are popular with genealogists. They name almost everyone in locality and
often include important information about household members. Most family
historians are familiar with United States decennial censuses, but may
overlook them when searching for ancestors in European records.
Most nations in Europe created census records at some point in their
history. Unfortunately, these records were often destroyed as soon as
statistical reports were compiled. Germany is a case in point. The state
archives of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Schwerin, Germany, has a large
collection of census records naming individuals. Some date from the
first quarter of the seventeenth century.
Other parts of Germany Saxony, for example have only
statistical abstracts from censuses conducted as early as the middle
of the eighteenth century. Few European censuses are indexed, requiring
searchers to examine all census entries from the appropriate locality
and time period.
Denmark's earliest census was taken in 1769, but the second census
in 1787 began the practice of naming individuals and recording facts
about them and their families. Like most European censuses, Danish censuses
are not indexed, but are worth searching for important information about
ancestors and their families.
Genealogists should remember that Schleswig-Holstein, Germany was
part of Denmark until 1864. Sweden and Norway have census-taking traditions
similar to Denmark, but began recording individual information about
one hundred years earlier. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City,
Utah, has microfilmed many of these censuses.
England's census-taking traditions also begin in the eighteenth century.
These enumerations are statistical in nature until 1841, at which time
census takers were required to list all members of each household, and
record facts about them. Similar censuses are found in other parts of
the now defunct British Empire, including Canada and Australia.
How does a family historian determine whether or not censuses were kept
in the area where ancestors lived? A search of the Family History Library
Catalog will provide some quick answers. Search under the country as
well as the county, province, department, or equivalent jurisdiction.
If no entries are listed under the topic "Census", it will
be necessary to write to archives in the area to determine the prevalence
of censuses that name inhabitants.
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilmed censuses
from several European nations. If researchers are unable to find needed
censuses in the Family History Library Catalog, a letter or telephone
call to the state archives nearest the ancestral home town will produce
answers to questions about censuses from the area. Try the Internet
or a call to the embassy or nearest consulate of ancestors' home countries
for the address of archives.
The Family History Library has published a series of Research Outlines
for many European countries. Each country's outline contains a discussion
of census records. Doreen S. Goyer's and Gera E. Draaijer's book The
Handbook of National Population Censuses (New York: Greenwood, 1992)
is another valuable resource.