researching this article I realized there are three certain things in life
for those of us living in Euro-North American societies and many other
parts of the world: death, taxes and the census. Many governments, past
and present, do not rely on population records — a census — to collect
and spend taxes.
Just as taxes are
often collected for reasons other than paying for government services,
censuses are performed for reasons other than a head count. The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) defines a census on their
Web site [http://www.familysearch.org]
as "An official count of the population taken by a government or church."
Censuses come in
two kinds: head counts with little or no personal information, and a nominal
census, i.e., a census with names or an enumeration which identifies each
individual counted by name, as a minimum, and other personal information.
(For a concise history of the census, see Infoplease.com [http://www.infoplease.com].)
Most nominal censuses
collect personal information, sometimes in great detail, and in exchange
for a guarantee of privacy until several decades have elapsed. These historical,
nominal census schedules with personal information are among the most important
research sources for family historians (genealogists) and, since the late
1970s and the rise of personal computers, historical demographers.
to census schedules and also prized by genealogists, parish (ecclesiastical)
registers contain names and dates associated with Christian religious rituals
such as baptism (and sometimes birth information), marriage, burial (and
death information). Some parish registers also record the movement of individuals
into and out of a parish. In Europe, these records are generally considered
part of the historical demographic record for reconstructing population
counts. In North America, because governments normally sponsor censuses,
the same class of records are regarded as vital statistics documents. While
we will mention a few examples here, a future Searcher article will cover
online parish registers, vital statistics and related databases for genealogical
research. Many of the sites operated by genealogical societies or individual
family historians contain additional links that readers should click and
explore. No one article can do justice to the wealth of current and historic
census and demographic data available on the Web or through commercial
data services and data libraries.
Part I of this
article looks at the census tradition within the U.K., the Scandinavian
countries, and selected European nations where governments, genealogists,
social science researchers, and the LDS Church have begun, over the past
20 to 30 years, cooperative projects to extract valuable data from these
records. (Part II will focus on the history of the Canadian census.) We
will discuss some of the software and standards developed by research communities,
in particular historical demographers, as well as some of the copyright
and privacy issues surrounding census data. However, we will only mention
some of the various ethnic and religious groups that develop and maintain
their own genealogical Web sites for members. Nor will we cover the many
CD-ROM databases of census transcriptions. The majority of these CD-ROMs
cover the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
General Guides to the Census
and Population Statistics
and demographic (population) resources are abundant and easy to find on
the Web. Besides well-known directories such as Google Directory [http://directory.google.com/]
and Yahoo!, several specialized guides cover online census records. Google's
directory contains entries under Science > Math > Statistics and Science
> Social Sciences > Demography and Population Studies. Web sites specific
to a country may also appear in an equivalent Regional category.
The Google Directory entry for family history is under Society > Genealogy.
/ Statistics Guides
bills itself as a Yahoo!-like directory for research statistics and statistical
analysis. The site includes software, courses, and a site search engine.
A comparable academic site is StatLib [http://lib.stat.cmu.edu/],
managed by the Department of Statistics, Carnegie-Mellon University.
The U.S. Census
Bureau maintains a reference page to various world population data
and an International Data Base (IDB) with demographic data for 227
countries and regions [http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbnew.html]
from 1950 to the present, as well as projected data up to 2050. A free,
downloadable copy of the IDB, updated to May 10, 2000, is available for
the Intel PC platform. The U.S. Census Bureau also tends a list of national
Statistical Agencies (International) [http://www.census.gov/main/www/stat_int.html].
within many countries also maintain government statistical agencies that
rely upon and interpret national census data. In my province, for example,
this function is performed by BCStats [http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/].
The Norwegian central statistics office (Statistisk sentralbyrå)
tracks Web Servers at Statistical Agencies [http://www.ssb.no/english/links/main.shtml].
Still going strong
after 8 years, the World Wide Web Virtual Library: Demography &
Population Studies: The Internet Guide to Demography and Population Studies
is one of the oldest categories in the WWWVL collection. One of the topic
lists is Census and Data Servers. Its counterpart, the World
Wide Web Virtual Library: Statistics [http://www.stat.ufl.edu/vlib/statistics.html],
is managed by the University of Florida Department of Statistics.
site-search engine [http://www.about.com]
offers a good way to start looking for online census records. Its main
drawback, as experienced searchers know, is that the various subject guides
duplicate one another's work. In a March 31, 2002, search, the keyword-based
site-search engine produced nearly 1,600 hits for the word "census." Limiting
the search to only the About Genealogy guide from Kimberly Powell produced
about 300 hits. About Genealogy references heavily emphasize U.S. and U.K.
resources, barely touching on the wealth of online census data on the international
Web. A short list of information about international census records in
the About Genealogy guide appears at http://genealogy.about.com/cs/census/
with links to online census records at http://genealogy.about.com/cs/censusonline/.
If imitation and
linking are criteria for success, then Ancestry.com [http://www.ancestry.com]
clearly prevails. So many commercial and personal Web sites look like and
link to Ancestry.com that inexperienced searchers may believe they have
arrived at Ancestry.com or that Ancestry.com contains all they need. An
integrated search interface to its databases covers more than 1.3 billion
names, and one can limit a search by name to just census records. The drawback
to Ancestry.com is that its databases only cover the U.S., Canada, and
the U.K. The special section devoted to U.K. resources contains general
descriptions of various census records and background information on the
geographic locations of records in the Ancestry.com databases.
