“The Never Ending Story“

or 15,000 years of attempts to register inhabitants


By Vladimír Šmíd – Karel Schelle – Renata Veselá




            Population counts and registration of inhabitants seem to be associated with creation of State. According to archaeologists, they date back to 12 000 BC, when the first city-states were established.  Scientists estimate the population of such cities however only with indirect methods.


            The oldest counts of population and therefore also registration of inhabitants we have historical sources about were mentioned by Herodotos about 3000 BC in his description of the population count in ancient Egypt. The Chinese philosopher Confucius (552 – 479 BC) wrote about a Chinese population count, which was allegedly carried out about 2000 BC. Also the Bible contains a lot of remarks about population counts and a couple of stories on this topic.  Convincing historical evidence exists about the population count carried out in ancient Rome. This is just where the still used word “census” comes from.  An often cited example of one of later attempts to register inhabitants is the English “Domesday Book” of 1086, probably the most significant statistical document in medieval history of Europe.


            The reasons that stood behind population count at the oldest times were all in all military and financial ones. There was a need to know how many soldiers to count with for the event of a peril that the country might face or a war of conquest and what revenues of tax and other levies could be collected from inhabitants.



Outset of registration of inhabitants on our territory 


            Particular groups of population started to be registered in the early Middle Ages. What can be in certain respect regarded as the first registers of particular groups of population are urbar registers. These are actually lists of revenues and performance collected by lords and king from serfs settlements (corvée, monetary revenues and performance in kind). The oldest urbar registers were compiled on our territory in the middle of the thirteenth century according to partial lists, deeds, traditions and witness statements.


            What is noticeable in this regard is first of all the register of inhabitants according to faith, dated 1651, which is a unique source for cognition of demographic, religious and social situation in Bohemia after the Thirty Year´s war in the middle of the seventeenth century. The list of serfs according to faith was compiled upon the initiative of the Catholic Church, according to the ordinance issued by the Prague vicegerency in 1651. The purpose was to identify the population of catholic faith and the potential for re-education of non-Catholics.

As for each person there was the same form containing the following specifications:

As for non-Catholics, there had to be a remark as to whether there was any hope for conversion to the Catholic faith.



First modern registers of inhabitants on our territory


The first Czechoslovak norm regulating the topic of registration of inhabitants as such was Act No. 51/1935 Coll. on reports of place of residence. It was a comprehensive norm, but it was as if its fate somehow predetermined various difficulties of the related legal regulation in the future. The law was supposed to come into effect on the day to be determined by a governmental ordinance. But neither such ordinance nor the related implementing regulation has ever been issued.


The very term “register of inhabitants” is mentioned for the first time in governmental ordinance No. 51/1936 Coll., on organisation of police administration and service and on some other measures in the field of internal administration. The first actual anchorage of this term, including minimum details of structure and contents of recorded information, is associated only with governmental ordinance No. 14/1939 Coll. II, on registration of inhabitants according to their residence (houses), and on some measures  restricting migration of population. This meant that for every house it was necessary to establish and run a particular list of persons accommodated in that house (defined as a “list of house inhabitants”). Such list shall specify for each person the following data:

a)      first name and surname

b)      day, month and year of birth

c)      place of birth (municipality, political district, country if abroad)

d)      nationality

e)      relation to the flat owner (family relation, employment relation, sub-lessee, overnight guest, visitor etc.)

f)        occupation (employment)

g)      day, month and year of the commencement of the accommodation in the house

h)      exact specification of previous accommodation

i)        permanent residence (municipality, political district, country if abroad)

As for the municipalities not having more than 500 inhabitants as at the date of the last population count, the lists of house inhabitants had to be led by the police station or the state police office, whereas as for the other municipalities it was the house owners that were obliged to run and keep the lists of house inhabitants.

            The mentioned provision may have somehow predetermined its short duration by setting 15 March 1939 as the date for its commencement, although the legislator could have hardly known that it would be the beginning of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, associated with factual loss of the related legislative powers.       


