Iceland Census

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Iceland was first settled by Norwegians fleeing from King Harald the Fairhaired's attempt to unite the many small kingdoms of that country into one. It became the world's first true republic in 930 A.D. From 1262 to 1380 Iceland was under Norwegian rule, and from 1380 to 17 Jul 1944 it was under Danish rule.  To assist non-Icelandic language speakers and readers with their Icelandic family history research, the column headings for Icelandic censuses extant in the Family History Library have been translated by the FHL staff and missionaries. The censuses and translations of the column headings cover a period from 1703-1901.

Census records can provide personal information about family relationships, age, year of birth, description of property, religion, birthplace, and so forth. Census records are especially valuable because they list a large portion of the population. They can provide information where all or portions of other records are missing. Generally, you will find more complete family information in more recent censuses. Use the information with caution since some information may be incorrect.

Since Iceland was under Danish rule until 1944, when the Danish officials ordered a census taken, that same order and census format extended to Danish posessions, which included Iceland. However, there were censuses taken in Iceland which are not found for Denmark.

These special censuses were taken in 1703, 1762, and 1816.  The 1703 census included genealogical information and listed all residents by name.   The next census was taken in 1762.  This census only included the names of adult males who were farm owners, land leasers, or tenant farmers.  Females, laborers, children and the poor were not listed by name, but are included in the number counts.  A census taken in 1816 lists the names of all residents and asks for their birthplace among other items.

Census which used the Danish format were taken in 1801, and then again in 1834 (1835 for Iceland). Beginning in 1840, a census was taken every five years until 1860. After 1860, the census was taken every ten years until the end of the century. Beginning in 1901, censuses were again taken every five years. The census forms had Danish language headings through 1845.  Beginning in 1850, the forms used were printed in Icelandic.

You will find the following types of information in census records:

1801, 1835, and 1840. These censuses give the names of all members of the household, their ages, sexes, occupations, relationships to the head of the household and marital statuses.

1845 and later. These censuses list the names, ages, occupations, relationships to the head of the household, religious affiliations, and birthplaces (county and parish) of all members of the household.

Searching Census Records. When searching census records, it is important to remember the following:

Accept the ages with caution.
Women are usually listed by their maiden surnames.
Given names may not always be spelled exactly the same or be as complete as those recorded in vital records.
Information may be incorrect.
Spelling for names and places varies.
Search the surrounding area if you do not find a family at the expected address.

When you find your family in one census, be sure to search that same location in the earlier and later census records for additional family members.

Contents [hide]
1 Searching in Big Cities
2 Kommunal Censuses
3 Online Census Strategy
3.1 Danish Demographic Database
4 References

[edit] Searching in Big Cities
Finding your ancestors' family in the census records of a large city can be time consuming. It is helpful to know the street address. Beginning in 1870, the census is arranged alphabetically by street for the large cities in Denmark. Sometimes you can find the street address in the church records at the time of a birth, marriage, or death in the family. Other sources for street address are business directories; civil certificates of birth, marriage, or death; probate records; or court records.

To find census records in the Family History Library Catalog, look in the Place search under—


You will find the parishes listed in the order they appear on the microfilm.


Icelandic censuses have standardized column headings, which allowed the census taker to record the requested information in the correct place. Click on the following links to bring up the census headings. The Icelandic wording AND the English translations will appear. By knowing what is asked for in the various census years, you will be able to better plan your research strategy.

Icelandic Census Headings