India Census

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A census is a count and description of the population. The percentage of people listed varies with the purpose of the census and how careful the enumerator was. India national censuses started in 1871 and continue every 10 years.

The Indian census had two immediate precursors: On the one hand, the regional gazetteers, censuses, and regional surveys in India; and on the other hand, the British decennial censuses beginning with the 1801 census. Both of these historical antecedents of the Indian Census have their foundation in the "statistical movement" that gathered great momentum in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although this movement (at least as it led to the accumulation of social statistics) had the administrative purpose of more efficiently matching state resources to social needs, in the colonial context its manifestation in the early Indian censuses cannot be separated from Britain's colonization of India.

The gathering of statistical data inevitably requires a procedure of classification. With the early Indian censuses, the process of classifying social institutions and structures led to the creation of an authoritative representation of Indian society. That the Indian censuses were a product of the colonial encounter becomes even more apparent in the proliferation of ethnographic essays in the early Indian Censuses.

The early Indian censuses present not merely statistical accounts of early modern India, but also documentation of the British encounter with its colonized subjects. These censuses are documentation of the colonizer's attempts to come to an understanding of its colonial subjects and integrate India (at least from an administrative perspective) within the British Empire.

Follow these steps to find film numbers in the FamilySearch Catalog for India censuses.

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Search tab.
  3. Click Catalog.
  4. Click Place Name.
  5. Type the name of a parish or town, and click Search.
  6. Click the locality that you want.
  7. Scroll down the list of topics, and click Census.
  8. Click View Film Notes to see the film numbers for each census year.

A census may list only selected persons (such as males between the ages of 16 and 45) or list the whole population. Censuses provide information when other records are missing. The percentage of people listed varies with the purpose of the census and how careful the enumerator was. Various types of censuses taken by different authorities for their own purposes, include:

  • National population summary data
  • District profile
  • Economic activity
  • Migration
  • Household population
  • Area profile, states and districts
  • Towns with population

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