Turkey Census

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Population Registers [Nüfūs Defter][edit | edit source]

Research use: These registers establish family groups and individual identity.
Reliability: Good, though the information may be incomplete.[1]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Percentage in Family History Library (FHL): Less than 1%. The Library has lists of Armenians in Istanbul. The Library has good examples of these registers from the Ottoman province of Palestine, now Israel (462 rolls).

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Record type: The earliest census reports from Turkey date from 1831.[2] But these generally count number of households or even of persons, but they recorded few names. The census laws of 1875 and 1884 established a system of civil registration, with the population registers kept at the local district [kaza] level, to update the census by adding new information about births, marriages, and deaths. Permanent registers were compiled in an initial census survey; thereafter vital information was added as births, marriages, and deaths occurred. Initial census surveys were conducted throughout the empire in 1876-1878, 1882-1885, and again in 1903-1906. NOTE: The first survey is incomplete because of the Ottoman-Russian War. Supplemental registration of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths were sometimes added to the register itself or sometimes compiled in separate registers.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Time period: 1876 to the end of Ottoman rule, probably 1915.
Location: For areas presently in Turkey the registers are in provincial (sancak) registration offices. For some regions no longer in Turkey, the registers are either centralized in an archive of the present country (e.g. Israel), or may be partially or completely in a Turkish archive, possibly the National Archives [Babakanlk Arivi] (also referred to as the Prime Ministry Archives) or the Sulaymaniye Library in Istanbul.
Population coverage: About 90%. Women are likely undercounted. Remote areas may not be fully counted.
1893 census covered the entire empire.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

The first population register (1876-1881) listed only males. After 1882 the registers list the following:

  • Names of household members including children
  • Sex
  • Birth Date
  • Residence
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Craft or occupation
  • Marital status
  • Marriage date
  • Health
  • Military Status
  • Patrilineal relations
  • If deceased, the register provides the death date or crosses out the name of the deceased

Ottoman Cadastral Surveys [Tahrir Mufassal Defter][edit | edit source]

Research use: These records establish individual identity and residence; may sometimes establish family groups (at least partial).
Reliability: Fair.[1]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Record type: The Ottoman Turks conducted extensive surveys of land and population for taxation purposes as early as the 1500s. These early surveys are of great value to demographers to estimate the size and character of the population in various regions of the Ottoman empire, but they contain no names and are not of significant genealogical value. After the Crimean war a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This and later surveys included names of head of households. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the provinces [sancaks] of Bursa and Janina, then empire wide in 1860.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Time period: 1858-1914.
Location: Cadastral Department archives [Tapu ve Kadastro Umum Mudurlugu arşivi] in Ankara and Istanbul.
Population coverage: Less than 30%. Women and children are generally not listed and remote localities may not be surveyed.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Names of heads of households and of any other taxpayers living in the same households
  • Occupation and income
  • Sometimes includes names of females and children

Registry of Civil Servants [Sicill-i Ahval Defterleri][edit | edit source]

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

These records are from the former Ottoman territories.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Name
  • Other Titles
  • Name of Father
  • Tribe (if applicable)
  • Religion (if not Muslim)
  • Rank

Military Head Tax Register [Cizye Defter][edit | edit source]

Research use: These records provide an early listing of names and probably age and residence of a significant portion of the male population; may provide some lineage linking information if sons are listed with fathers.
Reliability: Probably good.[1]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Record type: A register of those who paid the military head tax [cizye]. This tax was levied on all non-Muslims in place of military service. It is not possible to determine specific information about these records without on-site investigation.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Time period: 1551-1840.
Location: National Archives [Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi] in Istanbul; also referred to as the Prime Ministry Archives.
Population coverage: 5 to 6%. Apparently includes only non-Muslims.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Lists of cizye payers with accompanying document and receipts
  • May include a comprehensive listing of Christian and Jewish males throughout the Ottoman Empire
  • Probably provides age and residences

There are apparently 418 volumes (the source of this number is unknown).

Turkish Council of State and Population Statistics[edit | edit source]

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

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.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

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.

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

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.

Ottoman Detailed Cadastral Surveys[edit | edit source]

The Cadastral Surveys (1431 to the 20th century) were a land taxation record, census-like in research usage.

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

These and other cadastral surveys have been published by Turkish archives (Basvekâlet Arsivi and Tapu ve Kadastro umum müdürlügünün in Ankara), including the surveys of 1485, 1497, 1534, 1536, 1571, 1582, and 1591.

It is not possible at this time to determine the extent to which this record exists and has been preserved. Some are kept at the Cadastral Department archives [Tapu ve Kadastro Umum Mudurlugu arsivi] in Ankara and Istanbul. Others may be kept at local and provincial archives. None of these records have been acquired by the Family History Library. Access to these records is pretty much limited to those who can visit archives in Turkey.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The Cadastral Surveys (1431 to the 20th century) were a land taxation record, census-like in research usage. The Ottoman Turks conducted an extensive survey of land and population in 1431-1432 for taxation purposes. The resulting records are of two types, detailed [mufassal] and abridged [icmal]. These surveys show a continuing preoccupation with the size of cultivable land and with their revenue. The purpose of these early Ottoman population counts was not to produce an accurate record of the total number of people in the realm. Rather, they were carried out for tax purposes, and their results were recorded in land deed registers (tapu defteri).

After 1715 the regular practice of compiling these statistics collapsed. Nevertheless there must have been some records made becaus e the collection of taxes could not have been carried out without population data of some sort, probably incomplete information supplied by communal leaders.
In the nineteenth century new considerations dictated a new type of survey and something much more like a true census was introduced in 1830, Census and Population Registers.

After the Crimean war a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the provinces [sancaks] of Bursa and Janina, then empire wide in 1860.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Census-like land surveys (termed yoklamas) were conducted in 1596, 1606, 1672, 1691, 1694, 1698, and 1715.

Some sources indicate that the early cadastral surveys generally do not contain names and they are likely not of significant genealogical value. Other sources indicate that the fifteenth and sixteenth century tahrirs involved the registration of adult males—chiefly household heads as taxpayers but also bachelors and others. In either case, these early surveys are of great value to demographers to estimate the size and character of the population in various regions of the Ottoman empire.

Land surveys, then known as emlak tahriri, continued to be conducted in the 1800s but they were taken separately from the population count.

After the Crimean war a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the provinces [sancaks] of Bursa and Janina, then empire wide in 1860. These and later surveys definitely included names of head of households. Nevertheless, these surveys included, at best, less than 30% of the population. Women and children were rarely listed and remote localities may not have been surveyed.

Information Recorded in the Registers[edit | edit source]

Specific information is not available. Early surveys may list names of landholders. Surveys of the 1600s through 1800 provide considerable information about land and revenues but likely contain little information about the inhabitants. After 1800 the surveys provide names of heads of households and of any other taxpayers living in the same household; occupation and income; some from the 1800s may include names of females and children.

After the Crimean war a cadastral (land) survey was conducted to reestablish the tax base of the empire. This survey was conducted in 1858-1859 in the provinces [sancaks] of Bursa and Janina, then empire wide in 1860. These and later surveys definitely included names of head of households. Neverthelss, these surveys included, at best, less than 30% of the population. Women and children were rarely listed and remote localities may not have been surveyed.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Turkey,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1998.
  2. Military head tax registers (a quasi census) date from 1551.