The most famous
and well-used (over 27 million visitors since 1996) personal links directory
is Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet [http://www.cyndislist.com/].
Compiled and maintained by Cyndi Howell, Cyndi's List is hosted by RootsWeb.
I visited the site twice at a 1-month interval to see whether she was still
adding the same number of links she claims to average each month. On February
28, 2002, it held more than 123,550 links, with 115,300 of those organized
into more than 150 categories. On March 31, it had grown to over 126,850
links with 118,550 in the same number of categories. That's 3,300 "new"
links or 110 links per day, assuming the 30-day period stated in her FAQ.
This is a full-time job, as she says, because she also updates and deletes
another 1,000 or so each month, as well as wading through a couple hundred
e-mail messages each day. Even more impressive, the site appears to be
Cyndi's List has
three site search engines: FreeFind, Atomz, and Google. And here we see
the drawback and why there are so many links. A FreeFind search for "Scots
Origins" got me 26 results, Atomz yielded 94 matches, and Google split
the difference with 43 hits. Cyndi uses the same set of links on multiple
pages, apparently counting each of those as a new link. In the census category,
for example, there is one main link to Scots Origins and seven sublinks.
Some of the same set of links appear in the Google search.
Cyndi's List has
a Census Related Sites Worldwide category, with 142 sites on February
26, 2002, and 144 sites on March 22, the last two times it was updated
prior to my visits. This category divides into two sections: Census
Tools & Information, with some commercial products included, and
Census Indexes & Records, i.e., lists or databases compiled by
genealogists or produced by government agencies, such as the Public Record
Office of England. Unfortunately, while the list appears to be in date
order, it is actually in numeric-alpha order, with site titles beginning
as a numeric value, in this case a census year, filing before the letter
A. Researchers would probably find filing by date and country-census district
more helpful. Despite its repetitive nature, however, Cyndi's List remains
one of the most helpful starting points for census research.
directory lists independent genealogy and historical Web sites from around
the world. RootsWeb [http://www.rootsweb.com]
is a volunteer-driven genealogical site supported by Ancestry.com. Several
family history databases and search engines help hunt down census lists
compiled by genealogists. The WorldGenWeb Project [http://www.worldgenweb.org],
hosted by RootsWeb, includes a non-searchable Online Digital Archive
with transcriptions of public domain records, including censuses. Browse
the archive by country to download files stored as ASCII text and sometimes
Guides to Historic
/ Census Databases
Cyndi's List of
— Searchable Online [http://www.cyndislist.com/database.htm]
includes a subsection on historic census databases. Although this page
does not include some of the census databases listed in the main census
category of her site, it does point users to the other section of her site
("Census Related Sites Worldwide").
Tim Doyle maintains
the Online Genealogical Database Index [http://www.gentree.com/gentree.html],
which he claims "links to all known genealogical databases searchable through
the Web." Access is by the letter of the alphabet which begins the database
name. With no search engine, you can spend some time guessing the name
of a specific database. Even though he states the index "does NOT include
links to sites devoted to a family unless a database is available for searching,"
most of the index pages I checked contained databases devoted to a specific
surname or a family.
The Census Online
Finder(Free online census records directory) [http://www.imagin.net/~tracers/census1.htm]
includes U.K. (Ireland and Scotland) links. CensusLinks [http://censuslinks.com/]
is a portal site with a geographic directory to online census databases,
as well as research guides and tools for using various census records.
Microdata Around the World [http://www.rhd.uit.no/nhdc/micro.html]
is a Norwegian guide to online census and demographic data. GenSource
maintains a guide to international census sources.
Metasearch Sites for Census
Only a few metasearch
sites cover census records outside the U.S. GenealogyPortal.com [http://www.genealogyportal.com/]
combines a topic directory and search engine, including one to census records.
or GENealogy ReSOURCEs [http://www.gensource.com/]
contains I Found It, a family history Web directory and search engine,
and the IFI Archives. Site owners Deb Kinneer and the GenSource Group describe
the latter as "actual historical records to assist your genealogy research.
Many individuals have taken the time to transcribe records and place them
on the Net for your use. I have indexed the contents of these sites....
" GenSource also contains a virtually unpopulated and geographically inaccurate
Guide to online international census records. The U.K. Channel Islands
are listed under Oceania > New Zealand, France is listed not under Europe
but under Mediterranean Counties [sic], and England falls under British
Isles but not United Kingdom.
Free Census Online & Genealogy Records [http://www.censusdiggins.com/].
Started as a census transcription project, this site claims to have "thousands
of census records in our online census transcriptions along with marriages,
death records, Civil War soldier records, Civil War prison information,
photos and links. Genealogy search engines books,tips, links, resources,
software and more." And the site promises, "Our Genealogy Records Will
Always Be FREE." The census transcriptions, which can be searched, are
U.S.-centric, but the site includes links to other sites with international
census data.Oddly enough, the site search engine (PicoSearch) is placed
below the Ancestry.com search engine.
For a free database
service to help locate online census databases, go to FamilyTreeSearcher.com
You can store up to 10 names with some mandatory and optional vital statistic
information for searching multiple databases of genealogical information.
For those not
wishing to navigate the main European Union site, the European Union
in the U.S. site [http://www.eurunion.org/infores/resguide.htm]
contains an A-Z list of EU Web sites. Conducting a page search for "statistics"
will locate EuroStat [http://europa.eu.int/comm/eurostat/],
the EU's main statistical office. The EuroStat site has interfaces in English,
French, or German: Look for Population & Social Conditions to uncover
current demographic data.
