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Genealogy Section







Testaments Wills and Other Source Documents


Wills and testaments are at the National Archives in Edinburgh [formerly the SRO]. They hold Scottish wills and testaments from 1549 to 1984 but before they will search for particular entries, they need clear details of the name, date and place of death of the deceased. Testaments after 1984 are held by the Edinburgh Commissary Office, 27 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1LB. National Archives website at http://www.nas.gov.uk

Finding a will depends on a) knowing when your ancestor died and b) knowing where he died. Wills were dealt by various different commissariots. And to make matters complicated the commissariot varies depending on the date of death. For wills before 1800 there are printed and published volumes of indexes, covering the whole pre-1800 period. You may be able to get them through an inter-library loan. For Ayrshire pre-1823 the commissariot is Glasgow.

From 1877 onwards there are national printed indexes. But the period in between is a bit of a mish mash. A book called "Tracing your Scottish ancestors" published by the Scottish Record Office ISBN 0-11-495865-3 deals with it in 14 pages. In 1824 the system changed and wills were dealt with by Sheriff Courts (and Ayrshire wills were dealt with by Ayr Sheriff Court) 



The Public Record Office's online system for downloading digital images of public records.

At present they have digital images for Probate records (Wills) from the mid-1800s as well as miscellaneous images from across their holdings. They will continue to expand their collection of digitised records on an ongoing basis so check regularly to see what has been added. Some images are free to download and some cost a small amount (3):

Some examples in Ayrshire:-

PROB 11/2213 22 May 1855 Will of David Kennedy Welsh, formerly Soldier of Her Majesty's 29th Regiment of Foot of Town of Girvan , Ayrshire

PROB 11/2242 12 November 1856 Will of Elizabeth McVeagh of
Troon, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2175 25 July 1853 Will of Alexander Hamilton Hamilton of
Stevenston, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2117 27 August 1850 Will of Grace Boag otherwise McClement, Widow of
Ayr, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2122 05 November 1850 Will of Ann Boyd Johnstone of
Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2180 19 November 1853 Will of David Ewen, Lately Collector of Customs in
Ayr of Ewenfield, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2232 24 May 1856 Will of James Crooks, Tanner of
Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2237 11 August 1856 Will of William Bunten, Teller in the Branch at
Kilmarnock of the Union Bank of Scotland of

PROB 11/2231 04 April 1856 Will of Wilhelmina Scot otherwise Richardson, Widow of Largs, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2193 27 June 1854 Will of Hugh Kerr of
Elmbank Largs

PROB 11/2230 17 April 1856 Will of John Ferguson of
Irvine, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2226 12 February 1856 Will of Andrew Colvile of

PROB 11/2235 04 June 1856 Will of James Walker, Advocate one of the Principal Clerks of Session of
Dalry, North Ayrshire

PROB 11/2249 27 April 1857 Will of Hugh Brown of
Beith, Strathclyde

PROB 11/2112 18 May 1850 Will of William Cuninghame of
Stewarton, Lainshaw, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2243 29 December 1856 Will of Mary Ann White, Spinster of
Dailly, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2221 13 October 1855 Will of John Richard of
Muirkirk, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2226 14 January 1856 Will of Hugh Richard of
Muirkirk, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2119 24 September 1850 Will of Sir James Gibson Craig of
Riccarton, Ayrshire

PROB 11/2154 04 June 1852 Will of Montgomerie Hamilton, formerly Commander of The Honorable East India Companys Ship Dunira of
Ayr, Ayrshire.


The Scottish Archive Network

The Scottish Archive Network through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) is opening up Scotland's rich archival heritage to everyone. Over the course of the three-year project they intend to  revolutionise access to Scottish Archives, their catalogues and contents.

Scottish Wills at the Scottish Archive Network

The Scottish Archive Network has launched the Scottish Wills website. At present (April 2002), the site contains
over 350,000 names of "defuncts" in Scottish Wills from 1500-1875. The index is now being linked to digital images of the wills, which will be downloadable for a fee of 5 pounds for one will, regardless of length. Access to the index is free of charge.


