Censuses have been taken every year since 1801 apart from 1941, although a National Registration was carried out in 1939.
The 1931 census was completely destroyed by fire in 1942. Information on this can be found on the 1911Census.org site.
The censuses from 1801 to 1831 were purely for statistical purposes and the data was used for measuring population growth. Most of the data and census sheets were then destroyed. In some places the census books have survived and we are very lucky that one of these exceptions was on the island of South Ronaldsay in Orkney. (See the 1821 Census section for further details.)
There are eight currently available censuses, which were taken on the following dates
6th June 1841
30th March 1851
7th April 1861
2nd Apri 1871
3rd April 1881
5th April 1891
31st March 1901
2nd April 1911
Further information on the censuses can be found at the 1911Census.org site.
1821 Census South Ronaldsay, Orkney
In the 1821 census in Scotland the schoolmasters were given the responsibility of acting as enumerators. Details of the information that they were required to provide can be found here. Peter Nicholson McLaren, the Parochial School Master of the North School on South Ronaldsay and census enumerator for South Ronaldsay and Burra went further than was required and compiled a a more detailed census return.
The information collected by the enumerator is -
Sub-District / Household Name (if there was one)
Person's Actual Age (not rounded)
Included in the return are two entries for our ancestors -
Firstly - In Brandyquoy, Garth is the family of my 3rd great grandparents, John Flaws and Isabella Laughton. In the family, at just a few months old, is my 2nd great grandfather Peter Nicholson McLaren Flaws. Michael Brown is Isabella's daughter by a previous relationship. I have not been able to place Bell Laughton See the census page here
Secondly - In Merrybraes, Grimness is Isabella's mother, Elizabeth Lesk and two of her children. See the census page here
The name of the enumerator, who was the school master at the North School just two households from John Flaws's family, was Peter Nicholson McLaren. I have been unable to find any more information about Mr McLaren, let alone why our ancestor was given all of his names. Mr McLaren was probably one of the witnesses at Peter's baptism. Intriguing, eh?
The history of the census itself, how it was copied into a shopkeeper's account book and then narrowly avoided the bonfire, is very interesting and can be found here
I can't help wondering why the enumerator decided to exceed his brief and what the inhabitants thought of it all.
Census Records - Ancestors
Key to census year colours -
Head of household With parent(s) Wife with husband With other relatives In other household or organisation
Year of death is shown in black on a dark grey background. If no year of death is shown, it is either because it is not known or it is after the last currently available census in 1911.
(*) No entry for spouse
Abbott, Edward - his wife Mary Cole died before the 1841 census.
Bason, Mary - she does not seem to have married, but later in life took her mother's married name of Stone.
Catlin, Emma - it is not clear whether her husband, Charles William Scarlett, was our ancestor.
Catlin, Henry - wife, Elizabeth Gardiner, presumably died before 1841.
Jeffries, Jonathan George - his wife,Jessie Rose Treacher, was not born until after the 1911 census.
Lesk Elizabeth - No trace of husband, William Laughton, in the 1821 census, so he had probably already died.
Peace, Mary - her husband, Thomas, may have died before 1841.
(?) Missing census records
Carpenter, James - 1841 not with his wife, probably at sea.
Cooper, William - It is not known when he died, so he may be on later censuses.
Fisher, John (Snr) - Unable to find 1851 census record.
Flaws, John - It is not known when he died, so he may be on later censuses.
Ross, Mary - It is not known when she died, so he may be on later censuses.
Treacher, Frederick - Unable to find 1911 census record - he was probably at sea.
Treacher, Robert and Flaws, Jessie - In India with Royal Artillery at time of 1881 census.