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Gibraltar Census History

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Gibraltar Census History

Historical: Gibraltar Censuses Since 1753


Each Census of the past can give a most fascinating insight into aspects of Gibraltar’s history. The details that are recorded, and the years when a Census was taken, afford a glimpse of how the Rock’s population arrived in Gibraltar and how it grew and developed.

The taking of a Census in Gibraltar dates to before the eighteenth century. However, the earliest Census of the whole civilian population that has survived is that of 1753. The results then were: British 434; Genoese 597; Jews 575; Spaniards 185, and Portuguese 25.

By 1767, the Census divided the population into three categories: British and Protestant; Roman Catholics; and Jews. That was to remain the standard classification for the rest of the 18th century. The 1767 figures cover the civil inhabitants “within the walls or out at Landport”. The total then was 2,710 – 467 British, 1,460 Roman Catholics and 783 Jews.

Ten years later, in 1777, the Census became more complex. Not only did the abstract list the three religious categories; the population was now divided into “Natives” and “Not Natives”. The total figure was then 3,201 of whom 506 were Protestant (all of “British Blood”), 1,832 were Roman Catholics (all except 13 of whom were of “Alien Blood”) and 863 were Jews (all of “Alien Blood”), 1,334 of the inhabitants were natives.

The original 1777 list is still extant. It was taken at General Boyd’s command in February. The most interesting category is that of the Roman Catholic inhabitants, as it lists the country of birth of each person. These are the figures:

English and Irish 13
Minorkeens* 62
Natives 845
Genoese and Savoyards 672
Portugueze* 93
Spaniards 134
French 13

* These are the spellings of the original list.

The 1777 Census book contains an alphabetical listing of all the inhabitants by religion – first British and Protestants, second Roman Catholics and third Jews.

The information recorded per person was the surname, first name, age, country of birth (and hence the nationality of the person), occupation, years in the Garrison and remarks. The Scots today would probably object vehemently to the description of their country as recorded in 1777: North Britain! This of course was the result of the rebellions in the North that resulted in the eliminating of the word Scotland from all official documents.

Some of the occupations recorded are quaint: there was one oysterman, there were mantua makers, hucksters, sutlers, patrons (i.e. boat skippers), soil carriers, lamplighters, lime burners and a “Teacher of the Italian”. The remarks column shows that the Census was updated as a record of the population of Gibraltar. This was done after the Great Siege of 1779-1783, when it was necessary to know how many people had survived or returned. Thus one finds little snippets of information such as “Dead”,”gone and returned”, “Kill’d by a shell”, “Deserted during siege to the Enemy”, “Taken Pris’r by the Span’ds”, “ order’d away”, “flogg’d out for a rape”.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating details is the commencement of the list of the Jewish inhabitants of 1777. It reads:

- Aboab Isaac 65 born: Tetuan Merchant 57 yrs in Gibraltar
- Aboab Hannah 50 born: Gibraltar Wife -
- Aboab Simha 28 born: Tetuan Wife 15 yrs in Gibraltar

This detail shows that English law, which forbids bigamy, was not yet fully operative on the Rock.

The next count recorded was in 1787. The population had increased then by 185 to 3,386, of whom 512 were British, 2,098 were Roman Catholic and 776 were Jews. Within four years, however, there was a sharp drop in the population. John Raleigh the Civil Secretary issued the following notice, dated 8 February 1791, in both English and Spanish:

“The Governor thinking it proper that a correct list of the present Inhabitants and Residents in the garrison shall be immediately made out; Therefore the Inhab’ts and residentiaries of every country and class are hereby required to send into this Office forthwith the names and numbers of each house, family and habitation, including children, servants, tenants, undertenants and lodgers, distinguishing their age, place of nativity and occupation, term of residence and by what Governor or Commander in Chief’s permission each foreigner came here.
The Governor likewise requires the number of Mules, Burros, Horses, Cows, Goats and Sheep at this time in the inhabitant’s possession: These returns may be dropt into the letter Box address’d to the Secretary, and the Governor hopes there will be no omission”.

In addition, at the time, supplementary lists were also made. Examples are the list of Inhabitants Houses of 1778 and the list of Garrison Seamen of 1792.