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Censuses Highlight Hardship and Change in Scottish Fortunes launches Scotland Censuses - 11 million searchable names today completed the launch of its mid-Victorian Scotland Censuses collection – now available are 11 million searchable names for the full 1841, 1851 and 1861 Scotland Censuses.

With more than 2 million Australians claiming Scottish ancestry, including Princess Mary of Denmark, Rupert Murdoch, Heath Ledger and Magda Szubanski, this new collection will prove an invaluable resource for both professional genealogists and amateur family historians keen to research their Scottish heritage.

Some famous Scots listed in the censuses who immigrated to Australia include Queensland’s only bushranger, James McPherson, Sir James Graham, founder of the Women’s Hospital in Sydney, William Arnott, the baker who founded the now iconic ‘Arnotts Biscuits’ brand, and Victorian Premiers James Munro and Duncan Gillies.

The Ancestry Scotland Censuses collection is the first online collection of Scotland censuses that can be searched by occupation, allowing family history researchers to gain a unique insight into societal trends that would have directly affected the lives of their ancestors.

nalysis of the three Ancestry Scotland Censuses indicates that although desperately poor compared to England, this was a period of changing fortunes for Scotland, particularly for the working classes, due to the longer-term impact of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1841, the top three forms of employment were agricultural labourer (#1), female servant (#2) and independent worker (#3). In both the 1851 and 1861 censuses, this had shifted to scholar (#1) and domestic servant (#2). Agricultural labourer now sat in third position. (Complete Top Ten Table included at end of release)

For the young, this shift from the land was the direct result of a post-Industrial Revolution investment in education, while for the older generations, the continuing Highland Clearances accounted for the significant number of former agricultural workers taking ‘in service’ roles as domestic staff.

The shift from the land also resulted in serious overcrowding in Scottish cities - for most of the 19th Century, one third of Scotland’s population lived in one room dwellings - which is clearly evident in many census entries that list large numbers of people at single addresses.

These factors explain why so many Scots immigrated to Australia during the mid 19th Century - driven off the land into the cities, many former agricultural labourers decided they were better off trying their luck in the new country.

Interestingly, upon arrival in Australia, most Scots returned to the land, although for most there would have been little difference or improvement in their living conditions for many years. Managing Director Simon Harper comments: 'As one in ten Australians will have ancestors listed in the Ancestry Scotland Censuses collection, it represents a significant new resource for family history researchers. By understanding the 'bigger picture' story that the censuses tell, it is easy to u nderstand why so many Scots may have came to Australia - whether forcibly or by choice.

'The censuses paint an important, though often bleak picture of the lives of millions of Scots during times that were terribly poor, with most living in appallingly overcrowded conditions.'

Other famous Scots included are Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton Teas. Englishman Joseph Lister, the ‘father of antiseptic surgery’, appears in the 1861 Census while Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University.


1) Agricultural Labourer
2) Female Servant
3) Independent
4) Farmer
5) Labourer
6) Male Servant
7) Cotton Hand Loom Weaver
8) Linen Hand Loom Weaver
9) Coal Miner
10) Hand Loom Weaver

1) Scholar
2) House Servant
3) Agricultural Labourer
4) At Home
5) Labourer
6) Farm Servant
7) Coal Miner
8) Farm Labourer
9) Weaver
10) Servant

1) Scholar
2) Domestic Servant
3) Ploughman
4) Agricultural Labourer
5) Labourer
6) Coal Miner
7) Cotton Weaver
8) Fisherman
9) Dressmaker
10) Housekeeper


James McPherson – ‘The Wild Scotchman’ (1842 – 1895)
Born in Inverness-shire, McPherson is famed as Queensland’s only bushranger. He immigrated with his family, arriving at Moreton Bay on 19 January 1855. His first recorded law-breaking activity was in early 1865 near Bowen where at gunpoint he held up a publican who owed him wages. In March 1866 he was captured near Gin Gin and sentenced to twenty-five years on St Helena Island but was released in 1874. McPherson died in Burketown, North Queensland, aged 53.
Listed in the 1851 Census

James Munro – Victorian Premier (1832 – 1908)
Born in Sutherlandshire, Munro immigrated with his wife and three children to Melbourne, arriving in November 1858. After many decades as a businessman and financier, Munro became premier and treasurer of Victoria in 1890. He died in 1908.
Listed in the 1841/51 Census

Duncan Gillies – Victorian Premier (1834 – 1903)
Born near Glasgow, Gillies migrated to Victoria in December 1852 and went directly to the Ballarat goldfields. Starting his political career as a Member for Ballarat West in 1860, he rose to become joint premier of Victoria as the Conservative wing with Alfred Deakin head of the Liberals in 1886. He died in 1903.
Listed in the 1841/51 Census

Sir James Graham – Physician and Politician (1856 – 1913)
Born in Edinburgh, Graham migrated to Sydney in 1884 and became resident medical officer at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. By 1896, he had become director on the board of the RPA and it was under his guidance that the RPA Hospital became an excellent training ground for the medical profession. During the same period, Graham was elected as a free trader and Liberal for Sydney-Belmore to the Legislative Assembly. He was also elected mayor and knighted by the Duke of York in Sydney in 1901. However, it is for his contribution to medicine he is most acclaimed, founding the Women’s Hospital in 1895 and becoming first president of the University of Sydney Medical Society in 1886.
Listed in the 1851 Census


• Princess Mary of Denmark
• Rupert Murdoch
• William McInnes
• Isla Fisher
• Heath Ledger
• Magda Szubanski