General information

General information


The purpose of the Norwegian Historical Data Centre is to ease access to historical sources, like censuses and parish registers, through their computerized processing. The inititive was taken by historians who wanted to study 18th and 19th century society with the aid of microhistorical methods. Based on the model of Swedish Demographic Data Base at the University of Umeå, the NHDC has a mandate to prepare machine-readable editions of manuscript censuses and parish registers for use by university researchers and private genealogists. Experience has shown that electronic processing of historical data would enable historians to make a more thorough and precise study of society, than is possible by manual methods.

The Norwegian Historical Data Centre was established in 1981 and is today a permanent body under The Department of History and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education at The Arctic University of Norway.

NHDC issues typeset versions of the originals of the 1865, 1875 and 1900 censuses as well as the parish registers. These are supplied with alphabetical indexes. The aim is a national registry of the population of the 18th and 19th centuries, primarily for research purposes, but also for the benefit of schools, genealogists, local historians, etc. Access to the sources is eased by the use of NHDC's typeset material. The alphabetical indexes are of great aid to both the professional and amateur researcher, for a person can be traced through them in a matter of seconds. Also, wear and tear on the original sources i minimized. As can be expected, the labour involved in registering all these sources is extensive and time-consuming. Thus far we have only converted the sources of a few parts of the country to binary form.

The census returns

NHDC has based its activity on the transcription of the census returns of 1865, 1875, 1891 and 1900. For the census of 1891 there are only transcriptions available for a couple of towns. These censuses are so-called nominative censuses containing proper names and other personally related data, i.e. data on each individual. The individual is the basic element of these census returns. This provides us with a unique opportunity to glean information on the individuals or groups of categorized individuals.

Below we can see what kind of information each column provides. In city census returns, there are a few additional columns which need not consern us here. The guiding prinsiple in our work is to be true to the source material. All informations is written down exactly as it appears. The exception to this rule is that a few of the data items are input in a standardized form, but this in no way interferes with the information value of the material.

The table below provides an overview in the three censuses (1865, 1875 and 1900).

INFORMATION IN THE CENSUSES             1865   1875   1900

Census division:                          -      X      X
School district, parish:                  X      -      -
List of person's number                   -      X      X
Page of census:                           X      -      -
Farm name:                                X      X      X
Main farm number:                         -      -      X
Farm number:                              -      -      X
Number in land register:                  X      -      -
Inhabited dwellings:                      X      -      X
Number of household:                      X      X      X
Individual number in houshold:            -      X      X
Christian name:                           X      X      X
Surname:                                  X      X      X
Sex:                                      X      X      X
Resident:                                 -      X      X
Home of temporary residents:              -      X      X
Residence of the temporarily absent:      -      X      X
Position in the family:                   X      X      X
Marital status:                           X      X      X
Occupation:                               X      X      X
Date/year of birth/age:                   X      X      X
Place of birth:                           X      X      X
Citizenship:                              -      X      X
Religious affinity:                       X      X      X
Disease/mental illness:                   X      X      X
When contracted:                          X      X      -
Nationality/ethnicity:                   (X)     X      X
Language:                                (X)     -      X
Information about livestock:              X      X     (X)
Agricultural information:                 X      X     (X)
KEY:  X   Information usually appears in all censuses.
     (X)  Information appers in a few censuses only.
      -   Information is missing.

The parish registers

NHDC transcribes baptism, confirmation, mariage and burial registers. The parish is the unit of registration. Compared to the censuses, the parish registers are noticeably larger. There are more data in each column than in the census returns. Handwritten parish registers are harder to transcribe than any census return.

In 1812, it was ordained that there should be printed forms for parish registers, containing explanations. This model was subsequently modified a couple of times and as this was reflected in the material, we were forced to take account of it in the production of a common format for parish registers. Generally, information is more plentiful towards the end of the 19th century than at the beginning.

