Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Scottish Registers of Sasines

It’s true to say that prior to the 20th century few people in Scotland owned their own home.  For this reason, most modern guides to Scottish family history devote little space to property records.  This has perhaps led to the belief that, unless your ancestors were among the aristocracy, property records are not worth searching, but this is really not the case.

In Scotland, the main series of property records are the Registers of Sasines which exist for the whole of Scotland from 1617 (an incomplete Secretary’s Register exists for 1599-1609) and are held by the National Records of Scotland.  From 1781 there are printed abridgements which provide a summary of sasines recorded in the General and Particular (county) registers.  The extracts below, taken from the first volume of Sasine Abridgements for the County of Edinburgh (Midlothian) give an idea of the type of information you may find:

(8) Jan. 9. 1781.
ANN BLACKBURN, relict of Edward Keay, Sailor, Leith, for behoof of Cornelius Keay, his son, and Jean Keay, sister of said Edward Keay, Seised, for their respective interests, Nov. 30. 1780, - in a Tenement in LEITH; - in security of £40; -on Bond by Margaret Ainslie, relict of David Dryburgh, Shipmaster, Leith, Nov. 30. 1780. P. R. 255. 130.

(28) Feb. 13. 1781.
MARGARET FINNIE, relict of James Gilbert, Brewer, North Back of Canongate, and Grizel Gilbert, spouse of George Rae, Fish-hookmaker, Leith Wynd, Seised, in liferent and fee respectively, Dec. 20. 1781, -in part of a Tenement inBELL’S WYND, Edinburgh; - on Post Nup. Mar. Con. between James McGlashan, Chairmaster, Edinburgh, & Elizabeth Watt, his spouse, to said Elizabeth Watt, in liferent, and William McGlashan, their son, in fee, Dec. 27. 1769; & Disp. & Assig. by said William McGlashan, Oct. 16. 1780. P. R. 255. 268.

(64) Apr. 3. 1781.
BARBARA BEGG, daughter of William Begg, Tailor, Newbigging, as heir to Martin Begg, Cloathier there, her grandfather, Seised, Mar. 26. 1781, - in a Tenement in NEWBIGGING, Musselburgh; - on Cognition by the Magistrates of Musselburgh, Mar. 26. 1781. P. R. 256. 181.

(101) May 15. 1781.
WILLIAM BARCLAY, Baker, London, as heir to William Barclay, Tailor, Canongate, his father, Seised, Apr. 7. 1781, in half of a Tenement in PLEASANCE, & piece of Ground adjoining; - on a Ch. Conf. & Pr. Cl. Con. by the Commissioner of William Wardrop, Merchant, Virginia, Nov. 7. 1780. P. R. 257. 126.

(135) Jun. 13. 1781.
JOHN HILL, Porter, Edinburgh, and Rachell Waugh, his spouse, Seised, Jun. 13. 1781, - in part of a Tenement in LAURISTON STREET, near Edinburgh; - on Disp. by Alexander Dempster, Wright, Orchyeardfield, near Edinburgh, Nov. 6. 1780. P. R. 258. 77.

(164) Jul. 13. 1781.
THOMAS LAWSON, Servant to William Noble in Boreland, Seised, Jun. 30. 1781, -in Tenements in PORTSBURGH; - in security of £90; - on Bond by James Somervell, Mason, Whitefield, May 30. 1781. P. R. 259. 40.

I picked out these entries because of the variety of occupations recorded: sailor, brewer, fish-hookmaker, tailor, baker, porter, servant etc.  Whilst they may not be exactly typical (in Edinburgh in this period the most common occupation given is merchant), it did not take much browsing through the volume of abridgements to find them.

These entries also demonstrate the valuable genealogical details that may be found in sasines (often linking two or more generations) and how frequently women are named.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst a broad range of people may be found in sasines for Scottish towns and cities, the situation is rather different in rural areas where the vast amount of heritable property was owned by a small number of large landowners.  However, if you’ve never explored the Registers of Sasines they are well worth a look - you never know what you may find.

The National Records of Scotland (formerly the National Archives of Scotland) has a guide to the Registers of Sasines at www.nas.gov.uk/guides/sasines.asp

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this information. I'm glad to know that the Registers of Sasines start so early. Recently found I have a definite Scottish line of Frasers, and it starts in the 1600s in Scotland. Inverness-Shire was mentioned, so I don't know if that's "landowner" or not. In my head is the image of the castle in Scotland in the latest James Bond movie, "Skyfall." I'll copy the link of this post and be glad to use it!