Alexander Daw of Family Tree Fog fame challenged bloggers to a month long series of posts to do with various subjects re family history. Week 1 was suggested as depicting how a census had influenced our research with a great find. I have had quite a few discoveries with the Irish Census, particularly with finding a missing daughter after searching quite a while elsewhere. I went sideways and looked for the siblings of her mother in the 1910 census and found her with her mother's brother's family. They had small children, an older cousin would have been a great help with the younger ones. I decided to go on a different path.
As we go headlong into the 2016 CENSUS in Australia, wrapped in confusion, apprehension and so much discussion, I wondered what it was like during earlier census years.
The first national census was held in 1911, with future censuses scheduled for every five years. However, world events changed those plans with the beginning of WWI in 1914.
In September 1915... with the First World War well under way, there was a census of an entirely different kind...a War Census. The War Census Act of 1915 was passed.
The government wanted to know just how many males were in Australia with the possibility
of national conscription being mooted.That was not a popular move, it was hard enough with so many young men already signed up and an ever growing casualty list. It was soon extended to cover other details that would have been covered in a general census.
The Prime Minister wrote to all eligible males asking them to enlist, and if not, why wouldn't they?
These forms were termed WAR CENSUS PERSONAL CARDS...
and WAR CENSUS Wealth and Income Card.
and WAR CENSUS Wealth and Income Card.
As you will see in this blog below, they asked for quite a lot of personal information.
Forms from Qld State Archives Blog
The population was being hounded constantly in the press, many wrote to newspapers to
have their say...
From a distressed father...
Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954),
Thursday 27 January 1916, page 5
The Truth, in Brisbane, called it as it saw it...
Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), Sunday 19 March 1916, page 5 TROVE
" Lax official methods proverbially pertain to war-time War office methods of administration in
every country, yet "Truth" doubts if a more scandalous abuse of departmental or departmentally
associated privileges has ever been made than that now practised in Brisbane in regard to the
handling, copying and filing of recruiting census cards. All such cards, as far as the city of
Brisbane is concerned, are received and scrutinised in the recruiting office centre, at the
Kodak buildings in Queen -street, and later are handed over to the scrutiny of voluntary office
workers, who not only eagerly scan their contents, but whose memory of such contents is
encouraged by the exercise of making duplicates, indexes, and generally completing the work
of a regular card index system."
The article goes on to detail how comments were made about respondents, their physical disabilities,
marital status and all manner of personal information.
The full article can be found at http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article203042857
Other newspapers shared the opinions of the government and the people.
Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 - 1954), Tuesday 8 February 1916, page 3
It seemed many people were losing their cards or simply forgetting to fill them in. This must have
frustrated the government no end.
Somehow I feel that this news was greeted with great relief.
Many questions were discussed in the article mentioned above from the Qld State archives.. why were so many different questions included, why did the government need to go off on so many different tangents, why did they feel the need to probe so deeply into the private lives of it's citizens? A hundred years on, I would hope that the security of ordinary citizens' information is deemed to be of greater importance unless released by permission at a given time in the future.
Here we are approaching the 2016 census... with promises of respect for privacy, yet a census serves the wider community in many ways, not just to determine the needs for infrastructure such as transport, roads, schools, hospitals and so on... but also is a great resource for researchers of all kinds, including academics, genealogists and family historians.
We have the choice of allowing our details kept to be released in 100 years.. for me, that is definitely the option to choose. I would hope that my descendants are able to answer as many questions about me and mine, how we lived and where, as I have been able to discover about my ancestors. Names and dates are important, but even more so to me, is being able to learn the stories of individuals.