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Sasines, Registers of (Land & Property) (Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records of all land and property titles or transfers by grant, inheritance or sale as appearing in the Sasine (pronounced 'say-zin') Register or the Land Register of Scotland. Some land may not appear as it belonged absolutely to the Crown ('abiding supreme allodial sasine'), or reverted to the Crown in the event of a vassal's or tenant's death without an heir or no other superior. Before 1617 property transfers were recorded by the notary public but few still exist.

The problem of identifying the true owner in cases where debt accrued on the property led parliament to introduce the Secretary's Register of Sasines in 1599. The register only lasted until 1609 and in 1617 a better regulated compulsory system was introduced called the Register of Sasines. A General Register at Edinburgh was established and Particular or County registers in the regions. The Royal Burghs exercised their own jurisdiction in these matters and their records are contained in the Registers of the Burgh. After 1981 the register was gradually replaced by Registration of Title, arranged county by county and held by the Registers of Scotland based in Edinburgh. From 1781, abridgements or summaries are available with persons and places indexes for all counties.

Essentially, inheritance of land was established by Retours of Services of Heirs rather than any form of will until 1868 and the actual register of the transfer or other change in ownership was recorded in Sasines.

The various registers (not all indexed) are as follows:
Secretary's Register: Covering 1599 to 1609, arranged by county and incomplete.
General Register: Covering 1617 to 1720 and 1781 to 1868 for all of Scotland, except the three Lothians, and for properties that were over county boundaries. Indexed by person from 1617 to 1735.
Royal Burgh Registers: Registers covering 66 royal burghs. Some are indexed from about 1809 and those for Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, pre 1809, are kept locally. The Burgh Registers were amalgamated with the county registers in the 1900s and are indexed from this date.
Particular Register or County Registers: Covering 1617 to 1780, 1781 to 1868 and 1869 onwards. The registers covered individual counties or specific parts of Scotland. The registers were amalgamated with the burgh registers in the 1900s and are indexed from this date.

Most people were tenants and did not own property, so very few people appear in the register. In the absence of indexes, use the minute books. The books were compiled by clerks writing the sasines into the register and are in chronological order. The entry consists of a short summary and the date of registration from which the full document in the register can be found. The abridgements offer a useful summary of the full register entry for a particular county or registration area and is usually all that is needed. The office began compiling the abridgements in 1821 going back to 1781 and cover general and particular registers.

Another way of property searching available from 1876 is by means of the Sasine Search Sheet or Property Search Form. The sheets provide a description of the property and a history of the transactions and any charges on the property. They also show the volume and page numbers of all the sasines and deeds associated with the property. However, the information contained on the sheets is not guaranteed to be accurate. Copies of the Search Sheets can be purchased from Registers of Scotland and can be applied for online or by email. Registers Direct offers online to the Land Register, Sasine Register and personal registers dating back to 1905. Feudal baronies were attached to land, therefore sales of baronies were recorded in the register.

Although, principally a record of land transfers, the registers should be considered as a source of information regardless of whether property changed hands. The reason for this is that the registers also recorded when property was used as security as part of a loan deal. The entry will still include family names and relationships and other useful genealogical information. Other sources when researching land and property are charters, valuation rolls, electoral registers, hearth tax records, wills and testaments, retours and estate and manorial records.

Scotland is moving towards a single system of registration for land and property titles gradually replacing the sasine register with the map-based Land Register of Scotland. The sasine register will close by 2024.

It is important to note that up to 1600, the new year began on 25 March (Lady Day) and from 1 January 1601, the year began 1 January. Events that took place between 1 January and 25 March pre-1601 are often referred to as old style and new style dates.

Other Scotland Resources
Census Returns
Charter Rolls
Clan & Tartan Records
County & Local Histories
Court Records
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Electoral Registers or Burgess Rolls
Emigration Records
Estate Records & Maps
Hearth Tax
Heraldic Coats of Arms & Seals
Kirk/Church Sessions
Land Tax Assessments & Returns
Maps & Gazetteers
Militia Lists
Monumental/Memorial Inscriptions
Newspapers, magazines & journals
Old Parish Registers-Baptisms (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Burials (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Marriages & Proclamations (OPRs)
Passenger Lists
Pedigrees and Family Histories
Poor Law Records
Registers of Deeds (Books of Council and Session)
Statistical Accounts of Scotland
Statutory Registration-Birth
Statutory Registration-Death
Statutory Registration-Marriage
Surname Origins and Distribution
Valuation Rolls & Stent Rolls (Names of tenants)
Wills/Testaments and Inheritance