They also plan to put up a database of surname variants and a database of old occupations with definitions.
In fact the list of occupations is already available:


And a useful glossary at


The following was originally posted to the Lanarkshire  Rootsweb List by Murray Inch of M.A. Inch Consulting in Ottawa, Canada. Murray has kindly given me permission to reproduce it here as an  ongoing reference page. Murray can be contacted at minch@storm.ca  

The following document is a work in progress.  It is hoped it will help researchers whose forebearers may have created wills or other documents dealing primarily with heritable property. 


Scottish Wills and Property Documents

There have been recent references on the Lanarkshire list to various types of legal source documents which are useful in Family History Research. These include Testaments and Wills, Confirmations of Wills, Sasines and Deeds of Settlement, and Valuation Rolls. Contributions have been made by active listers such as Janice Poskitt, Alex & Janis Steel, Mark Sutherland-Fraser, and Anne Burgess among others. Janice Poskitt, for example, has done an outstanding job in pulling together information on the Commissariot Courts in Scotland. She provided the Family History Centre order numbers for the fiches which list the indexes and abstracts of the confirmations of Wills. These enable the researcher to select from the records those wills that are relevant to a research project and which should be copied from the records in Scotland. If the fiche are not available at your FHC they may be hired/borrowed and retained at the FHC. Researchers wishing to help build up local resources may discuss with the Directors of their FHC whether there is local demand for these finding aids, and if so whether the FHC would welcome a contribution from researchers to assist the FHC in purchasing a set.

The unique Scottish terminology differs from that used in many government jurisdictions around the world. As a relative newcomer to Scottish history research, I have pulled these materials together, to better understand the system and to plan my line of research. Listers who have additional information, corrections and comments are invited to contribute to this paper for the benefit of all researchers.

Testaments and Wills

Wills have been traditionally registered in modern times in one of two systems:

1) Registers of Scotland-Books of Council and Session;

2) Commissariot Courts.

Registers of Scotland.

The Registers have been kept since the 16th Century. They provide a record of title deeds, hornings and other documents. Thus formal documents such as wills which affect property/housing titles were filed in the Books of Council and Session. The original document was registered and filed in Edinburgh. Copies can be purchased by researcher. Until 1868, to protect property interests, wills were frequently registered in both the Books of Council and Session, and the Register of Sasines. (See below).

Commissariot Courts

The filing/deposit of Testaments and Wills, and their Confirmation (probate) has been the responsibility of three different, successive systems over a thousand years.

The first system was Ecclesiastical Courts which had jurisdiction over confirmation of testaments, administration of intestate moveable estates, actions relating to marriage, divorce and legitimacy, and actions relating to slander, plus a range of matters arising from oaths as well as issues voluntarily submitted to these courts. Appeal was to Rome. The boundaries of the individual courts coincided with the jurisdiction of each Bishopric. Several sees were subdivided or as in Lothians and Berwickshire were constituted as Special Commissaries. The Bishops discharged justice through Officials or Commissaries and in some cases through rural deans. These Courts were swept away in 1560. Can more knowledgeable Listers advise on what records if any, survived from this period, if any copies made their way to archives in Paris and Rome, and if any surviving records are useful for genealogical research.

The second system was the Commissary Courts established about 1563 when the Crown began to appoint Commissaries. The Edinburgh Commissariot was established first, followed by Courts in other areas. Their boundaries may have differed from those of the previous episcopal sees and did not necessarily follow Shire or Local municipal boundaries. See for example the three Court jurisdictions which overlay Lanarkshire: Glasgow, Hamilton and Campsie, and Lanark. Appeal was to the Court of Session. The Commissary Courts evolved over time. Some changes and reforms of responsibilities were made after 1809. These Courts were abolished in 1876. Many of their records were transferred to Registry House, and most of these were indexed. The registers and warrants of deeds were transmitted to the Sheriff Clerks/Courts. For some reason there appears to be less surviving documentation for Lanarkshire than for other counties. For 1560-1800, the records have been indexed within each Commissariot Court. Thus it is necessary to know which Court registered and confirmed a will or testament. Wills of those who owned property in Scotland, but died abroad, were filed with the Edinburgh Commissariot Court.

