Some Silly Census Questions from 1910

It is census day here in New Zealand, when we share all our personal information with our overlords so they can make lots of pretty graphs.  Personally I’m particularly annoyed that I’ve only just now realised that one of the questions asks “On Tuesday 5 March, what was the one main way you travelled to work – that is, the one you used for the greatest distance”.  Had I checked the questions in advance then perhaps I could’ve arranged for a chariot to take me to work today.

Mr M A Watts with his sons filling in census forms. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1956/0839-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Mr M A Watts with his sons filling in census forms. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1956/0839-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Censuses are of course a serious matter and the information gathered today will be useful for decades to come, but it really is hard to resist having a bit of a joke and it seems that many other pranksters have had their fun in the past.  Check out these fake census questions published in the New Zealand Observer on  22nd October 1910.  Article is sourced from Papers Past.



(Note. – The census is to be taken early next year.  Our Wellington correspondent, who is an utterly unscrupulous scoundrel, recently effected a surreptitious entry into the Government printing office, and sneaked some advance sheets of the census papers, a copy of which he forwarded to us.  We have pleasure in reproducing them herewith.)

For Men Only

What is your name?

Where were you born, and why?

What was the name of your grandmother’s first cousin’s uncle’s wife (if any)?

Have you had the measles?  If so, when?

Do you keep a dog?  If so, what denomination does he (or she) belong to?

Have you any lawful visible means of support?

Are you married?  If so, why?

Do you take sugar with your tea?

What is the amount of your salary?

Have you ever been in gaol?

Have you ever been in the mental hospital?

Do you drink?

Are you a Government supporter or an Oppositionist?

How often do you get your hair cut?

Do you shave yourself?

How often do you wash yourself?

What rent do you pay?

How many children have you, and what are their names?  How many sets of twins (or triplets) are there in the family?

Which do you prefer:  beef or mutton?  State the reasons for your preference.

Do you part your hair in the middle or at the side?

What church do you go to?

What size hat do you wear?

Did you ever commit a murder?  If so, state number of people murdered, and why.

What do you think of Waihi shares?

Can you read and write?

Was your first cousin’s brother’s maternal great-aunt fond of oysters?  If so, how many could she consume in a sitting?

Did you ever commit suicide?

Do you ever pay your bills?  If so, why?

How much money do you owe?

Do you smoke?

How old are you?

When do you expect to peg out?

Do you indulge in mixed bathing?

Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?

What size of boots do you wear?

Do you use profane language?

Did you use profane language while answering these questions?

Have you got any corns?  If so, how many?  And what is the cubic measurement of each?

Have you ever been refused an overdraft?  If so, what is your opinion of bank managers?

Are you in the habit of telling fish stories?

What do you think of your mother-in-law (if any)?

What colour of socks do you prefer?

Are you a Mason?

Do you keep poultry?  If so, state the quantity of eggs they have laid since you have had them.

Did you ever tell a lie?  Note.- If the answer to the question re fish stories is in the affirmative, you need not trouble to answer this last query).

Are you cross-eyed?

Do you ever break the Sabbath?

Would you like to be made a J.P.?

What is your measurement round the chest?

How often do you buy your wife (if any) a new hat?

What is your opinion on the subject of drapers’ bargain sales?

Do you ever curse the cat (if any)?

What time do you get up in the morning?

What time do you go to bed at night?

What do you think of the weather?

Where did you steal your umbrella?

What do you think of the census?

Are there any more questions you would like to answer?

For Ladies Only.

What is your name?

How old are you?  (Note. – 20 per cent. will be knocked off for a prompt reply).

Are you married or single?

What is your preference in the way of hats?

Is your hair your own or a second-hand lot?

Is your hat on straight?

What is the average length of the hatpins you use?

What is your opinion of the other sex?

How much rouge and other cosmetics (if any) do you use per annum?

Can you keep a secret?

What is your opinion of the next-door neighbour’s style in (1) dress (2) babies (if any) (3) husbands?

What is the size of your feet?

How many sizes too small do you buy your boots?

Do you consider that kissing is healthy?

What kind of moustache do you prefer?

How many gallons of tea do you drink per diem?

How much do your eyebrows cost you per annum?

What do you say, or do, to your husband (if any) when he comes back from the lodge at 2 a.m.?

Are you a Government supporter?

Does your husband (if any) ever tell you fairy stories about being detained in town on business?  if so, do you believe him?

How many times does your husband (if any), when at the theatre with you, go out to see an individual with reference to a canine quadruped.

What is your fighting weight at a bargain sale?

How long does it take you to get ready to go out?

Do you think Mrs Pankhurst is a love?

Do you think men ought to be allowed to smoke?

How many pounds of chocolate creams can you eat at a sitting?

If single, when do you propose to get married?

Do you like mice?

Do you make your husband (if any) walk the floor with the baby (if any)?

How many barrels of scent do you use in a year?

What is the circumference (in square miles) of your best hat?

Do you do the cooking?

Does your husband (if any) suffer from indigestion?

If single, how many young men have you got on the string?

How many of Bertha Clay’s and Charles Garvice’s sixpenny sensations do you swallow per annum?

Are you on speaking terms with your neighbour?

What is your opinion of your neighbour’s baby (if any)?

What is your opinion of your own baby (if any)?

How high could you jump if there was a spider after you?

Is the colour of your hair natural or artificial?

How many years do you take off your age every birthday?

Do you read the accounts of society divorce cases that appear in the papers?

What do you think of the person who drew up this census paper?

You can check out the original newspaper here on Papers Past.  I hope this century old satire gave you a laugh on census day – if not at least an insight into the humour of yesteryear.  That’s my two cents for census day.  Now where is that chariot…

© Lemuel Lyes

5 replies »

  1. Seriously funny (as it were). Actually, these things highight in so many ways just how much society has changed over the years. An archivist friend of mine underscored it, years ago, when he told me that we have but to look at what used to be filed under ‘Miscellaneous’ in settler times to understand the way thought patterns have changed – often radically.

    I have to admit, this year’s census was an eye-opener for me. I had to tote up the number of hours I work in a week. It’s about 65-70, plus. Hmmn…

    • It is always a bit humbling to boil your own existence down to a bunch of numbers – to become nothing but a statistic.

      Who knows what future generations will think when they look back at our census results.

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