Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Year Book Australia

Past editions of the Year Book Australia are now on-line from 1908 to 2009. You can access them here on the Australia Bureau of Statistics website. The 'Official Year book of the Commonwealth of Australia' as they were called at one time were produced by the Commonwealth Statistician and they have statistics on all aspects of Australian life.  You may be thinking that you can't  see the relevance of this to your local or family history research, but they have a huge rang of interesting facts that you could add to your stories about your family or local area. So here's my story with some facts from the Year Books.

I was born in 1959, one of 226, 976 babies born that year. Of these babies there just over 5,100 were twin and 66 were triplets. I was one of the 110, 735 girls born and there were just over 116, 000 boys (including three of my cousins). The Year Book also tells us that of all these babies 10, 562 were born 'ex-nuptial' or out of wedlock. These days, of course, most people are not at all concerned about whether the parents of babies are married or not, but people thought differently then. It wasn't all good news however, as sadly the same year there were 3,231 still births and 4, 489 babies died under the age of one.

In 1959 the average number of 'nuptial confinements per marriage' was 2.93 i.e the average family had 3 children. I was the second child but by mid 1960 my younger sister was born - so that made the 3! The Year Book also tells us about the age of the parents of the children born - around 68,000 were aged between 20 and 24 and 67,000 between 25 and 29 - my mother was 24 (22 when she had my elder sister and 25 when my younger sister was born. She was what was considered then a rather ancient 29 when my brother was born in 1964!)  This was about standard as most women at the time had their second child when they were aged between 25 and 29. As a matter of interest, 489 women had their 10th (or more child) in 1959 - 200 of these mothers were aged between 35 and 44 but 32 were over 45! One woman was aged between 20 and 24 when she had her 10th child!

1959 births - one of these babies was me! Female and a single birth.
Year Book Australia 1961


Fathers on the other hand tended to be  a bit older, but generally most women aged between 20 and 29 who gave birth in 1959 had a husband not older than 29. In 1959, two thirds of women who were having their first child had been married less than 2 years - my aunty was one of these when she gave birth to her first child and my own parents were married just on a year when my sister had been born.

So let's now look at 1956 the year my parents were married. There were 71,780 people married that year of which around 29,000 of the men and 31, 000 of the women were aged between 20 and 24, which includes my parents. People did tend to marry at a much earlier age than today  - over 17, 000 women under 20 were married in 1956 and 2,700 men.  The Year Book also lists 'Marriages in each denomination'  12.66% of all marriages took place in the Presbyterian Church, including my parents; around 13% were Methodist weddings, 24% Catholic and just under 30% were Church of England or Anglican. Various other Christian religions had 8% of the total and 'Hebrew' or Jewish weddings were .38%.  No real surprises there given the make-up of the population at the time. The rest of the marriages or 11.28% were 'Civil Offices' - most likely at the Registry Office, the first 'civil celebrant' as we know them today was not appointed until 1973.


1956 marriages - my parents made up part of the 12.66% of Presbyterian marriages.
Year Book Australia 1958

What else can the Year Books tell you? The average weekly  wage for males and females,  number of  private cars and how many were registered in that year;  number of houses built and of what material; what sort of dwellings people lived in (private house - the definition of which also included sheds and huts - flats, licensed hotels); how many schools there were, number of people enrolled at University; agricultural production; countries were people were born, agricultural production - the list is amazing.

Have a look at  the Year Books and see what interesting information you can find about significant years in the life of your family or your local town.  You just need to remember that if you want specific statistics for  a certain year then you will may need to look in later years, for instance it was the 1961 Year Book that contained the 1959 birth statistics.   Click here for access to the on-line Year Books.

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