Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


The Register of Sasines

The image here show two different examples of Sasines nearly 400 years apart. The first is from the earliest General Register of Sasines dated 1617 (ref RS1/1). It is in volume form, is handwritten and in Latin.


Modern Sasine registers, containing exactly the same information, are held in microfiche format for preservation and to save storage space. Special microfiche readers in the National Archives of Scotland search rooms mean the tiny typewritten pages can be read easily and legible copies of them can be printed.

The word “sasine”, which shares the same root as the English word “seize”, refers in Scots law to the transfer of what is known as ‘heritable property’ primarily land and buildings, but also other, geographically fixed, items such as mineral rights (fundamentally important in parts of Scotland from the 18th century onwards) and fishing rights.

The Register of Sasines is an official record of the transfer of heritable property or of the use of such property as security for a loan. Heritable property does not normally include items such as money, works of art or livestock, which generally fall under the title “moveable property”.

The transfer of land from one owner to another has always been an important event for the parties concerned. Prior to 1845, the act of taking possession of a piece of land in Scotland involved the new owner physically seizing a symbol of possession, such as a stone or a clump of earth. As a formal record of the transfer, lawyers or notaries were employed to draw up instruments of sasine. Their personal Notarial Protocol Books contain copies or notes of the documents they drew up.

After 1617 the Registers of Sasine superseded these books. Into these registers the original agreements were copied or, after 1934, photocopies were made and bound up into the register. The original was returned to become part of the owner’s title deeds while these copies were stored in the archives. Over time some originals have become lost or are otherwise unavailable and the copy, held at the National Archives of Scotland, is then the only evidence of the transaction.

More information on Sasines.

Researchers interested in transactions involving moveable property should consult the Register of Deeds, which is also held at the National Archives of Scotland.

Source-Scottish Executive

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