National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

1891 Census

1891 Census

The 1891 census was taken on Sunday 5 April under the provisions of the Act for Taking the Census of Scotland (53 & 54 Vict c.38).  The Commission appointed under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 was still in the process of assessing the boundaries of civil parishes and counties at the time. 

The population of Scotland on 5 April 1891 was 4,033,103.

This guide covers 1891 census questions and provides links to 1891 census street indexes.

1891 Census Questions

There were several changes and one new question:

  • categories for disabilties were revised to:  deaf and dumb;  blind;  and lunatic, imbecile or idiot
  • three columns were added to identify whether a person was employed or an employer or working on their own account but no reference was made to unemployment
  • a count of the Gaelic speaking population had been made in 1881 but the 1891 census included a question on whether a person spoke Gaelic (G) or Gaelic and English (G & E).

This example is from the 1891 census for the hamlet of Balgown in the parish of Bracadale on the Isle of Skye (our reference 1891/109/3, page 2).  It shows that most of the inhabitants spoke both Gaelic and English.  The minister is the only employer.

Image of a page from the 1891 census for Balgown, Isle of Skye

1891 Census Street Indexes

Census street indexes provide registration district (RD) and enumeration district (ED) references for each street in a city or urban area.  They also cover institutions such as asylums, hospitals, workhouses, prisons, police stations and barracks as well as hotels and public buildings.

There are 22 street indexes for the 1891 census. They have been digitised and are made available as pdf files that are several megabytes in size. PDF files require Acrobat Reader. Download Acrobat Reader free Get Acrobat Reader.

If you can’t find a particular street it may not have existed in 1891 or may have had a different name.