Indexes to the Registers of Testaments up to 1800 are available on microfiche, which can be borrowed through Family History Centres. If hired/borrowed they may stay on permanent loan.

Two examples of index listings from the Commissariot of Glasgow:- KEY Christian sp to Robert KEY, in Keystoun, par of Balfron 7 Oct 1669 KEY William, miller at Cullcreuch, par of Fintrie 20 Aug 1692

Order of information for the Courts listed below: Name of Commissariot Court; date of earliest Will and last will indexed on fiche; Microfiche Order Number; how many fiche & Jurisdiction of the Court.

EDINBURGH 1514-1800 # 6068618 13 fiche

The whole of Scotland and abroad.

ABERDEEN 1661-1800 # 6068611 1 fiche

Aberdeenshire except for the parishes of Gartly, Glass & Rhynie; Banffshire except for the parishes of Aberdour, Botriphnie, Grange, Inveravon, Inverkeithny, Keith, Kirkmichael, Marnoch & Rothiemay

ARGYLL 1674-1800 # 6068612 1 fiche

Parishes in Argyllshire (mainland) and parishes of Glenelg, Kilmallie & Kilmonivaig in Inverness-shire

BRECHIN 1576-1800 # 6068613 2 fiche

Parishes of Brechin, Carmyllie, Careston, Cortachy & Clova, Dundee, Dunnichen, Farnell, Glenisla, Guthrie, Kingoldrum, Lethnot & Navar, Lochlee, Maryton, Monikie, Montrose, Oathlaw, Panbryde; Stracathro in Angus; Glenbervie & Strachan in Kincardineshire

CAITHNESS 1622-1800 # 6068614 1 fiche

Counties of Caithness & Sutherland

DUMFRIES 1624-1800 # 6068615 2 fiche

Dumfriesshire & the parishes of Colvend, Kirkbean, Kirkpatrick-Durham, Kirkpatrick-Irongray, Lochrutton, New Abbey, Terregles & Troqueer in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright

DUNBLANE 1539-1800 # 6068616 2 fiche

Parishes of Aberfoyle, Abernethy, Auchterader, Balquhidder, Blackford, Callander, Comrie, Culross, Dron, Dunblane, Dunning, Findo-Gask, Fowlis Wester, Glendevon, Kilmadock, Kincardine, part of Kippen, part of Lecropt, Logie, Monzie, Monzievaird, Muthill, Port of Menteith, St Madoes, Trinity-Gask, & Tulliallan in Perthshire; Tillicoultry in Clackmannan; Fossoway in Kinross

DUNKELD 1682-1800 # 6068617 1 fiche

Parishes of Aberdalgie, Abernyte, Alyth, Auchtergaven, Blair-Atholl, Caputh, Cargill, Cluny, Coupar-Angus, Crieff, Dowally, Dull, Little Dunkeld, Forgandenny, Fortingall, Kenmore, Killin, Kinclaven, Kinloch, Kirkmichael, Lethendy, Logierait, Madderty, Meigle, Moneydie, Moulin, Regorten, St Martins, Tibbermore, Weem and part of Arngask in Perthshire; Aberdour, Leslie & Strathmiglio in Fife; Abercorn in West Lothian; Aberlady in East Lothian; Aucherhouse, Fearn, Ruthven & Tealing in Angus

GLASGOW 1547-1800 # 6068619 6 fiche

Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire (except part of parish of Cardross), Renfrewshire (except part of Renfrew and part of parish of Cathcart); parishes of Avondale, Barony, Blantyre, Bothwell, Calder, Canbuslang, Cambusnethan, Carmunnock, Dalziel, Glasgow City, Glassford, Rutherglen & Stonehouse in Lanarkshire; Balfron, Baldernock, part of Campsie, Drymen, Finty, Killearn, Kilsyth & Strathblane in Stirlingshire

HAMILTON & CAMPSIE 1564-1800 # 6068620 1 fiche

Parishes of Hamilton, Cadder, part of Cathcart, Govan, Gorbals, Old Monkland, New Monkland, Dalserf, East Kilbride & Shotts in Lanarkshire; Cardross in Dunbartonshire; Campsie & Baldernock in Stirlingshire & Renfrew in Renfrewshire

