Early Australian census records

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

Records of people

Listed below are pre-1901 New South Wales census resources available at State Library Victoria. Resources which include details about individuals are listed first, in date order. Resources for statistical information are listed at the bottom of this page.

An excellent summary of the censuses and musters collected in New South Wales can be found in the State Records Authority of New South Wales' guide Muster and census records, 1788-1901.

To locate copies of records relating to the process of taking the census from 1810-1825, see the heading 'Musters' in the Index to the papers of the New South Wales Colonial Secretary 1788-1825.

Records relating to Aboriginal Australians may be inaccurate.

In 1882, a fire destroyed the New South Wales census records for 1846, 1851, 1856, 1861, 1871 and 1881, including the detailed household forms from 1861, 1871 and 1881. 

Statistics

An excellent summary of the censuses and musters collected in New South Wales can be found in the State Records Authority of New South Wales' guide to Muster and census records, 1788-1901.

To locate copies of records relating to the process of taking the census from 1810-1825, see the heading 'Musters' in the Index to the papers of the New South Wales Colonial Secretary 1788-1825.

Statistics relating to Aboriginal Australians may be inaccurate.

Census dates

Musters took place in:
1800 (settlers)
1806 (first complete muster that has survived)
1811 (convicts, including those given tickets of leave, pardons etc)
1814
1816 (convicts)
1817 (convicts)
1818 (convicts)
1819 (convicts)
1820 (convicts)
1821 (convicts)
1822
1823 (military not included)
1824 (military not included)
1825 (military not included)

Censuses took place in:
1828 (military not included)
1833 (military not included)
1836 (military not included)
1837 (convicts, including Norfolk Island)
1841
1846
1851
1856, 1 March
1861, 5 April*
1871*
1881, 3 April*
1891, 5 April
1901, 31 March

*Household forms (detailed forms giving information about individuals) collected in these censuses were destroyed in a fire in 1882

Original records

The books and online resources on this page contain information extracted from original records. Many of the earlier original records have been copied and are available as part of the AJCP (Australian Joint Copying Project) set of microfilms. These include records relating to New South Wales from 1787 to 1837.

A listing of the available records - with references to their location in the AJCP - can be found in the Australian Joint Copying Project handbook: part 3: Home Office, pages 16-17. The book Checklist of nineteenth century Australian colonial statistical sources: censuses, blue books and statistical registers also includes well organised references to the relevant AJCP reels, and often gives information about what kinds of details you are likely to find in these records.

1841 census index data

SRNSW index harvester (GitHub)

Code to harvest and save data (csv format) from the 1841 NSW census index published online by State Records NSW. Also includes pre-harvested data (csv) from the 1841 NSW census index. Code and data harvest by Tim Sherratt.