Information about the age distribution and survival of wild populations is of much interest in ecology and biodemography, but is hard to obtain. Established schemes such as capture-recapture often are not feasible. In the proposed residual demography paradigm, individuals are randomly sampled from the wild population at unknown ages and the resulting captive cohort is reared out in the laboratory until death. Under some basic assumptions one obtains a demographic convolution equation that involves the unknown age distribution of the wild population, the observed survival function of the captive cohort, and the observed survival function of a reference cohort that is independently raised in the laboratory from birth. We adopt a statistical penalized least squares method for the deconvolution of this equation, aiming at extracting the age distribution of the wild population under suitable constraints. Under stationarity of the population, the age density is proportional to the survival function of the wild population and can thus be inferred. Several extensions are discussed. Residual demography is demonstrated for data on fruit flies Bactrocera oleae.