The decennial census is available from 1841 onwards, but its accuracy is very questionable, especially in the earlier years. Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages commences in 1855, as in the rest of Scotland, but there are many omissions in the early years. As late as 1897, in Barvas Parish, Lewis, there occurs a whole year with almost no entries, and in all areas the accuracy of the information is very poor, especially in matters such as mothers’ maiden names, etc.
Old Parish Registers (OPR) are available for most parishes, but again their coverage is very variable. Those for Barvas and Stornoway Parishes in Lewis commence in the early 1800s, with a handful of earlier entries, and are reasonably comprehensive. The OPR for Uig, Lewis, begins in the 1820s with good detail, but its content deteriorates after a few years, and the information becomes minimal. Lochs, Lewis, also begins in the 1820s, but is never particularly good, even for the main parish, while records for the detached part of the parish, around Carloway and Shawbost area, are extremely poor.
Harris OPR commences in the 1820s also, but after a few years becomes restricted to the area around the manse, and the merchant and farming classes, while the crofters who made up by far the bulk of the population, are virtually ignored. North Uist OPR covers only the area around the central church of Kilmuir, and does not includes the mission stations of Carinish and Trumisgarry, which accounted for fully half of the population, who do not appear in any register. South Uist and Barra were, and are, almost wholly Roman Catholic islands, and the OPR coverage of the few Protestant families is very poor, though there are excellent Roman Catholic records for parts of the OPR period.