The principle way of recording land transfer was through a document (sometimes referred to as an instrument) called a "sasine" (pronounced 'say-zin'), which comes from the action 'to seize'. The sasine was proof that a change of ownership had taken place and documented the actual act of taking possesion of a piece of land, building or minerals in the ground.
There are several divisions of the Sasines records (called Registers):
- 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.
- Particular Registers - usually contain land transactions that involved a single county.
- Burgh Registers - usually contain land transactions within a single city (or Burgh).
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 found in the collection of The National Archives of Scotland at http://www.nas.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 National Archives of Scotland 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.)
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).
Information about buildings in burghs can be found in the records of the Dean of Guild courts which had powers to control building within burghs. A few of these are preserved in the burgh records held here, many are held in local archives.
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.
Records Availability Charts
Registers of Sasines is indexed from 1781 and easy to use. Prior to that are partial indexes. The registers are being digitized. This list covers availability at the NAS (National Archives of Scotland) and the FHL (Family History Library).
Burgh Records Held by the Family History Library and the National Archives of Scotland
|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 National Archives of Scotland 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.
An excellent guide to these records is produced by the National Archives of Scotland and can be found at http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/sasines.asp
- National Archives of Scotland, "Guide to the Register of Sasines"; http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/sasines.asp.
- National Archives of Scotland