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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree March 2018 > Scottish inheritance Part 2 Who could inherit a house?

Scottish inheritance Part 2 Who could inherit a house?

This issue genealogist Chris Paton takes an in-depth look at the records documenting inheritance of a house and land in Scotland…


Last issue I explored the law behind the inheritance of moveable estate in Scotland, and the relevant records generated by the confirmation process within the civil courts, which are available on ScotlandsPeople at Prior to 1868, however, it was not possible to leave any heritable property in a will in Scotland. So if a deceased person left a house and land behind, who inherited it, and by which methods?

Roots in the feudal system

Historically in Scotland property transactions have been carried out according to the rules employed within the system of feudalism, which remained on the statute until the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act 2000 was enacted in 2004. Under feudalism, nobody ever quite owned the land on which they built property. Instead, they held it by permission of an overseer called a ‘superior’, to whom they paid a tribute called a ‘feu duty’ on an annual or bi-annual basis. Through a written agreement recorded in a charter, the person seeking to take possession of the land was given the right to do whatever he or she wished with the land (within agreed parameters), including the building of property on it. In this arrangement, the person holding the land was designated as a ‘vassal’. The most important superior in Scotland was the Crown, from whom land could be held directly, but it was also possible to hold land from people called ‘subject superiors’, who held land as vassals of the Crown, but who then subdivided it to parcel it out to vassals of their own – effectively acting as sort of ‘middle men’.

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Where would today's family historian be without the wonders of the web? This issue we give you bespoke clues to help you mine that nugget of ancestral gold from among the billions of records available the major family history websites. But family history isn't just about researching facts. It's about recording and treasuring that family story. So to help you do just this, we also have a guide to building your own website for your genealogical discoveries - an online home for your family archive. Step up, and see where you can take your research next!