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.

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).

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.)