What Census Records are
The census in all basic form is a systematical approach to both acquiring as well as recording various pieces of information regarding a particular population. Of course while this term can be used regarding any form of species, it is most commonly thought of in reference to the door to door census which occurs and has occurred in every major country in the world for a very long time. The concept itself dates back to the Roman times as it was back then when the system was first put into effect in order to keep track of any and all adult males who were fit for military service.
Of course much has changed from the days of old and this system is no longer intended for military use since the average country no longer forcefully inscribes its citizens into active duty. However, in general it is performed as a means of allowing the government of that country the ability to plan and appropriate necessities to the localities based on the number of residents in a locality compared to the number of citizens in the whole country. I know it may sound a bit confusing and in actuality it is, but the good news is that thanks to this census being performed, today we are able to use this data as well as those old, stored away censuses’ of the past to help trace our genealogy.
As a matter of fact, it is through the censuses’ in that many people are able to trace their lineage with the greatest of ease. While it may not be as helpful for those whose ancestors had a habit of wandering from place to place on a regular basis, many people who have researched their genealogy have found the census data from many countries all over the world to be the most useful and informative means of finding their past.
Of course while this data has been very helpful for one’s lineage research that does not mean it also has not the potential of being abused. In many instances, people and politicians alike have made use of the census data in rather unscrupulous manners in order to benefit themselves or the people who live and work around them. But in most cases, since the good will outweigh the bad, the censuses’ continue on today allowing the various government entities to manage what goes to where based on the area’s population and density.
The census itself can be dated back to the Babylonians, more than 5,000 years ago. At this time, 3800 B.C., the census was taken roughly every 6 years as a means of keeping track of not only the people, but the livestock, honey, butter, milk as well as wool and vegetables that were kept on hand. From there, the concept of the census made its way into Egypt in or around the Pharaonic period.
However it would not be until 500 B.C. when the Persian Empire first started recording the citizens in its empire in order to issue land grants as well as for taxation that the census would first start being used as it is today. Even the Mauryan Empire of India which established rule back in 350 B.C. would make use of a census in recorded form as a means of measuring the independent state policies and assessing taxes.
But it would be the great Roman Empire that would spread this concept of the census to the rest of the known world. They did their censuses’ in order to assess taxation as well as keeping track of the fit adult males who could be inscribed into the military. It was at this time that the word census would first be used as well seeing as though it comes from the Latin origin censure, which simply translates into estimating.
Today though, a lot of this Roman census data is long gone, but that does not mean that other censuses’ from around the world are unavailable. As a matter of fact, the Han Dynasty took a census in Han, China back in 2 A.D. that showed there were 59.6 million residents living in the city. This is considered to be the oldest intact census that can be found anywhere in the world.
The Domesday Book which was undertaken by William I during the Middle Ages was the first major census in Europe. This census was prepared so that William I could ensure that proper taxation of the newly acquired land. This census would occur back in 1086 A.D. but another one would not have been heard of until 1183 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem would have a census performed as a means of fighting off invasions from Egypt as well as Syria.
As time went on, the record keeping of the census continued to advance and today many of these records can be obtained so that one can research their family lineage. Irregardless of whether it is a census performed by the state or even if it was one performed by the church, the data is still there. Unfortunately though, the vast majority of these censuses’ are not in electronic form as of yet and still have to be transcribed. Just because you may not be able to find the data you are looking for does not mean it does not exist, it just needs to be found and transcribed.
Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 20/11/2008