(Statistics Denmark) [http://www2.dst.dk/internet/startUK.htm]
is the national statistical agency. The Danish Demographic Database
Demografisk Database) [http://ddd.sa.dk/DDD_EN.htm],
a service of the Danish Data Archive [http://www.dda.dk/]
within the Danish State Archives, provides free searches of Danish censuses
between 1769 and 1916. While there are several fields for searching, two
of the fields are required: name (at least three characters) and the county
(from a pick list). Results can be sorted by name, record number, parish,
offers the free Web-based StatFin-Online Service which includes population
data. The Genealogical Society of Finland [Finnish: http://www.genealogia.fi/
and English: http://www.genealogia.fi/indexe.htm]
maintains an excellent site with many online articles, some transcribed
from public domain sources, about Finnish emigration to North America and
other parts of the world. A database, the HisKi project, is transcribing
pre-20th century parish registers containing christenings, marriages, burials,
and moves into and out of a parish.
National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques
(INSEE) [French only: [http://www.insee.fr/fr/home/home_page.asp]
— the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies — comes closest
to being France's national statistical agency and provides a variety of
downloadable Adobe Acrobat PDF files on current and historic Population
statistics. An explanation of the French public statistical system appears
on the INSEE site at [http://www.insee.fr/EN/stat_pub/accueil_stat.htm.
The National de l'Information Statistique (CNIS) [French: http://www.cnis.fr/
and English: [http://www.cnis.fr/ind_english.htm]
or National Council for Statistical Information coordinates statistical
a ctivity by public sector agencies with INSEE. The most recent French
census (recensement) was held in 1999. Data results can be consulted
in French at http://www.recensement.insee.fr/
or in English at http://www.recensement.insee.fr/RP99/rp99/
national d'études démographiques (INED) [http://www.ined.fr/]
in French and English contains historic census records for France back
to 1769. A special bilingual database, History of Demographic Statistics:
Census, Registers and Other Demographic Forms and Other Documents [http://www-census.ined.fr/],
offers "material on the 19th and 20th century censuses (contents of the
forms, instructions, propaganda,...), and more generally on the history
of demographic statistics." You can query this database by country, document
type, and year. Documents store as scanned images and include posters encouraging
the public to complete their census returns.
An English version
of the Federal Statistical Office Germany [http://www.destatis.de/e_home.htm]
offers population and other statistics in tabular and graph formats. Some
of the data and services are only available through German language displays.
http://www.gesis.org/ and English:
the German Social Science Infrastructure Services, maintains data archives.
Like other small
European nations, the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (Statistics
provides free access to its StatLine database. The Dutch Census of
was published in 1904 and is available in digital facsimile form (in Dutch
as OCR text and GIF images) via the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek.
This document is also available as a CD-ROM set, as is De Nederlandse
Institute of Social History in Amsterdam maintains The Historical Sample
of the Netherlands [http://www.iisg.nl/~hsn/index.html],
which consists of "a representative sample of about 80.000 people born
in the Netherlands during the period 1812-1922." Database sources include
birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as population (census)
registers. According to the site, the Netherlands "is one of the few countries
in the world that has kept a continuous population register starting as
early as the mid-19th century" and continued this practice until at least
1920. Access to the complete database requires signing a license agreement.
research institute, the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute
provides some basic total population figures. Its Links page references
over 500 census and statistical Web sites. The Netherlands Institute
for Scientific Information Services(NIWI) [http://www.niwi.knaw.nl/us/homepag.htm]
maintains data archives, including the Netherlands Historical Data Archive
(NHDA) with data sets of historical demography. Some of the "deposited"
data sets, once found through the online NHDA catalog, are downloadable.
sentralbyrå (Statistics Norway) [http://www.ssb.no/]
contains current population tables through the online Statistical Yearbook
of Norway 2001. According to the online guide How to Trace Your Ancestor
in Norway [http://odin.dep.no/odinarkiv/norsk/dep/ud/1996/eng/032005-990804/index-dok000-b-f-a.html].
were taken in 1769, 1801, and every tenth year from 1815, up to and including
1875. From 1890 (1891) a population census has been taken every tenth year.
All census returns from 1900 and earlier are available for inspection.
They are all located in the National Archives, except for the 1875 and
1900 returns, which are kept in the regional archives.
about the history of the Norwegian censuses, including pre-1769 censuses,
occur in Michael Drake's article "Getting into the Norwegian Census" [http://www.rhd.uit.no/nhdc/michael02.html]
and in the Norwegian Historical Data Centre's "Documenting the Norwegian
(The Digital Archives) [http://www.hist.uib.no/arkivverket/index-en.htm]
is a joint project between the National Archives of Norway, the Regional
State Archives of Bergen, and the University of Bergen's Department of
History. This site features the national censuses of 1801, 1865, 1875,
and 1900, as well as portions of censuses from the 1660s. To view a pick
list of all the censuses and the search interface, select the Source
categories (Kjeldetype) link at the bottom of the page. A list of all
the Digital Archives online censuses appears at http://www.hist.uib.no/arkivverket/teljing.htm.
A Norwegian language summary of historical censuses, Folketeljingar
i Noreg (Censuses in Norway), is available through the Useful links
section of The Digital Archives.
