for the United States (1790-1940) and for Canada (1851-1911) are also available to search through Ancestry.

FreeCEN : UK Census Online
The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1891 British census are available here. It is not complete and is continually being added to through the gradual transcription of the records by volunteers.

Census of Ireland 1901 and 1911
They are arranged by townland or by street. They cover all 32 counties. The search of the index and viewing of original documents is free.

Census Finder
A directory of free online census records. New records are added on a regular basis.

Census Links
Links to census information from various countries, from a wide range of sources.

Download the PDF version of Census and muster records: family history info guide [PDF 84kb]

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