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Census records can provide personal information about family relationships, age, year of birth, description of property, religion, birthplace, and so forth. Census records are especially valuable because they list a large portion of the population. They can provide information where all or portions of other records are missing. Generally, you will find more complete family information in more recent censuses. Use the information with caution since some information may be incorrect.
Since Iceland was under Danish rule until 1944, when the Danish officials ordered a census taken, that same order and census format extended to Danish posessions, which included Iceland. However, there were censuses taken in Iceland which are not found for Denmark.
These special censuses were taken in 1703, 1762, and 1816. The 1703 census included genealogical information and listed all residents by name. The next census was taken in 1762. This census only included the names of adult males who were farm owners, land leasers, or tenant farmers. Females, laborers, children and the poor were not listed by name, but are included in the number counts. A census taken in 1816 lists the names of all residents and asks for their birthplace among other items.
Census which used the Danish format were taken in 1801, and then again in 1834 (1835 for Iceland). Beginning in 1840, a census was taken every five years until 1860. After 1860, the census was taken every ten years until the end of the century. Beginning in 1901, censuses were again taken every five years. The census forms had Danish language headings through 1845. Beginning in 1850, the forms used were printed in Icelandic.
Information Found in Census Records
You will find the following types of information in census records:
1801, 1835, and 1840. These censuses give the names of all members of the household, their ages, sexes, occupations, relationships to the head of the household and marital statuses.
1845 and later. These censuses list the names, ages, occupations, relationships to the head of the household, religious affiliations, and birthplaces (county and parish) of all members of the household.
Icelandic Census Headings
Each census in Iceland had a standardized form, organized into columns with headings, which allowed the census taker to record the required information in the correct place. See Icelandic census headings for information about the column headings for each census in Icelandic, with English translations. Knowing what is asked for in the various census years will enable you to better plan your research strategy.
Online Census Indexes
The National Archives of Iceland has an index to many censuses online, incuding 1703, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1855, 1860, 1870, 1890, 1901 and 1910. 1901 and 1910 are only partially indexed. The site is also available in English.
Census Images on Microfilm
FamilySearch has microfilm copies of original census records from Iceland. Use the FamilySearch Catalog to find census records, by search Places for Iceland, then selecting one of the topics beginning with "Iceland - Census." There is a topic for each available census year, for example, "Iceland - Census - 1816".
Searching Census Records
When searching census records, it is important to remember the following:
- Accept the ages with caution.
- Women are usually listed by their maiden surnames.
- Given names may not always be spelled exactly the same or be as complete as those recorded in vital records.
- Information may be incorrect.
- Spelling for names and places varies.
- Search the surrounding area if you do not find a family at the expected address.
- When you find your family in one census, be sure to search that same location in the earlier and later census records for additional family members.
Searching in Cities
Finding your ancestors' family in the census records of a city can be time consuming. It is helpful to know the street address. Beginning in 1870, the census is arranged alphabetically by street for the large cities in Denmark. Sometimes you can find the street address in the church records at the time of a birth, marriage, or death in the family. Other sources for street address are business directories; civil certificates of birth, marriage, or death; probate records; or court records.
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