Historical Data Centre [http://www.rhd.uit.no/indexeng.html],
based at the University of Tromsø, is a national research and production
facility that creates databases of the Norwegian national censuses from
1865 forward. Census data can be ordered in print form or as ASCII files
on diskettes, as well as searched. The Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane
County Archive of Sogn og Fjordane in Leikanger, is an example of a county
archives with a large number of genealogical databases limited to its jurisdiction,
including eight censuses between 1701 and 1900. Searches of the census
ASP databases are by parish, farm, first and father's names, or occupation.
Selecting a farm name calls up a table listing all individuals enumerated
at that location.
Like many other
countries, the Norwegian Social Science Data Services [http://www.nsd.uib.no/english/]
assists the research community in gaining access to computerized numeric
and textual data sources. Archivnett (Archive Net Norway) [http://arkivnett.kulturnett.no/artikkel.php?navn=archivenet],
part of Kulturnett Norge (Culture Net Norway), offers searches for additional
census and census-like records, including transcriptions of the tingbøker
from the 1600s. (A tingbok is a court record book containing summaries
To pick up the
largest number of matches to census records in Norwegian archives, use
the word "folketeljing" (census; the plural is folketeljingar).
According to the
1890 site, the first Swedish census was taken in 1749. The National
Archives of Sweden is transcribing the 1890 census, a project begun in
1994, with the goal of indexing all 4.8 million individuals then living
Anno 1890: The
Swedish Census 1890 [Swedish: http://www.foark.umu.se/folk/
and English: http://www.foark.umu.se/census/Index.htm].
Produced by Arkionand the Research Archives in Umeå, this census
covers the Swedish countiesNorrbotten, Västerbotten, Västernorrland,
Jämtland, and Värmland. The database can also produce statistics,
but only at the parish level within a county. All data from the original
schedules is recorded only in Swedish. A glossary/dictionary is available
which translates into English many of the most common terms.
Data Base [http://www2.ddb.umu.se/index_eng.html],
hosted at Umeå University, contains a subset of the main DDB database
called Popum. Indiko ("individuals from selected cohorts") [http://www.ddb.umu.se/indiko/index_eng.html],
the subset, can be searched or browsed. Ecclesiastical parish registers
form the primary data sources for Popum and Indiko. Only the parish of
Tuna in the Sundsvall region is searchable for free; the other 47 parishes
require a subscription.
Social Science Data Service [http://www.ssd.gu.se/enghome.html]
at Göteborg University is the data archives for the arts and humanities.
The United Kingdom's
contains a population start page [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/themes/population/default.asp].
is the U.K.'s browsable/searchable catalog of statistical information and
links to data sets in various formats from statistical agencies throughout
According to the
Record Office [http://www.pro.gov.uk]
of England, Wales and the U.K., official census data was compiled every
decade beginning in 1801. Records remain closed for 100 years. Personal
information was not recorded until 1841, and World War II prevented the
taking of a census in 1941. The 1901 census is the first national census
of the 20th century to be digitized in its entirety by any government and
made accessible through a public Web site on a user-pay basis. Unfortunately,
after its launch this year, the site was overwhelmed with requests and
remained shut down 3 months later (April 1, 2002). Additional information
about the U.K. census appears in the PRO's Learning Curve virtual exhibit
"Focus on ... The Census" [http://learningcurve.pro.gov.uk/focuson/census/],
and an online exhibit from its "Pathways to the Past" series prepared for
the release of the 1901 Census Online: "1901: Living at the Time of the
will appreciate the gateway site Origins.net [http://www.origins.net],
which as of April 1, 2002, could be searched simultaneously or independently
for English and Scottish ancestors by surname. More search options are
available by visiting English Origins and Scots Origins, as well as the
newest addition, Irish Origins.
The Census Information
was established in partnership with the British research community and
contains information about data sets from the most recent U.K. census held
on April 29, 2001. Additional information about the establishment of the
gateway can be found through the ESRC/JISC Census of Population Programme
hosted at Leeds University.
Collection of Historical and Contemporary Census Data and Related Materials
(CHCC) into a Major Learning and Teaching Resource [http://www.chcc.ac.uk/]
received funding for 4 years beginning in October 2000 from the Joint Information
Systems Committee (JISC). Some teaching resources are available through
the Links to Learning and Teaching Materials section. Individual
university initiatives such as Staffordshire University's Victorian
Census Project [http://www.staffs.ac.uk/schools/humanities_and_soc_sciences/census/vichome.htm],
already underway at the time the CHCC was started, are developing statistical
data sets and educational resources covering counties.
The Great Britain
Historical Database Online (GBHD Online) [http://hds.essex.ac.uk/gbh.asp],
is part of the History Data Service, U.K. Data Archive, University of Essex.
Created by Humphrey Southall, David Gilbert, and Ian Gregory as part of
the Great Britain Historical GIS Programme (University of Portsmouth)
the GBHD Online database includes some statistical data from selected censuses
dating between 1841 and 1931. The database is only accessible upon registration
with the History Data Service for a period of 12 months.
