This article studies the history of the demographic censuses in Brazil, as well as civil records and the PNAD (National Survey by Household Sampling), with emphasis on the main issues investigated by each of these instruments. The important role played by the State, especially in the development of the demographic censuses, is taken up, as this factor explains their rapid development. In contrast, during their early stages civil records remained dependent on the not always stable relationships between Church and State. The increasing importance of the demographic censuses as instruments of analysis of demographic factors is gone into. The 1970 census is considered a milestone with respect to its organization, the wealth of details treated, and the reliability of the results. The role of civil society is also highlighted, as well as of the academic community and the formulators of public policies in this process. The PNAD has also played a special role in this process, as it has been carried out between censuses, with multiple investigative purposes, sometimes including demographic characteristics (migration, fertility, marital unions, etc.) and factors related to health.
Censuses; Civil records; PNAD; Population; Fertility, mortality and migration; Citizenship; Economic characteristics