Aug 012011
It is nearly census time again. Census night is the 9 August 2011. 
In Australia censuses have been held every five years in recent times. Unfortunately only the statistical information has been retained rather than the genealogical information we would like to see so make sure you tick Q60 to retain the census pages for our descendents.
In 2001, the first time the opt-in system was offered, 54%of Australians ticked the box. If even higher numbers tick this year, there  maybe a chance it could become an opt-out system rather than the current opt-in system.
 I have photocopied my previous filled in census forms so at least I have a copy of the information among my family history papers and will do so again this time.
The first Down-Under complete census was held in November 1828 in New South Wales which included the whole Eastern coast at that time.  Previously the people were mustered together and counted. There were some concerns that it was not legal to force people to muster so another way was found. 
The new census was taken by specially appointed collectors who completed printed forms for each household in the territory allotted to them. The forms were given to the local Magistrates who checked them abstracted the required information and then sent it to the Colonial Secretary. Unfortunately the forms do not survive.The information was gathered together, statistics extracted and the final returns made. In 1881 there was a white population of 36 598 of whom just over 20 000 were non-convicts. At this time there were three men to each woman in the Colony.
1881 census in the Colonies of Australia
The 1881 census was held throughout the British Empire and showed the young colonies had had a major population explosion since 1828 as seen in this table from Wikipedia.
The Australian census was hopefully more accurate than a census taken in 1821 on the other side of the world as seen in the following letter (NLW: Bute L 74/15) from J. B. Bruce of Dyffryn, one of the Aberdare gentry, to the Marquis of Bute, lord lieutenant of Glamorgan:

March 9, 1831

My dear Lord Bute,

The census of 1821 was scandalously taken at Merthyr by a drunken clerk of the friendly societies. It is well known that whole families forbid & concealed themselves fancying a militia drawing.

His account of £10 houses was 264, which the very rate-book in that year w’d have shewn him (had he taken the trouble to inspect it) to be 373!

The census has been accurately taken this week, having been divided into districts for that purpose, & has been sworn before me this day to be 26,350 in the parish of Merthyr alone, and there are 2000 not included in this census, in a suburb called Coed-y- Cummar, parish of Vainor, county of Brecon, all of whom work in the Cyfarthfa works being only separated from them by the Taff. The vestry clerk has also sworn to 638 houses rated at £10 & upw’ds, not including 71 at the afores’d suburb. […]

Or this one from a census enumerator in1861
Thomas Mullinger finally signed his Declaration, covering some 573 Schedules

for part of Somers Town, one of the poorest and most populous areas of St.Pancras, on 13th.May, 1861, a month late. He writes RG9/113 fol.69b.

“A great portion of my District being Unchurched, Ignorant and Prejudiced I have great trouble and delay in Gathering in the Schedules at all, and when  gathered in they so abounded in Inaccuracies of the most surprising and puzzling description, I have been obliged to return them for Revision, and  generally to supply eventually Fresh Schedules, to Replace ] the Schedule as amended by myself will at once establish these Facts and I most respectfully submit these annoyances and Hindrances most Materially account for the Late Date in my Declaration.

Thomas Mullinger”
A report by a 1901 Census Enumerator in England was given in the Derbyshire Times on the 6th April 1901 and is worth a read. It may explain why some of our ancestors are missing!
Now Back in 2011
Soon the envelopes will arrive by post, will be filled in by a literate population and  will then be posted back (or retrieved electronically if you fill it in online) and the results will be tallied. A major change from the past! I wonder what my Great-Great-Grandparents Richard and Lucy Rollason would have thought if I could go back to them in 1881 as they were completing the census and tell them how we will do it today.
It would be interesting to see the major changes of occupations from 1901 to 201. So many of the trades followed by my ancestors have changed significantly. There are also so many new occupations that would seem very peculiar to them such as Mobile Phone Ring Tone Designer, App designer even my own profession of Molecular Epidemiologist!
There have also been so many changes in religion. I wonder how many Jedi Knights there will be in this census?
Remember, to give our descendents, some of the pleasure we have found in viewing old census pages and seeing our ancestors and the snapshot of their lives, please tick Q60 to retain the census.