Cyprus Land and Property

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Ottoman Detailed Cadastral Surveys

[Turkish - Tahrir Mufassal Defter; later records are called in English “Onomastic Lists”]

Research use: These records provide information identifying male individuals for a specific point in time and are useful for linking generations.

Record type: A land taxation record, census-like in research usage. The Ottoman Turks conducted extensive surveys of land and population dating from as early as the 1400s. The resulting records are of two types, detailed [mufassal] and abridged [icmal]. Cyprus was included in such surveys along with the rest of the empire. Although the empire conducted these surveys as early as the late 1300s, Cyprus was not part of the Ottoman empire until 1571. A survey was conducted in 1571 but it probably does not include Cyprus; surveys of 1582 and 1591 probably do. Census-like land surveys (termed yoklamas) were conducted in 1596, 1606, 1672, 1691, 1694, 1698, and 1715. The purpose of these early Ottoman population counts was not to produce an accurate record of the total number of people in the realm. Rather, these traditional Ottoman census-like surveys were carried out for tax purposes, and their results were recorded in land deed registers (tapu defteri). Some sources indicate that they generally do not contain names and are likely not of significant genealogical value. Other sources indicate that the fifteenth and sixteenth century tahrirs involved the registration of adult males—chiefly household heads as taxpayers but also bachelors and others. After 1715 the regular practice of compiling these statistics collapsed. Nevertheless there must have been some records made as the collection of taxes could not have been carried out without population data of some sort, probably incomplete information supplied by communal leaders. In the nineteenth century new considerations dictated a new type of survey. Land surveys, then known as onomastic lists of taxpayers, continued to be conducted in the early 1800s. After the Crimean war, new surveys were conducted in 1862 and 1864 (and possibly in 1860) to reestablish the tax base of the empire. These were termed onomastic lists of inhabitants.

Time period: 1571 to 1864.

Contents: Some provide names of adult males, relationship, age, residence, and religion. Specific information is not available. Surveys of the 1600s through 1800 provide considerable information about land and revenues but likely contain little information about the inhabitants. After 1800, the surveys provide names of heads of households and of any other taxpayers living in the same household; occupation and income. Starting in 1862 they include whole families.

Location: The originals are in cadastral archives [Tapu ve Kadastro umum müdürlügünün arşivi] in Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey. A microfilm copy of the registers pertaining to Cyprus was filmed in Turkey. The films are at the Cyprus Turkish National Archive and Research Center, Girne (Kyrenia) in Northern Cyprus. For Christians, records dating from 1811 are found in the Archbishopric Archive at the Cyprus Research Center in Nikosia.

Population coverage: Less than 40%. Women and children are not included.[1]

Records of Endowed Properties [Arabic - Waqfiyāt]

Research use: This is one of the best sources of lineage linked genealogical information in Islamic society. These registers provide genealogical trees, family groups, and family lineage.

Record type: Accounts of land deeded to a mosque or charitable institution. There are two types of waqfs. One is a document which deeds an individual’s property to a mosque or other charitable institution which would thereafter be regarded as the property’s legal owner. The other type of waqf is known as the waqf khass or kharri [private] waqf in which case the property is legally owned by a pious or charitable institution, but the revenues are divided equally among the donor’s descendants, including wife and daughters, through several generations. The waqf may also benefit the extended family including brothers and sisters and their children as well as freed slaves. When there are no more descendants, the revenues accrue to the institution. The waqf system was not uniquely limited to Muslims.

Time period: 1571 to present. The practice of the waqf goes back to at least the 1200s, but the earliest documents date from the 1400. Cyprus came under Ottoman rule in 1571.

Contents: Names of heirs, including even wives and daughters, over several generations. Some waqfs kept track of the deaths of beneficiaries also. The documents were signed in the presence of witnesses and certified by a judge [qadi].

Location: The official copy was kept by the qadi or was registered and kept by the appropriate department of the government. There may be some microfilm copies at the Cyprus Turkish National Archive and Research Center, Girne (Kyrenia) in Northern Cyprus. There is a major collection of originals at Ev kaf Dairesi in Leukosia.

Population coverage: Less than 30%; pertains only to families with property.

Accessibility: Generally limited to scholars.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Cyprus,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1994-1998.