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Statistisk sentralbyrå Oslo 23 august 2006. The right to a past Use versus misuse of nominative, historical population data. Gunnar Thorvaldsen Norwegian Historical Data Centre.

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statistisk sentralbyr oslo 23 august 2006

Statistisk sentralbyrå Oslo 23 august 2006

The right to a past

Use versus misuse of nominative, historical population data

Gunnar Thorvaldsen

Norwegian Historical Data Centre

For brochure suggesting how potential voters with Sami ancestry can register cf
  • Cf Alta on map overleaf where parents denied Sami roots when schoolchildren brought home late 19th century census lists.
  • Census lists from before 1950 provide ethnicity



The community history From Sami

Society to Norwegian Periphery

was commisioned by Kvænangen

municipality who denied publishing

due to its strong ethnic perspective.

Genealogic or cultural ethnic markers can be found

in Norwegian censuses from 1845 to 1950

historical nominative data in norway
Historical nominative data in Norway

Male census Censuses

1660s 1801 1865, 1875, 1890, 1900. 1907(1910, 1920, 1930, 1946, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990. 2001


| |

Church records (forms) Farm tax lists

Andebu 1623 1812) 1832, 1886


Male 1660-, 1701

Numeric 1769, 1815-1855

Nominative, public 1801, 1865, 1875, (1885), 1890, 1900

Nominative, restricted 1910-1950

Nominative, restricted, digital 1960-1990

the finnish danger

The Finnish Danger

“Some time after the city census had been passed in government, however, a supplementary resolution was passed to carry out a census in [Eastern Finnmark]. On behalf of trusted persons in Finnmark, infantry captain Aksel Magnus had contacted the Central [Statistical] Bureau in order to take a census also in the rural districts of the province. The Central Bureau told him to contact the Ministry, so that a resolution might be passed and funded. Magnus at the time was an eager supporter of tough norwegianizing in the north. He worked diligently to stop what he perceived to be a Finno-Russian threat, especially the Finnish immigrants. ‘The Sami Nation is dying’, he wrote in a newspaper in 1889, ‘not before long their existence will be historic’.”

Einar Lie, Faktisk talt, The History of Statistics in Norway, Oslo 2001, p 142f.

The Fins were feared in military and official circles due to Finland being part

of the Russian Empire. During the demographic crisis in Finland in 1868 it was

suggested to mobilize troops against hungry Fins migrating to Finnmark.

russian censuses
Russian censuses
  • 1897 Tsarist Russian empire, except Finland
  • Soviet: (1920 aborted.) 1926 census provided 55 volumes of aggregates, ethnicity important variable. Nominative manuscripts from the polar census preserved.
  • Stalin’s 1937 census and its destruction due to compromising results form the Bolshevik leadership.
  • Next slide: Assertion that Norwegians and Fins who had moved to Fiskarhalvøya in Russia before 1917 were deported on the basis of 1939 census reports. Local longitudinal name lists may have been sufficient.
“Det er neppe tvil om at den store folketellingen som ble gjennomført i Sovjetunionen våren 1939 hadde klare politiske undertoner. På hele Kolahalvøya ble hver eneste persons etniske tilhørighet gransket og notert. ... Offisielt var jo Sovjetunionen et multietnisk samfunn der alle nasjoner var likestilt. Men det skulle snart vise seg at det å stå oppført som norsk eller finsk avgjorde om du fikk bli på hjemplassen eller ikke.”Morten Jentoft, De som dro østover. Kola-nordmennenes historie. Gyldendal, Oslo 2001, side 152ff.Ref: The state county archive in Murmansk, fond 164, case 250; oral sources.
denmark norway and the jews
Denmark, Norway and the Jews
  • Denmark: 77 to concentration camps, N=5600
  • Norway 741 to concentration camps, N=1400
  • censuses 1920, 1930, 1946; some municipal censuses and population registers
  • Quinquennial censuses, complete municipal population registers from 1924
  • the registries of the Mosaic Congregation were confiscated by the Gestapo in both countries.
Census microdata – an alternative for researchers. Anonymized samples from the most recent censuses.

Person number









napp north atlantic population project
NAPP North Atlantic Population Project

2001-2005, 2006-2009

Integrated with constructed variables

  • Britain 1881 29 mill
  • Canada 1881 4.3 mill
  • USA 1880 50 mill
  • Iceland 1870 70000 1901 72000
  • Norway 1865 1.7 mill 1900 2.2 mill
  • Sweden 1890 4.8 mill
napp basic principles
NAPP: basic principles
  • Complete count digitized censuses
  • Harmonized data
  • Integrated microdata
  • Constructed variables
  • Comprehensive documentation
  • Free access and use
  • Available via the web:
  • Use with standard statistical software
With further contributions by:

Sören Edvinsson and Johnny Carlsson (Sweden)

Marianne Jarnæs Erikstad (Norway)

Jean Pierre Pélissier and Daniele Rébaudo (France)

Michel de Sève (Canada)

Bart Van de Putte and Koen Matthijs (Belgium

on a millennial scale censuses and census microdata survive for only a short but significant period
On a millennial scale, censuses and census microdata survive for only a short, but significant period
ipums international minnesota population center http ipums org
IPUMS internationalMinnesota Population Center

Available modern census microdata with low density samples:

Future additions: Hungary, Spain, IPUMS Latin America

Other countries pending

Strict confidentiality rules with registered users

ipums i procedures
IPUMSi procedures:
  • 1. Inventory the world’s census microdata
  • 2. Preserve endangered microdata and documentation
  • 3. Anonymize census microdata to preserve statistical confidentiality, using highest standards (Statistics Netherlands)
  • 4. Integrate datasets of selected countries using UN, Eurostat and other standards
  • 5. Disseminate database free with complete copies to all partners

Integrated Public Use Microdata Series - International

research examples
Research examples
  • Garðarsdóttir, Ó. (2002). Saving the Child. Regional, cultural and social aspects of the infant mortality decline in Iceland 1770-1920. Umeå (Cf breastfeeding graphs overleaf.)
  • Mamelund, S-E (2006), “A socially neutral disease? Individual social class, household wealth and mortality from Spanish influenza in two socially contrasting parishes in Kristiania 1918-19", Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 62, February, No. 4, pages 923-942
  • Thorvaldsen, G (1998) “Marriage and Names among Immigrants to Minnesota” Journal of the American Association for History and Computing
  • Bibliografi:

The writing of the History of Immigration to Norway has shown

that our society is not nearly as homogeous as many like to think.

iceland 1920
Iceland 1920

Survival in days of breast-fed and artificially fed

infants in a fishing village in Iceland 1915-1925

Displaying marriage partners by place of birth in the 1960 census for Norway shows

the homogeniety of Norwegian society.

Genealogists and some voters need census

data to establish their identity. When their

needs cannot be met due to restrictions,

researchers have a hard time financing

data computerization.

the law of statistics

The Law of Statistics

§2-6.Offentliggjøring av opplysninger.

       Opplysninger hentet inn etter fastsatt opplysningsplikt, eller som er gitt frivillig, skal ikke i noe fall offentliggjøres slik at de kan føres tilbake til oppgavegiver eller annen identifiserbar enkelt- person til skade for denne, eller til urimelig skade når det gjelder selskaper med begrenset ansvar, kommandittselskaper og andre sammenslutninger, stiftelser og offentlige organer og virksomheter.

The law of statistics asserting that in order to avoid harm idenfiable information may not

be made public during the first 100 years. While relevant for modern data, no harm has

been reported when censuses from 1900 and earlier were released after 60 years.

eurostat statistical anonymity standards
1. small sample size

2. limited geographical detail

3. top and bottom coding of unique categories

4. signed non-disclosure agreement

5. prohibit redistribution of datasets to third parties

6. prohibit attempts to identify individuals or the making any claim to that effect

7. require users to provide copies of publications

8. Age (constructed, where necessary)

9. Never identify date of birth

10. Never identify place of birth

11. Migration: timing and place not identified in detail

12. Place of residence identified by major civil division (pop>60k, 120k, 250k, 1 million--national rule)

13. Sensitivity analysis of variables by national experts

14. Confidentiality assessment by national experts

EUROSTAT statistical anonymity standards
gradual release of census data
Gradual release of census data
  • 70-100 years: Full access
  • 50-70 years: Anonymized microdata to registered users
  • 30-50 years: Unidentifiable microdata to researchers
  • Younger material: Special agreements

Concluding dilemma: The data sets which may jeopardize

vulnerable minority groups, can be needed to strengthen

the identity of the same groups. The dilemma can be

solved by applying more flexible access rules for older data sets.