We hold very few census records that identify individuals who lived in Victoria. The great majority of name-identifying census records created by Colonial and State Governments in Victoria were destroyed. Responsibility for census activities was taken over by the Commonwealth of Australia in 1905.
What do I need to know before I start?
You will need to know if and when the person you wish to locate was a resident in Victoria.
This page will enable you to:
- determine when censuses were conducted by Colonial or State Governments in Victoria
- what census records we hold that list individuals' names
- which records have been destroyed.
View online or at the Reading Room?
Look for the icons at the bottom of this page to identify records that are viewable online (camera) or to be ordered online and then viewed in a reading room (book):
The census of the Port Phillip District dated 9 November 1836 can be found within the inward correspondence of the Police Magistrate for the Port Phillip District, William Lonsdale (VPRS 4). This record has not been indexed but has been digitised and can be browsed online. A transcription of the document can be found in our publication Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 3, pages 422–426.
The general census of Port Phillip conducted during September 1838, this record has not been indexed but has been digitised and can be browsed online. A transcription can be found in Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 3, at pages 434–448 and pages 431–434 respectively.
A census was conducted in 1841 but the original census returns are held by State Records New South Wales. Each return identifies by name only the head of the household who completed the return and only general numerical detail is included about the people in each household. You can conduct an online search on the State Records NSW website.
A census of Victoria was conducted during 1851 in conjunction with one held in New South Wales. According to State Records New South Wales no records of this census exist today.
Censuses conducted between 1854 – 1901
Censuses were conducted by the Colony or State of Victoria in 1854, 1857, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901. None are known to exist within the PROV Collection. According to the State Library of Victoria guide to early census records, surviving returns were pulped in 1892
Censuses conducted from 1905
The responsibility for conducting censuses was taken over by the Commonwealth of Australia from 1905. Census records for Victoria from this date were destroyed until 1996 when households were given the option of having their returns preserved by the National Archives of Australia (NAA).
Aboriginal people in Censuses
Information about Aboriginal Australians has not been collected consistently in censuses, for further details about this lack of consistency and resources for finding census information about Aboriginal people, see the State Library Victoria webpage on Censuses of Aboriginal Australians.
Some Victorian agencies collected census information about Aboriginal people living in Victoria through their work responsibilities for managing Aboriginal affairs, see our topic page on Aboriginal Victorians (1830s to 1970s).
Look for these icons to:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.
Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting.
PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples.