Of the many sources we use to collect genealogical data, the censuses are very important. They can be a treasure trove of information. If we are lucky we can find three generations listed in the same household. I base this article on the sources available in Digitalarkivet.
I will start by discussing some censuses that were performed in the 1600’s. These were so-called “manntal = man counts” and counted only the male population. Some might not agree that these “man-counts” are described along with the censuses, but as these sometimes are translated as censuses, I have chosen to do so.
Before you get started on the censuses, it is highly recommendable to read the information about “Abbreviations and special signs” found in Digitalarkivet.
Census (Manntal) 1664/Census (Manntal) 1666
This Count was performed by having the ministers send in lists with the names of the male population. Whether we look at this as one or two censuses, they did not include the towns and the county of Finnmark (Thuesen 1996:19). We need to remember that many of the areas that today are part of towns, were not so in the 1660’s.
The Censuses 1664-1666 are included in The National Archives online: “Digitalarkivet”. Here they can be searched as scanned documents. This means you need to know where to look. The handwriting can be very hard to read.
Census (Manntal) 1701
This was another count of the entire male population in Norway. Due to poor phrasing in the instructions, many infants are left out of this census. The towns and the county Finnmark is not included. Some of the original material is lost (Hovdehaugen 1984:89).
The 1701 census is included in the The National Archives online: “Digitalarkivet”. It can be viewed as scanned documents and it is also indexed and can be searched.
When it comes to Finnmark, you can find some information in the “Finnemanntalet 1686”. This is not a mancount or census per se, but rather a registration of all men of Finnish origin in Norway. The count was performed in all districts that had people of Finnish origin. The Finnemanntal is publised as a book (Opsal 1990).
The 1801 census is close to complete and is indexed in the Digitalarkivet. This census gives us a lot of information about the population. Here the age is recorded. We must note that the age is not always correct. When cross referencing a find in this census with other sources (e.g. church records), we must look at records couple of years before and after the calculated birth year. The cotter families are recorded, but they are listed under the farm where their cotter’s place belonged (Hovdhaugen 1984:60).
From the information on the Digitalakrivet:
“The census contains the names of farms (in rural areas), the full names of inhabitants, the familial ties between household members, their age, marital status, and occupation. For married and previously married people, it was recorded how many times they had been married or widowed. […] People were registered in the regions where they belonged. Those who were absent, e.g. sailors, should hence be listed in their hometowns.”
Carried out December 31 1865
Two important items were included in this census; birthplace and religious affiliation. By recording the birthplace they made it easier for us to follow a family line from district to district (Digitalarkivet).This is the first census that lists the names of the cotter’s places (Sandal 1991:119). This census records age and thus the calculated birthyear may be inaccurate.
The census for 1870 were carried out in towns only. The only town that is indexed in Digitalarkivet is Lillehammer and it can be searched here.
Carried out December 31. 1875
The census lists birth year, as opposed to age that was used earlier (Sandal 1991:119) The censuses became now a little more reliable when it comes to time of birth compared to the ones where age is recorded. People were to be recorded both at their permanent resident and at the place they stayed temporarily at the time of the census. This means that the same person could be recorded twice (Thorvaldsen 1996:61).
This census is in the process of being indexed and is, at the time of this writing, not complete . The work is a joint venture between The Norwegian Historical Data Centre (NHDC), The Norwegian Genealogy Society DIS and the LDS Church – Family Search.
The census can be searched at Family Search, The Norwegian Historical Data Center and Digitalarkivet . These different sources may not be synchronized at all times, so if you don’t find what you are looking for in one you might try the other two. (I looked at the municipality of Vestnes in Møre or Romsdal county. It is not listed in Digitalarkivet, but it looks like NDHC does have some records from this municipality).
This census was carried out 31. December 1885 and 1. January 1886 in the towns only. For Finnmark county it looks like larger rural areas around some of the towns are included. The census can be searched in Digitalarkivet.
Carried out January 1. 1891
The 1891 Census is available in the Digital Archives in a scanned version (There are a few districts that are indexed that can be searched here). It is a bit hard to search the scanned part (areas that are not yet indexed) unless you are familiar with the area where you look for information. When the residence of the person you are looking for is unknown, it will often be difficult to find that person (Digitalarkivet).
You can browse the 1891 census in Digitalarkivet.
Carried out 2. December and 3. December 1900. Some of the original data for this census is lost. You can see what areas this is here (Digitalarkivet).
A separate list for crewmen on Norwegian ships can be searched here (Digitalarkivet).
Carried out December 1. 1910
For the first time the population is listed with birth dates in addition to birth year.
The 1910 census can be searched here (Digitalarkivet).
Name lists for numeric censuses
From 1815 to 1855 there were a number of numeric censuses. These were only for statistical purposes. A few districts included lists with names. These can be found in the Digitalarkivet.
From 1883 to 1925 there were 9 separate municipal censuses performed. They can be searched or browsed here (Digitalarkivet).
A small number of separate parochial censuses from 1755 to 1827 can be searched or browsed here (Digitalarkivet).
From 1900 there were censuses in Norway every ten years. Norwegian censuses are closed for privacy reason for 100 years. The next census to become available will be the 1920 census in 2020.
Hovedhaugen, Einar: “Slektsgransking” Oslo: Landbruksforl., 1984
Opsahl, Erik: “Finnemanntallet 1686” Oslo: Norsk historisk kjeldeskrift-institutt, . 1990
Sandal, Per: “På leit etter slekta” Oslo : Samlaget, 1991
Thorvaldsen, Gunnar: “Håndbok i registrering og bruk av historiske persondata” Oslo: Tano Aschehoug, 1996
Thuesen, Nils Petter: “Den store slektsboken : slektsgransking, veiledning til kildene, slektstavler til utfylling” Oslo: Orion, 1996