The 1865 Census introduced the self-count system. In the towns, owners of buildings were requested to personally complete the census forms, which where then collected by the Subdivision Heads of each conscription district. In addition to the number of households, the census of December 31, 1865, also provides information on each individual, such as name, family position, gender, marital status, occupation, any handicaps and ethnicity; the latter in aims of obtaining information on Samis and people of Finnish stock.

Two new issues were brought up, namely place of birth and religious affiliation. The information on place of birth increases one’s chances of being able to trace lineage back in time. Another important factor is that the names of smallholdings were also included this time.

The 1865 census contains main lists and specialized lists. The specialized lists constitute the actual census lists with information on individuals. The main lists provide a total overview over population count and the number of residential buildings and households on each property. The smallholdings are listed under the main farms.


The 1875 census was designed to allow for the inclusion of both people native to the country and other residents. This called for the inclusion of a new item, i.e. nationality. Sailors on Norwegian ships abroad were counted, as well as all crew members on ships in Norwegian ports. For the very first time, people were asked their year of birth, rather than their age. The other items remained as before. The census was carried out on December 31, 1875.


The 1891 Census was held on January 1. The parish was now replaced by the municipality as counting district in rural areas. In other aspects, the procedures and system remained the same as for previous censuses. New items were the familial ties between spouses, and the Samis and inhabitants of Finnish stocks were also asked what language they used. In the towns, respondents had to indicate the number of rooms per residential building.

Rather than building lists, there were forms for each individual. All of this resulted in a very comprehensive census. The information on animal husbandry and seeding was listed on separate forms, which were lost in a fire in 1939.


The 1900 census reintroduced the building lists. The reason being that Statistics Norway had by then started using punched cards that could be sorted and counted by electric machines. The personal data collected were the same as in 1891, with the exception that the question on familial ties between spouses had been eliminated. The information on residential conditions was more detailed than before. This census requested agricultural information as well, but these data were also lost in the 1939 fire.

The Town Censuses of 1870 and 1885

The 1870 and 1885 censuses were only held in the towns, i.e. in provincial towns and small coastal towns. They contain information on name, year and place of birth, marital status and occupation. The 1885 census included separate lists for Samis, Finns and persons of Finnish stock, as well as people of mixed nationality.
Only in Kristiania (now Oslo) were the lists sorted alphabetically by street names. This applied to the censuses of both years.