Where Found

ScotlandsPeople Centre (The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. Holdings include: Particular and general registers and most burgh registers, abridgements and deeds. The General Register of Sasines is indexed from 1617 to 1735. From 1781 to the present day, the sasines are searchable electronically. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
County Record Offices (Indexes and local abridgements)
LDS FamilySearch Centers Centers
Local study libraries (Indexes and local abridgements)
Registers of Scotland (Current ownership documents)
Society of Genealogists (Indexes to sasines)

Period Covered

1617 - 1981

Genealogical Value

Names of new and past land and property owners. Names of witnesses. Property address and description. Father's name, spouse and children's names, family relationships. Occupation of owner. Date of purchase, sale or transfer. Name of feudal superior.

Further References

Family History Guides  
Adolph, Anthony. Tracing Your Scottish Family History: Collins, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon
Bigwood, Rosemary: The Scottish Family Tree Detective: Tracing Your Ancestors in Scotland: Manchester University Press, 2007  Buy Now on Amazon
Clarke, T. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: The Official Guide: Birlinn, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Cory, Kathleen B. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Scottish Genealogy: The History Press, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Hamilton-Edwards, Gerald. In Search of Scottish Ancestry: Phillimore, 1983  Buy Now on Amazon
Holton, Graham & Winch, Jack. Discover Your Scottish Ancestry: Internet and Traditional Resources: Edinburgh University Press, 2009 (Preview available from Google Books)
 Buy Now on Amazon
James, Alwyn. Scottish Roots: From Gravestone to Website: The Step-By-Step Guide to Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: Luath Press, 2005 Buy Now on Amazon
Maxwell, Ian. Tracing your Scottish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2009  
Paton, Chris. Researching Scottish Family History: The Family History Partnership, 2010  Buy Now on Amazon
Stewart, Alan. My Ancestor was Scottish: Society of Genealogists, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Tovey, Helen. My Scottish Ancestry: Lomond Books, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Concise Scots Dictionary: Edinburgh University Press, 1999 (Preview available from Google Books) Buy Now on Amazon
Lynch, Michael. Oxford Companion to Scottish History: OUP Oxford, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Moffat, Alistair & Wilson, James. The Scots: A Genetic Journey: Birlinn, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Richards, Eric. The Highland Clearances: Birlinn, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Scots Dictionary: Collins, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon
Timperley, Loretta R, (ed). A Directory of Land Ownership in Scotland c 1770: Scottish Record Society, 1976 Buy Now on Amazon
Torrance, Richard D. Scottish Trades, Professions, Vital Documents & Directories: Scottish Association of Family History Societies, 1998 Buy Now on Amazon
Wightman, Andy. The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland and How They Got it: Birlinn, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon

NAS Research Guide: Inheriting Land and Buildings
NAS Research Guide: Sasines

Websites (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Sasines) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Inheriting Land and Buildings) (ScotlandsPeople Guide: Property ownership, renting and occupancy) (Sasines and Sasine Abridgements guide from the Scottish Archive Network Knowledge Base. Includes a list of abbreviations found in the abridgements) (Registers of Scotland Guides: Sasine Register quick-start guide; Land Register quick-start guide) (Registers of Scotland: Sasine Register) (Registers of Scotland: 400th anniversary commemorative booklet) (Land Register Scotland: Land Registry Title Deeds) (Scots Law - Scottish Land Law Glossary/Dictionary) (Land Registers And Valuation Rolls as Sources for Genealogy, by Margaret D. Young, M.A) (Land Records in Scotland by Dr Bruce Durie) (Knowledge Base: Money & Banking) (Scottish coinage) (Scottish words and phrases that could be found in deeds, wills other documents) (The Dictionary of the Scots Language: Electronic editions of the Older Scottish Tongue [DOST] and the Scottish National Dictionary [SND]) (Scottish Language Dictionaries: The nation's resource for the Scots language) (Translate from Scots to English)

Online Databases (Registers of Scotland: Ownership or title deed search: Online form to request a search of the Land Register of Scotland or The General Register of Sasines dating back to 1890s)
(Transcriptions of sasine summaries for Clackmannan in the county of Clackmannanshire)
Scottish Archive Network Online catalogue (Whereabouts of records)