A Guide to early NSW Censuses and Musters

From fairly early in the history of the Colony of New South Wales there have been counts made of the number of people living in it. People were named individually, making censuses and musters useful to us when trying to find out where a person was living and what they were doing.

Here is a rather poor copy of a page from the 1837 Muster of Convicts:

Page from the 1837 Convict Muster

Page from the 1837 Convict Muster

In the early days of the colonies of Australia censuses involved nothing more than gathering every person together in one place and counting them. This was called a ‘muster’, and is similar to the process used to count sheep before herding them off to the stockyards.

The first census as we know it, where people were counted in their homes, was in New South Wales in 1828. It had been brought to the Governor’s attention that free settlers could not be forced to attend a muster…

As more information was required, more questions were asked. An important consideration in the beginning of the new colonies was whether there was enough food to go around, so the early musters indicate whether each person was dependent on government stores for food. Only heads of households were listed by name, with dependent wives, children and servants counted but not named. As the inhabitants started to grow their own food it was important to know what they were growing, so these questions were asked.

Here is a list of the early censuses and musters available for New South Wales with their availablity to researchers.

1800-1802

A muster was taken between Jul and August 1800, when Governor Philip Gidley King assumed control of the colony. Additional musters were taken at the same time of year in 1801 and 1802.

Baxter, Carol J. Musters and Lists, New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1800-1802. Sydney: ABGR, 1988.

Governor King’s Lists 1801 can be found on PRO Reel 10 and the Norfolk Island Victualling Book 1802 on PRO Reel 14.

1805-6

A general muster of prisoners and freemen was taken on Tuesday 12th August 1806, with the landholders mustered on Thursday 14th August. The muster gives information on ‘how employed’ or ‘with whom lives (females)’, which is information that is available nowhere else. A Land and Stock Muster was collected on the same day, containing acreages of the different crops, numbers of horses, cattles, sheep, goats and hogs, numbers of bushels of wheat, maize and barley on hand, and the numbers of persons and whether victualled by the government, with remarks about residence.

These musters have been transcribed in:

Baxter, Carol J. Musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1805-1806. Sydney: ABGR, 1989.

The Norfolk Island Muster of 1805 has been transcribed in the same volume, as has Samuel Marsden’s Female Muster 1806. The Reverend Samuel Marsden collected information on the females of the colony, probably from the original 1806 muster. This muster classifies the women as ‘concubine’, ‘married’ or ‘wife’, and records, where possible, where the woman was married and numbers of legitimate and ‘natural’ children.

Images of the 1806 muster is available on PRO Reel 72 and on Ancestry. Marsden’s muster is at the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

1811

The muster was taken between 5 February and 5 March 1811. Individuals are listed alphabetically within category – male convicts, female convicts, free men and free women. Information listed:

  • Name
  • Ship
  • When convicted
  • Where convicted
  • Sentence
  • Remarks

There is a transcription in:

Baxter, Carol J. General Muster of New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land, 1811.Sydney: ABGR, 1987.

The NSW version of the 1811 census can be viewed on SRNSW Reel 1252, and the British version on PRO Reel 61 and on Ancestry.

1814

The 1814 muster was taken between 17 October and 16 November 1814, and gives a brief description of occupation and whether on or off the stores. A transcription is available in:

Baxter, Carol J. General Muster of New South Wales, 1814. Sydney: ABGR, 1987.

The original records can be viewed on SRNSW Reel 1252.

1819

A general muster taken in November 1819 can be viewed on SRNSW Reel 1252. There is no index or transcription.

1822

A general muster was taken on the 2-13 September 1822, and a Land and Stock muster taken around the same time. The General Muster gives:

  • Name
  • Age, including an indication the parents of children
  • Arrival Status
  • Present Status
  • Ship of Arrival
  • Colonial sentence
  • Sentence
  • Occupation
  • Employer
  • Where

The Land and Stock Muster gives:

  • Residence
  • Name
  • How land held
  • Whether resident on farm
  • Acres in wheat, maize, barley, oats, peas/beans, potatoes, garden or orchard
  • Numbers of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs
  • Bushels in hand of wheat and maize

Both the General Muster and the Land and Stock Muster have been transcribed:

Baxter, Carol J. General Muster and Land and Stock Muster of New South Wales, 1822. Sydney: ABGR, 1988.

Images of the General Muster is available on PRO Reel 72 and on Ancestry. The Land and Stock Muster is only available on SRNSW Reel 1252.

1823-25

In 1823 a General Muster was taken in September 1823, and a muster book compiled by the Colonial Secretary’s office. Subsequent musters in 1824 and 1825 were taken at the same time of year, but instead of compiling new lists the decision was made to update the 1823 list instead, resulting in a much more complete and more accurate list. Additional details were added up to 1832.

The muster includes:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Status
  • Ship of arrival
  • Ship year
  • Sentence
  • Occupation, Employer, etc

The 1825 muster was the last muster. Free settlers were increasingly unwilling to attend musters, and the government  realised it had no power to compel them.

