The Research Council of Norway allocated NOK 25 million for the creation of a national Historical Population Register for Norway (HPR). This covers the period from 1800 and links with the modern Central Pop Register which in 1964 was based on the 1960 population census. With local exceptions, we could not follow individuals through past periods, only study them in separate sources, such as censuses and church records. The historical pop register combines such sources in a common database. The project has two main objectives. For one, it documents, formats and puts historical personal records covering an increasingly large part of the country at the disposal of research. The aim is expansion to a national, historical and longitudinal register for the last couple of centuries. Secondly, the interconnection of different sources at the individual level provides new source critical insights and thus truer collective biographies.
The Personal Data Act regulates privacy for living persons, while the Statistics Act limits the use of government-collected statistical source material to a hundred years. Until the 1920s, most of the information is openly available to everyone via the Internet and thus also a popular offer to local historians, genealogists and locally oriented teaching in schools; thus a significant feature of popular research. Information from the period after the 1920s will be reserved for professional researchers after application, and even these will usually have to be content with information that has been de-identified.
The historical national registry employs our good individual level data to place Norway among the frontrunners for research on our population's historical development and contemporary conditions. The lack of available individual level data made particularly the middle of the 1900s an understudied period despite of crucial demographic changes, e.g. the decline in infant mortality and the postwar baby boom, changing family patterns, migration flows and name traditions. The possibility of linking such a historical register against the current registry data opens unique opportunities for research on contemporary demographic phenomena and their background. Social researchers will be able to study key processes of change in today's society with an expanded historical horizon. This is particularly important where inter-generational processes are central, such as for social and regional mobility, education and career choices. For researchers in the field of medicine, public health, the possibility of following family relationships over many generations will be valuable for the study of the heredity of diseases and disorders. For example, HBR was used to demonstrate transmission of levels of infant mortality between generations.
Some of the data sources, such as the censuses up to 1920, are already made available by means of data processing. While the state censuses have been blocked for other than statistical use for a hundred years, baptismal lists can be used until 1930, and data on dead and married in principle until today. The church records from the period until 1930 that the National Archives have made available as images via the Digital Archive website are mostly transcribed and their quality assured, so that they can be included in the historical pop register.
The censuses 1910 and 1920 will be central to the establishment of the register. This enumeration contains the date of birth, and experience shows that this makes it easier to link it with data from other sources such as baptismal and wedding lists from the 1800s. The funeral lists and later death records are also linked. Much of this work is automated, because we also have access to standardized names. In addition, genealogists and local historians contribute links through the website histreg.no. A first version of the census of 1950 is available, and with work on the 1930 census well underway. Census aggregates let us assess the representativeness of parts of the Pop Register put at the researchers' disposal.
The open period parts of the historical pop register can be used via the timeline function at RHD on the search page for census data, Histreg for genealogies and via NAPP.org for linked census data. Files with Pop register data are delivered in IDS format - the international standard Intermediate Data Structure. Cf the open access article by Thorvaldsen, et al: [Interfaces to Norway's Historical Population Register] in Heimen, nr 3 2020. https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.1894-3195-2020-03-05
The main responsible for the project is UiT - Arctic University of Norway and its Norwegian Historical Data Centre. Collaborators in Norway: the National Archives, Statistics Norway, the Norwegian Computing Center, the Norwegian Local History Institute, the National Public Health Institute, University of Bergen. Our international network include the Minnesota Population Center https://pop.umn.edu/.
We need to access our world-class demographic data digitally and longitudinally in order to remain at the forefront of population oriented studies. As population research also historically moves from the use of cross-sectional sources to longitudinal regi sters, the data structure of our source material must be reorganized in order to serve us and our major international partners in comparative research. The current stand-alone databases with the sources organized cross-sectionally and separately is a stra ightjacket. Therefore, individuals and groups making up the population can only to a limited degree be followed over time. However, the potential inherent in the combination of contemporary Scandinavian register data, the Central Population Register (whic h we shall link to) and our rich historical data is huge. Only in Norway do we plan for wide researcher access to a national long-term high-qualtity coverage. Therefore, such a database will be an internationally unique resource for so many types of popul ation oriented research purposes.
The nominative source material from primarily censuses and church records will be transcribed with more efficient software developed by the project. After encoding and linking the material can be made available for resear ch and documented on a longitudinal basis. Several existing community databases will be expanded, made compatible and integrated. The developing ESF supported international standard for the exchange of longitudinal data, IDS, will be our main vehicle for data exchange together with our Internet database. When it contains the whole Norwegian population from 1800 to 1919 this will be the largest population register on the Internet in the world.
While the pre-1920 part of the HPR can be opened up to both res earchers and the public, the modern part will be accessed only by bona fide researchers after thorough vetting following the relevant judicial and ethical criteria. These extracts will be anonymized.