Early Australian census records

Illuminate Australian society and your family history using census records from 1788 to 1901

Find records of people

What records are available?

Only some records of individuals have survived. This guide lists all known Australian census and muster records at State Library Victoria or online.

Records were not collected every year.

Many records of individuals have been lost, or deliberately destroyed for privacy reasons.

If records survive, they may only list the head of a household.

NOTE: No records of individuals exist for censuses after these dates:

Victoria: 1853
New South Wales: 1901
Northern Territory: 1921
Queensland: 1841
South Australia: 1841
Tasmania: 1857
Western Australia: 1837

After statistical analysis was completed, typically census forms containing information about individuals were destroyed. For example, in 1892 all surviving Victorian household forms from earlier censuses were pulped. Earlier, in 1882, a fire destroyed the New South Wales census records for 1846, 1851, 1856, 1861, 1871 and 1881, including the household forms from 1861, 1871 and 1881.

If the census records you want to look at have not survived, census substitutes may include the information you are looking for.

 

How do I find census records?

To find out how to access census records, click on your area of interest:
Victoria | New South Wales | Northern Territory | Queensland | South Australia | Tasmania | Western Australia

 

What kinds of information can I find?

The information collected about individuals varies from census to census. The types of information you might find include names (often only for the head of the household), age range, occupation, and sometimes information about where people lived, their level of education and religion. Some records include more detailed information.

Using census records relating to individuals or households, you can answer questions like:

  • My ancestor farmed in Victoria in 1852 - how many head of livestock did he own?
  • My ancestor lived in New South Wales in 1828 - what kind of house did he live in?
  • My ancestor migrated to Tasmania in the 1840s - where did she settle?
  • In 1806, how many children did my female convict ancestor have?
  • My ancestor lived in Moonee Ponds, Victoria in 1841 - who else lived in the area?

 

I can't find records for the place/time that I need

If the information you want doesn't seem to be available, try checking census substitutes.

 

I live outside metropolitan Melbourne - how can I access census records?

Many Australian libraries and family history societies hold copies of relevant records. Some records are included in the Ancestry Library Edition database, which is available to use at many local libraries. Some records are available online. Check this guide for links, and ask your local, state or territory library for advice.

If no libraries nearby hold the records that you need, we can undertake a limited amount of research on your behalf, using our collections. Contact our Ask a librarian service for further information.

State Library Victoria

LIBRARY CLOSURE  

In line with the stage 3 restrictions announced by the Premier, State Library Victoria closed on Thursday 9 July.

We will advise when there is any update to this situation.

Our Ask A Librarian  reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.