A transcription can be found in:

Baxter, Carol J. General Muster List of New South Wales, 1823, 1824, 1825. Sydney: ABGR, 1999.

Ancestry has digitized images of the muster books, which are also available on PRO Reel 66.

1828

The 1828 Census was taken in November 1828, although returns straggled in early the next year. This was the first census to be taken in Australia and the only census to survive in its entirety to the present day. About a quarter of the householders’ returns survive.

Both colonial and British copies survive, as do most of the householders’ returns. There are differences in each, so it is important to check them all if possible.

Malcolm Sainty and Keith Johnson (editors) have compiled a database on CD 1828 Census Revised Edition which collects data from both the Australian and British versions of the census together with the returns of the householders themselves. This is the most complete list available, as there were many transcription errors in the compiling and copying of the lists, and some people were left out of the lists completely.

1837

The 1837 Convict Muster is more of a compilation than a traditional muster, and as such is more accurate. The new governor, Sir George Gipps, needed to establish an accurate count of the convicts in the colony as it was likely that transportation would soon cease.

The muster includes:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Ship
  • Year
  • Where Tried (often not filled in)
  • Master
  • District
  • Remarks (such as ‘Ticket of Leave’ or ‘Married’)

The muster has been transcribed:

Butlin, N.G., C.W. Cromwell and K.L. Suthern. General Return of Convicts in New South Wales, 1837.Sydney: ABGR, 1987.

Images are available on PRO Reels 71 and 72, and on Ancestry.

The 1841 and later censuses will be covered in  future post.

Say yes to Question 60 in the Australian census

It’s census time again, and again we are being asked if we want to save our answers for 99 years and then make them public.

I am saying YES.

We rely so much on the information from censuses in the United Kingdom and other countries to discover the basic structure of our ancestors’ families and we are disappointed to find that the same information is not available here.

Our descendants and other researchers will thanks us, and we won’t be around to be embarrassed.

Question 60

Everyone included in the Census form has the option for their name–identified information to be retained and kept confidential for 99 years, and then released in 2110 for research purposes. For more information on this question see http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/2011%20Census%20-%20Census%20Help%20-%20Time%20Capsule

Answer truthfully in the census or the consequences could be dire!

Trove SG 1816Nov16 p1 convictsBack in the day, when the government wanted to count the population they didn’t stand for any nonsense. You had to be what you said you were, and your answers would be checked. If you couldn’t prove that you were free or entitled to work for yourself you would be hauled back to government work.

Here is a transcript of a piece I found in the Sydney Gazette of Saturday 16 November 1816 on page 1 which searching Trove for news of a particular convict. You can find the original here, but I have included the full transcript, for which I’d like to thank those wonderful people who correct the text on Trove, particularly cjbrill, who corrected this one. I have changed nothing except the spacing.

WHEREAS, during the late General Muster of the Inhabitants of this Colony, several Persons who had originally come into it as Convicts reported themselves at the said Muster as free, either by Servitude or by Pardon, or as being allowed to  employ themselves for their own Benefit by the special Permission of His EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR; and whereas several of the Persons  who thus reported themselves did not produce any Certificate, Free Pardon, Emancipation, or Ticket of Leave, without which the Truth of their said Statements could not be satisfactorily ascertained; and there being much  Reason to believe that Imposition is frequently practised in this Respect, the Names of those Persons who at the late Muster did not produce any Certificate, Free Pardon, Emancipation, or Ticket of Leave, but who represented themselves absolutely free, or conditionally so, by Virtue of one or other of the above named Documents, is now published, in Order that each of these Persons may be apprised that unless he or she do, in the Course of Six Months from the present Day, obtain at the Secretary’s Office, either a certified Copy of such Certificate, Free Pardon, Emancipation, or Ticket of Leave, as they represented  themselves to have been once possessed of in the Event of his or her having actually lost the Original, they will be considered as Impostors, and immediately recalled to Government Work as Convicts still under the Sentence of the Law.

Trove SG 1816Nov16 p1No. Name. Ship came in. Residence. Occupation.

