Making Sense of the Census

Tuesday 9th August 2016 is census day. On this day we are all required to fill in a census form which is an official count of the population by the government. The questions tend to change from year to year. But the usual ones are: address, age, gender, birthplace, religion, where your parents were born and your ancestry. However, let’s get a little history on the census and see how it plays a part in genealogy research.

The United States first started taking census records in 1790 and every 10 years since, while in the United Kingdom they began in 1801 and every 10 years since, except 1941 during WWII. Australia’s first population count was in 1788 and at that time was called a muster. These were important to be able to get enough food and supplies. The very first census as we know them now, that recorded people in their dwelling, was held in New South Wales in November 1828, but not many of these early censuses have survived and certainly none since 1841, apparently for reasons of privacy. The convict era was very sensitive for a very long time.

The gathering of this information helps towards the funding of community services, health, education and policing. Although the question is asked about health and if care is provided, if educated and financial information but nowhere did it ask for my criminal activity!! And as you can tell, I’ve completed our census tonight. Sunday 7th August and not the 9th. The question now is, what happens if someone comes to stay with me on Tuesday night and what if, God Forbid!  I die between now and Tuesday or end up in hospital!! Hope not. Ok, politics over.

I have entered a challenge that was put out by Alex Daw blogger at Family Tree Frog, to post a blog about extraordinary information that I have found on the census. Like many others, my ancestors were ordinary folk. Farmers, labourers, miners and yes, we do have a surgeon, however, he’s remained elusive in the census for now. I cannot find Alexander Delisser on the 1841 census. He was married in London in 1828, and I have found his burial record in Florence Italy in 1844. Was he living in Italy in 1841? I’ve not been able to find any of his family either, especially our direct ancestor, Adam who was born Adam Lymburn Delisser, but at the age of 12 had his named changed to Adam Lymburn Lymburner. He won’t show up in the 1851 records, as he arrived in South Australia in 1848.

There’s a story about the Delisser and Lymburner’s here.

Sometimes it’s that one census record that helps you place a person in a given area at a given time and gives their place of birth and occupation. The age helps as well when looking for birth or baptism records, which then take you back another generation. I was fortunate to find my great grandfather Charles Thomas Cripps aged 7 years on the 1861 census, as by 1871 he too had found his way to Australia.  And of course, he’s not on the 1851 census as he wasn’t born until 1854. So he’s only on one census in the UK. Yes, he was a young lad of 17, ran away from home and ended up making a life for himself in Northampton, Western Australia. My Cripps story is blogged about here.


Ann Cripps in the 1861 Census

1861 Census, 7 Thomas Street, Bethnal Green, Middlesex, England [1]

Some of my other family lines, I have managed to find in every census year from the earliest records in England of 1841 through to the latest that has been released for 1911.

As for being extraordinary, I think the fact that we can trace our families movements in England, USA and some other countries using the census is extraordinary in itself. In Australia, we don’t have the same opportunities. However, since 2001, we have the option to tick the box, if we want our census information to be available for future generations after 99 years. I won’t be around then, so what does it matter what people read about me!

10th August 2016

As Census night has been and gone, I thought I would add a couple of interesting things that have happened for future reference.

  1. There was a lot of hype about completing the census before or on the day, then it was announced that it does not have to be completed until the 23rd September, 2016, however it will still be about where you were on Tuesday, August 9.
  2. Fines of $180 per day for every day that the census isn’t completed will be issued.
  3. The ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) site had a melt down early in the evening of the 9th August 2016. It turns out that the site was hacked, at least 3 times.


[1] Class: RG 9; Piece: 255; Folio: 166; Page:40; GSU roll: 542601. 1861 England Census. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861.


About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in Blog, Cripps, Delisser, Lymburner and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Making Sense of the Census

  1. luvviealex says:

    Hi Jenny – thank you so much for participating in the NFHM Blogging Challenge. Please forgive me for taking so long to swing by and comment on your post. It’s been a bit frantic as you can imagine and I am drawing breath only just now 🙂 Yes wasn’t there a lot of kerfuffle about the census. People do like to criticise don’t they? I felt more than a bit sorry for the ABS, truth be known. I think trying to do it online was a great idea – so much more convenient for everyone concerned. Drat those hackers.

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      Yes, I got over hearing people around me whinging about it! Thanks for popping by. It was great to do the blog even just to record that it happened on this day in 2016.

  2. kerbent says:

    I agree the fact that many countries have kept their census and that we can sometimes find our ancestors in them is truly extraordinary

  3. It’s sad that so many are concerned about ticking the box on the 9th August Census. Some are even leaving off their name and address. Looking forward to the rest of your challenge posts.

  4. crissouli says:

    Interesting post.. but why won’t you be around in 99 years, Jenny? The way we are going, we’ll still be doing family history!

  5. Good job Jenny. I will be completing mine tonight and ticking the box too. Where would we geni’s be without those old census records???? In the dark!!!!!!

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