In the 1700s occasional local censuses were commissioned by landlords or church authortities, such as the Tiree census of 1776 and the Argyll Estate census of 1779 commissioned by the Duke of Argyll. The first official nation-wide census in Britain was in 1801 and there has been a census every 10 years since then, except for 1941. The early official censuses, 1801-1831, recorded numbers of people only. The census of 1841 was the first to record names, ages, occupations and other information of value to genealogists. The dates of the censuses from 1841 to 1901 were:
List of Inhabitants in the Island of Tiry in 1776
John Campbell, the 5th Duke of Argyll, succeeded to the title in 1770 and held it until his death in 1806. He was a dedicated 'agricultural improver', ordering the enclosure of land into individual small farms in place of the traditional runrig system of land management. It was a necessary improvement, but it added to the islanders' simmering resentment of the Campbell takeover of the former McLean lands. In 1776 the Duke directed his chamberlain in Tiree, Donald Campbell of Crossapol, to undertake a census of the island. The census recorded the name, age and class (e.g. tenant, cotter, hynd, servant, etc.) of inhabitants in each occupied dwelling in the island. In some cases the area of land a tenant occupied, the number of cows and horses he owned, and whether or not he was well disposed towards the Duke of Argyll (i.e "well affected" or "not subject") were also recorded.
To download a transcript of the 1776 List of Inhabitants, click here .
Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate, 1779
In 1779 the Duke of Argyll commissioned a census of all the people living on the Argyll Estates, which included the whole of Tiree and estates in Mull, Iona and mainland Argyll. The people who collected and recorded the information were tacksmen or church ministers, and the style of recording varied between different estates. In Tiree, women were listed by maiden name and age, but their relationship to those listed near them (e.g. wife, mother, daughter, etc.) was not recorded. The original census lists were transcribed and edited by Eric Cregeen of the University of Edinburgh and published in 1963 by the Scottish Record Society under the title Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate, 1779. The Tiree data were extracted and put into Excel format by Iain Campbell, and are reproduced here with his permission.
To download the 1779 Tiree census data click here
The 1841 census results for Argyleshire and some other counties of Scotland were transcribed by Terry Sheppard of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. The data for Tiree were extracted from his transcript, entered into Excel format by Russ McGillivray, and then compared with the original General Register Office, Scotland (GRO) census returns and corrected where necessary by Keith Dash. Included in the official record was a report on the census results by schoolmasters Mr Robert Walker of Heylipol and Mr Niel McPhail of Kirkapol, who had been appointed to manage the conduct of the census in Tiree. They noted that 445 persons normally resident in Tiree were absent at the time of the census, which represented about 10% of the island's population. Presumably these people were seeking paid seasonal work on the mainland or working the peat beds in Mull or Coll for winter fuel to take home to Tiree. The temporary absentees were not included in the census return for Tiree.
To download the 1841 census data, click here .
To download Mr Walker & Mr McPhail's report on the census, click here .
The population of Tiree grew rapidly from about 2,000 in the late 1700s to about 5,000 in the 1840s before the famine years, and then declined just as rapidly as destitute islanders were assisted or forced to emigrate to the mainland or British colonies overseas. The resident population in 1841 (before the famine years) was put at 4,698, and in 1851 it was recorded as 3,705 - a loss of 993 people, 21% of the population, in just 10 years. The 1851 census provided more information about individuals than did the 1841 census - ages were recorded more accurately, relationships within households were defined, and occupations were often described in more detail. The 1851 Tiree data were extracted from Ancestry.com transcripts (Balephuil & Gortendonell) or official GRO census returns (all other townships) by Deborah Robertson & Keith Dash, and entered into searchable Excel format. In a few cases the handwriting in the original census returns had faded to such an extent that some entries were difficult to decipher, or were illegible. In these cases the doubt about the accuracy of the transcription is noted in the comments column of the Excel spreadsheet.
To download the 1851 census data, click here .
Assisted emigration, principally to Canada or Australia, continued in the 1850s, and in the 10 years from 1851 to 1861 the population of Tiree declined by about 500 (14%) from 3705 to 3199. A new feature of the 1861 census was a record of the number of windowed rooms (i.e. rooms with one or more windows) in each dwelling. The results show that the typical Tiree dwelling of the time (79% of all dwellings) had 2 or 3 windowed rooms, and accommodated 5-6 people. Fifteen percent of dwellings had only one windowed room. The 1861 Tiree data were transcribed from images of the original census returns and entered into searchable Excel format by Keith Dash.
To download the 1861 census data, click here .
The population of Tiree continued to decline after 1861, although at a slower rate than in the 20 years from 1841 to 1861. At the 1881 census the Tiree population was recorded as 2,728 - a loss of 471 people, 15% of the population, in the preceding 20 years. A search of other parishes has shown that about 1,000 Tiree-born people were residing elsewhere in Britain, mainly in the Glasgow area, at the time of the 1881 census (see the Born-in-Tiree page on this website). The census data for Tiree were extracted from the LDS Family History Resource File disks of the 1881 British census, surnames and place-names standardized, and the edited data put into a searchable Excel format by Keith Dash.
To download the 1881 census data, click here .