The Scottish Property Records


The Scottish system of recording landownership is one of the oldest records in Europe. It is possible in principle to trace the ownership of any property from 1617 right up to date. All the records are organised under the 33 Counties into which Scotland was divided before local government reorganisation in 1975, although some County boundaries have been changed a bit over the years.

From 1617 to 1868, there was a General Register of Sasines running concurrently with Particular Registers of Sasines for various Counties and deeds could be recorded in either of these Registers. In 1869, there was a restructuring of the system and a "new" General Register of Sasines was started, arranged in Counties, in which all deeds were recorded.

There were also 66 Royal Burghs, covering the centres of many old towns, which had their own Burgh Registers of Sasines. These were gradually phased out in the twentieth century, mostly continuing until the incumbent Town Clerk retired, leading to a large spread of end dates. On the conclusion of each Burgh Register, the deeds were then all recorded in the General Register.

The General Register of Sasines is still in use today, but is gradually being replaced by the Land Register of Scotland, which was started in 1981. The Land Register has been introduced County by County and the final Counties went "live" in April 2003. Only transfers of land for a monetary consideration induced registration in the Land Register until the end of 2014, so there are still a large number of properties not included in the Land Register, even in the County of Renfrew, which was the first to go live in 1981. Since 8 December 2014, the Sasines Register is closed to Dispositions, so all transfers of ownership will now induce registration in the Land Register, even if no money changes hands. There is a Government target to have all properties on the Land Register by 2024.

One major drawback of the Land Register from a searching point of view is that it is not an historical record and merely provides a snapshot of the property at the present time. This means that, while we can research the complete history of a property from 1617, once that property enters the Land Register there is a "black hole" into which the Keeper of the Registers is not keen to grant access. A list of the date on which each County entered the Land Register can be found here. here. here.

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