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The 1851 Census of Religious Worship

The 1851 Religious Census, or more correctly the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, was a unique feature of the decennial enumeration of that year. 1851 was the first year that census taking had been organised by Major George Graham as Registrar General, and he seems to have envisaged extending the process into a very broad series of statistical investigations. The population census was not only greatly expanded compared to that of 1841, but a census of educational institutions was also undertaken in addition to that on religion. Since there was no equivalent to the English General Register Office (GRO) in Scotland at this date, Graham's department undertook the enumeration of the northern kingdom as well (for a description of the organisation of the 1851 census, see Population Tables, 1851, Pt. I, xii–xiv). The extra work involved in the administration and analysis of these multiple investigations plainly overtaxed the limited resources of the GRO, leading to delays in producing the Annual reports of the Registrar General Of Births, Marriages and Deaths (Higgs, 2002). This, and the controversy aroused by the surveys, may explain why neither the Religious Census, or that on education, were ever repeated.

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