INVERNESS 1630-1800 # 6068621 1 fiche


THE ISLES 1661-1800 # 6068622 1 fiche

County of Bute and the Western Isles

KIRKCUDBRIGHT 1809 # 6068623 1 fiche

(Executory Papers exist 1663-1800)

LANARK 1595-1800 # 6068624 2 fiche

Parishes of Biggar, Carluke, Carmichael, Carnwath, Carstairs, Covington, Crawford, Crawfordjohn, Culter, Dolphinton, Douglas, Dunsyre, Lanark, Lesmahagow, Libberton, Pettinain, Roberton, Symington, Walston, Wandell & Lamington, Wiston

LAUDER 1561-1800 # 6068626 1 fiche


MORAY 1684-1800 # 6068625 1 fiche

Counties of Moray & Nairn; parishes of Aberdour, Botriphnie, Grange, Inveravon, Inverkeithny, Keith, Kirkmichael, Marnoch & Rothiemay in Banffshire; Gartly, Glass & Rhynie in Aberdeenshire; Petty in Inverness-shire

ORKNEY & SHETLAND 1611-1800 # 6068627 1 fiche

Counties of Orkney & Shetland

PEEBLES 1681-1800 # 6068628 1 fiche

Counties of Pebbles, Roxburgh & Selkirk

ROSS 1802 (Microfiche Indexes end in 1800 - therefore too late)

County of Ross

ST ANDREWS 1549-1800 # 6068629 5 fiche

County of Fife (except possibly the parishes of Carnock, Saline, Culross & Tulliallan); county of Kinross (except Fossoway); parishes of Aberlermo, Airlie, Arbirlot, Arbroath, Barry, Craig, Dun, Eassie, Edzell, Forfar, Glamis, Inverarity, Inverkeillor, Kettins, Kingoldrum, Kinnell, Kinnettles, Kirkden, Kirriemuir, Liff & Benvie, Lintrathen, Logie-Pert, Lunan, Lundie, Mains & Strathmartin, Monifieth, Murroes, Newtyle, Rescobie, St Vigeans, Tannadice in Angus; Arbuthnot Benholm, Bervie, Dunnotar, Durris, Fettercairn, Fetteresso, Fordoun, Garvock, Kinneff, Laurencekirk, Marykirk, Nigg & St Cyrus in Kincardineshire; Bendochy, Blairgowrie, Collace Dunbarnie, Errol, Forteviot, Fowlis Easter, Inchture, Kilspindie, Kinfauns, Kinnaird, Kinnoull, Longforgan, Methven, Muckart, Perth, Rhynd & Scone in Perthshire

STIRLING 1607-1800 # 6068630 2 fiche

Parishes of Airth, Bothkennar, Denny, Dunnipace, Falkirk, Gargunnock, Kilsyth, Larbert, part of Lecropt, part of Logie, Muiravonside, Polmont, St Ninians, Slamannan & Stirling in Stirlingshire; Alloa, Alva, Clackmannan & Dollar in Clackmannanshire; Muckhart in Perthshire; Carnock, Saline & Torryburn in Fife. Testaments of the time of the Commonwealth for the parishes of Baldernoc found here

WIGTOWN 1700-1800 # 6068631 1 fiche

County of Wigtown and parish of Minnigaff in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright Testaments up to 1823 are held in the Scottish Record Office. For the period 1823-1875 the records can be scattered.


Concentrating on Midlothian & Lanarkshire


Testament Registers:- covers parts of Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian, Peebles, Stirling as well as those that died abroad. 115 consecutively numbered films. Beginning and ending films listed.

V. 1 1567-1569 film # 0231030

V. 151-152 1826-1829 film # 0231144


Register of Inventories of the Estates of the Deceased - Midlothian

V. 37 15 Dec 1823 - 27 Apr 1824 film # 0498438

V. 101 13 Apr 1857 - 29 Jul 1857 film # 0498502

V. 102 1 Aug 1857 - 18 Nov 1857 film # 0499610

V. 122 3 Feb 1863 - 15 Apr 1863 film # 0499630

V. 123 16 Apr 1863 - 30 Jun 1863 film # 0500187

V. 188 23 Nov 1876 - 31 Jan 1877 film # 0500252


Register of Testaments 1514 - 1800 film # 0844770

(also available on microfiche - mentioned earlier)

Index to Inventories of the Personal Estates of Defuncts in Commissary

Court books of Edinburgh, Haddington & Linlithgow 1827 - 1865

film # 1368215 item 1-2

Register of Testaments Index, Commissariot of Edinburgh 1801 - 1829 covering parts of Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian, Peebleshire, Stirlingshire & those that died abroad film # 0231259



Register of Testaments of Midlothian 5 Nov 1823 to 26 Dec 1876

Testament Testamentars - 54 films

Vol. 150 5 Nov 1823 - 12 Dec 1825 film # 0500253

Vol. 194 31 Dec 1869 - 23 Dec 1870 film # 0500290

Vol. 195 30 Dec 1870 - 28 Dec 1871 film # 0500738

Vol. 200 30 Dec 1875 - 28 Dec 1876 film # 0500743


Testamentary Records of Midlothian 1844 - 1876

Testamentary Deeds relative to Inventories of Personal Estates kept for the Commissariot of Edinburgh

Vol. 1 15 Aug 1844 - 28 Jul 1845 film # 0500744

Vol. 97 28 Feb 1865 - 26 Apr 1865 film # 0500840

Vol. 98 1 May 1865 - 7 Jul 1865 film # 0501837

Vol. 152 1 Aug 1874 - 31 Oct 1874 film # 0501891

Vol. 153 2 Nov 1874 - 18 Jan 1875 film # 0484974

Vol. 164 1 Nov 1876 - 30 Dec 1876 film # 0484985



Testament Registers - Hamilton & Campsie Commissariot 1564 - 1823

6 films - film #s 0231189 - 0231194


Testament Registers - Glasgow Commissariot 1547 - 1823

44 films - film #s 0231145 - 0231188


Testament Registers - Lanark Commissariot 1594 - 1823

9 films - film #s 0231203 - 0231211


Register of Testament Index - Lanark Commissariot

film # 0101783 item 5


Index to Inventories of the Personal Estates of Defuncts recorded in the Commissary Court books of Lanark, Dumbarton, Renfrew, Bute & Argyll

film # 1368215 item 3


Register of Testament Index 1801 - 1823: covering parts of the following counties - Lanark, Ayr, Renfrew, Dumbarton & Stirling

film # 0231259 item 1


Sheriff Courts

The third system or agency responsible for recording wills and testaments was the Sheriff Courts, which took over/absorbed the commissariot responsibilities. They are located throughout Scotland and are responsibile for filing and registration of wills, the issue to solicitors of certificates of confirmation (or probate) and the compilation of indexes and abstracts (Calendars of Confirmation and Inventories) which were required to be published annually.

There are also Court procedures for situations where individual property owners died without a will, and Court authority is sought to disperse their assets.

The historical records have been transferred to the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. The documents have been indexed and abridged (abstracted) and the indexes can be checked by researchers. If relevant to their project, they or their representative can consult the full document and order copies in Edinburgh.

The Indexes or calendars are produced annually and cover the whole of Scotland plus those that died abroad but who had moveable property in Scotland. They are available on microfiche by year. If borrowed/acquired by researchers through the FHC, the fiche may stay at the FHC on permanent loan. The fiche of indexes covers the period 1876-1936. If ordering a large block of fiche discuss your requirements with the FHC Director. The information available :- name, occupation, residence, date & place of death, executors; and in most times the next of kin & their occupation, and address & usually but not always their relationship to the deceased. As well it provides the confirmation date & value of estate.

A random example :- Calendar of Confirmations 1892

BOWICK David 15 Jan - Confirmation of David BOWICK, residing sometime at Hillhead of Burghill, Parish of Brechin, County of Forfar, thereafter at Laurnecekirk, County of Kincardine; who died 26 Dec 1891, at Laurencekirk aforesaid, testate, granted at Stonehaven, to William

BOWICK, Laurencekirk aforesaid, his brother, Executor nominated in Will or Deed, dated 10 Sep 1875, and recorded in Court Books of Commissariot of Kincardine, 13 Jan 1892. Value of Estate 135.1s

In view of the fact that the 1901+ Census' are embargoed, the addresses mentioned in the Calendars of Confirmations are particularly helpful to researchers.

