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Population Registers [Nüfūs Defter]
Research use: These registers establish family groups and individual identity.
Record type: The earliest census reports from Turkey date from 1831. But these generally count number of households or even of persons, but they recorded few names. The census laws of 1875 and 1884 established a system of civil registration, with the population registers kept at the local district [kaza] level, to update the census by adding new information about births, marriages, and deaths. Permanent registers were compiled in an initial census survey; thereafter vital information was added as births, marriages, and deaths occurred. Initial census surveys were conducted throughout the empire in 1876-1878, 1882-1885, and again in 1903-1906. NOTE: The first survey is incomplete because of the Ottoman-Russian War. Supplemental registration of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths were sometimes added to the register itself or sometimes compiled in separate registers.
Time period: 1876 to the end of Ottoman rule, probably 1915.
Contents: The first population register (1876-1881) listed only males. After 1882 the registers list the names of household members including children; sex; birth date; residence; age; religion; craft or occupation; marital status, marriage date; health; military status. If deceased, the register provides the death date or crosses out the name of the deceased.
Location: For areas presently in Turkey the registers are in provincial (sancak) registration offices. For some regions no longer in Turkey, the registers are either centralized in an archive of the present country (e.g. Israel), or may be partially or completely in a Turkish archive, possibly the National Archives [Babakanlk Arivi] (also referred to as the Prime Ministry Archives) or the Sulaymaniye Library in Istanbul.
Percentage in Family History Library: Less than 1%. The Library has lists of Armenians in stanbul. The Library has good examples of these registers from the Ottoman province of Palestine, now Israel (462 rolls).
Population coverage: About 90%. Women are likely undercounted. Remote areas may not be fully counted.
Reliability: Good, though the information may be incomplete.
Ottoman Cadastral Surveys [Tahrir Mufassal Defter]
Research use: These records establish individual identity and residence; may sometimes establish family groups (at least partial).
Record type: The Ottoman Turks conducted extensive surveys of land and population for taxation purposes as early as the 1500s. These early surveys are of great value to demographers to estimate the size and character of the population in various regions of the Ottoman empire, but they contain no names and are not of significant genealogical value. After the Crimean war a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This and later surveys included names of head of households. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the provinces [sancaks] of Bursa and Janina, then empire wide in 1860.
Time period: 1858-1914.
Contents: Names of heads of households and of any other taxpayers living in the same households; occupation and income; sometimes include names of females and children.
Location: Cadastral Department archives [Tapu ve Kadastro Umum Mudurlugu arşivi] in Ankara and Istanbul. Population coverage: Less than 30%. Women and children are generally not listed and remote localities may not be surveyed.
Military Head Tax Register [Cizye Defter]
Research use: These records provide an early listing of names and probably age and residence of a significant portion of the male population; may provide some lineage linking information if sons are listed with fathers.
Record type: A register of those who paid the military head tax [cizye]. This tax was levied on all non-Muslims in place of military service. It is not possible to determine specific information about these records without on-site investigation.
Time period: 1551-1840.
Contents: Lists of cizye payers with accompanying documents and receipts. The lists may include a comprehensive listing of Christian and Jewish males throughout the Ottoman Empire; probably providing ages and residences. There are apparently 418 volumes (the source of this number is unknown).
Location: National Archives [Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi] in Istanbul; also referred to as the Prime Ministry Archives.
Population coverage: 5 to 6%. Apparently includes only non-Muslims.
Reliability: Probably good.
Turkish Council of State and Population Statistics
In 1867 the Turkish Council of State assumed jurisdiction over all population matters.
In 1874 the Council introduced a law regarding census taking and the establishment of an accurate, permanent registration system covering men, women, and children. This new system merged the headcounts and population registration into a single system. The new system was based on three types of registers; the basic register [esas defter] listing all males with a second column listing the family members; the summary [icmal] listing the total number of people living in each town village or town quarter based on data from the town registers; and the daily events register [yevmiye vukuat] which was to include records of births, marriages, deaths, and migrations into or out of each district.
Various political problems delayed the execution of this system although Turkey published estimated population figures for 1876/1878.
Regulations of 1881 and 1878 and the law of 1874 were finally implemented in a census which started in 1881 and was completed in 1883.
The 1881/1883 census used several ethnic-religious categories for the Christian population, but all the Muslims continued to be counted as one homogeneous group despite the ethnic and linguistic differences among them.
- Military head tax registers (a quasi census) date from 1551.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Turkey,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1998.