The first comprehensive legal regulation (moreover with force of an Act) was only Act No. 52/1949 Coll., on registration of inhabitants and work permits for foreigners.  This Act sets out the duty to notify the register of the commencement, change and termination of stay in the municipality (report of place of stay), together with accompanying reporting data determined by the respective implementing regulation, namely the implementing regulation of the ministry of the interior No. 448/1949 on registration of inhabitants. The scope of the data mentioned in the citizen´s application was the following:

a)      surname

b)      maiden name

c)      names

d)      date, place, district and country of birth

e)      occupation

f)        marital status

g)      father´s surname, name and date of birth

h)      mother´s surname, name and date of birth

i)        husband´s/wife´s surname, maiden name, first name and date of birth

j)        mother tongue

k)      nationality

l)        personal identity card No.

m)    work card No.

n)      driving licence (category)

o)      occupational group

p)      military service relation (conscripted (where) / not conscripted, conscription year, separated from the army, army unit No., rank)

q)      number of children younger than 15 years

r)       post office of the place of residence

s)       railway station of the place of residence

t)        district

u)      place

v)      street

w)    house No.

x)      surnames, names, dates and places of birth of the children and other persons registered at the same time

y)      date of arrival of the registered persons.



Introduction of automation into registers of inhabitants in Czechoslovakia


            The mentioned system of population registration (from our viewpoint obviously complicated and unproductive) lasted without essential changes until the 80´s of the last century, when the first steps toward implementation of automation were taken. The expected gaps in the contents of the registers compiled so far were to large extent filled with the one-shot massive revision determined by the implementing regulation of the federal ministry of the interior No. 4/1980 Coll., on extraordinary reports of citizens´ place of stay, in connection with transformation of the central registry of population resulting from implementation of automated processing. Such action was performed using the method of extraordinary reports of place of stay of Czechoslovak citizens as at 1 November 1980 for the purpose of formation of a central register of citizens, simultaneously with the counts of population, houses and flats as at the same date.


            The next step, following after such massive verification of the existing registers, was the replacement of the respective laws valid so far with a brand new legal regulation.  This is first of all Act No. 135/1982 Coll., on reports and registration of place of stay of citizens, implemented by the regulation adopted by the federal ministry of the interior No. 146/1982 Coll.  Although this regulation specifies particular procedures to be adhered to in the field of citizens´ registration (e.g. prescribing that citizens are “obliged to fill in the registration forms correctly in pen or using a typing machine”), it paradoxically omits the structure of the data to be run with the Central Registry of Citizens, referring only to the mentioned forms, which do not constitute any annex thereto, while the ministry empowers itself to issue their master copies.




Registration of Inhabitants in the Czech Republic at the beginning of the third millennium


            In despite of the mentioned shortages, the previous legal regulation lasted for 18 years. So the actually comprehensive legal norm, really incorporating modern registration of inhabitants into the Czech laws is only Act No. 133/2000 Coll., on registration of inhabitants and birth numbers and on change of some laws (Act on Registration of Inhabitants).


            The Act sets out the application of the registration of inhabitants to:

a)      citizens of the Czech Republic;   

b)      foreigners with residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic according to a special legal regulation;

c)      the persons whom the asylum on the territory of the Czech Republic has been awarded.

According to the mentioned Act, the register of inhabitants shall be run within the information system the administrator of which shall be the ministry of the interior of the Czech Republic. The Act directly defines the respective data structures of the particular parts of the information system of registration of inhabitants. The Act also defines the sources of the information system of registration of inhabitants and sets out the required duties of specific parties.


This Act was subject to a massive amendment by means of comprehensive Act No. 53/2004 Coll., amending some laws related to the registration of inhabitants. This Act amended in total 13 other Acts, while the intention of the legislator was to transform the information system of registration of inhabitants into a comprehensive, correct and functional system, without affecting the requirements related to personal data protection and their continuous update. The amendment draft was based on more than two-year experience with application of Act No. 133/2000 Coll., removing the inconsistent elements of that Act and discrepancies in relation to other legal regulations (e.g. Rules of Administrative Procedure).