1. Richard Hawke Alexander Sydney -

2.  Anthony Rope ditto Castle. Landh.

3.  John Cross ditto Port H. ditto

4. Mary Clark diito 2d. Sydney -

5.  John Glade  Atlantic ditto -

6. James Hague  ditto Windsor Landh.

7. Richard Ridge ditto Hawksb. -

8. Christ. Dodding ditto ditto -

9. Richard Verrier Active Sydney -

10. Timothy Doyle Nepean Smith

11. James Higgins ditto Hawksb. -

12. John M’Ewen ditto Liverp. -

13. John Taylor Albemarle Windsor -

14. Jas. Sutherland ditto Hawksb. -

15. John Brown ditto Hawksb. -

16. Owen Hobson Ann ditto -

17. John Campbell ditto 1st. Liverp. -

18. Wm. Aldridge A. Barringt. Richm. Landh.

19. Benjamin Elton ditto Wilberf. -

20. Wm. Reynolds.  ditto Hawksb. -

21. Joseph Hunt Barwell Sydney -

22. Thomas North ditto Richmd. -

23. John Caton Boddington  Hawksb. -

24. James Kenny ditto Liverp. -

25. Mary A. Parker Canada Sydney -

26. Thos. Douglass ditto 1st. Hawksb. -

27. James Kibby ditto 1st.  Liverp. -

28. John Dugan Coromand. Nepean Landh.

29. Wm. Stevens ditto Pitt Town -

30. Timothy Webb ditto Windsor -

31. William Webb ditto Hawksb. -

32. Jonas Mordecai ditto ditto  -

33. Joseph Smith ditto ditto -

34. Rich. Holland D. of Portl. ditto Landh.

35. John Williams ditto Wilberf. laborer

36. John McKenzie ditto Hawksb. -

37. Thos. Getham ditto ditto -

38. Thomas Knight E. Cornwal. Richm. laborer

39. Thomas Rudd ditto Liverp. -

40. Patrick Mason Friendship Hawksb. Landh.

41. James Timmens ditto Richm. ditto

42. Roger Twyfield ditto Hawksb. -

43. Hugh M’Avoy Glatton Sydney -

44. Joseph Oners ditto Windsor Landh.

45. Mark Doolan Gambier 1st. Sydney

46. Peter Patallo Ganges ditto -

47. Samuel Stevens ditto Richmd. -

48. John Fitsgerald Hillsboro’ Sydney -

49. Robert Ritchie Hercules Castler. Landh.

50. Stephen Dunn ditto Pitt Town -

51. Martha Eaton Lad. Penryn Sydney -

52. Thos. Woolton Minorca ditto -

53. John Hewitt Minerva Windsor laborer

54. John Everett ditto Hawksb. -

55. Joseph Burrows ditto ditto -

56. Nicholas Crosbie M. Cornwa. Windsor Landh.

5 7. Robert Allen ditto Richm.  -

58. John Riley ditto Hawksb. -

59. Michael Balf ditto ditto -

60. Wm. Horsford Matilda ditto -

61. John Booth ditto Port H. -

62.  Henry Hyam ditto Hawksb. -

63.   Steph. Richardson ditto Richm. Landh.

64. Daniel Phillips ditto Hawksb. -

65. Adam Bell ditto ditto -

66. Isaac Farmer Neptune Wilberf. -

67. Thos. Eager or Heather ditto Hawksb. -

68. Wm. Mackey ditto Richmd. -

69. Dan. Anshutz ditto Hawksb. -

70. James O’Neille Pitt Sydney -

71. Rd. Hammett ditto ditto -

72. James Higgins ditto ditto -

73. Alex. Cumberbech ditto ditto -

74. Joseph Pearce ditto Richm. Landh.

75. John May ditto ditto ditto

76. Thomas Brown ditto Hawksb. -

77. Matthew Elkins Perseus Windsor shoemaker

78. Joseph Butler ditto Wilberf. -

79.  J. Mainwright ditto Hawksb. -

80. Wm. M’Donald Queen Pitt Town Landh.

81.  F. M’Lawrence Queen Richmd. sawyer

82. Catherine Evans Royal adm. Sydney -

83.  Thos. Pateman ditto 1st ditto -

84. William Green ditto Brokenb. Limeb.

85. Donald Kennedy ditto Castler. Landh.

86. Richard Willis ditto Pitt Town ditto

87.  William Ezzey ditto Windsor ditto

88. Henry Rochester ditto Richmd. -

89. John Norman ditto Windsor -

90. Henry Tredaway ditto Hawksb. -

91.  James Dunn  Royal Adm. ditto -

92. Thomas Tailby ditto Liverp. -

93. John Summers ditto 2d. Windsor ferrym.

94. Patrick Byrne Rolla Wilberf. -

95. Cornelius Lyons ditto sydney -

96.  James Bradley Scarboro’ Sydney -

97.  Robt. Forrester ditto Windsor Landh.

98. Richard Hagley ditto Hawksb. -

99. William Smith ditto ditto -

100. Thomas Glaves ditto ditto -

101.  Wm. Hubbard ditto ditto -

102.  Jas. Ruse ditto ditto -

103. Jas. Spooner Salamander Sydney -

104. Jos. Welstead ditto Hawksb. -

105. William Pimblett surprise Sydney -

106.  William Knight ditto Port H. Landh.

107. Simon Freebody ditto Windsor ditto

108. Edw. Woodham ditto Richm. -

109.  John Sullivan Sugar cane ditto Hawksb. -

110.    James Knowland ditto Hawksb. -

111. Charles Barwick Wm & Ann Sydney -

112. L. Wetherhead ditto Hawksb. Landh.

113.  Thomas Noble – Liverpool -

114.  John Hopkins – ditto -

115.  Roger Fletcher – ditto -

116.  John Masterson – ditto -

And the foregoing Persons are hereby Apprised,that the proper Time to apply at the Secretary’s Office for the obtaining of the above Documents, is the first Monday in each Month.

By Command of His Excellency, J. T. CAMPBELL, Secretary.

 

Switch to our desktop site