Iceland Census

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Online Records

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.

Civil Census Records (Manntöl)

Research use: The first census took place in 1703 as part of a Danish government investigation of economic conditions in Iceland. The information in this and subsequent censuses varies considerably, but names and ages and relationships to the head of the household are always given. Censuses are excellent linkage sources.

Record type: Enumeration of the population. The census was taken irregularly until 1860. Thereafter a census was taken every 10 years until 1960. The next census was in 1981 and another is planned for 2001.

Time period: 1703 to present.

Contents: 1703 and 1729 Censuses – names of all inhabitants of Iceland, ages, relationship (if any) to head of household, residences, occupations. Note: The 1729 census exists for 3 counties only; Árnessýsla, Hnappadalssýsla, and Rángarvallasýsla. 1762 Census – names of heads of household only, ages, occupations, residences; wife and children, servants, lodgers, hired help, etc., indicated in various columns by number only. 1801, 1816, 1835, and 1840 Censuses – names of all inhabitants of Iceland, ages, relationships, residences, occupations, marital status. 1845 Census – same as above, except place of birth is shown and information is requested about each person's physical and mental condition. 1850 and 1855 Censuses – same as above, except beginning with 1855 a more detailed account is requested about each person's physical and mental condition, such as blind, deaf and dumb, and so forth. 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1890 censuses – same as above, except beginning with 1860 each person's religion is specified; beginning with 1880 their sex is given. 1901, 1910, 1920 and 1930 Censuses – same as the preceding, with additional information, i.e., year of marriage, number of children born (whether living or dead including stillbirths), if previously married and year of death of former spouse; year of arrival to parish and former place of residence. Note: Persons absent at the time the census was taken are enumerated in special section with same information given as shown above, which includes present place of residence.

Location: National Archives up to 1930; recent census records are at the Statistical Bureau.

Percentage in Family History Library: 70% of the required census material. For 1901 and earlier the library has 100%; the Library also has the available indexes to these censuses up to 1901.

Population coverage: Theoretically 100%.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: All census records through 1901 are accessible on microfilm through the Family History Library. Records are also accessible through a researcher or by on-site research.[1]


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Iceland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1988-1997.