The information asked for by the Gibraltar censuses changed over time. The basic format of each record includes the kind of personal information that you would expect a census to capture, including:
However, some census years collected extra information and so sometimes you may see a person’s religion, nationality, or details of length of residence in the colony.
These censuses were designed to collect data about the population of the British colony of Gibraltar every 10 years from 1871. However, as is often the case, the censuses usually enumerate the de facto rather than the de jure population, meaning that anyone present on census night was included, not just those permanently resident. From 1891 onwards, the Gibraltar census included those persons in the harbour, in the port and on vessels large and small in the Bay of Gibraltar.
The British Army garrisoned in or in transit through Gibraltar was also enumerated in the 1871 Census. This includes, among others, corps such as the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Regiment of Foot; the 42nd Regt (battalion not stated); the 71st Regt (battalion not stated); and what was probably the 2nd Bn of the Rifle Brigade. Later census returns contain few soldiers. However, please note that the British Army in Gibraltar at the time of the 1911 Census and the 1921 Census was included within the bounds of the England & Wales censuses for those years, so you should search those instead.
The official counts for these six decennial census are shown below:
The 1871 Census statistic may be swelled by the capturing of British Army corps in that year, as mentioned earlier. However, the resident population did fluctuate during the last quarter of the 19th century, with the emigration of Spanish families taking place both to distant Latin America and also to neighbouring parts of Spain, such as La Línea de la Concepción, which offset natural population growth in this densely-populated colony.
Although Gibraltar covers a small area, for most of this period the town was divided into no fewer than 28 districts, within which houses were numbered in a very particular way, which you may sometimes see on historical documents. For example, D25 H27 would be house 27 in district 25.
Take care when searching under forenames in particular, as it is not at all unusual to see English and Spanish versions of names for the same person from one census to the next. For example, Anthony may appear as Antonio and vice versa, Emily as Emilia and vice versa, and so forth.
It is also true that some of the surname are prone to phonetic variation and one family may appear under different forms of the same name from year to year. For example, some of the Sephardic Jewish family names are prone to some variation (Benzecri and Benzecry, Benzimbra and Benzimra etc) whilst still being recognisably the same name.
Religion is not captured consistently throughout these six censuses. While you can use such search terms as Buddhist or Jewish or Methodist, note, therefore, that this will not return you the records for all members of that particular religion or denomination. The majority of the inhabitants at all times would have been Roman Catholic, of course.
Some standardisation has been attempted but we would encourage you to make good use of wildcards when searching and also to think about trying search terms in the Optional Keywords search field.