Historic census records include a bounty of genealogical details which bring family histories to life. Census records can illuminate where people lived and who they lived with, what kind of work they did, and provide clues as to their birthplaces and birth dates – priceless information which is often not available anywhere else.

2011 marks the hundredth year of national census taking in Australia. Unfortunately, from 1901 to 2001 everyone’s carefully completed census forms were pulped after they had been statistically analysed. Many colonial census records were also deliberately destroyed, or lost to fires. (Colonial records that survived are listed in my Early Australian census records research guide). The late great genealogist Nick Vine Hall noted that ‘Australia has not kept a [complete] national census since 1828’, the equivalent of seven generations worth of missing data.

In recognition of the historic importance of census records, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is now giving you the option to have your census forms preserved (and kept confidential), for release in 99 years. The records will be securely stored in a secret vault managed by the National Archives of Australia.

On census night, save your census for the benefit of future researchers by saying yes to Question 60 (Household Form) and Question 54 (Personal Form)

[Women sitting at tables having a cup of tea and filling out forms]
 H99.201/5428
Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria

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