The U.K. Data
Archive (UKDA) [http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/]
holds the largest collection of electronic numeric data for social science
studies in the U.K. One of its units, the History Data Service [http://hds.essex.ac.uk],
maintains the Great Britain Historical Database Online. The HDS also contains
resources that support the use of census and statistical data in an educational
or Manchester Information & Associated Services, formerly known as
MIDAS, also operates as a national data center, with support from the Joint
Information Systems Committee (JISC). The site provides a gateway to various
types of data sets, including census and statistical information, for eligible
U.K. institutions. The MIMAS Census Dissemination Unit [http://census.ac.uk/cdu/]
maintains a Census Knowledge Base, which covers the 1981 and 1991
U.K. census data sets. Extensive online resources, including software (some
for purchase), are available to help use these data sets. Developed by
members of the MIMAS Census Dissemination Unit, CasWeb [http://census.ac.uk/casweb/]
offers U.K. registered institutional users 1991 U.K. census statistics
and digitized boundary data.
The Data Depot
in the U.K. offers demographic and GIS data sets for the U.K. and Europe.
Some free population data is available as downloadable tables and reports.
of Genealogists (U.K.) [http://www.sog.org.uk/]
operates thefee-based English Origins [http://www.englishorigins.com],
itself part of Origins.net. There are, however, no historical census records
on English Origins, instead these sites rely on other documents such as
wills, land transfers, etc.
English Origins, the RootsWeb-hosted U.K. Census Online or FreeCen
project provides a free, searchable database of 19th century U.K. census
returns. FreeCen is part of FreeUKGEN, an initiative aimed at helping make
high quality primary (or near-primary) records of relevance to U.K. genealogy
conveniently and freely available online. (Other projects associated with
the FreeUKGEN initiative include FreeBMD and FreeREG)." FreeGEN was started
in July 1999 by Brian Randell (GenUKI, Devon and Newcastle University)
and John Lerwill (genealogist and computer systems developer).
within U.K. Census Online is the Cornish Online Census Project [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~kayhin/ukocp.html]:
"Over 100 volunteers worldwide are transcribing the returns for the Cornwall
1891 and 1841 census.... Another 14 counties are also underway or about
St Andrew the Less 1891 Census Index [http://www.cfhs.org.uk/CambridgeStAndrewtheLess1891/index.html],
Cambridgeshire Family History Society. This database, covering only one
enumeration district, contains 17,096 transcribed records.
Census Search [http://www.haverhill-uk.com/genealogy/census/index.shtml],
Haverhill Family History Group, Suffolk Family History Society. The database
contains 14,087 records for Haverhill and surrounding communities bearing
charming English names such as Helions Bumpstead, Shudy Camps, and Steeple
1901 March 31,
England and Wales: 1901 Census Online [http://www.census.pro.gov.uk/],
Public Record Office. This site had a rude awakening to the realities of
consumer demand when it opened and then closed again in early January 2002.
As of April 1, 2002, a more robust configuration is undergoing testing
to simulate high demand. The name index contains over 32 million entries
and can be searched for free. The individual digitized census schedule
pages can be purchased through a credit or debit card, or through a voucher
card system similar to prepaid cell phone cards. According to the online
tutorial, you can search by name (Person Search), address, place,
institution, or vessel. A successful search will yield a name, age, birthplace,
county, and civil parish. In the payment section, the minimum charge is
£5. Viewing a transcription of an individual page costs 50p. A transcription
for others living in the same household will cost another 50p. Viewing
the digital facsimile or image of the original census schedule costs 75p
per image. Searches are session-based, and a session may be suspended for
up to 48 hours by the user (for a bathroom break or another pint of medicinal
Statistics Office [http://www.cso.ie/]
maintains current statistics for Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland).
The category for population figures in the Principal Statistics link is
called Demography and Labour Force. Tabular data is linked to downloadable
Adobe Acrobat PDF files. The EireStat Spreadsheet Service [http://www.eirestat.cso.ie/],
also known as Databank Direct, contains population and vital statistics
launched on March 25, 2002, as the latest addition to Origins.net, indexes
"over 22,351 Irish genealogy Web pages, containing 1,437,505 names, including
census data, Griffith's valuations, ships passenger lists, church records,
convict records, and more." Searches are free and many of the matches link
to free Web sites.
According to the
National Archives of Ireland [http://www.nationalarchives.ie/],
the only two online census databases are those of Leitrim-Roscommon for
1901 and that of Clare County Library [http://www.clarelibrary.ie],
also for 1901. The Leitrim-Roscommon Genealogy Web Site [http://www.leitrim-roscommon.com/]
covers the Irish counties of Leitrim and Roscommon. Two census databases
are available: 1749 and 1901. The 1749 census was conducted by Bishop Synge
of Elphin for the Church of Ireland as a means of determining the ratio
of Protestants to Catholics. (The former lost.) The 1901 database includes
five other counties besides Leitrim and Roscommon. The Leitrim-Roscommon
site also offers two other databases for use with the 1851 Ireland census:
the Townland Database, with information on the towns and townland
in these counties, and the IreAtlas Townland Database, whichdoes
the same, but for all of Ireland in the 1851 census.
of Irish Historical Statistics [http://www.qub.ac.uk/cdda/iredb/dbhme.htm],
maintained at the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis (CDDA), Queen's
University of Belfast, contains all population censuses from the first
count in 1821 to 1971. The CDDA also has a data set based on the incomplete
Irish census of 1813. The database records carry no nominal information.
According to the site, many of the 19th century schedules were destroyed
by fire in 1922. I recommend the History Data Service [http://hds.essex.ac.uk/]
as the first access point to these data sets.
The 2001 Scotland Census [http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/grosweb/grosweb.nsf/pages/censushm],
hailed as the first under a Scottish parliament, was held on April 29 and
managed by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) [http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/].
