The census records information on the country's population and has been taken every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941. The returns of most use to the family historian are those from 1841 onwards. From 1861, the gathering of Scottish census material has been the responsibility of the National Records of Scotland. Records may only be inspected after 100 years, so the census returns presently available for public scrutiny are 1841-1911.
The census is essentially a snapshot of the people in a household on a given night and as such can provide details of a particular family and anyone else who happens to be in the house at the time, for example, servants, lodgers, or visitors. Census records can be used, not only to further your search for direct ancestors, but also to broaden your knowledge of the wider family and to bridge the gap between statutory and OPR records. They can also give an indication of how the family lived. Geographic mobility can be tracked through the given birthplaces, and social mobility through addresses and occupations.
The National Records of Scotland holds the census records for all Scotland. Online access to the indexes and images for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 are available here on ScotlandsPeople. You may also view transcripts of the 1881 (LDS) census.
Please look under an individual census year for more information: