We have all been in that situation, made a 1911 census search on ScotlandsPeople only to have five or more options that could all be our ancestor!
You can save those precious credits by making some smart searches.
Although you can add a ‘Forename of other person on that census page’, which can be helpful, this is not so helpful if you are searching for Johns, Marys and Williams as the chances are those names are on quite a lot of Scottish census pages!
When you get your list of results you are given Surname, Forename, Year, Gender, Age, Ref, RD Name and County/City.
The first five columns are self-explanatory, but what about ‘Ref’ and ‘RD Name’, what do these mean?
‘Ref’ is reference, this is displayed as a number, e.g. ‘569/ 1/ 7’. The first number which in this case is 569 represents the Registration District (RD) which is in this case Kilmacolm.
Over time some places grew rapidly and the registration districts were divided, when this happened we may see a district number like 572/2 which is Barrhead and Levern.
Returning to our original example of ‘Ref’ 569/ 1/ 7, the 1 represents the enumeration book and the 7 represents the page.
Why is this useful? All members of a standard household will be either on the same page or on the page before or following.
How can this help? Let’s say you find a John Smith in Kilmacolm, he’s the right age but you are not sure it’s quite right. Refine your search, take out the forename and age but look for all ‘Smiths’ in the district of Kilmacolm.
Once you get the search results up look to see who has the reference ‘569/ 1/ 7’. Also, watch out for ‘569/ 1/ 6’ and ‘569/ 1/ 8’ in case the family splits over two pages!
You have now effectively recreated the family group and you can easily work out if this is ‘your’ John Smith before you spend those credits.
This is going to be particularly helpful for the 1911 census as it is not available on other websites. If you are struggling to find people in earlier census years use websites like Freecen and ScottishIndexes to make free searches, or if you have a Findmypast or Ancestry subscription use their search to identify the family then go to ScotlandsPeople to see the original image.