Tiree Censuses

Two children in the same family with the same forename. In some census records you may find that two children in the same family have the same forename. Usually this is not a recording or transcription error but due to the widely used traditional Scots naming system in which the first two daughters and first two sons in a family were named after the four grandparents. It sometimes happened that the maternal and paternal grandparent had the same forename, which caused two children, alive at the same time, to be given the same name. If a child died after being named in this way a later child was usually given the same name so that the grandparent's name was continued. In practice, the younger child was usually known in the family by a pet or nickname (e.g. Peggy for Margaret and Sandy for Alexander), but real names were entered in official records.

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:
6th June
30th March
7th April
2nd April
3rd April
5th April
31st March
2nd April
19th June

Note that ages are those given by the household informant and entered into the record by the census collector and may not be accurate.

To download a census transcript click on its year in the table below

Year People Dwellings Notes Transcribed by
1776 1997 430 List of Inhabitants of the Island of Tiry. In 1776 the Duke of Argyll directed his chamberlain in Tiree 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. Keith Dash
1779 1881 - Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate. In 1779 the Duke of Argyll commissioned a census of his Argyll Estate, which included the whole of Tiree and lands in Mull, Iona and mainland Argyll. The people who collected and recorded the information were tacksmen or church ministers, and their styles of recording varied. 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 as Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate, 1779. The Tiree data were extracted from this publication and put into Excel format by Iain Campbell. Note that in this census wives were recorded by their maiden surname, not their husband's surname. Eric Cregeen
& Iain Campbell
1841 4698
800 The 1841 census results for Argyll 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 and Flo Straker. Schoolmasters Mr Robert Walker of Heylipol and Mr Niel McPhail of Kirkapol were appointed to manage the census in Tiree. They noted in their report that 445 persons normally resident in Tiree were absent at the time of the census. These temporary absentees were not included in the census return for Tiree, so the real resident population would have been about 5,143. Note that in the 1841 census ages up to 15 were recorded as told to the census collector, but ages above 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5 year multiple, i.e. ages 15-19 were recorded as 15, ages 20-24 were recorded as 20, ages 25-29 were recorded as 25, and so on. Terry Sheppard,
Russ McGillivray,
Keith Dash
& Flo Straker
1851 3705 690 The population of Tiree grew rapidly from about 2,000 in the late 1700s to a little over 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 5,143, and in 1851 it was recorded as 3,705 - a loss of almost 1,500 people 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. Deborah Robertson
& Keith Dash
1861 3199 620 Assisted emigration, principally to Canada or Australia, continued in the 1850s, and in the 20 years from 1841 to 1861 the population of Tiree declined by almost 40%. 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 had 2 or 3 windowed rooms, and accommodated 5-6 people. Fifteen percent of dwellings had only one windowed room. Keith Dash
1871 2832 593 The population of Tiree continued to decline, but at a slower rate than in the 1841-1861 period. Keith Dash
1881 2728 587 The population decline continued. 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). Ann Hentschel
& Keith Dash
1891 2451 539 The slow decline in the population continued as young adults left to seek work on the mainland, but this loss was balanced to some extent by children born on the mainland, mainly around Glasgow, returning to Tiree to be raised by their grandparents or aunts & uncles. This census recorded for the first time if people were fluent in Gaelic only, Gaelic and English, or English only. It shows that Gaelic was the first language in Tiree and children learnt English as a second language when they went to school. Keith Dash
1901 2186 495 The decline continued with an ageing population and increasing numbers of uninhabited and derelict houses. Gaelic remained Tiree's first language. Keith Dash
1911 1822 463 This census recorded for the first time the number of live children born to married women. For women married for 25 years or more the average was 5 children (range 0-14), but the most common number was 8-9 children, which encompassed 30% of Tiree families. Despite this high fertility rate the population of Tiree continued to decline. Gaelic continued to survive as Tiree's first language. Keith Dash
1921 1713 419 This census was due to take place on 24th April but was postponed until 19th June due to the General Strike earlier in the year.
Due to the summer date of the 1921 census, mass displacement of the population occurred as people travelled from their usual residences to holiday destinations across Scotland and the wider UK. The impact of the First World War and the Great Influenza epidemic, commonly referred to as the ‘Spanish Flu’, were reflected in changes to the questions asked in the 1921 census. New questions relating to the population of young people were introduced, the number of orphans living at each address were surveyed for the first time and asked whether the father, mother or both parents were deceased, and the number of dependent children within a household. The question on infirmity was removed, but a new question asking whether individuals were eligible for benefit under the National Insurance Act 1911 was included. This was introduced to help calculate sick pay and unemployment in some industries. Information regarding an individual’s place of work and details of their employer were also asked in the Scottish 1921 census.
Flo Straker