A population census has been taken every 10 years since 1841. To protect the privacy of individuals these records are closed for 100 years. Therefore the most recent census available for public examination is 1911.
Census records are a fascinating glimpse into the lives of families and can provide valuable information for family historians.
The information gathered increased every time a census was taken - from fairly basic details in 1841 to the extensive answers required today.
This census contains very limited information. Individual household groups are listed by name although their relationship is not specified. Ages listed are also often confusing. Instructions given were that, for those over the age of 15 years, ages were to be rounded down to the nearest five years. So a person of 18 years should be recorded as 15 years and a person of 44 years should be recorded as 40 years. In some instances this instruction was ignored and precise (if not always accurate) ages were recorded. Some ages given are totally askew when compared to future census records and statutory records for those individuals. Occupations are usually only given for the first person named in the household group. Birthplace is also vague. Individuals were only required to state whether (or not) they were born within the census county, or if Foreign, or born in England or Ireland. However, when this 1841 census is used in conjunction with future census records, it is possible to identify family groups with reasonable certainty.
By 1851 the information supplied is more extensive. Each household was given a schedule number therefore family groups are more easily identifiable. The head of the family is now indicated and the relationship of the others within the household is given to this 'head' - i.e. "wife", "son", "daughter", "servant", "lodger" etc. The marital condition of each person is also given, whether married, unmarried or widowed. Occupations are now given for each worker within the household. Ages are now more accurate. Birthplaces are more defined, firstly by county and secondly by parish. People who are blind or deaf and dumb are also recorded.
In 1861 more information is added - the number of children attending school within each household and the number of rooms with one or more windows is also stated.
1871 and 1881
For 1871 and 1881 the format remains fairly static, although by 1881 the requirement to record the number of children attending school has been dropped.
1891 and 1901
An addition is made in 1891 and it is now necessary to stipulate whether individuals can speak "Gaelic" or "Gaelic and English".
By 1911 the language category had been dropped and it is no longer necessary to indicate the number of windowed rooms. For married women only, details of how many years married and how many children born and how many children still living, is now included. As well as birthplace, a "nationality if born in foreign country" category is added.