National Records of Scotland

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Pre-1841 Census Records

Pre-1841 Census Records

Enumerators were asked to provide statistical returns for the 1801 to 1831 Censuses but some kept lists of householders along with other details notably occupations. Most of the surviving pre-1841 Census entries are found in the kirk session records with a few in the Old Parish Registers. Those known to contain census information are listed below. They are not indexed.

This guide also provides information about:

Pre-1841 Census Information in the Kirk Session Records

Digital copies of the kirk session records (our reference CH2) are available on Virtual Volumes in the Historical Search Room and the ScotlandsPeople Centre.

  • A list of the population of the parish of Dallas, June 1811 (our reference CH2/1129/2/25-36). This record covers the whole population of this Morayshire parish.  It is very unusual for early census records to include children making the 1811 census of Dallas one of the best of the known surviving records.  Each entry includes address, name, rank (this can be occupation, marital status, lodger) and age.Image of a page from the 1811 census of Dallas










  • 1811 population of the town and parish of Dornoch (our reference CH2/1588/1/2/43). A statistical return on housing and classes of occupation for the 1811, 1821 and 1841 Censuses.
  • Population, parish of Inveresk, 30th May 1831 (our reference CH2/531/57) consists of 109 pages giving names of householders and their occupations along with statistical information about houses, families and classes of occupation.
  • Population of the town and suburbs of Jedburgh in the month of June 1831 (our reference CH2/552/44/1). A total of 64 pages with residence, name, occupation, statistics on males and females, occupations and a column of remarks about apprentices, servants and other members of the household. The last few pages give population totals for 1821, 1831 and 1841. There are a further 29 pages covering the country parts of the parish of Jedburgh (our reference CH2/552/44/2). The original records have been transferred to Scottish Borders Archive.
  • Lochrutton kirk session population roll for 1821 (our reference CH2/1344/19) has 18 pages with names of heads of household and statistics for houses, families, males, females and occupations. There are a further 17 pages for 1831 (our reference CH2/1344/20). There are also typescript copies of census returns for 1821, 1831 and 1841 (our reference RH2/8/59).
  • Population of the parish of Melrose and of Lindean part of the parish of Galashiels, both in the county of Roxburgh taken by Thomas Murray, schoolmaster, June 1831 (our reference CH2/386/19/). The 39 pages include names of heads of household and statistics for housing, families, males, females and occupations for males above 20 years. There is a return for the parish and all its constituent settlements and for the county of Roxburghshire. The original records have been transferred to Scottish Borders Archive.
  • 1811 statistical return for Rothes (our reference CH2/600/2/2/1) with a brief explanation for the increase in population and signed by the schoolmaster.
  • Census of the population of the parish of Stow, 1801 (our reference GD113/1/468). This is among the papers of the Innes family of Stow, Peeblesshire which also include:
    • militia allocation and general account of the population of the parish of Stow, 1801 (our reference GD113/1/469)
    • a list of the population of the parish of Stow, as taken by J Paris, schoolmaster there, 1801 (our reference GD113/1/470).

A transcription is available in the related resources section of The Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1791-1854 website.

  • 1821 population of the county of Sutherland (our reference CH2/1588/1/2/44) gives the numbers of inhabitants for each parish.
Pre-1841 Census Information in the Old Parish Registers

There are a few census records in the Old Parish Registers.

  • Kirkinner, 1831 Census (our reference OPR 881/2) includes a population enquiry form at the end of the marriage entries
  • Moy and Dalarossie (our reference OPR 105/2) contains 1821 and 1831 Census returns.
Pre-1841 Census Records Held by Local Archives in Scotland

Local authority archivists have kindly provided the details below. For contact information, details of opening times and access arrangements for each archive please check their websites (hyper-links are given at each sub-heading).

Dumfries and Galloway Archives

Dumfries and Galloway Archives holds the 1801, 1811 and 1821 Census records for Annan (reference GGD626). They have been digitised and are available as follows:

  • digital images are also available on Virtual Volumes in the Historical Search Room and in the ScotlandsPeople Centre (reference GB225/GGD626)
  • photocopies are held in the Register House series (our reference RH2/8/50)
  • 'Annan parish censuses, 1801-1821' (Scottish Record Society, 1975)

Dundee City Archives

Dundee City Archives holds the census enumerator's journal for the burgh of Dundee in 1801 and the Longforgan (Perthshire) census enumerators' drafts for the 1811, 1821, 1831 and 1841 Censuses. There are gossipy notes in all of this material to explain how the census was carried out and who they included, and who they missed out, and why. The notes in the Longforgan 1841 draft are still useful as an example of the census process.

Friends of Dundee City Archive have published an online index to the 1801 Census of Dundee and transcriptions of the district descriptions.

Glasgow City Archives

Glasgow City Archives holds the 1821 Census for Lesmahagow. A transcription and index has been published by Lanarkshire Family History Society (2003).

Highland Archive Service

Highland Archive Service holds the Sutherland county population return for the 1811 Census (reference M/SUTH/12/5/a) and the county population returns for the 1811, 1821 and 1831 Censuses for Golspie, Assynt and Farr (reference M/SUTH/12/5/b-c). Transcriptions of these records have been published as:

  • 'Population lists of Assynt 1638-1811' (Malcolm Bangor-Jones, 1977)
  • 'Population lists of Strathnaver, Strathy and Strath Halladale 1667-1811' (Assynt Press, 2000)

Orkney Library and Archive

Orkney Library and Archive hold manuscript copies of the 1821 Census for St Andrews, Deerness, South Ronaldsay and Burray, Sandwick and Stromness.

Among the Orphir Kirk Session records is a manuscript of the 1821 Census which gives additional information about livestock, boats, farm equipment and so on.

All are transcribed with copies available from the Orkney Family History Society.

Shetland Museum and Archives

Shetland Archives holds an 1821 Census enumeration book (reference D16/392/28) that seems to have been reused in 1841 – as a surviving 1821 binding it is still interesting. It includes totals for inhabited houses, numbers of families, occupations, and numbers of males and females in each township in North Yell. According to a pencil note on the front these figures are for 1841. With census enumerator's form anent house of Brae, Midbrake, North Yell, 1841.

Published Transcriptions of Pre-1841 Census and Population Records

Our Reference Library holds photocopies, transcriptions and indexes of pre-1841 Census and population records including the publications cited above. They are available to researchers in the ScotlandsPeople Centre.

The Scottish Association of Family History Societies' website includes an inventory of published pre-1841 population listings.

A privately-held 19th century transcription of the 1821 Census of South Ronaldsay, Burray, Swona, and Pentland Skerries has been imaged, indexed and published on the South website. There are additional genealogical notes.