Content associated with: Preliminary tables, 1851    Page 14

Census of Scotland, 1851

Matthew Woollard

As with the previous census, (see Census of Scotland, 1841) the enumeration in Scotland was undertaken by enumerators using local government assistance, as civil registration was yet to be introduced to Scotland, and the census was taken under the same legislation as the rest of Great Britain. This was the Act for taking account of the Population of Great Britain (13 & 14 Vict. c.53).

The processes carried out in Scotland was similar in most respects to those in their predecessor. The official schoolmaster or other responsible parish official was entrusted with enumerating each parish, while the Sheriff Substitute (or Depute) of each county acted in the same role as the Superintendent-Registrars in England. The enumerators' books were forwarded from the Sheriff Substitute (or equivalent in burghs) directly to the Registrar General's Office in London for tabulation.

The instructions provided to the enumerators in 1851 closely follow those for England and Wales, though there are some attempts in the instructions to define at what level the census should be taken, i.e., whether by house, household or occupier. Separate schedules were to be left for each occupier. The instructions read:

In the course of the week ending March 29th, 1851, it will be the Enumerator's duty to deliver to each Householder and Occupier in his District, a Householder's Schedule. In order that this delivery may be complete he must, at every house, inquire whether the same is inhabited by one Occupier only, or by more than one; and, if the latter be the case, he must leave a separate Schedule with each Occupier :—understanding by "Occupier" either the resident owner or any person who pays rent, whether (as a tenant) for the whole of a house, or (as a lodger) for any distinct floor or apartment. (Census of Great Britain, 1851, Forms and instructions..., 65).


The mode of procedure on calling at a house (by which must be understood a separate building) should be this;—

The Enumerator should first ascertain whether it is inhabited by one "Occupier" only, or by more than one : if by one "Occupier" only, he should ask for the Householder's Schedule left during the previous week; if by more than one "Occupier," he should obtain a separate Schedule from each. (Census of Great Britain, 1851, Forms and instructions..., 66).

With a couple of other exceptions the enumeration followed the same course as in England. These exceptions related to the place of birth question on the occupiers' schedule: "Opposite the Names of those born in Scotland write the County, and Town or Parish. If born in England, Ireland, the British Colonies, the East Indies or in Foreign Parts, state the Country; in each case if a British Subject add "British Subject"', and the instructions on the reverse of the householders schedule included some Scottish-only occupational information for the clergy and the legal profession.

The publication schedule for the Scottish element of the 1851 census is different to either its predecessors or successors inasmuch as the Census Office attempted to publish reports that covered the whole of Great Britain. The main population tables are found in the second volume of population tables. (Population Tables, 1851, Pt. I.) These are preceded by a short index of places mentioned in the abstracts.

The abstracts of ages and occupation are also published alongside those of their English and Welsh counterparts in (Census of Great Britain, 1851, Population Tables, 1851, Pt. II..) These tables present ages by county, principal towns and marital status and occupations by age and sex and county.

As in England and Wales, there were attempts to tabulate the number of employers by employers with number of men, farmers and the numbers of farm labourers/servants (by county.) These tables were published after the occupation tables, and were followed by tables relating to birthplace, infirmities, the numbers of paupers in poorhouses, prisoners in gaols, lunatics in asylums, patients in hospitals number. This volume also contained basic reporting of ages by sex and county of enumeration.


Census of Great Britain, 1851, Population tables, I. Number of the inhabitants in 1801, 1811, 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851. Vol. II, BPP 1852–53 LXXXVI (1632). [View this document: Population tables I, Vol. II. England and Wales. Divisions VII-IX. Scotland. Islands, 1851]

Census of Great Britain, 1851, Population Tables, II. Ages, civil conditions, occupations and birth-place of the people with the numbers and ages of the blind, the deaf-and-dumb, and the inmates of workhouses, prisons, lunatic asylums, and hospitals. Vol. II BPP 1852–53 LXXXVIII Pt.II (1691.II). [View this document: Population tables II, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions VII-XI. Scotland. Islands, 1851]

Census of Great Britain, 1851, Forms and instructions prepared under the direction of one of her Majesty's principal secretaries of state, for the use of persons employed in taking an account of population of Great Britain, BPP 1851 XLIII (1339). [View this document: Forms and instructions, 1851]

Census of Great Britain, 1851, Religious worship and education. Scotland. Report and tables, BPP 1854 LIX (1764). [View this document: Religious worship and education, Scotland, 1851]

C. Sinclair, Jock Tamson's Bairns. A history of the records of the General Register Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, 2000).