Still, foreign censuses can be brick wall-busting tools for tracing ancestors abroad. The Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed many; borrow them at your local Family History Center. A surprising number are online. Here’s a, well, census of the census resources available for researching the most common foreign origins.
UK AND IRELAND
England and Wales
Other sites are free to search but require a fee to access the records: FindMyPast is the only site offering all the 1841 through 1911 censuses (complete except for 1851). FindMyPast also powers the national archives’ 1911 census site. The Origins Network offers indexed, digitized images of the 1841, 1861 and 1871 tallies. You can search and view the 1901 census. Both Ancestry.com and its British sister site offer the 1841 through 1901 censuses, with a free index to the 1881 enumeration.
Although the Irish government first took a census in 1813 and continued every 10 years from 1821 to 1911, most of those early enumerations have been lost to fire or to bureaucrats who destroyed them after compiling statistics. The 1901 and 1911 censuses are the only complete counts open to the public. Both list every household member, with age, sex, relationship, religion, occupation, marital status, county of birth (country only for foreign births), literacy and whether the person spoke Irish. The 1911 count also asked each married women the length of time she’d been married to her current husband, number of children and number of living children.
Irish researchers also can turn to various church tallies and taxation records, such as Griffith’s Valuation (1847 to 1864).
Although France first took a national census in 1772, most counts gathered only statistical data. Censuses every five years from 1836 through 1936 did generally collect genealogical data, but these aren’t on microfilm. Surviving records (many were destroyed under an 1887 decree) are at departmental archives (link to archives départementales websites from <www.francegenweb.org/~archives/archivesgenweb/?id=adfrance>).
Dutch national censuses began in 1829 and continued every 10 years until 1929, followed by tallies in 1947, 1960 and 1971. The records are kept locally, in municipal archives (stadsarchief), and only some are on FHL microfilm (run a place search on the town name). A few local censuses also are on FHL film for the provinces of Friesland (1689, 1714, 1744, 1796) and Overijssel (1748, 1795).
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
The Austro-Hungarian Empire conducted censuses in Transylvania, Banat and Bukovina in 1785, 1805, 1828, 1857, 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900 and 1910, and Romania took censuses in 1912, 1930, 1941, 1956 and 1966. Except for FHL microfilm of a few early Austro-Hungarian census records for parts of Transylvania, these records are accessible only at the national archives of Romania and Hungary. A 1942 Jewish census, also covering Moldova and Ukraine, is available on JewishGen and Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com and JewishGen have free indexes to portions of several Russian censuses and census substitutes, including Duma Voter Lists, 1906-1907; Jewish Families in Russian Empire Census, 1897; Grodno Gubernia Voters List, 1912; and Jewish Religious Personnel, 1853-1854.
Finland took a sort of taxation census called henkikirjat/mantalslängder beginning in 1634. From 1634 to 1651, it covered all people older than 12; from 1652 to 1655, those between 15 and 63; from 1655 on, older heads of households were added. As in Sweden, nobles and soldiers were exempt until 1765, when the government also began to use the census for statistical purposes and all had to register. The FHL has filmed these records; they’re cataloged by county, with a separate heading for 1810 to 1860 censuses. Finland’s National Archives also is placing these records online (click In English).
1. Looking for ancestors in the FamilySearch 1881 British or Canadian census database is simple—and free. To find a British ancestor, for example, fill in as much information as you know, including name, birthplace, birth year (use the drop-down menu to select Exact or a range of up to 40 years), and country and county of residence in 1881. Start by leaving the exact spelling box unchecked, then try a second search with this option checked if you get too many hits.
2. Clicking the Search button retrieves a list of results. If your ancestor is listed, just click on the name to bring up details from the 1881 census.
3. The individual entry lists only one person, along with source information that would enable you to find the original entry on microfilm. Don’t overlook the links hidden at the upper-right corner of the screen that let you see the next person on the census return or the whole household.
• Best Websites for “Continental” Researchers <familytreemagazine.com/article/best-for-continental-researchers>
• Family Tree Passport to Europe CD <shopfamilytree.com/product/family-tree-passport-to-europe-cd>
• International research guide downloads <shopfamilytree.com/category/international-research-guides>
From the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine.