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Census 1803 in Schleswig-Holstein

The first "universal census" in Schleswig-Holstein took place on Feb.13, 1803.
The government in Copenhagen had decided to enumerate all residents in the Danish realm to which the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein belonged until 1864. The responsible central government agency, the "Rentekammer", arranged to have census forms printed and distributed. Local authorities were held to register all residents by name, gender, age, family status and position, profession or other means of support. The completed lists were to serve to determine the number of residents, the age profile as well as the social and economic status of the population.

A Sunday in winter was set as the census date. The census authority assumed that nearly everybody would be at home, including migrant workers and sailors. The original intention was to conduct the census at the beginning of the new century, i.e. close to January 1st., 1801. Thus, it took place in Denmark on February 1st., 1801, though not in the duchies. Here, authorities pretended that they were too preoccupied by the recently ordered change of the draft from the number of plow shares to that
of the inhabitants that they could conduct the census at a later date only. As a result, February 13th., 1803 was determined as the relevant date.

In 1803 the borders of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein corresponded only partially to those of today's federal province of Schleswig-Holstein. The duchy of Schleswig stretched from Koenigsau in the North to the river Eider in the South, the duchy of Holstein from the river Eider to the Elbe river. This means that Schleswig comprised, apart from today's region of Schleswig, also the Northern Schleswig
region which was ceded to Denmark in 1920. Holstein also included Altona, at that time the second largest city in the state of Denmark after Copenhagen, as well as a dozen other communities. By virtue of the Greater Hamburg Law of 1937 they became part of the Hansa city. Holstein, on the other hand, grew to its present size because Luebeck and the bishopric of Luebeck (corresponding to the later district of
Eutin) were merged into its territory. The duchy of Lauenburg was still part of the electoral principality of Hanover in 1803; it became part of the Danish nation in 1815 only.

The rationale for the census was to obtain improved basic data for better planning and more effective administration. This rationale has not changed to this day. The "Rentekammer" had the lists containing the data of the enumerated persons evaluated statistically, and the results were displayed in tabular form. The survey disclosed that 604,085 individuals lived in the two duchies. The tabulation of the main factors
was copied many fold and handed over to the superior authorities for their perusal. A printed publication of the results was not envisioned. Though the original census results had served their purpose after the statistical evaluation, they were not destroyed but rather archived by the "Rentekammer".

As early as 1769 a census had been taken. Contrary to the 1803 version it was not universal, since military personnel had not been enumerated. Furthermore, until the entire state had been established in l773, only the residents of those regions, which belonged to the king, could be enumerated. Thus, data from the estate and monastic districts were missing, as well as those from the remaining grand ducal Gottorf regions. Though the Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf portion had shrunk already to the size of a small duchy, it still amounted to two fifth of the surface of Holstein. For historic purposes the census of 1769 is less conclusive because the residential listings were lost with but a few exceptions. To be exact, the first census is that of August 15th., 1769, the first universal one is that of February 13th., 1803.

Some three decades elapsed before the government ordered another census in 1835. A new era had dawned in the interim. More citizens than before took an interest now in public affairs. In the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, regional and political consciousness had arisen. The king had to accept "Ständeversammlungen"-assemblies who needed reliable data for their consultations. The census results of 1835 were thus the first one that were printed.

After 1835 new census data were collected every five years, apart from a few exceptions. The same rhythm was adopted by the Prussians, who made Schleswig-Holstein a province of their kingdom after the annexation of 1867. Since 1950 the Federal Republic of Germany endeavors to follow the recommendation of the United Nations to arrange a census once every ten years.

The manuscripts of the 1803 census are kept in the provincial archives of Schleswig-Holstein in Schleswig, and in the Landsarkiv of Sønderjylland in Apenrade/Åbenrå. The census data represent a very expressive historical source. Through them the historian can research the societies of 1800, the local chronicler can describe the residents of his community and the genealogist can research his ancestors.
Therefore, the bicentennial was the motivation for genealogists in Denmark to transcribe all lists of the national census of 1801 digitally and consequently to make them publicly accessible. Genealogists in Schleswig-Holstein were motivated by this example to pursue a similar task with the census data of 1803.

You can find the AGGSH (Genealogy Work Group Schleswig-Holstein) under

Ingwer E. Momsen (0203)

Source: Ingwer E. Momsen, Die allgemeinen Volkszählungen in Schleswig-Holstein in dänischer Zeit (1769-1860), Geschichte ihrer Organisation und ihrer Dokumente, Neumuenster 1974, Wachholtz-Verlag

Translation by: Juergen P. Schultz, Canada
13.02.2003 - a few corrections (Momsen/Voß)

The AGGSH  has the permission by the "Gesellschaft für Schleswig-Holsteinische Geschichte" to use the publishing at  www.geschichte.schleswig-holstein.de as source for the English translation.

Page created by Hans-Peter Voss.
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Last work on this site: 10.July 2003