Pre-1841 Censuses and Population Lists - Help Page

Why can’t I find my ancestor in your database?

I thought the census didn't start until 1841?

What information can I expect?

What are parish lists?

What parishes have you covered?

Who has transcribed them?

Can I buy a transcription of the full register?

Can you give me more help?

Why can’t I find my ancestor in your database?

It could be the way you search, or it may be that they are not in the database at all. We have given a number of search boxes but you don’t have to fill them all in. Less is more. If there are no results try reducing the amount of information you give. You could try solely the surname or even just the first name.

Use wildcards: The wildcard * can represent any series of characters, and the wildcard ? can represent any single character.

Both can be used in any field. Let’s say your ancestor’s surname was Blyth. In Victorian records spellings were very inconsistent, and the surname may have appeared with our without a final ‘e’. To get around this, try a search of Blyth* and this will bring up all Blyths, with or without the final ‘e’.

Perhaps a first name is causing some difficulty, for the same reason. Helen, for example might be ‘Hellen’, ‘Helen’, ‘Ellen’, ‘Elen’, ‘Elinor’ or ‘Eleanor’. Searching for *el*n* will bring almost all variations of the name up.

I thought the census didn't start until 1841?

The first national census in the UK was taken in 1801. As compared to later censuses, however, the information collected was very basic. There was no requirement made for those enumerating to keep a record of individuals, so in most parishes only the statistics survive.

There is a very helpful list, compiled by Kirsty Wilkinson on her website myainfolk.com detailing the pre-1841 census records which are known to have survived in Scotland, summarising what they contain, and giving details of any transcriptions that have been made. Click here to see this list.

We are making an effort to publish any useful surviving pre-1841 census records in southern Scotland.

What information can I expect?

Almost all pre-1841 census give less information than the 1841 census. In general they records heads of household only, although there are some exceptions to this.

As an example of the sort of information you may find in a surviving pre-1841 census, here is a list of headings in the Melrose 1831 census: Inhabited Houses, Families, Houses Building, Uninhabited Houses; Families: Agriculture, Trade, Other Families; Males, Females (Total of both); Males above 20: Total, Agriculture 1st Class, Agriculture 2nd Class, Agriculture 3rd Class, Manufacturing, Trade, Professional, Labourers, Others, Servants; Male Servants Under 20; Female Servants; Children Under 10.

What are parish lists?

In various sources there can be found lists of people, recorded for different reasons, which give us a list of people living in a parish. The most complete of these can give us a kind of very basic early census. They were created for a variety of reasons. It is not uncommon to come across a list of everybody taking communion, a list of persons who paying a specific tax, a list of Catholics or other dissenters, or sometimes a list of people who entered or left the parish. Another type of list which is particularly useful to us is a list of “examinable persons”, or examination roll. These lists were prepared by parish ministers and name all individuals in the congregation (or in some cases, the entire parish) over a certain age, usually 12 years. When these lists survive they can be of great value.

What parishes have you covered?

We have transcribed the 1811 census of Ladykirk and 1831 census of Ladykirk (Berwickshire). We have also transcribed the 1831 census of Jedburgh and the 1831 census of Melrose & Lindean (Roxburghshire). We have also published an Applegarth (Dumfriesshire) Parish List of circa 1697 and the Castleton (Roxburghshire) Hearth Tax of 1695. These are all available in book form from our bookshop.

Click here to see a list of the early censuses and parish lists available online, which includes records not listed above.

Who has transcribed them?

The work has been done by Graham and Emma Maxwell, the owners of maxwellancestry.com and scottishindexes.com.

Can I buy a transcription of the full register?

Yes, you can, we sell paper copies and PDFs, visit our online bookshop to buy them or email us.

Can you give me more help?

If you have an obstacle in your family tree and you need some help, contact us directly, explain your problem and we will try to assist. Often with our experience and the resources we have to hand, it is possible to solve your problem in an hour or two. We will look at your problem for about half an hour with no obligation. We will then then tell you if we can solve the problem and how much it will cost you, and it will be up to you to decide if you would like to proceed.

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