Iceland Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Iceland, go to the Religious Records page.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Large Databases with Many Record Types

  • Íslendingabók Currently limited to Icelandic citizens and legal residents of Iceland who have been issued an Icelandic ID number (kennitala).
  • Surname Navigator Iceland Megasearch engine for surnames. Includes Ancestral File (see FamilySearch), Geneanet Iceland, Google, Genealogy Iceland, Google News Genealogy Iceland, Rootsweb message board Iceland,, Email Finder Iceland, White Pages Iceland.
  • Icelandic Roots ($), index, incomplete
  • National Archives of Iceland




Church Census

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

(Kirkjubækur, Ministerialbækur)

These records are the primary source of birth, marriage, and death information in Iceland. They identify names of parents and prove other relationships and are the official vital records of Iceland until 1953. They also include lists of priests, parish move-ins and move-outs, and church census data. The king of Denmark issued a royal decree in 1735 and again in 1746 commanding the Icelandic clergy to keep registers of vital events. Although slow in starting, this system of maintaining vital records became well established. The earliest records date from 1664; most date from about 1750-1780 to present. As required by law, these records are deposited in the National Archives. Recent records are in local parish custody.

This system of recording vital events worked so well that it became the official government registry of births, marriages and deaths. In 1914 the government established the Statistical Bureau of Iceland [Hagstofa Íslands], responsible for all statistical data for the country. It oversaw the accurate recording of vital events and starting 1916 received transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths from Church records and for non-Lutherans received vital record information from county offices [sýslumaður]. Since 1953, the National Registry, a department of the Statistical Bureau, is responsible for maintaining the national register of persons. It provides unified, centralized registration of the entire population for administrative and statistical uses. The national register of persons is continuously updated and includes ID numbers, addresses and address changes, deaths, etc. Information on births is obtained from birth reports submitted by maternity institutions and midwives. Lutheran ministers and heads of other religious communities report at least monthly on baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Town and county magistrates report on civil marriages. The Ministry of Justice reports naturalizations, divorces, adoptions and name changes. The national register of persons is the one, single register of persons in the country and is therefore utilized by virtually all relevant public authorities and is also used extensively by the private sector: banks, insurance companies, etc.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Christenings[edit | edit source]

  • Names of persons born and christened
  • Dates of birth and christening
  • Names of parents
  • Father's occupation and residence
  • Names of witnesses at christening and their residence.

(For information on absolved illegitimate births, see the article Scandinavia Absolution.)

Marriages[edit | edit source]

  • Names of bride and groom
  • Ages
  • Residence
  • Date of marriage
  • Names of parents
  • Names of witnesses.

Deaths and Burials[edit | edit source]

  • Name of the deceased
  • Dates of death and burial
  • Age
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Cause of death

Arrivals and Removals[edit | edit source]

  • Names of persons moving into the parish
  • Ages
  • Relationships when accompanied by other family members
  • Occupations
  • Former residence and new residence.
  • Destination (Removals)

Confirmations[edit | edit source]

  • Names of confirmand
  • Age (generally 14)
  • Residence
  • Date of confirmation
  • Father's name
  • Date of birth

Introductions[edit | edit source]

For information about introductions, see the article Scandinavia Introductions.

Priests[edit | edit source]

Lists of parish priests with some biographical data (most date from the 1500s but some as early as the 1100s).

Church Census[edit | edit source]

Many parish church books include a church census [Folkstal] from 1816-1818, and a few parishes include a church census from the 1850s. These provide names, residence, family relationships, age and birthplace. These are similar to, but different from, the civil census.

Registers of Souls (Sálnaregister, Sóknarmanntöl)[edit | edit source]

The records are a pastor’s survey of the population of his parish. Registration of parish souls was conducted at irregular intervals from about 1790 onwards, although a few places started earlier. In time, this survey of parish members became more regular. These records provide reliable family relationships. By grouping families together they are particularly valuable in a country that still uses patronymics. In addition to personal information found in these registers, they also give details of people who have left the parish, or were about to leave, and their destinations in Iceland or overseas.

The earliest records date from 1744; most date from the 1790s or first decade of the 1800s to the present. They generally contain names of parishioners listed in family units, also names of lodgers and domestic servants, place of residence; relationships, ages, occupations, religious knowledge, personal circumstances.

References[edit | edit source]