National Historical population register
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 Population Register which in 1964 was based on the 1960 population census. With local exceptions, individuals today cannot be followed through past periods, only studied in separate sources, such as censuses and church records. The historical population 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.
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. 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 places Norway among the frontrunners in terms of research on a wide range of questions, both about our population's historical development, and about contemporary conditions. Due to the lack of readily available individual level data, particularly the middle of the 1900s is an understudied period in our population history despite of crucial demographic changes, such as the decline in infant mortality and the postwar baby boom. Other examples include changes in 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. 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 have now been made available as images via the Digital Archive website are mostly transcribed, so that they can be included in the historical population register.
The census 1910 will be central to the establishment of such a register. This enumeration contains the date of birth, and all experience shows that this makes it easier to link it with data from other sources. Many baptismal and wedding lists from the 1800s onward contain dates of birth, and as these are transcribed they will be linked to the 1910 census. The funeral lists in the church books of the 1900s and later death records are also linked using similar methods. Much of this work has been possible to automate, because we also have access to standardized names. In addition, genealogists and other interested parties contribute with more tricky links through the website histreg.no. A first version of the census of 1950 will be available mid-2021, and work with a ditto version of the 1930 census is well underway. Census aggregates enable assessing the representativity of those parts of the Population Register that are now being put at the researchers' disposal.
The open period parts of the historical population 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 Population Register data can be delivered in the IDS format - the international standard Intermediate Data Structure.
The main responsible for the project is UiT - Arctic University of Norway and its Norwegian Historical Data Centre (RHD). Collaborators in Norway are the National Archives, Statistics Norway, the Norwegian Computing Center, the Norwegian Local History Institute, the National Public Health Institute, University of Bergen.
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.