The office is working with two vendors to develop online and offline delivery
of statistical data from the census returns. You can access the pilot Web
site for this system, known as the SCROL (Scottish Census Results
Output Library) Project, at [http://www.scrolpilot.org.uk/.
The site, not fully functional yet, features analytic tables and census
data mapped to a Geographic Information System. The project is targeted
for completion by March 2003. GROS also provides online demographic statistics
in tabular form or as downloadable files.
1881, 1891, 1901, Scotland:
Scots Origins [http://www.scotsorigins.com/],
General Register Office for Scotland. Described as the "official government
source of genealogical data for Scotland," Scots Origins includes digital
facsimiles of the 1891 and 1901 Scottish censuses. Although searchable,
the 1881 Scottish census, also available, does not have any page images.
Scots Origins charges "£6 (check currency) for 30 'page credits'
valid for 24 consecutive hours."
Many multinational collaborative
projects involve the genealogical community in census transcriptions. Many
of these, independent of WorldGenWeb, are based in the U.S. and the Scandinavian
The Council of European Social
Science Data Archives (CESSDA) [http://www.nsd.uib.no/Cessda/]
"promotes the acquisition, archiving, and distribution of electronic data
for social science teaching and research in Europe." Its site features
three clickable maps of social sciences data archives in Europe, North
America, and elsewhere in the world. CESSDA is affiliated with the International
Federation for Data Organizations (IFDO) [http://www.gesis.org/en/cooperation/data_service/ifdo/].
The International Institute of
Social History [http://www.iisg.nl/]
in the Netherlands contains a searchable database for retrieving online
census data or the locations of census and statistical data.
Headquartered in Paris and established
twice, once in 1928 and again in 1947, the International Union for the
Scientific Study of Population [http://www.iussp.org/]
"promotes scientific studies of demography and population-related issues."
Some of its publications are available for free. The IUSSP-sponsored
Population and Environment Research Network (PERN) [http://www.populationenvironmentresearch.org/]
contains a research database that leads, in some cases, to full-text demographic
"a directory of databases in the Nordic Countries" sponsored by NordInfo
and the Nordic Council, is the most convenient starting point for locating
publicly available databases in the Scandinavian countries and Iceland.
Census databases list in the subject category, Demographics.
The North Atlantic Population
is an enormous project to compile a database of personal information for
90 million individuals enumerated in five North Atlantic nations in the
19th century. The countries are Canada, Iceland, Norway, the U.K. (England,
Wales, and Scotland), and the U.S. Primarily, this project coordinates
funding and sets standards for encoding data to facilitate analysis and
research by social scientists and others. The database will use, unless
plans change, a software system under development called the Integrated
International Microdata Access System (IIMAS). Simultaneous release of
the data is planned in Britain, Norway, and the U.S. in late 2005.
The SSNE Database or Scotland,
Scandinavia, & Northern Europe, 1580-1707 [http://www.abdn.ac.uk/ssne/],
hosted at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, was authored by Dr. Steve
Murdoch and Dr. Alexia Grosjean. The database contains over 6,000 records,
drawn from a variety of text sources, on individuals from "Scotland, England,
Ireland and Wales who migrated to or worked in Denmark-Norway and Sweden-Finland."
Although none of the text source fields contain the word "census," the
SSNE is an important research resource due to the amount of narrative detail
for each individual and the number of search options.
The U.N. Statistics Division [http://www.un.org/Depts/unsd/]
contains some free population tables, along with other statistical data
available by subscription. The UNSTATS Common Database, which includes
demographic information, is available in demonstration mode.
Software, Standards, and the Academic Research
The granddaddy of statistical analysis
software, as every college and university math and social science major
knows, is SPSS [http://www.spss.com/].
Some other well-known general statistical software packages developed in
the U.S., often by the academic community, over the past 20 to 30 years
include GenStat [http://www.vsn-intl.com/],
Statistical Analysis System[http://www.ncss.com/],
SAS Family [http://www.sas.com/],
and SUDAAN [http://www.rti.org/sudaan/].
Users can find more examples of statistical software at the Stata Corporation
Not to be outdone, since 1981 the
U.K. academic community has developed and licensed an impressive range
of software for working with census and statistical data sets. Some of
this software, including Web-based interfaces such as CasWeb, is described
on the MIMAS Census Dissemination Unit's Software page [http://census.ac.uk/cdu/software/].
formerly Iris and one of the most interesting and available in a demonstration
mode as a Java applet, is a visualization tool for census data. The Descartes
software (described in more detail through links at [http://borneo.gmd.de/and/)was
developed in Germany by the Knowledge Discovery Team of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's
(Fraunhofer Company) Institute für Autonome intelligente Systeme (AiS,
Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems) [http://ais.gmd.de/index.en.html].
In its commercial version (dialoGIS), you can view Descartes at the University
of Idaho's Idaho Geospatial Data Center [http://geolibrary.uidaho.edu/].
The AiS Knowledge Discovery Team is also involved in several other data
mining projects involving visualization modes [http://www.ais.fraunhofer.de/KD/index.html].
under development by Statistics Netherlands, is "a tool for data collection.
It also helps you in an easy and straightforward way through the subsequent
data processing steps (like, tabulation, adjustment weighting, and statistical
analysis)." Available for Windows only, the product is used worldwide.
