Q. I’m researching ancestors in Scotland. Are any Scottish census records available to search for free?
A. Scottish censuses, taken every 10 years from 1841 to 1901, are great sources of genealogical data. Until recently, searching them online required an Ancestry.com subscription or paying as you go at ScotlandsPeople. But now, 4 million Scottish census records are available free at FreeCen, part of the UK Census Online transcription project. The volunteer effort started with the earliest records. To date, more than 90 percent of 1841 records and 58 percent of 1851 records are online, with scattered records from 1861, 1871 and 1881. Link to these and other free Scottish census records online by county from the Scotland Census Finder.
You can also do a free search by first and last name at ScotlandsPeople to see which censuses have the person you’re looking for. That can help you decide if it’s worth shelling out to view the results, or point you in the right direction among the microfilmed Scottish census records at the Family History Library, which include an 1881 surname index.
From the March/April 2012 Family Tree Magazine