“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.”
These are the famous words from the Gospel According to Luke that you, if you belong to the part of the world where Christianity is practiced, hear every Christmas.
Today scholars don’t think that there actually was a census for the whole Roman Empire but there are evidences that a local census in Syria and Judea took place around year 1. This was in order to collect taxes in those provinces. As you know: The taxman is data quality’s best friend.
Today doing census is still the most practiced method of knowing about the people living in a given country. The alternative is a public registry that is constantly updated with all the information needed about you. I had the chance to describe such a method in the post on a Canadian blog some years ago. The post is called How Denmark does it.
India has a similar scheme with a centralized citizen registry on the go. This program is called Aadhaar.
As reported in the post Citizen ID and Biometrics the United Kingdom was close to adapting doing citizen Master Data Management some years ago. But it didn’t happen, so it’s still possible to have multiple names and multiple addresses at the same time in different registries while Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.