The Norwegian Historical Population Register

HPR is a historical register of population and residency in Norway. Following Iceland, HPR is the world’s second national population register, but unlike the Icelandic version, the Norwegian register will be accessible for research in all relevant disciplines, in addition to public use of non-sensitive data.

HPR consists of an open register, focusing on diseased persons and a closed database until the Central Population Register from 1964.  We expect the open database will have a good coverage back to 1800 and also contain some data back to the 17th century. It includes all censuses from1920 and earlier and all transcribed parish registers. 

HPR has received funding from The National Archive, the Research Council of Norway and UiTs Mohn-fund. There will also be a portfolio of different applications with a variety of focuses and directed to different funding bodies. 

Main principles, open part 

The HPR includes all censuses and parish registers avaliable in Digitalarkivet. The challenge is to connect people and places from different sources. This is accomplished partly automatically and partly manually. We invite everybody to contribute to the linking. Each contributor will be identified by an email account. The main principles of the HPR are as follows: 

  • The HPR is based on as many sources of good quality as possible. There are two-way links, i.e. from the database to the sources and vice versa to insure uniqueness and quality control.
  • The linking between the same person or family relations are made by algorithms or an open crowd sourcing of registered contributor. All links in HPR are visible, searchable, and transparent at internet.
  • The Digital Archive gives each person in a source a unique ID. Each person has a unique ID based on the ID from one of the linked sources. This unique ID is an extension of the Norwegian ID system for persons based on the birthday making it possible to identify each historic person.
  • The HPR includes as many open thematic registers as possible. At present, it includes Norwegian politicians from 1814, war prisoners and historical school and prison records making it possible to show as much information about each person as possible.

These principles secure uniqueness and complete references to sources. It will ensure a high amount of good quality data and ensure that the quality increases over time. The HPR will function as an index or register to the sources instead of replacing them.

NR’s contribution 

NR is responsible for designing the open database and developing the software required for the open part of HPR. NR is also working with linking information about the same person and family between different sources. This is a complex puzzle with about 100 million named individuals across different sources referring to about 9.1 million persons.   

Benefit for the society 

The HPR project will be used in health research, social sciences, economics, history, geography, Nordic languages and information science.  We expect that all Norwegian universities, numerous university colleges, research institutes and regional health authorities will use HPR in their research. The register may also be used for patient treatment tied to genetic diseases. Ethical committees will assess all storage of sensitive information and the medical application of HPR.

There are also a large number of other potential applications of HPR such as tourism and in connection to local history and museums. Genealogy is already a popular internet activity, and many genealogists and local historians contribute to linking records online. Their contribution roughly corresponds to two full-time positions, and is therefore among the largest citizen science projects in Norway. Record linkage rates between 80 to 90 per cent are realistic. 


As of April 2024, the register has 21 million links between different sources and about 60% of the population are linked between consecutive censuses in the period 1890 – 1920 and slightly less before this period. More than 200 persons participate in the crowdsourcing contributing with 5.000-10.000 links per day.

Project name: HPR – The Norwegian Historical Population Register

Partners: The National Archives of Norway, Statistics Norway, The Norwegian Institute of Public Health, The Arctic University of Norway (UiT), Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), The National Library of Norway

Period: 2010 –

Funding: The National Archives of Norway, The Research Council of Norway, The Mohn Prize

Other sources



Thorvaldsen, Gunnar; Holden, Lars. The Development of Microhistorical Databases in Norway A Historiography. Historical Life Course Studies (ISSN: 2352-6343). 13 pp.127-147. doi: 10.51964/hlcs14315. 2023.

Holden, Lars; Boudko, Svetlana; Thorvaldsen, Gunnar. Lenking og kobling i Historisk befolkningsregister. Heimen – Lokal og regional historie (ISSN 0017-9841). 57(3) pp 216-229. doi: 10.18261/issn1894-3195-2020-03-04. 2020. 

Thorvaldsen, Gunnar; Sommerseth, Hilde Leikny; Holden, Lars. Anvendelser av Norges historiske befolkningsregister. Heimen – Lokal og regional historie (ISSN 0017-9841). 57(3) pp 230-243. doi: 10.18261/issn.1894-3195-2020-03-05. 2020. 

Holden, Lars; Boudko, Svetlana. The Norwegian historic population register and migration. Journal of Migration History (ISSN 2351-9916). 4(2) pp 249-263. doi: 10.1163/23519924-00402002. 2018. 

Lars Holden, Gunnar Thorvaldsen  og Torkel Rønold Bråthen. Historisk befolkningsregister og DNF 1814, Heimen (ISSN 0017-9841). (49) s 399-414. 2012. 

Gunnar Thorvaldsen: Fra folketellinger og kirkebøker til norsk befolkningsregister. Heimen 2008 p. 341-359