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First Scottish Census 1801

The first official census was undertaken in 1801, parish ministers throughout Scotland playing the same prominent role they had exercised in the compilation of the first Statistical Account in the 1790s. The Rev. Dr Alexander Webster (1707-84) and his associate, Rev. Dr Robert Wallace (1697-1771), had made an earlier enumeration in 1755. Sir John Sinclair (1754-1835) compiled an estimate for 1795, based on the returns to the Statistical Account; while Patrick Colquhoun (1745-1820) produced other data (based apparently on his own calculations) - but neither of these efforts was systematic nor comprehensive. Official estimates of population had been made elsewhere in Europe, for example, in Sweden (1749) and Austria (1754), and it was the same fiscal and strategic requirements that lay behind the first national census of 1801 - during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1801 there was a census every ten years until 1931 and, owing to the intervention of World War 11, again from 1951. Historically the information sought varied: the number of persons of each sex was consistently obtained, but ages were neglected until 1821 and included in every census since 1841. Marital status was included for the first time in 1851.

The 1841 census is of particular interest because it included data about native place as well as place of residence - hence giving the researcher some indication of migration patterns that can be married up with surviving parish registers. The census is clearly an important historical source in the range of information and statistical data it provides - and is thus much consulted by the researcher.

Census records are of great value to genealogists and many other researchers giving an insight into so many facets of history. A 100 year rule is applied to the census information and in recent times much work has been undertaken to make this data available on micro fiche and subsequently on CD ROM disks making any research possible by computer. The Church of the Latter Day Saints has this year made available the complete 1881 Census for the UK.

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