Albania Census

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The Ottoman Empire conducted many headcounts in the area of Albania as early as the 1400s. These, however, were not true census records. See the Ottoman Detailed Cadastral Surveys page to learn more.

Early Census Records

Ottoman population statistics were developed to satisfy pressing administrative and military needs. By the 1800s the need for accurate population data became vitally important to the Empire leading to the development of censuses, and eventually to the adoption of a permanent system of population registration. The first effort began in 1829 but was not completed until 1831. Its purpose was to establish a basis for levying personal taxes on non-Muslims and for conscription of Muslim adult males into the army. This listing was similar to a census. The “census” consisted of the registration of the male population of each district [kaza] by a committee. Thereafter, annual updates of population figures were obtained by cumulatively adding births and subtracting deaths as these were registered in each district. The population registration system established in 1829 functioned fairly regularly until the 1850s after which the system began to deteriorate and break down. Nevertheless, the system languished until 1881 when headcounts and population registration were amalgamated into a single system of record keeping called the population register [nüfus defter].

In 1867 the Turkish Council of State assumed jurisdiction over all population matters. In 1874 the Council introduced a law regarding census taking and the establishment of an accurate, permanent registration system covering men, women, and children. This new system merged the headcounts and population registration into a single system. The new system was based on three types of registers; the basic register [esas defter] listing all males with a second column listing the family members; the summary [icmal] listing the total number of people living in each town village or town quarter based on data from the town registers; and the daily events register [yevmiye vukuat] which was to include records of births, marriages, deaths, and migrations into or out of each district. Various political problems delayed the execution of this system although Turkey published estimated population figures for 1876/1878. Regulations of 1881 and 1878 and the law of 1874 were finally implemented in a census which started in 1881 and was completed in 1883. The 1881/1883 census used several ethnic-religious categories for the Christian population, but all the Muslims continued to be counted as one homogeneous group despite the ethnic and linguistic differences among them.

This new system was similar to civil registration, with population registers kept at the local district [kaza] level by the population bureau [sicil-i nüfus], to update the census by adding new information about births, deaths, and migrations into and out of the district. Separate registers were established for Muslims and for members of other religious communities. Periodic initial permanent registers were compiled in an initial census survey; thereafter vital information was added as births, marriages, and deaths occurred. However, registration of vital events was deficient until 1905. Thereafter, fines were imposed on non-declarers and on careless scribes. Initial census surveys were conducted throughout the Ottoman Empire in 1881-1883, and again in 1903-1906. Supplemental registration of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths were sometimes added to the census/population register itself or sometimes compiled in separate registers.

Modern Census Records

Although the Ottoman Empire counted the inhabitants of Albania in several ways as described above, none of these procedures can be considered a true census. After their independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian government conducted censuses in 1923, 1930, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965, and more recent years.[1]

Coverage[edit | edit source]

Early Census and Population Registers

The purpose for population registration before 1881 was to levy taxes on non-Muslims and to identify Muslims for conscription. Only males were registered. After 1881 the count was conducted to establish population figures for a variety of social and political reasons. All individuals were counted in both the census and the population registers after 1881.

Ottoman initial censuses exist for 1831, (possibly 1844), 1881, 1885, 1894, and 1906. It is not known whether this form of registration continued after Albania’s independence in 1912. Since Albanian civil registration did not begin until 1929, it can be presumed that records like population registers may exist as late as that time.

Early censuses cover less than 30% of the actual population. Censuses before 1881 did not register women, orphans, Christians below the age of puberty, persons mentally or physically incapacitated, high ranking officials, and others who were not obligated to pay personal taxes or do military service. Population coverage improved to an estimated 75 to 80% with the 1881 census and subsequent population registration which included women and children. Isolated tribes would likely be under-reported due to difficulties in communication with some areas, and the resistance of some groups to being registered. In all time periods the number of immigrants and emigrants was not properly reflected in the records.

Modern Census Records

The coverage of the censuses from 1923 onward average from 89 to 95% of the population. The coverage should have improved with each census so that those since 1950 are likely to be nearly 100%. Albanian government took censuses in 1923, 1930, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965, and more recent years.

Content[edit | edit source]

Early Census and Population Registers

Before 1881 the registers listed only males and had separate categories for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Gypsies. The registers for Muslims included the name, birth year, birth date of those moving in from elsewhere, height, complexion, eye color, occupation, geographic origin, date of death or departure if moved, and other dates with regard to military service. It is assumed the military information is missing from the registers for non-Muslims. Certain registers apparently include widows who were heads of households. The earliest listing may not have included specific names but would have included number of households for each village, unmarried mature males, brief physical descriptions and estimates of the value of crop yields and income from livestock. Also listed were contributions to the military forces.

After 1881 the registers listed all family members and their sex, birth date, residence, age, religion, craft or occupation, marital status, marriage date, health, and military status. Children’s names were added as births occurred. The names of the deceased persons are crossed out with a death date noted.

Modern Census Records

From 1923, census records listed names of heads of families with their residence, spouses with children in chronological order, sex of individuals, their ages, occupations, duration of residency, and so forth.

Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]

Early Census and Population Registers

These records, if they have been preserved, are probably kept at the General Directorate of Archives (State Archives) in Tiranë or at population offices in each district. The Archives are accessible to scholars. Some (especially the pre-1881 material) may be in the Ottoman Archives at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. None of these records have been acquired by the Family History Library.

It is not known to what extent these records have been preserved. It is likely that many of the original documents are lost, particularly those of the 1831 census. Turkish sources indicate that few original records remain for the 1881 census but whether records still exist in Albania needs to be investigated. In Turkey, the originals of subsequent records still exist in district offices there. It is therefore likely that the situation is similar in Albania.

The early registers and censuses can be used by researchers to quickly identify the male portion of families and the later registers could be used to do the same for the whole family. Although the value of these records is great, their usage is somewhat limited because they are written in Ottoman Turkish using the Arabic script which is archaic and difficult to read.

Modern Census Records

These records are located at the Central Directorate of Archives (State Archives) in Tiranë. They are not accessible to the public for research. The preservation of these census records are unknown, although they are probably kept under acceptable storage conditions. None of these records have been acquired by the Family History Library.

Census records link families together and greatly supplement the research process. Because Albanians tend to live in extended families, the census could be very helpful in finding whole groups of family members, including as much as three generations.[2]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Albania,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1991-1998.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Albania,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1991-1998.