Further to Act No. 326/1999 Coll., on stay of foreigners on the territory of the Czech Republic and on change of some laws, as amended, and Act No. 325/1999 Coll., on asylum and on change of Act No. 283/1991 Coll., on the Police of the Czech Republic, as amended (Asylum Act), as amended, it specified in more details the scope of personal application of the Act on Registration of Inhabitants.   The registry of inhabitants shall therefore run information about:

a)      citizens of the Czech Republic;

b)      foreigners with residence permit or temporary residence permit or permanent residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic and the foreigners staying on the territory of the Czech Republic on the basis of awarded long-term visa;

c)      foreigners whom the asylum on the territory of the Czech Republic has been awarded.


The Act has also reformed the structure of the information system of registration of inhabitants, although in many cases these were only partial changes or changes in terminology.

As far as registration of citizens is concerned, this is currently the case of:

a)      name(s), surname, maiden name;

b)      date of birth;

c)      sex;

d)      place and district of birth and, if this is a citizen born abroad, the place and country where the citizen was born;

e)      birth No.;

f)        citizenship(s);

g)      address of permanent residence and previous addresses of the places of permanent residence;

h)      commencement of permanent residence or date of deletion of the data on the place of permanent residence or the date of termination of permanent residence on the territory of the Czech Republic;

i)        withdrawal or limitation of the capacity to legal acts;

j)        ban on stay, place of the banned stay and duration of the ban;

k)      birth No. of father, mother or other legal representative; if any of the parents or another legal representative has no birth No. allocated, the registry shall run the name(s), surname and date of birth;

l)        marital status, date and place of marriage;

m)    birth No. of husband; if the husband is a person without birth No. allocated, the registry shall run the name(s), surname and date of birth of the husband;

n)      birth No. of child; if the child is a foreigner without birth No. allocated, the registry shall run the name(s), surname and date of birth of the child;

o)      data about child adoption;

p)      remark about data provision from information system;     

q)      date, place and district of death; if this a citizen died outside the territory of the Czech Republic, the subject to the registration shall be the death and the country where the death occurred;

r)       date of death determined as the date of death by the judicial decision declaring the person dead.




Register of inhabitants as a part of information system of public administration


            At first sight it might appear that if there is, at a particular moment, such a detailed and in a way complex legal regulation of registration of inhabitants, all past problems should be solved. Nevertheless, in despite of this fact (and maybe just because of this) the contrary is true. 


            The strategic documents of the government of the Czech Republic titled “State Information Policy – Way to Information Society” dated 1999 and the “State Information and Communication Policy –e-Czechia 2006” dated 2004 envisage the advancement in the particular field up to an even higher level. The central idea thereof is the establishment of basic registers of public administration, which will extend usability of information systems, interconnecting subsystems and registers of public administration usable also for the needs of the general public, with the goal to achieve not only cost cuts but also acceleration of administrative processes, removal of duplicities and cuts in state machinery.


            The substance of the bill about data sharing in execution of public administration has already been approved (resolution of the government of the Czech Republic of Nov. 3, 2004 No. 1064). The bill will also include the rules of how to run the registers of public administration in general in the cases when the typical contents and functional features of the registers of public administration are identical or similar and can be solved by a common legal regulation based on a uniting principle. On the contrary, the other features and functionalities specific for each register of public administration separately will demand an individual legal regulation.
The registration of inhabitants has been thereby incorporated into the framework of so-called registers of public administration, which include:

The main purpose of existence thereof is the practical application of the principle that the “facts once notified to the public administration needn´t be documented if they can be obtained by the public administration in compliance with this law and special legal regulations” (in particular Personal Data Protection Act No. 101/2000 Coll.). With respect to high frequency of information exchange inside the public administration this rule should ensure that the communicated information will have a certain legal force and provide a high guarantee of correctness.


            The purpose of the bill is to anchor in the laws the principles and rules for data sharing in connection with execution of public administration and to simplify the mutual communication of the general public with the authorities executing the public administration and such authorities with each other. Furthermore, it should regulate the data sharing between ministries, other administrative authorities and municipalities and the parties for which a special law provides so, in connection with execution of public administration, activity of the public authorities in receiving and using such data and finally the basic principles of how to run the registers of public administration and their general features.


