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Land records can help you determine where and when your family lived in a specific place. Sometimes these records will be based on inheritance, and such records will often mention two or more generations of a family. In Scotland the land system had feudal roots in which the crown owned all of the land.
In general, there are three types of Scottish land records:
The general register usually contains land transactions that involved more than one burgh or county. They also recorded land transactions that affected Scottish interests in other countries, such as Nova Scotia.
- The particular register usually contains land transactions that involved a single county or burgh (city).
The principle way of recording land transfer was through a document (sometimes referred to as an instrument) called a "sasine." The sasine was proof that a change of ownership had taken place.
General Sasine Records. Before 1617 some general sasine records were kept in the Notorial Protocol books (registers kept by notary publics of the legal transactions they recorded). These are at the Scottish Record Office at http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/.
Between 1599 and 1609, the Secretary of State kept some general sasine records in the Secretary’s Registers. Only seven of the original seventeen districts still exist. The Secretary’s Registers are indexed. Both the Scottish Record Office and the Family History Library have the original records and indexes (FHL book Q941 B4sp vols. 7, 16, 18, 23, 47, 55, 61; films 896586, 896590-1, 896593, 896602, 896604, and 896606).
From 1617 to 1868 general sasine records were kept in a register called the Old General Register.
From 1869 on, sasine records have been kept in the New General Register. This is available at the Scottish Record Office.
You can find Family History Library microfilm numbers for general sasine registers by looking in the Locality Search of the catalog under:
SCOTLAND - LAND AND PROPERTY.
You can also look in the following book:
Sasines, Services of Heirs, and Deeds Register. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library, 1981. (FHL book 941 R2ss; fiche 6054478.)
Particular Registers. The particular registers (sasine registers kept by counties) cover from 1617 to 1868. The original records are at the Scottish Record Office. The Family History Library has:
- The minute books.
- Abridgements, which give selected parts of original records for both the general register and the particular registers.
- Indexes of persons and places to the abridgements, on microfilm.
Royal burghs often kept their own sasine registers. Until 1681 land transactions were also recorded in the Notorial Protocol books (registers kept by notary publics of the legal transactions they recorded).
The Family History Library and the Scottish Record Office have burgh registers. The chart below lists the burgh registers available and whether the Family History Library and Scottish Record Office have them.
Burgh Records Held by the Family History Library and the Scottish Record Office
|Ansturther Wester||Dumbarton*||H||Kirkcaldy*||P||St. Andrews*|
|Crail||Elie and Earlsferry*||J||Montrose*||Rothesay*|
|*= The Family History Library has some burgh sasines for these burghs.|
|+= The Family History Library has some burgh sasines, but the Scottish Record Office does not.|
You can find Family History Library microfilm numbers for the burgh registers in the Locality Search of the catalog under:
SCOTLAND, [COUNTY], [BURGH] - LAND AND PROPERTY.
Register of Deeds
The Register of Deeds is another type of land record. In the strictest sense of the word, the register of deeds was used to preserve any legal, written agreement. In addition to land transactions, you will find marriage contracts, contracts of partnership, contracts of sale, bonds, and so forth.
If a land transaction was recorded with a deed, you should also find a reference to the transaction in Sasine records.
Before 1532, deeds are scattered through the Notarial Protocol books. In 1532 when the Court of Session was established, the deeds were recorded in the session and the register was called Acta’ Dominorum Concilii et Sessionis. In 1542 it was changed to the Acts and Decreets, which covers up to the year 1581.
The actual Register of Deeds begins in 1554, but deed transactions were not regularly recorded until 1661. The 1554 register was kept in three series.
The first series goes from 1554 to 1660 and is indexed from 1555 to 1595. The Family History Library has minute books (brief extracts of originals) that begin on 1542 and go to 1660. You can use these extracts instead of indexes.
The second series, from 1661 to 1811, has three sections: Durie, Dalrymple, and Mackenzie. (These are the names of the officer that kept the registers.) You will need to search all three sections.
The Scottish Record Office has the original records and available indexes. The Family History Library has:
- Printed indexes from 1661 to 1696 (36 volumes).
- Copies of manuscript indexes from 1770 to 1811, granters (grantors) only.
- Minute books from 1661 to 1770 for the Mackenzie section and from 1661 to 1772 for Durie and Dalrymple.
The third series is from 1812 onward. Manuscript indexes are available for the whole period. The indexes, the original records, and minute books are available at the Scottish Record Office. The Family History Library has indexes from 1812 to 1851 on microfilm.
To find deed records at the Family History Library, look in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under SCOTLAND, LAND AND PROPERTY. The following book also lists film numbers:
Sasines, Services of Heirs, and Deeds Register. (FHL book 941 R2ss; fiche 6054478.)
You will also find deeds recorded in sheriff courts, commissary courts, and burgh records. Many of these have been deposited in the Scottish Record Office. Most are not indexed, so you will have to search them year by year.
For More Information
For more information about sasine, service of heir, deeds, and other Scottish land and property records, see the following books:
Dobson, David. Scottish-American Heirs 1683-1883. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1990. (FHL book 941 D2d.)
Encyclopedia of the Laws of Scotland. 16 vols and 2 supps. Edinburgh, Scotland: W. Green & Son, Limited, 1926. (FHL book 941 P36e.)
Gibb, Andrew Dewar. Students’ Glossary of Scottish Legal Terms. Edinburgh, Scotland: W. Green & Son, Ltd., 1946. (FHL book 941 P36g.)
Gouldesbrough, Peter. Formulary of Old Scots Legal Documents. Vol. 36. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Stair Society, 1985. (FHL book 941 B4st v.36.)
An Introductory Survey of the Sources and Literature of Scots Law. Vol. 1. The Stair Society. Edinburgh, Scotland: Robert Maclehose & Co., Ltd. for The Stair Society, 1936. (FHL book 941 B4st; film 1426033.)
Sinclair, Cecil. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestry Research in the Scottish Record Office. Edinburgh, Scotland: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1990. (FHL book 941 D27s.)