Carnegie and Napier (1996, p.7) call for studies in accounting history which expand or reinterpret the archive, contending that the results can provide 'insight into accounting's present and future through its past'. In this paper the census is revealed as specifically grounded within the domain of accounting, and is presented as an artefact arising from a range of necessities to account and to satisfy obligations to be accountable. The prior, although limited use made of census data in accounting history studies is detailed, and a number of historical censuses examined from an accounting perspective. Particularly emphasised and exemplified are early colonial Australian censuses and musters. A discussion of the potential for using this largely unmined archive in informing a range of studies of accounting's past, based on a variety of historiographical approaches, is developed and offered as a means for extending and supplementing existing research agendas in accounting history.