The Census can provide an alternate source of information in your search for Finnish ancestors. They are useful if the Church records were destroyed and for the years before the beginning of the Church books. The Census does not contain as much information about family members as the Church books; however they give additional information about the wealth of the family, the size of the farm and the other families living on the same farm.

Census of Vöyri parish.
Census of Vöyri parish in 1635.

Censuses were for collecting taxes, including the life tax. The Censuses date back to 1634. They were initially called the mill mantals list (myllymanttaaliluettelo, kvarntullsmantalslängd) and later the mantals list (manttaaliluettelo, mantalslängd) or Census (henkikirja). The Census was taken annually. In addition to the head of the farm, other taxpayers were included in the list.

In the 18th century, the Census began to list all adult residents of a farm, regardless of whether they had to pay any taxes. At that time, additional taxes began to be entered in the Census, e.g., luxury taxes. The tax that was most ubiquitous was the poll tax.

From 1634 to 1651, the poll tax was collected from everyone who was 12 years of age or older. From 1652, it was collected from 15 to 63 year olds. In 1865, the upper age limit was removed for owners of a farm and the minimum age was raised to 16 years.

The collection of poll tax ended in 1924, but Census continued to provide population and real estate information until 1989.

People Missing from the Censuses

Between 1693 and 1924, poor people and beggars were exempted from the payment of poll tax, so they were not always recorded in the Census. In the years 1641 to 1865, nobles, their families and their servants did not pay poll tax so they were not listed either.

People in the military were not taxed or icluded in the Censuses while they were in active service. During the Duchy of Finland, families belonging to the Russian military were exempted from poll tax. Others exempted from taxes and not listed included bishops, non-noble assessors of the court of appeals, and university professors and their families. Young people who were of a taxable age but were students were also exempt.

From the end of the 18th century until 1924, parents with many children were exempted from the poll tax. Builders of new construction and stone houses were exempt for a limited period. No poll tax was collected from the inhabitants of Lapland from the middle of the 18th century until the beginning of the Grand Duchy (period of autonomy).

Census archives

The Censuses can be found in the National Archives of Finland. They can be accessed in several ways. One is through the Uusi astia (or Digihakemisto). The Censuses for the year 1634 are in the archive named Voudintilit. Those for the years 1635 to 1808 are in the archive named Läänintilit. The Censuses from the Grand Duchy until 1937 have been placed in an own archive Henkikirjat.

After the digital archive is no longer available, you can search for the Censuses during the Swedish empire in the National Archives’ Uusi astia service by province name, and the abbreviated search term for the Census with an asterisk, henkik* (abbreviated from henkikirja(t)).

Names of archives:

  • Turun ja Porin läänin tilejä
  • Uudenmaan ja Hämeen läänin tilejä
  • Viipurin ja Savonlinnan läänin tilejä
  • Savonlinnan ja Kymenkartanon läänin tilejä
  • Kymenkartanon läänin tilejä
  • Savon ja Karjalan läänin tilejä
  • Pohjanmaan läänin tilejä
  • Vaasan läänin tilejä
  • Oulun läänin tilejä
  • Vanhan Suomen tilejä
  • Käkisalmen läänin ja Inkerin tilejä.

The search word henkik* was used also when searching the censuses of Swedish empire.

For example, when searching the Ostrobothnia province accounts (Pohjanmaan läänin tilejä) for the years 1750 to 1760, the search words are (note the asterisk * after the abbreviated word henkik*):

Swedish emprire Census search.

The search yields 11 search results. Since all search results are in digital format, the number of results does not change if the option “Digital material only” is selected. Usually every year has a Census, but the search results are not always in year order. The Census can be viewed from the “View in digital form” button.

Results of the Swedish empire Census search.

The Censuses of the period of Grand Duchy (period of autonomy) and independence are in their own archive. When searching for them, you should use the archive names according to the list below or the abbreviated form with an asterisk:

  • Hämeen läänin henkikirjat
  • Keski-Suomen läänin henkikirjat
  • Kuopion läänin henkikirjat
  • Kymen läänin henkikirjat
  • Lapin läänin henkikirjat
  • Mikkelin läänin henkikirjat
  • Oulun läänin henkikirjat
  • Pohjois-Karjalan läänin henkikirjat
  • Turun ja Porin läänin henkikirjat
  • Uudenmaan läänin henkikirjat
  • Vaasan läänin henkikirjat
  • Viipurin läänin henkikirjat

The Digihakemisto (Digital Index) is easier to use to search for Censuses than the Uusi Astia service of the National Archives of Finland. Digihakemisto has a shortcut key Voudin- ja läänintilit, from which you can access a list of Voudin- and Läänintilit of different provinces. The Censuses of the period of Grand Duchy (period of autonomy) and independence are under the shortcut key Henkikirjat. Censuses which are less than 100 years old are restricted in use and only available on the internal network in the offices of the National Archives.

Cenus search by the Digihakemisto (Digital Index).

At the beginning of each year’s Census, the first pictures usually have an index, you can use to locate the parish of interest. The parishes are usually listed by Hundreds (tuomiokunta or kihlakunta). At least for the time being, the National Archives’ Uusi Astia service does not have more detailed indexes that would make it easy to find the parishes. That’s why it’s worth using the Digihakemisto, where indexes have been created for the Censuses of several provinces.

For FFHA members, some digitized Censuses can be found in the association’s member pages.

Contents of the Census

The content of Census varies by time period. In the 18th century, the poll tax and many other taxes were recorded, such as various luxury taxes. Luxury taxes were meant to limit the use of things considered harmful to the national economy, health, or chastity. They were also meant to limit luxury in food and drink. Luxury taxes were collected on items like tobacco, silk, wine, fine clothing including panniers, coffee, and sweets. The production of spirits was also taxed.


