Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Tips for finding our ancestors in the 1911 census

As many of you will know the 1911 census for Scotland is not available on Findmypast or Ancestry. The Orkney 1911 census has been transcribed and is available from the Orkney FHS.

This means that we have to use the census on ScotlandsPeople which is a pay-per-view website. If we are researching a common name in a densely populated area we may have to look at many entries before we find the right one. 

How can we save those credits?

I will be sharing some tips at our conference on 30 January 2021 but here is one for you today.

Use Street Indexes

Before the census was available to public access, street indexes were prepared for large towns and cities. These can be helpful as they tell you which streets are in each registration district and even which census enumeration book. 

For example, earlier today I was searching for someone who I knew had been living at 272 Buchanan Street Glasgow in 1909. I wanted to work out from the ScotlandsPeople index (without paying anything) if any of the possible results could relate to 272 Buchanan Street.

First I went to the census street index for Glasgow and I was told that 272 Buchanan Street was in registration district number 644/8 and the relevant enumeration book was number 29.

Sadly you can’t use these reference numbers to search on ScotlandsPeople so I needed to work out what the name of registration district number 644/8 was in 1911. For rural areas, this isn’t such a problem but there are loads of districts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. It can all get a bit confusing. 

I now headed to the ‘Registration District guide - Glasgow’ which told me that in 1911 (very important to look at the date column) 644/8 was St. Rollox registration district.

I could now return to ScotlandsPeople and narrow down my search to St. Rollox. You can’t narrow it down to the enumeration book but we are looking for entries from 644/8 29. 

On ScotlandsPeople you will also see a page number as part of the reference number, for example we may see, ‘644/8 29/ 26’ This is registration district (RD) 644/8, enumeration book 29, page 26.

If I had originally thought that the entry with the reference 644/8 29/ 26 was 272 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, I would now know that it wasn’t and therefore I could save my credits for another search.

There are 1911 Census Street Indexes for the following places in Scotland:




Bothkennar, Grangemouth and Polmont

Bothwell, Holytown and Bellshill







East and West Calder




Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow





Kirkcaldy and Dysart

Lewis and Harris


New Kilpatrick

New Monkland

Old Kilpatrick

Old Monkland - Western District, Coatbridge and Old Monkland - Eastern District

Paisley, Johnstone and Elderslie



St Ninians


The Street Indexes are free from the National Records of Scotland here: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/census-records/1911-census#Street%20indexes

The ‘Parishes and Registration Districts of Scotland by name’ guide (1.4 MB pdf) lists all parishes and districts in alphabetical order with the dates during which each was operative. There are also pages with further breakdowns of the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. See: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/statutory-registers/registration-districts

I hope this helps you understand the referencing system a bit more and will hopefully save you some of those credits while you hunt for your ancestors. Hope you can join us at the next conference for more Scottish genealogy tips!

1 comment:

  1. I’m not sure where to post this and an hoping someone can help me. My great grandmother was born around 1903 according to forms I’ve found on ancestry.com. Listed as born in Scotland. Emigrated to Maine from Canada. I have no idea where she might be from and was told that the name listed (Goodwin) is not even her name as she was adopted. I was told she survived the great Halifax Explosion. Any suggestions on how to proceed with so little info or is this a true dead end.