NESSTAR (Networked Social
Science Tools and Resources) [http://www.nesstar.org/]
is a client-server software suite funded by the European Commission and
developed by the data archives community and its users. Jostein Ryssevik
and Simon Musgrave, lead co-developers of NESSTAR, called the system "The
Social Science Dream Machine" in a paper delivered at the May 1999 IASSIST
conference.NESSTAR is used for distributing statistical and other kinds
of numeric data via the Internet. The NESSTAR site supplies the client
and server software, along with extensive documentation.
The Virtual Data Center Project:
An Operational Social Science Digital Data Library [http://www.thedata.org/],
ajoint project of the Harvard-MIT Data Center and Harvard University Library,
sounds very much like an American version of NESSTAR. Given that both use
the DDI and that NESSTAR already has a full suite of software serving the
same purpose, one can't help but wonder about the future of this project.
The project sponsors claim it will be unique as open-source software and
as a public collection of social science data. The project's grant, funded
by agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the FBI, DARPA, the
Library of Congress, and the National Library of Medicine, among others,
runs from July 1, 1999, to June 30, 2002.
The Data Documentation Initiative
is an XML Document Type Definition (DTD) led by the Inter-University Consortium
for Political And Social Research (ICPSR) [http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/index.html].
Beta testing of the DTD began in 1999 following 4 years of meetings by
the DDI Committee. Version 1 of the DTD was published on March 24, 2000,
and is used around the world in various numeric data projects.
The GEDCOM (Genealogical Data
Communication) specification for the storage and interchange of family
history data was developed by the LDS Church. The current version 5.5 is
dated 1995 [http://www.gendex.com/gedcom55/55gctoc.htm].
Beginning in the early 1990s, several individuals developed programs to
convert GEDCOM data files to HTML [see the WorldConnect Project history
for details; http://worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com/wchistory.html].
a nonprofit corporation, released version 1.1 of its Genealogical Data
Model in May 2000. GenTech also operates the GEDCOM Testbook Project [http://www.gentech.org/TestBook2001/],
a scorecard to see how well GEDCOM acts in its capacity as a data interchange
standard. GedX.com is developing GEDCOM Explorer (GedX) [http://www.gedx.com/gedx/default.html]
as a shareware "utility for viewing, modifying, converting, and otherwise
working with GEDCOM Files."
The Historical International Classification
of Occupations (HISCO) [http://www.iisg.nl/research/hisco.html]
is an important component in the international effort by historical demographers
to standardize census data. Hosted by the International Institute of Social
History, HISCO is based on the 1968 version of the International Labour
Office's International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO). Occupational
information dates range between 1690-1970.
IPUMS (Integrated Public Use
Microdata Series: Census Microdata for Social and Economic Research) [http://www.ipums.umn.edu/],
created in October 1997 at the Minnesota Population Center, University
of Minnesota, is both a specification and a database. Two versions of the
standard exist: IPUMS-USA, a free census database covering 1850 to 1990,
and IPUMS-International (IPUMSi), under development by international teams.
The IPUMS databases form the core of the North American partners' contribution
to the North Atlantic Population Project [http://www.pop.umn.edu/napp/index.html].
Academic Research Community
In addition to academic and research
department units working with specific census data, as well as the various
multi- and international organizations already mentioned, a number of multinational
research projects involving the academic community are underway.
The International Federation for
Data Organizations (IFDO) [http://www.gesis.org/en/cooperation/data_service/ifdo/],
hosted by GESIS (German Social Science Infrastructure Service), is an international
association established to coordinate the development, collection, and
use of social science research data. UNESCO supports IFDONet [http://www.ifdo.org/index.htm],
also known as Social Science & Data Archives on the Net. IFDONet includes
documentation about data archiving and links to IFDO and CESSDA member
A volunteer association of demographic
scholars and others, the International Microdata Access Group(IMAG)
exists "to preserve original population data, microdata, and their supporting
documentation, and to improve access to these data in accordance with national
confidentiality standards." The Participants and affiliated projects
link contains a list of various projects involving online census data.
The Inter-University Consortium
for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) [http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/index.html],
founded in 1962 and currently based at the University of Michigan as part
of the Institute for Social Research, "maintains and provides access to
a vast archive of social science data for research and instruction and
offers training in quantitative methods to facilitate effective data use.
To ensure that data resources are available to future generations of scholars,
ICPSR preserves data, migrating them to new storage media as changes in
technology warrant." ICPSR's membership includes 400 colleges and universities
around the world.
Statistical and Scientific Database
Management (SSDBM) [http://www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/conf/ssdbm/],
part of the Association for Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group
on Management of Data (ACM SIGMOD) [http://www.acm.org/sigmod/],
contains links to descriptions of the SSDBM conferences from 1981 to the
present. Beginning with 1997, the descriptions link to selected SSDBM conference
Web sites. The SSDBM is part of the larger Anthology digital library
operated by ACM SIGMOD for database systems researchers. Bibliographic
records for Anthology form part of the DBLP Bibliography [http://www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/index.html
and mirrors]. The DBLP also contains a list of DB Research Groups[http://www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/groups.html].
A non-profit organization chartered
in the U.S., Very Large Data Bases (VLDB) [http://www.vldb.org/]
promotes "scholarly work in databases and related fields throughout the
world." The VLDB Journal [http://www.vldb.org/dblp/db/journals/vldb/index.html]
is published on behalf of the VLDB Endowment by Springer Verlag. The VLDB
Conferences, begun in 1975, distribute leading-edge research into VLDBs.
According to its Web site, "The full text of all VLDB Conference papers
from 1982-1999 is available online from www.vldb.org
and from ACM SIGMOD."