            The essential terms to be defined by the new law include:


The public administration registers are based on the principle that the information shall always be accessible to the general public, unless a special legal regulation sets out a limitation of such access, including the scope thereof. The personal data included in the register are then naturally accessible to the general public only in the scope set out by a special legal regulation. The law establishing a particular register and the implementing legal regulations shall determine which data shall be run in the register and which of them are reference data, referred data and other type of data that may exist. The source of reference data is the unique administrative activity of the register administrator or by another authority determined by law, although in practice the reference data can also be based on the referred data. The sources of referred data are then the reference data run in another register.

The data contained in the register shall always be regarded correct unless the contrary is proven.

The register administrator shall then especially run the register and be accountable for the compliance of the data with the bases for their registration and for the fact that the data are registered in time and in compliance with relevant legal regulations and shall enable the takeover of the reference data by providing the information systems of public administration with access thereto, if these systems run such data. The administrators of the information system of public administration shall have the duty to take over the reference data from the register in which such data are run as reference ones, if they run such data in their information system of public administration. If a party other than the register administrator discovers a discrepancy of the registered reference data with the reality, such party shall notify the register administrator of this fact and the register administrator shall have to check on the notification and to make the register data to comply with the bases. The data delivery between the administrators of the registers and the administrators of information systems is expected to be performed in electronic form, automatically through reference interface according to Act No. 365/2000 Coll., on information systems of public administration, while the data shall be marked with the electronic seal according to Act No. 227/2000 Coll. on electronic signature, as amended by Act No. 440/2004 Coll.


            The provision of information is, on the contrary, perceived as one-shot requirement of the public authority, approaching the information system administrator, within the framework of execution of public administration, with the request for provision of information from the information system of public administration. It would be then obliged to forward the information from the information system of public administration to another public authority, if the other public authority applies for it with good reason and according to the special legal regulation is entitled to demand the information which is subject to the request. The requests and provision of information by the public administration information system administrator are expected to be made in electronic form, in an automated process, in compliance with special legal regulations (especially Act No. 365/2000 Coll., on information systems of public administration, Act No. 227/2000 Coll. , on electronic signature, and Act No. 101/2000 Coll, on personal data protection).


            The data sharing according to the bill is by nature of the matter expected to be free of charge. All public authorities have automatically the duty to ensure the data protection from incidental or unauthorised access or processing. Also the public authorities obtaining or taking over the data by means of data sharing according to the bill shall not be authorised to gather them, to forward and use them outside their scope of action set out by legal regulations.       


            It is expected that the bill will be adopted and come into effect on 1.1.2007, especially with respect to the highly demanding technical solution.


            Further to the bill, in order to determine the information systems of public administration that shall provide information to public authorities upon demand, it will be necessary to amend especially the following legal regulations:

In order to utilise, as effectively as possible, the data sharing principle in the form of provision of information from information systems of public administration upon demand, it will be necessary to amend Act No. 500/2004 Coll., Rules of Administrative Procedure, to increase the existing number of the official registers from which the public authority is obliged to obtain the required data in compliance with the law regulating the data sharing in execution of public administration.    





Summing up the above-mentioned, with some exaggeration we can find out that nearly all the human history is accompanied with efforts of particular state (or equivalent) entities to achieve the status providing them with a possibly best overview of the persons that were or are a part of the particular society. And it was irrelevant what the particular motivation of such efforts was and whether such efforts were driven by relatively good or on the contrary bad reasons.


At the same time, it can be generally inferred from the aforesaid that the needs and requirements of particular societies in the given connection were always somewhat higher than the particular organisational, technical and legislative conditions existing at that time and feasible at that level of development.


           One may guess in this connection that the mentioned gap between the needs and capacities resulting from the different potentials of information systems and information technologies at the present stage of information society will be gradually closing. The historical experience however rather denies this statement. But there are definitely big chances or rather a challenge in this regard.