I thought I’d throw this one out there because I was surprised to learn what a near monopoly the National Records of Scotland (Scotland’s Archives) has on Scottish records, including census records.

There are censuses for Scotland every 10 years starting in 1801 (they didn’t take one during WWII in 1941). Scotland has a 100-year privacy rule so the 1911 Scotland Census is the most recent census available to the public. The 1841 Scotland Census is the first year the censuses took names of residents so I’ll start with options for this census. Spoiler alert: it’s a tad bleak.

Fee or Free 1851 Scotland Census


  • ScotlandsPeople – the online census website for the National Records of Scotland, i.e. a government-owned website. This is a fee site and it’s not cheap. It is the only online site with an index AND images.

  • FindMyPast – this is a subscription site with an 1851 index, no images available

  • Ancestry – this is a subscription site with an 1851 index, no images available


  • FreeCen – this is a free, collaborative site where volunteers have transcribed census records to build their own index.  They don’t have images. They have a chart showing how complete the index is for different areas in Scotland.

  • CensusFinder.com – (this site is currently down) this is a free site that has links to websites with census records, including the 1841 Scotland Census. You’ll find census substitutes and partially transcribed census records, including some indexes created by Graham Maxwell of ScottishIndexes.

  • FamilySearch – has an 1841 Scotland Census index from FindMyPast but the information contained in the index is limited. They don’t have online images. They also have microfilm of the original 1841 Scotland Census images that can be ordered and viewed at any local Family History Center.

  • The National Records of Scotland – has the original 1841 Scotland Census and microfilms of the images that can be viewed on-site if you find yourself in Edinburgh.

You might also check at your library to see if they subscribe to an online database that gives you access to the Scottish Census records. AncestryUK and FindMyPast would be the best ones to look for. If you’re not in Scotland but are willing to order microfilm and view it at a local Family History Center, ordering film from FamilySearch may be your best free option to see the images.

Best in your searches, whether they’re Fee or Free.

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