The 1851 Census for Scotland was taken on the night of 30/31 March 1851. The following information was requested:
- Place (name of street, place, or road, and name or number of house)
- Name of each person that had spent the night in that household
- Relation to head of family
- Marital Status
- Sex (indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
- Profession or occupation
- Whether blind, or deaf and dumb
Enumeration forms were distributed to all households before the census night and the complete forms were collected the next day by the enumerators. All responses were to reflect the individual's status as of 30/31 March 1851 for all individuals who had spent the night in the house. People who were travelling or living abroad were enumerated at the location where they spent the night on census night. All of the details from the individual forms were copied into enumerators’ books and sent to the Registrar General’s office in London. These copies are the records we can view images of today. The original householder's schedules were destroyed.
The clerks who compiled and reviewed the census data made a variety of marks on the returns. Unfortunately, many of these tally marks were written over personal information and some fields, such as ages, can be difficult to read as a result. More useful marks include a single slash (/) between households (families) within a building and a double slash (//) separating households in separate buildings.
How the census forms are organized:
Localities were organized into enumeration districts. These districts were roughly equivalent to parishes, but not always. A description of the district and its boundaries is given at the beginning of each new enumeration district.
The returns are generally organized by parish and enumeration district. Each parish has been assigned a “Parish Number”. This number was originally assigned in 1855 when civil registration began being kept. The numbers were assigned in a general north to south, and east to west direction by county. Within each county, numbers were assigned in alphabetical order by parish name. Since parish numbers weren’t assigned until 1855 and this census was taken in 1851, the numbers were applied to the census retroactively for reference purposes. Two other reference numbering systems were used previous to the Parish Number system, but the Parish Number system is the reference system more commonly used by researchers.
A full reference for a record in the 1851 census includes, the Parish Number, Enumeration District Number, Entry Number (Page Number), Parish Name, County Name, and the Census Year.
Known problems with the 1851 Census:
The following is a list of parishes (with their parish numbers and counties) that are known to be missing (either because there is no data for them, or because the original records are missing):
- Parish 93: Inverallan, County Inverness
- Parish 152: Enzie, County Banff
- Parish 167: Seafield, County Banff
- Parish 509: Cumlodden, County Argyll
- Parish 559: Abbey (Paisley), County Renfrew
- Parish 862: Corsock Bridge, County Kirkcudbright