Thanks to genealogist Dorothy Clark for sharing information on and images of a census I haven’t yet gotten to explore… the 1766!
Yup, there’s a census earlier than 1843. Marie-Theresa of Austria was interested in discovering the value of properties in order to properly tax them. As a result, she ordered the creation of both of a cadastral map and a census for the territories of Luxembourg, including modern Belgium, and Lorraine, France. There’s a good overview of the process here. At the end of the process, it ended up being a more of a property inventory cum census than a traditional census (and no actual cadastral map was created, according to AnLux), but it still constitutes a valuable resource!
Of course, as genealogists, we’re most interested in the part that might name our ancestors. And chances are, if your family is Luxembourg-American, that isn’t the extensive property inventories (they didn’t have that much money), but the census.
Currently, it isn’t digitized – and is only available on FamilySearch microfilm, so act fast as the program ends 9/1. To get the roll listing, search Dénombrement, 1766 in the catalog. Do not go by place! I tried and didn’t initially find the town I was seeking, because the location was “misspelled” in the catalog entry. (For example, some town names are spelled with a w instead of a v, perhaps a “mishearing” of the German. Clark also noted d and t being switched)
Then, search the catalog listing for the location you’re seeking. Beware, many of the place names are misspelled (or in transliterated German), and there may be two or more places with the same name. How do you tell the difference? Look at the other communities in the parish – they should be the ones that surround your ancestor’s home town.
Have the film? Now it’s time to look at the actual records.
Please note: all records in French (and names will be in the French form).
The census pages are laid out as follows.
- The top of the page is the name of the village and then the name of the parish.
- The rest of the page is divided into the following columns: house number, the names of any males over 16, their means of subsistence, the names of females over 14, the males under 16, and the females under 14; and the number of marriages in a house.
- In the top of each box, the enumerator keeps the running total for the village (thanks to Clark for pointing this out!).
Two things to note – and thanks to Dorothy Clark for pointing this out. First, at least some of the married women are listed under their married names. This means you may have to look for additional sources (such as church records) to do determine who was married to whom – and that last names differing from the males of the household may be siblings or other more distant relatives. As Dorothy mentions, this seems to vary by the town: some enumerators list married names, other list maiden. Second, the filming cut off the left hand margin of the right page in some cases. Names may be obscured, so have some patience when reading.
Between the villages, there is also a statistical summary page of the different occupations in town, so if you’re wondering about what the rest of the village looked like, you can find out. Who would have believed a town would have its own shoemaker, let alone two?
This has the potential to help you locate and learn more about your pre-civil registration ancestors. (As Dorothy Clark noted, in some towns, it even pre-dates church records!) Happy hunting!