The Sasine Registers of Scotland

What is a Sasine Register?

The Sasine Register is generally known in Scotland as the Register of Sasines.  These Scottish registers are normally located in Edinburgh. A Sasine is pronounced ‘say-zeen’. It comes from an old French word, ‘seizer’ which means to ‘seize or take’ land.

Sasines are all about Scottish property ownership.  They were a legal document, or deed, that detailed property transactions either from a purchase, inheritance or transfer.  Before the 16th century, the transfer of land was symbolically and ceremoniously done by handing over soil from one person to another. By the 17th century, the transaction of land was put in writing in the Register of Sasines. The earliest register dates from 1599, although most sasines date back from 1617.

Why are Sasines useful?

They are useful for the family historian because they inform you about who was involved in the transfer of a property and that person could have been your ancestor.  They are also very useful for researching the history of a house. However, they can be very difficult to read because of the early handwriting, and often they were written in Latin.  The Scottish Handwriting website can be a useful tool to help the amateur genealogist to decipher old handwriting, or get in touch with Sarah who may be able to help.

What are the Registers of Sasines?

There are three different types of registers, which are all held at the National Records of Scotland (NRS):

  1. The General Register of Sasines – this register was generally used for properties in particular counties, apart from East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian until 1869. The sasines are indexed from 1617 and 1735, and from 1781 to 1868.
  2. The Particular Registers of Sasines – this register was generally used for properties that crossed county boundaries. It contains indexed entries from 1781 to 1868. Before 1781, the indexing coverage varied from county to county. The NRS has a list of indexed counties for the Particular Registers of Sasines.
  3. The Burgh Registers – the 66 royal burghs have kept their own individual registers now held at the NRS apart from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. They are located in their respective city archives. Unlike the other registers, the Burgh registers have not been indexed before the 1900s. In addition, they are tricky because they relate to the medieval burgh. So, if you are looking for a property on Princes Street in Edinburgh, you will not find it in the Edinburgh Burgh Register because Princes Street was not originally part of the medieval burgh.

When do the Sasine Registers end?

Although the Scottish Registers of Sasines are one of the oldest continuing records of property transfers, they have gradually been replaced since 1981 by the Registration of Title (ROT). ROT is managed by the Registers of Scotland in Edinburgh. Since 1876, search sheets have been created for each new ownership of a property on a single document. These can be purchased for a fee via their website if you are interested in a particular property. The search sheets are very useful to search back in time.

So now,

you know what a sasine is. The ease of searching a sasine register will depend on the year and locality.  Unfortunately, the registers are not available online.  You need to visit the National Records of Scotland (NRS) to do the research unless you contact ROT for post 1876 properties. The registers from 1781 are included in a database at the NRS which can be accessed on their computers. So, unless you are in Scotland, I can help you search for a Sasine. Just contact me to discuss your needs.

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