The table below shows what kind of information can be found in the parish registers:

 1 Municipality number         Municipality number   Municipality number  Municipality number
 2 Parish registers no./name   Parish reg. no./name  Parish reg. no./name Parish reg. no/name
 3 Year of transcription       Year of transcription Year of transcript.  Year of transcription
 4 List                        Sex                   Person number        Sex
 5 Person number in list       Person number in list Name of church       Person no.
 6 Type                        Name of church        Date of seremony     Name of church
 7 Sex                         Date of seremony      Nuptials/betrothal   Type of death
 8 Christian name              Date of birth         Bridegroom's Date of burial seremony
 9 Surname                     Christian name        Bride's marriage no. Date of death
10 Occupation                  In/out of wedlock     His occupation       Date of interment
11 Provider's occupation       Father's occupation   His christian name   Occupation
12 Provider's christian name   Father's chr. name    His surname          Christian name
13 Provider's surname          Father's surname      His place of birth   Surname
14 Provider's address          Father's address      His address          Address
15 Mother's occupation         Father's age          His age              Age/year of birth
16 Mother's christian name     Mother's occupation   His confirmation     Place of birth
17 Mother's surname            Mother's chr. name    His first communion  Confirmation
18 Mother's adress             Mother's surname      Her occupation       Provider's occupation
19 Confirmee's age             Mother's address      Her christian name   Provider's christian name
20 Confirmee's place of birth  Mother's age          Her surname          Provider's surname
21 Confirmee's address         1st sponsor           Her place of birth   Provider's adress
22 Ability to learn (1)        2nd sponsor           Her adress           Cause of death
23 Ability to learn (2)        3rd sponsor           Her age              Doctor summoned
24 Ability to learn (3)        4th sponsor           Her confirmation     Court notified
25 Vaccination                 5th sponsor           Her first communion  Comment (1)
26 Comments                    6th sponsor           His father/name etc  Comment (2)
27                             Baptized at home      Her father/name etc  Comment (3)
28                             Born out of wedlock   1st best man         Comment (4)
29                             Introductory number   2nd best man         Mother's occupation
30                             Introductory (text)   Banns published      Mother's christian name
31                             Comment (1)           Banns demanded by    Mother's surname
32                             Comment (2)           Vaccination          Mother's address
33                                                   Previous marriages   Still birth reported by
34                                                   Comment (1)
35                                                   Comment (2)


Treatment of the source material

The first stage in the treatment consists of a direct transcript of originals or xeroxed copies on loan from the Riksarkiv (The Central National Archive) or from the several Statsarkiv (Regional Archives). The personnel perform a word - by - word transcript, using PCs. The transcript then undergoes proofreading, and errors are corrected.

Usually, each type of source for a municipality (kommune) or parish (prestegjeld) is treated on a one-by-one basis, but it is possible to assemble two or more kommuner/prestegjeld into a more comprehensive geographical unit before sorting on whatever key is desired.

The next step is to standardize variables with a view to statistical analysis. A program replaces the textual variables with numeric ones, as statistical programs work better with the latter.

Proper names and names of farms are not coded or standardized. Neither are agricultural data, but these data may be coded seperately for the 1865 and 1875 censuses (due to their internal structure, and the different structure of the 1900 census).

The censuses are registered according to the borders between municipalities which existed in the year when the census was taken. A municipality may have had its borders changed over the years between 1865 and 1900. The censuses therefore reflect the size of the municipality at the date in question.

The unit of registration for parish registers is of course the parish. Parish registers contain information on a year-by-year basis about baptisms, confirmation, marriages and burials.

A short history of historical demography and historical computing in Norway

The first step for historians into computing was the registration of the entire 1801 manuscrip census which took place in the early 1970's under technical supervision at the University of Bergen. The first registration of census records started as a trial by NHDC in 1978. The official registration started in 1981. Since 1994, the national telephone company, Telenor (Teleslekt), has joind the NHDC in registering the entire 1900 census. Later on, the 1865 census was registrated by Teleslekt and disributed by The National Archive. Today the census records are available in a searchable form on the Internet and supported both by Digitalarkivet and NHDC.

Where to find our source editions

The following institutions have a partial subscription to the publication we have on offer.
  • The National Central Archive in Oslo. (Riksarkivet).
  • The National Library in Mo i Rana
  • The Regional Archive in Tromsoe, (Statsarkivet).
  • The Regional Archive in Trondheim, (Statsarkivet).
  • County libraries of the respective counties (Fylkesbibliotek).


  • Genealogical Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Vesterheim Genealogical Center, Madison, Wisconsin