Notes on Enumeration Fields / Categories

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Census Records & Enumeration

Notes on Enumeration Fields / Categories

As mentioned, the demographic data from Scandinavia are of very high quality and the few discrepancies that may be found are often unimportant for researcher. In general, the census returns are an invaluable guide to birthplaces, occupations etc. This article contains some notes on some of the individual enumeration fields (or categories) which the family historian should be aware of when researching the Danish censuses:

Name: Christen Jensen Buch
Gender: M
Age: 41
Marital status: Married
Occupation: Farmer
Parish: Højen
District: Jerlev
County: Vejle
Place name: Høyen
Household-/family no: 38
Title no./address: A farm
Example: census details for Christen Jensen Buch (1792-1844) from the census of 1834 (FT-1834). The name of the farm is ''Skivdal'', however this is not recorded in the census.
    1. Place of residence
    2. Name
    3. Gender
    4. Age
    5. Position in the household
    6. Marital status
    7. Profession, occupation or trade
    8. 1st or 2nd marriage?
    9. Place of birth / Last residence
    10. Religious community
    11. Infirmities, mentally or physically handicapped
    12. Age at first marriage
    13. Other fields / categories

1. Place of Residence - Addresses

Before the 1900s Danish farms and houses rarely had a specific address as we know it today. In the rural areas, small farms, smallholdings and houses were often identified in the censuses by a place name or a land registration number (title number). Only the larger farms were in some cases identified by their name. Even in Copenhagen and the provincial Market Towns, a formal system of numbering was not introduced until the end of the 1800s. It is therefore often difficult to compare the information obtained from one census with that of another based on place of residence alone.

2. Name - Accuracy

Names found in the censuses should be treated with little caution, as there may be minor discrepancies compared to the names found in parish registers; sometimes other name variations have been recorded and people with multiple first names may be listed only with the name they used daily. Abbreviations may also cause difficulties. Furthermore, children living with their parents are sometimes recorded without surname.

Most women 'changed' their surname according to the new name laws in the period 1829-56. A woman, e.g. with the name Maren Louise Jensdatter in the 1840-census may therefore be recorded as Maren Louise Jensen in the 1860-census. Women were in general recorded with their maiden name (as we family historians also do), but towards the end of the 1800's, it is more common for women to a on the be recorded with their married name. The same woman as in the previous example may therefore be with her husbands surname as Maren Louise Lorentsen in the 1890-census.

Most of these discrepancies are minor ones, and should in general not be a problem for the researcher.

3. Gender

Fairly steight forward, but especially valiable if you incounter an unfamiliar name or have an otherwise illegible source; 'M' = Mand (Male), 'K' = Kvinde (Female).

4. Age

The prominent part of the ages that are recorded seem to be accurate, however it is best to treat these information with little caution. The recorded age does not always lead to a precise year in the birth register. A person aged 25 in 1845, for example, will without further research seem to have been born in 1820. As the 1845-census where held February 1, the researcher who is looking for the birth record should therefore consult the birth registers from February 2, 1819 to February 1, 1820. A secondary search should include the years 1818-21.

5. Position in the household (stilling i husstanden)

Also the relationship of each member to the head of the household or position in the household were recorded, and this enumeration field/category may often give valuable information. You may identify the husband''s parents or the wife''s sister giving you good leads for your further research into the family.

6. Marital Status (civilstand)

The marital status of all individuals in the household are recorded: married ["gift"], unmarried ["ugift"], widow ["enke"], or widower ["enkemand"]; in the cases that no marital status is recorded (usually records of children) the individual is assumed to be unmarried. In rare occasions you may also encounter divorcée ["fraskilt"] or divorced ["skilt"].

7. Profession, occupation or trade (Erhverv)

The occupations that are recorded are fairly accurate, but rarely take account of dual occupations or casual employment. A man who appears in the censuses under the description 'labourer' may have performed a variety of tasks, some of them skilled. Furthermore many craftsmen in the rural areas, for example, often combined their craft with a smallholding.

8. 1st or 2nd marriage?

The census of 1787 records which marriage the parents are in and from which marriage the children relates. This is valuable information in order to identify a wife that died in child labor, brought together children etc. Unfortunately this is the only census with this enumeration field/category.

9. Place of birth / last residence

From 1845 onwards the Danish censuses include information of the persons place of birth. These information usually refer to the same parish ["her i sognet"], a neighboring parish or town. On most occasions, the enumerator have recorded the parish where the birth occurred rather than the specific location within the parish. People who was born outside the county, are usually recorded with information on the specific county or area from which the came.

In 1906 and 1916 only the censuses for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg include information about last residence and place of birth, whereas the 1911-census has information about both last residence and place of birth for all of Denmark.

10. Religious Community

Before 1855 it was compulsory to attend the local parish church, but this was abolished in 1855 with the freedom of religion and in 1857 the compulsory baptism was abandoned. This new freedom of religion also meant that the censuses began to record which religious community each person belonged to. However Catholics, Jews and other religious communities had been free to practice their religion and have been recording births, marriages and deaths within their own religious community also before 1855.

11. Infirmities, mentally or physically handicapped

Records whether the person is deaf, blind, disabled, invalid, crippled, mentally disordered. Possible mental sickness are recorded from 1845, and the blind and deaf from 1850

12. Age at first marriage

This field / category is only found in the first censuses, but is a valuable information in order to find information further back in time, e.g. birth, baptism and parents in the Parish Registers.

13. Other fields / categories

Other information recorded may be a last residence or what year they arrived to the parish, year of the marriage, the number of living/deceased children, current workplace, what year people became widow/widower or age at first marriage. From 1901 a precise date of birth and the Land registration number of the farmstead/house are recorded in the censuses, and from 1916 also information about personal income and assets.

A few numbers and facts...

  • 500,000

    ...Danes emigrated up to 1968, and of these about 70% departed for the USA. In the 1800's alone a vast majority of 90% went to the USA. Read more...

  • 261,065

    This many individuals, comprising of 4.6 percent of all Danes, carries the surname JENSEN followed by NIELSEN, HANSEN, PEDERSEN and ANDERSEN. Read more...

  • 1,000

    Of the 5,000 basic words in modern English, as many as 20 percent are so-called loan words from the Old Norse language (ON). Read more...

  • 1769

    This year the first Danish census was taken. The next censuses were taken in 1787 and 1801 and from 1834 onwards every 5-10 years. Read more...

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