A census is a count and description of the population. A few censuses have been taken by the various German states, provinces, or cities and by some ecclesiastical officials. Censuses were taken primarily for taxation or military purposes.
German censuses may not be as helpful as censuses from other countries because better sources, such as church records and civil registration, are available for Germany.
Censuses were not taken nationally in Germany and therefore exist for only a limited number of places and times. Only the compiled statistical information that was gathered from the censuses is generally available. Census records of some towns and regions may be accessible at various archives, but most are presently not available to researchers.
Use census information carefully since accurate information may not have been given to or understood by the census taker.
Read a paper about censuses in Germany here:
Census Records at the Family History Library
The census records of several areas have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. The 1819 census of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and various census records for Schleswig-Holstein are the most significant censuses available at the library. There were also some census records taken in the year 1938, which focused mainly on the Jewish population.
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The library has the 1819 census on 60 rolls of microfilm, but the 1860 census is not available. The 1819 census gives information about all those who lived in a particular household, including age, sex, birthplace, parish to which the birthplace belongs, marital status, and occupation. It also gives the length of residency and some additional comments. The census is arranged by district and city, and records are available for almost every town in Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
An index to the 1819 census is:
Schubert, Franz. Mecklenburg-Schwerin Volkszählung 1819: Register der Familiennamen. Berlin, Germany: Göttingen: Ditterich: Im Selbstverlag, 1981-1986. Two Volumes in Five. (FHL book 943.17 B4s ser. 4.) The indexes are bound at the back of each volume.
The index is also found on microfiche 6,001,784-788.
This census is listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
GERMANY, MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN ¬CENSUS
The extraction of the 1819 Mecklenburg census is to be found at http://www.akvz.de
Denmark ruled all of Schleswig-Holstein, including Lübeck and parts of Hamburg and Oldenburg, until 1864. Denmark took several censuses of this area. The first census was made in 1769, and subsequent censuses were taken in 1801, 1803, 1834, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1855, and 1860. The censuses are written in either German or Danish, sometimes with both on the same page. The information contained in the censuses varies according to which year it was taken:
- 1769. This census names the head of each household and the number of people in the house, grouped by age and sex. It did not take military personnel into account, neither will the researcher find information from estates, monestaries and the Gottorfer areas.
- 1801-1860. Censuses taken from 1801 to 1860 list each person's name, residence, position in the family, age, marital status, and occupation.
- 1845 and later censuses. From 1845 on, each census also lists birthplace, the parish of the birthplace, and the length of residency at the census place.
It is often difficult to determine which village belongs to what census district. A good source to find jurisdictions are the two volumes v. Schröder and Biernatzki published: "Topographie des Herzogthums Schleswig" (1854) and "Topographie der Herzogthümer Holstein und Lauenburg" (1855)
Censuses are microfilmed but not indexed. They are arranged by district and city. These census records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
GERMANY, PREUßEN, SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN - CENSUS
The Family History Library has some less significant census records from a number of other German states. These are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
GERMANY, [STATE] - CENSUS
Some indexes now available online at: http://www.mycinnamontoast.com/perl/results.cgi?region=4&sort=n&type=4
Some statistics about censuses taken in Germany are listed under this link
Searching Census Records
When searching census records, remember the following:
- Information may be incorrect.
- The ages listed may not be correct.
- A given name may not be the same as the name used in vital records.
- Names may be spelled as they sound.
- Place-names may be misspelled.
- Some parts of the census may be illegible.
- If the family is not at the expected location, you should search the surrounding area.