The Background of the Project

Censuses microdata offer a unique resource for comparative research because they can be integrated across time and space. Contemporary microcensus data is available across the globe through the IPUMS-International project. Historical microcensus data is available for the United States through IPUMS and for a number of "North Atlantic" countries through the NAPP project. The goal of the Mosaic project is to extend the collection and distribution of historical census microdata to regions like Continental Europe and the ancient world, for which full survival of centralized records are not available. Instead, these regions typically have only partially surviving records, decentrally located. The Mosaic project, through its many partners, plans to put the pieces back together again.




Three Project Steps

The project proposes to build historical infrastructure in three steps:

  • The creation of a broad, European partnership for historical census microdata. This partnership will aim to recruit members and collect contributions of all 19th century historical census material that has already been digitized. The goal of this first step is to identify already existing data files of historical census microdata and to create a centralized depot for such records, integrated into a common file format aimed at comparative research across space and time (based upon standards of IPUMS and NAPP).
  • In addition to data already available in some kind of electronic format, inventories of local surviving census material will be commissioned. These inventories will be created by local historians visiting and communicating with their own local archives.
  • Statistical sampling schemes will be designed to create low-cost, high value samples from the universe of all surviving census records. These samples will be representative and scalable.

The major strategic line of the project is to start with a wide, but relatively low-density, coverage of most of Europe, and then to move systematically towards comprehensive and high-density data coverage. The efforts will concentrate on those countries without existing 100-percent-samples of historical microdata.




Aims of the Project

  • Integrated Public Use Microsamples for all participating countries fully available on-line to the research public. This database will conform to the standards used in the already existing IPUMS and NAPP databases for historical North American and European and contemporary worldwide census microdata, allowing for comparison across time and space. (Data section)
  • A series of scientific conferences and papers presented at other international conferences. (Events)
  • Research publications by all project partners and interested scholars world-wide. (Publications)   




Managing Board

Joshua R. Goldstein (University of California, Berkeley)

Siegfried Gruber (University of Graz)

Kees Mandemakers (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam)

Péter Öri (Demographic Research Institute, Budapest)

Steven Ruggles (Minnesota Population Center, Minneapolis)

Mikolaj Szoltysek (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale)




Project Team

Here you see the then team of the Laboratory of Historical Demography of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, where the Mosaic Project started in 2011.

© Peter Wilhelm / MPIDR

From left: Fred Heiden, Joshua R. Goldstein, Rembrandt D. Scholz, Saskia C. Hin, Mikolaj Szoltysek, Siegfried Gruber, Martin Dinter, Sebastian Klüsener. Not on the photo: Christa Matthys and Barbara Zuber-Goldstein.


On these two photos you can see research assistants and student helpers working for the Mosaic Project in spring 2013.

The coding and harmonizing team from left: Johannes Kummerow, Antje Diebermann, Martin Dinter, Siegfried Gruber, Carolin Dettlof, Juliane Schapper, Ringo Tiedemann, Jonas Richter-Dumke, Johannes Heinsdorf, Martin Petry, Martin Peters, Mathias Voigt, Maria Bilo.

The data transcription team from left: Carolin Dettlof, Antje Diebermann, Johannes Heinsdorf, Siegfried Gruber, Sabrina Kasch, Alexander Neumann, Miriam Pretz, Saskia Gagern, Martin Dinter.


Not on the photos: Jana Amtsberg, Christine Bach, Susanne Beck, Michael Christoph, Tim Gundlach, Julia Harder, Andreas Höhn, Caroline Holz, Kevin Kockot, Katrin Krüger, Viatcheslav Obodzinskiy, Martin Stark, Thomas Stein, Nadine Tesch, Kathrin Thomsen, Stephanie Zylla.