The first data about the population in Lithuania were collected in the 13th century, when it was important to establish how many people could pay taxes and how many men were suitable for the military service.
Historic sources mention the first overall census of farmsteads held in 1528. In the middle of the 17th century the method of counting "smokes" was used.
"The majority of historians and demographers established the number of the population by counting "the smoke", i.e. farmsteads with fireplaces. Based on various data, in Lithuania in the middle of the 17 th century could have been about 568,000 "smokes" with 7-8 persons living in each of them. This would make approximately 4,5 million people residing in Lithuania at that time."* *Source: S. Vaitekunas "The territory of Lithuania and its inhabitants", V.: Alma Littera, 1998, p. 128
Before 1789 inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were calculated by the number of "smokes" or farmsteads. However, such data were not accurate, as in each household there lived from 5 to 9 persons. Thus, the number of population could fluctuate from 1,4 to 3,6 million. More precise data were attempted during the 1789 census, however, only privileged layers covering nobility and clergy went under the counting.
In the 1790 census all existing social groups were counted, therefore, this census might be considered as the first overall population census in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The counted population was broken down by religion, and Christians further broken by class - nobility, clergy, town - dwellers and farmers. All the registered population was divided by sex, whereas males of the Christian confession even by age group. Data on vital statistics - marriages, births and deaths - were also collected.
The census was conducted by Handling commissions (equivalent to the first "institutions" collecting official statistical data, which provided information not only about the inhabitants, but also about the status of businesses, schools, charity organisations, and prices for food products and accidents). The books of "lustration" were used for the census, covering localities owned by the nobility - the number of "smokes" was written on the left of the locality name against the number of inhabitants in that farmstead written on the right.
More precise data were attempted during the 1789 census, however, only privileged layers covering nobility and clergy went under the counting. In the 1790 census all existing social groups were counted, therefore, this census might be considered as the first overall population census in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The first population census in the Russian Empire was organized in 1897. At that time Lithuania belonged to the Russian Empire, thus its population was registered according to the general programme, indicating characteristics by sex, religious confession, age, business and etc. Lithuania's territory at that time comprised Kaunas, Vilnius and Suvalkai governor's districts, part of the territory belonged to Gardinas and Kursas governor's districts, therefore, only an approximate number of population could be estimated. According to the 1897 census data, within the current territory of Lithuania there lived 2 536 thousand people, Russian army included into that figure.
1923 overall population census
When the Independence of Lithuania was proclaimed in 1918, a sharp need for holding an overall population census arose, however, it was conducted only in 1923, when the state frontiers were established.
The census took place over 17-23 September 1923. Only currently resident population was registered.
Lithuania was divided into 24 enumeration territories. An enumeration territory coincided with an administrative county (there were 20 counties in the country at that time in Lithuania) and four towns, enjoying the countie's rights (Kaunas, Siauliai, Panevezys and Vilkmerge). The enumeration territories were broken down by regions, which, in their turn, were broken down by enumeration districts.
The Cabinet of Ministers assigned 605,6 thousand litas to arrange the census. Census of one person cost 20 centas. Population censuses in other countries were more expensive (e. g. in England 30 centas, in the USA - 50 centas).
3,100 enumerators- teachers, civil servants of state and public institutions and students of high and higher schools - took part in the census.
Data from the enumeration territories were transmitted to the Chief Census Commission via the telegraph and telephones, later on being transferred to the Central Bureau of Statistics, where the incoming data were finally arranged. Processing of the census material (according to the programme set in advance) continued for the whole year of 1924 and extended into several months of 1925. First provisional data (Population by sex, citizenship and nationality) were announced already by the end of 1923.
Tables with figures were counted in 1925 and this lasted for eight months. The tables with the census results were published in "The Bulletin of Statistics" in 1924 and 1925. A separate publication presented the census data to the public at large in both the Lithuanian and French languages ("Lithuania's population: data of the population census, held on 17 September 1923", Central Statistical Bureau of the Republic of Lithuania, Kaunas, 1926).