Some examples of how many microfiche are involved:-

1876 # 6068884 11 fiche

1900 # 6068908 10 fiche

1915 # 6068924 14 fiche

1919 # 6068927 18 fiche

1936 # 6070143 27 fiche

[The historical portions of this summary has been drawn from: A Guide to the Public Records of Scotland, deposited in H. M. General Register House Edinburgh, by M. Livingstone, 1905. Apologies to Mr Livingstone for any misinterpretation by the authors.]





Another source of information for a smaller group of families is the The Register of Sasines. Unlike the Testaments described above these documents are administrative rather than Court records. In general the Sasines record the documents of landholders, the feu superiors and owners of interests in land. They do not generally list the tenants. The 19th century documents, may contain a Deed of Settlement, which is usually called a settlement (will and property transfer). These may contain information and arrangements pertaining to surviving family members use of land. Hence they are very useful for researching family history.

The Sasines originated with the medieval/feudal system of land tenure. The Monarch granted land rights to nobility and church bodies, who would grant tenancy to major families in exchange for military service, other goods and services and for other commitments. The grant was evidenced originally by a ceremony in the Burgh or Barony Courts, when the "Courts" were administrative as well as decision giving bodies.

As society evolved during the 1300's, the transactions were recorded in Charters. (Black's Surnames of Scotland frequently drew on Charters for earliest use of individual family names). Later still the transfer of rights was recorded in individual instruments. These instruments provided the evidence of transfer of lands and rights, and included the resignation of the previous possessor and the granting of entry into possession by a new possessor.

As the economy evolved between 1540 and 1555 and to facilitate freedom of commerce, a public register of Sasines was established and more elaborate procedures developed. The system was reformed in 1600 and local registers were established. It was further reformed in 1617 and it is documents from this period that have survived and are now available in the National Archives of Scotland. The documents were filed on the general (national) register or on local county registers. In 1681 Burgh registers were established.

Thereafter changes were made from time to time to Sasine instruments and associated writs, and the ceremony evidencing possession was discontinued.

Leases of lands and heritages of 31 years and upwards became registerable. The Land Registers Act of 1868 ended the traditional Sasines Registry system. The Act was progressively implemented between 1868 and December 31, 1871. The old general register which commenced in August 1617 was closed in December 1868. The Particular Register for Lanarkshire (excepting the Barony and Regality of Glasgow) which began March 1618, was closed March 17, 1869. Indexes and abstracts (abridgements of each document) were prepared beginning in 1781 and are useful to the researcher.

The 1868 Land Registers Act established general registers in County divisions. The preparation of indexes and printed abridgements (brief abstracts of each document) were continued after 1868. Today's Registry system in computerized.

Sasines can be difficult to search because documents might have been prepared well in advance, say at the wedding date of the heritor, but not have been entered at the actual date of transfer of property interest but at another date some time perhaps after the death of the grantor. This might require a search of a decade's records or more. For example one would check the records at the date of death for a possessor but it might be some years before the heirs actually registered the Sasine document of transfer.

Reference to the index and abstracts assist the researcher in determining whether the actual book or register of Sasines should be viewed and/or copied.

This historical description of The Register of Sasines is derived mainly from A Guide to the Public Records of Scotland deposited in H. M. General Register House Edinburgh, by M. Livingstone, 1905. (Our apologies to Mr. Livingstone for any errors)

Listers are invited to make corrections and additions to this text and advise on what fiche or film documentation is available to support family history research in the Sasines.



Like Sasines the valuation rolls cover only a small group of individuals; namely major property owners. The rolls generally list only the possessor or head tenant and name of the property or farm. The rolls were used as the basis for local tax collection. The main landowners were listed and assessed for rates. They in turn, had to collect from their tenants who were generally not identified on the rolls.

The valuation rolls are located at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. They must be ordered in advance of the day chosen to begin research.







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