The 1828 New South Wales Census was Australia’s first census and took place in November of that year. Previous government statistics were based on “musters”, a head count of assembled convicts and settlers. In 1828 the white population of the whole of Australia was 36,598, made up of 20,870 free settlers and 15,728 convicts. There were 638 of that total white population living in what is now Queensland and just over 18,100 in Tasmania. Almost a quarter were born in the colony and a quarter were women while 25,248 were Protestants, with 11,236 Catholic. Indigenous Australians were not counted.
The 1828 census is the only complete 19th century census to have survived and consists of original householders’ returns; meaning that the form was filled in and signed by householders on census night rather than the more usual enumerators’ books. Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original record held by State Records New South Wales.
Containing nearly 10,000 records, the 1828 New South Wales Census was the first census ever to be taken in Australia. Previous government statistics were based on “musters”, a head count of assembled convicts and settlers.
And to protect individual privacy, national censuses were destroyed after the statistical information had been collected. These records are the original householders’ returns. In other words, the form was filled in, and signed by householders on census night rather than the more usual enumerators’ books.
Forms typically include the individuals name, occupation, birth year, arrival year, ship name, residence, class (whether free settler or class of convict) sentence, religion and details of their land and livestock.
Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original record. The amount of information can vary but you can find out the following about your ancestor:
- Birth year
- Arrival year
- Ship name
The image often contains further information including:
- Class – whether someone was a Free settler (FS), Bonded convict (BC), had a Ticket of Leave (TL) or a Certificate of Freedom (CF)
- Total number of acres
- Number of acres farmed
- Number of acres cleared
- Number of horned cattle
- Number of horses
- Number of sheep
This is an incredible record that has survived, from such an early (I know know early for the rest of the world, but early for Australia) period of Australia’s history.
And just a reminder that back in 1828, New South Wales covered a whole heap more of Australia than the New South Wales as we know it today. So Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and even New Zealand technically “were” New South Wales back then.Search the New South Wales 1828 Census records now.