Scotland Protocol Books

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Protocol books are notebooks which lawyers in Scotland, known as Notaries Public, were required to keep as a record of their work. These are very few in number, and most have been poorly completed, but the better examples have been published, either by the Scottish Record Society or by local heritage-type societies. The surviving books date from the late 1400s up to the 17th century.

Before using protocol books learn something about the medieval legal structure of Scotland. Most burghs (local councils) employed notaries to record all their legal transactions.

Before using this record search other records of sasines - land transfers - as most entries in protocol books are of this type. You should also refer to the Register of the Great Seal (records of charters granted under the authority of the king), as there may be links between the two types of record.

Where to find Protocol Books. Almost all original protocol books are held by the National Records of Scotland, in Edinburgh. As these are best read in printed format, in English rather than Latin, You should refer to the volumes published by the Scottish Record Society and some local societies.

How to search them. All the printed volumes of notarial Protocol Books have name indexes at the end, and sometimes place indexes as well. Those which appeared in parts, within a society's published transactions, will be covered by a volume index which includes the protocol book.

Record sample:

Protocol book of Nicol Thounis, 1559-1564:

35. Discharge by Henry Falconar in favour of Matthew Hammiltoun of Mylburne of the dowry payable to him with Margaret Hammiltoun, daughter of Mr. John Hammiltoun, his uncle. Done in the close of the said Matthew's house, the 24 of May 1561. Winesses, John Hammiltoun in Machlinhoill, James Smyth, William Hill and Henry Saltoun.

Protocol Book of Sir John Cristisone, 1518-1531:

6. Instrument narrating that Andrew Fraser in Innery within the parish of Banchoriterne (Banchory-Ternan), passed to the personal presence of Mr. Alexander Symsoun (Simpson), rector of Monimusk and vicar of Banchoriterne, offering himself ready to pay for the funeral rites of his wife last deceased. He protested that if the vicar declined to receive payment it should not prejudice him in the future. Done in the parish church of Monimusk 3rd February 1519. Witnesses, Alexander Mawvour (Mavor), John Thomsone and Thomas Nore (Norrie).


1.Look at subsequent entries, as often one or more extra entries will relate to the earlier item, often as a refutation of the previous claim or statement.

2. Be aware that names were spelled AS THEY SOUNDED, and had no fixed spelling in that period.

3. The entries are in date order, as they were recorded, but sometimes a matter will recur at a later time, so use the index to find other instances of activity by your person of interest.

What to do next

Look for your person of interest in other material which predates the Reformation in Scotland. Try the Register of the Privy Council (1545-1691); The Register of the Privy Seal (1488-1584); and the long series of The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, from 1264 (and in Latin), followed by the Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland.