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Hreppstjórar og skjalasöfn þeirra: um hreppsbækur og þróun stjórnsýslu frá átjándu öld til upphafs tuttugustu og fyrstu aldar.

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Skjallegar heimildir sem myndast hafa við embættisfærslu hreppstjóra varpa ljósi á líf fólksins í landinu á liðnum öldum. Í þessum skjölum má lesa um hag bænda og búaliðs auk þess sem skýrt kemur fram hver hagur fátækra var og meðferð niðursetninga. Skjölin lýsa einnig afkomu sveitarinnar almennt frá ári til árs og geta gefið innsýn í híbýli fólks og hverjar eigur einstakra manna voru. Skjölin um fátækraframfærslu og afkomu sveitarinnar ná til ársins 1875 en þá urðu hreppstjórar nær eingöngu fulltrúar sýslumanna í héraði um leið og oddvitar og sveitarstjórnir tóku að mestu við umsjón fátækraframfærslunnar og sveitarreikningnum. Hreppstjórum bar þó að vinna með hreppsnefndinni að ýmsum málum sem undir hana heyrðu.
District Commissioners and Their Archives: District records and administrative developments from the 18th to early 21st centuries In recent centuries, the main administrative units of Iceland were the counties (sýslur), which were in turn divided into smaller units called districts (hreppar). Districts, however, had existed much longer, and in all likelihood stemmed from the early Commonwealth Period (930-1262). Their prime functions used to consist of protecting common interests and administering poor relief. To begin with, the Icelandic district commissioners (hreppstjórar) were independent of the Danish royal administrative system, but as commissioner activities increased, the county magistrates (sýslumenn) began to intervene, resulting in numerous resolutions that were passed from the 17th century onwards. Although the oldest document on the duties of district commissioners probably dates back to the close of the 16th century, it lacked the force of regulations. The first actual regulations dealing with the duties of district commissioners, called hreppstjórainstrúx (instructions for district commissioners), date back to 1809 and include a detailed overview of commissioner tasks and duties for supervising poor relief in collaboration with parish clergy. The 19th century saw demands for greater regional independence, answered by an 1872 directive on municipal affairs that entered into effect in 1875. In this directive the duties of a district commissioner were separated from the activities headed by the oddviti, or district council chair. In 1880, regulations were introduced specifically on the duties of district commissioners, establishing them as the authorised representatives of county magistrates vis-á-vis the district council as well as the public. The 1880 regulations enumerated the duties of district commissioners as representatives of the county magistrates and clearly stated what records were mandatory in this regard, including district records, property valuation registers and auction registers. It was only in 1965 that a District Commissioner Act was legislated; however, not many decades later, by December 2017, only one such commissioner was still in office. The oldest district records, showing tithe accounts and poor relief, date back to 1643, even though it was not until around 140 years later, in 1786, that the keeping of such records was made legally compulsory. This indicates that such records were already considered necessary and were in fact often being kept much sooner than is suggested by the mere eight books that are extant from before 1786. The 1809 hreppstjórainstrúx included clear provisions on archives, so that district records and other documents have been fairly well preserved since then. On the other hand, the district commissioners all had their own ways of tending to these records, with some of them dedicating special books to particular subjects and others not. In spite of the directive on municipal affairs in 1875 and regulations on district commissioner duties in 1880, the archives of district councils and district commissioners, even though they comprise two distinct sets of records, have never been separated in the catalogues of the National Archives of Iceland, nor in the country’s regional archives.