Early Australian census records

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

Find statistics

Where do I start my research?

This page lists resources that will help you to find key statistics.

To find detailed demographic data and reports, click on your area of interest:

Victoria | New South Wales | Northern Territory | Queensland | South Australia | Tasmania | Western Australia

Before you start your research, figure out what information you want to find:

Date range:
Are you looking for information about a point in time, or a longer time period? What years in particular?

Geographic area:
Do you want information related to small areas (for example, a suburb), or larger areas (for example, Victoria)?

Topic/s of interest

What kinds of information can I find?

In most cases you will find information about numbers of residents in different areas, and statistics about their:

  • age
  • occupation
  • ethnic backgrounds and/or Aboriginality
  • birthplace
  • religion
  • education
  • income
  • marital status

These statistics will usually be organised by area (place of residence) and gender. The 1973 Victorian year book (available online and in print) includes a table showing what information was collected in censuses from 1854-1971 (see page 20 in print, or page 40 of online PDF).

Using census statistics, you can answer questions like:

  • How many women lived in Victoria in the 1850s?
  • In the early 1900s, how common was divorce?
  • From the 1870s to 1890s, in what ways did the population of Bendigo change?
  • How many Welsh people lived in Geelong in 1857?
  • My ancestor worked as a mason in Western Australia in 1848. How many masons lived there at that time? 
  • How many Catholics lived in South Australia in 1844, compared to people of other religions?

These types of information add interest to family and local histories, and places people in their social context. 

Be aware that:

  • In general, the earlier the census or muster, the less information was collected.
  • Not every census collected the same information. This means not all information can be compared directly from census to census.
  • Records relating to Aboriginal Australians and Chinese Australians may be inaccurate. They were excluded from some censuses.

Online resources

Resources at the Library

State Library Victoria

LIBRARY CLOSURE  

As of June 15 2020 the Library is open with reduced spaces and services.

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