Genealogical research is forever.
Family trees, to borrow physicist Freeman Dyson's memorable phrase, are
infinite in all directions, at least into the future. I've never met a
genealogist who's completed a family tree, because, at some point, written
records of past events are unavailable (accidentally lost or purposefully
destroyed). While statistical data can provide a starting point for genealogical
research by giving the researcher an idea of the volume of data available,
it is the personal information found in nominal census schedules that most
serve a genealogist's purpose. This information helps verify family relations
and whether the individual described in the census is a person of interest.
Family history organizations, social
science researchers, the historical community, and the LDS Church all play
an invaluable role in ensuring the survival and conversion of public census
records to electronic formats. New Web tools and massive online databases
make it easier than ever to begin locating one's ancestors.
|The author's opinions in this
article do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.
"Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel..."
Census records begin with the development
of writing and mathematics in Mesopotamia with the Sumerians, along with
the first civilizations in China and the Indus Valley. There are several
Old Testament references in the Bible to censuses. For example, the first
few verses of Numbers (appropriately named) begin with God commanding Moses,
"Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by families,
by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head
by head; from 20 years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go
forth to war, you and Aaron shall number them, company by company."
Likely the most famous biblical census
mandate, however, came from Rome (Luke 2:1-6):
In those days a decree went out from
Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first
enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be
enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from
the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary,
his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time
came for her to be delivered.
The Bible, Revised Standard Edition,
The Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia [http://etext.virginia.edu/rsv.browse.html]
|The Commercial Side of Family History
As you should have gathered by now,
genealogy or family history research and publication is a multimillion-dollar
industry. With new e-commerce initiatives aimed at genealogists, such as
the U.K. 1901 Census Online project, some governments anticipate a new
source of steady revenue from public information in their custody. In some
countries and local jurisdictions, genealogists are crucial to the success
of these projects because volunteer organizations often enter the database
records in exchange for access or a copy of the database.
Many individuals and organizations,
frustrated with government bureaucracies and seeing the data as a public
domain commodity, use the Web to post their transcriptions and family trees.
Because many census transcription projects store the records in some kind
of database-like structure such as a spreadsheet, a word-processing table,
or the GEDCOM file format, savvy genealogists can now create their own
personal databases of census and other kinds of comparable historical records.
Although not a genealogical organization
per se, the LDS Church's Family History Library and Family History Center
operations throughout the world benefit family historians, many of whom
contribute to the Ancestral File database accessible through the LDS Church's
service. The search interface can simultaneously query all the databases
or individual selections. Results are grouped by individual databases.
None of these public databases, however, include census records. The LDS
Church markets CD-ROMs of census transcriptions compiled by volunteers
working under the guidance of the Genealogical Society of Utah (founded
November 1894 by the LDS Church and the predecessor of its Family History
Various language, ethnic, and religious
groups maintain gateway and portal services to genealogical information
on the Internet about their
communities. Among these are ChineseRoots.com
in Chinese and some English. FrancoGene
already mentioned, is for French Canadians and Franco-Americans, including
Acadians and Cajuns. GermanRoots.com [http://www.germanroots.com]
assists those tracing their Germanic origins. JewishGen [http://www.jewishgen.org/]
serves those researching their Jewish ancestry and contains a number of
databases compiled by researchers based on census and similar records.
The best way to locate these is through the JewishGen Databases [http://www.francogene.com/]
page. To find many more examples, use Cyndi's List and RootsWeb (the GenWeb
|Crown Copyright, Census Data, and No
Both Canada and some of the U.K.
national governments zealously guard government data through a section
of Copyright Acts known as Crown copyright. Basically, this means that
unless the information is published or unless copyright is waived by the
government, a government record in any medium (print, audio-visual, still
image, cartographic, electronic) is protected forever or until it is published.
The Scots Origins Web site, for example, contains this foreboding copyright
General Register Office for Scotland
Indexes are Crown copyright and are reproduced with the permission of the
Queen's Printer for Scotland.
1. Permitted use
Visitors to this Web site are granted
permission to access this material, to download and copy such material
on to electronic, magnetic, optical or similar storage media, and to make
printed copies of any such downloaded material, provided that such activities
and copies are for private research or study only.
2. Restricted use
Visitors to this Web site may not
copy, distribute, sell or publish any of the Crown copyright material downloaded
or copied from this Web site. Any other use of the material requires the
formal permission of the Queen's Printer for Scotland. For the avoidance
of doubt, no other permission is given for the transfer of any of this
material to an open Internet site.
In contrast, a section of Her Majesty's
Stationery Office (HMSO) [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/guides.htm]
on copyright states:
Unrestricted copying and reproduction
of certain categories of Crown copyright material was announced in the
White Paper "The Future Management of Crown Copyright" [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/document/copywp.htm].
The categories on which guidance has been issued to date cover unpublished
public records, court forms, legislation, National Curriculum, literacy
and numeracy materials, and Government press notices. Copyright is waived
in this material to encourage its widespread use for reference and onward
dissemination to all with interests in these areas.
The HMSO Guidance Note "Copyright
in Public Records" states this even more clearly: "Unpublished public records
and those open for public inspection are reproducible freely under waiver
of copyright." There are, however, several exclusions which counteract
this fit of government largesse. The PRO England copyright statement [http://www.pro.gov.uk/about/copyright.htm]
is quite a contrast to the Scots Origins one.