The columns of Census

The columns of the old Censuses varied in different periods and by locality. At the beginning of the 19th century, a more uniform format came into use, but there were still variations.

An example of the columns of the Census and their changes from the 19th century to the 1920s are shown using the Census of the Ii parish (Ijå Socken). Some of the columns have been transcribed and translated. (English is at the bottom). You can view the image from the original page in more detail by clicking on the image.

Census of Ii parish in 1810.
Census 1810 columns in Swedish.
The columns of Ii parish’s Census in 1810.
The census of Ii parish in 1850.
Census 1850 columns in Swedish.
The columns of Ii parish’s Census in 1850.
The columns of Ii parish’s Census in 1880.
The columns of Ii parish’s Census in 1900.
The columns of Ii parish’s Census in 1920.

The farms of the parish are listed in the Census by village and the farms are numbered. Often, people without a farm are recorded after the farms. The Mantaali (Mantal) is a measure of the property’s ability to pay taxes. Originally, a farm that was one mantal was typical in terms of its ability to pay taxes. The mantal number was not not only based on the surface area of ​​the farm, but also the quality of the land, the cultivated area and other things affecting the ability to pay taxes.

Farm land was one of three types: inherited land, crown land and Rälssimaa land (Swedish abbreviations skatte, krono, frälse). The inherited land was owned by a private person. Crown land was owned by the crown, but by the 1700s, an ordinary person could get the right to use and manage it. Rälssitila was a tax-exempt farm. Rälssitilas were originally created when the king gave a man land in exchange for calvary service in the army, but the tax exemption remained, even after the military service ended.

Savuluku (number of smokes) indicates the number of households living on the farm. The number of households affected the farm’s taxation.

How to find a Census from the Swedish Empire

The records of the years 1635 to 1808 are found in the province accounts of the National Archives. The easiest way to search for Censuses is to use the Digihakemisto (Digital Index) service. You can access a list of provinces and province accounts during the period of Swedish rule by pressing the shortcut Voudin- ja läänintilit.

The division of Finland’s provinces varied at different times. You can check a parish’s province in the Wikipedia article Provinces of Finland.

An example of searching for a Census Ii parish in 1770 (the period of Swedish rule) follows. Specifically, the search is for farms of Olhava village. Ii belonged to Ostrobothnia Province until 1775. After 1775, the province was divided into two parts: Oulu province and Vaasa province, and Ii became part of Oulu parish.

With the shortcut Voudin ja läänintilit in the Digihakemisto, you can get a list of province accounts. Pohjanmaan läänin tilejä (Accounts of the province of Ostrobothnia) is selected, followed by Asiakirjat (1635-1776).

The Censuses of Osthrobotnia province in Digihakemisto.

The link Asiakirjat opens a list of Ostrobothnia province accounts (Pohjanmaan läänin tilejä), and in the list, the Census of 1770 is under the title 9459 Henkikirjat (1770-1770). The link opens a directory, which can be used to find the parishes of the province.

Ii parish has the Swedish name Ijo Sochn (sometimes spelled Ijå Socken). The parish of Ii starts on image 51 (Census, page 47). The village of Olhava is written in Swedish as Ålhavaby and is in image 52 (page 48).

The Census of Ii parish in 1770.

In 1770, Olhava village had six farms:

  1. Tolonen (Tålånen)
  2. Sikala
  3. Kyröläinen (Kyröläin)
  4. Sassi
  5. Sassi
  6. Piukkula (Piuckula).
Olhava village in the Census 1770
Olhava village in the Census 1770

Censuses in the Grand Duchy

An example of searching for a Census from the time of the Grand Duchy (period of autonomy) uses the Census for the family of Aleksis Kivi’s parents Erik and Anna Stenvall from 1850. They lived in Palojoki village in Nurmijärvi. Nurmijärvi was part of the parish of Helsinki which belonged to Uusimaa province.

In Digihakemisto, the shortcut key Henkikirjat is used, because it is about life books from the Grand Duchy. From the list, select Uudenmaan läänin henkikirjat (Censuses of the province of Uusimaa) and then U Henkikirjat (1809-1975) and from the next list U:42 Henkikirja (1850-1850). From the index, we can find that the Census of Nurmijärvi starts at image 441 and the village of Palojoki starts at image 460.

The census of Nurmijärvi village in 1850.

In the Census of Palojoki village, the farms are listed in numerical order. There are fourteen farms. At the end is the population of the village without an own farm. Eric Stenvall is the second person in the image 462.

Tailor Eric Stenvall in the Census 1850.

The headings of the columns must be checked from the first page of each parish, in this case on image 442, where Nurmijärvi’s parish begins. In unclear cases, the column texts may have to be checked against the column texts of other parishes. The column texts in the case of Nurmijärvi are:

Columns of the Nurmijärvi parish Census.

In Eric Stenvall’s household, there were four persons paying poll tax, Eric and Anna and their older sons Emanuel and Albert. In this Census, Aleksis is still marked as a child, because he did not turn 15 until shortly before the date of the record. The names of minors are not entered in the Census.

The adults paid a poll tax of 36 kopeks each. The Stenvalls had the right to make spirits, for which they pay a tax of 5 talents (93.5 lbs) of dry rye. They also paid 18 rubles castle tax (slott hjälp, linnavero) and 1 ruble to the student fund (Djekne penningar, teiniraha). Castle tax was used to build and repair fortresses. Student fund was used to support schools and poor students.

The Census information supplements the information obtained from the church records. If the church records of the parish have been destroyed, they are the main source of information about the population of the parish.

English text edited by Barbara Wilson