IMG_1121Census data helps chart the history of a country. It helps shape the future planning for education, health, transport and infrastructure.

Australia has taken a census every decade since 1911, and every five years since the 1960’s.

To date, all census data has been paper based, forms delivered to every household in the country, completed by the householder and the forms collected.

It was census night this week and this census was to be completed online, for the first time. A paper form had to be requested via a specific phone helpline.

But things didn’t go to plan.

Amid concerns over privacy and the security of the online information, the web site crashed early evening on census night and was down for over twenty four hours. Politicians and government officials pointed blame in various directions, including hackers. I won’t go into those details.

I have completed our census information this evening, online. As expected, there were questions about each of the people staying at the address on the specific night, their work, income, education, where they were born. There were questions about the number of bedrooms in the property, how many cars for the household, was there internet access.

I have another view of census data. It has been a valuable source of information when searching my family tree.

In England, a census has been taken every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941 during the Second World War. 1841 was the first census to record the names of every individual.

From a genealogy point of view, census records from 1841 to 1911 are available online, for a fee. Census data is closed for one hundred years.

My maternal great grandparents were easy to find in 1901 in London. I knew the names and make up of those families but I was fascinated by the additional information, occupation, about the home, three families living at the one address, other occupants in the street. Each census provides a snapshot in time.

I wonder what future generations will think about this week’s census data.

Here is an extract from the English 1901 census, although not my own family.1901EnglandCensus_306507181