Scotland Land and Property

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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.

Online Resources


Many courts were involved in actions regarding land. Some of the most important courts were:

  • Chancery Courts
  • Court of Session
  • Sheriff Courts
  • Burgh Courts
  • Commissary Courts
  • Regality Courts

Property-related Records

In general, there are four types of Scottish land and property records, explained in the following articles:

Valuation Rolls

Taxes were determined by the value of the land. These records are called 'valuation rolls' and exist sporadically before 1855. The book entitled "Directory of Landownership in Scotland circa 1770" is based in part on the valuation rolls for that year. The FHL has only a few of these records and most are listed in the NAS online catalog with the reference of VR. To learn more about these records go to

Ultimus Haeres

If a person died 'intestate' (without leaving a document for probate) and had no known heirs, the Crown was the 'last heir' or 'ultimus haeres.' There is no succession to or through the mother for either heritable or moveable property. If the deceased has only relatives on his mother's side of the family, including half-brothers and sisters, they could not directly inherit. However, relatives could petition the Crown to inherit a portion of an estate. Location of these petitions are handled as follows:

  • Grants of petitions for moveable property before 1834 were recorded under the Privy Seal. Indexes survive in various forms including minute books. 
  • Grants of petitions for heritable property before 1834 are sporadic and unindexed.
  • Records since 1834 are more consistent and complete and are indexed by the name of the deceased.
  • The petitions are part of the collection of the Exchequer (NAS online catalogue reference E).
  • The Family History Library does not have the petitions on microfilm.

Land Records Tailzies (entail)

  • Research use

To obtain names and residence and relationship of those who inherited land after death of individuals. They supplement parish register information.

  • Record type

Settlement of heritable property inalienably on a specified line of heirs, not heirs at law.

  • Time period

1688 to 1952

  • Contents

Information on distribution of lands, names, relationships, and pedigrees of land holders.


National Archives of Scotland
H.M. General Register House
Scotland EH1 3YY

Population coverage: 20%.

Reliability: These records are highly accurate because they were recorded by a government agency.[1]

Land Records Hornings (diligence)

  • Research use

To locate information on debtors and their land transactions.

  • Record type

Land records of debtors, their heritable estates, and actions against them.

  • Time period

1579 to 1868.

  • Contents

Information on debtors, their heirs, and distribution of their property.


National Archives of Scotland
H.M. General Register House
Scotland EH1 3YY

Population coverage: 10%.

Reliability: These records are highly accurate because they were recorded by a government agency.[1]


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. (Family History Library book 941 D2d.)

'Encyclopedia of the Laws of Scotland.'16 vols and 2 supps. Edinburgh, Scotland: W. Green & Son, Limited, 1926. (Family History Library book 941 P36e.)

Gibb, Andrew Dewar. 'Students’ Glossary of Scottish Legal Terms.' Edinburgh, Scotland: W. Green & Son, Ltd., 1946. (Family History Library book 941 P36g.)

Gouldesbrough, Peter. 'Formulary of Old Scots Legal Documents.' Vol. 36. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Stair Society, 1985. (Family History Library 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. (Family History Librarybook 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. (Family History Library book 941 D27s.)

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Scotland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1988-2001. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "profile" defined multiple times with different content