Ottoman Detailed Cadastral Surveys in Albania

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Cadastral Surveys

Introduction

The Cadastral Surveys (1431 to 1912) were a land taxation record, much like a census. They are beneficial in genealogical research. 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].[1]

Albanian territory was first included in a survey of 1431-1432.[2] The Ottoman Turks conducted an extensive survey of land and population in the province [sancak] of Shkodër (northern Albania) for taxation purposes in 1485. This and other cadastral surveys have been published by Turkish archives (Basvekâlet Arsivi and Tapu ve Kadastro umum müdürlügünün in Ankara), including the surveys of 1485, 1497, 1534, 1536, 1571, 1582, and 1591. Census-like land surveys (termed yoklamas) were conducted in 1596, 1606, 1672, 1691, 1694, 1698, and 1715. These surveys show a continuing preoccupation with the size of cultivable land and with their revenue. 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, they were carried out for tax purposes, and their results were recorded in land deed registers (tapu defteri). Although the published copy of the 1485 Shkodër survey does appear to include names and patronyms of landowners, available literature about the surveys is inconclusive. 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 because 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 and something much more like a true census was introduced in 1830 (see the Albania Census page to learn more). Land surveys, then known as emlak tahriri, continued to be conducted in the 1800s but they were taken separately from the population count. After the Crimean War a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the province of Yanya (which included Albanian territory), then empire-wide in 1860. This and later surveys included names of head of households.[3]

Coverage

These records last from 1431 to 1912. At best, these surveys included less than 30% of the population. Women and children were rarely listed. Additionally, remote localities may not have been surveyed.

Content

Specific information concerning the contents of these records is not available. Early surveys may list names of landholders. 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, and some in the 1800s may include names of females and children. Surveys after 1800 are more genealogically-useful than those before 1800.

Accessing the Records

These records are located at the Cadastral Department Archives [Tapu ve Kadastro Umum Mudurlugu arsivi] in Ankara and Istanbul. Some may also be kept at the Central State Archives of Albania in Tiranë. Access to these records is limited to those who can visit the archives in Turkey and Albania.

It is not possible to determine the extent to which this record exists and has been preserved. The records are not always kept under standard archival storage conditions; some may be lost or destroyed. None of these records have been acquired by the Family History Library.

The Cadastral Surveys can establish individual identity and residence and may sometimes establish family groups (at least partially).

Family Search has the following registers on Ottoman or Turkey:

References

  1. Macedonian Civilization
  2. Inalcik, Sûret-i defter-i Sancak-i Arvanid, published in 1954 in Ankara.
  3. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Albania,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.