How to use valuation rolls for Scottish family history research

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18 January 2022
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Chris Paton explains the value of using valuation rolls to find Scottish ancestors from the mid 19th century onwards.

One way to try to discover Scottish ancestors from the mid-19th century onwards is to consult the Valuation Rolls from 1855, following the passage of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act of 1854.

These rolls were gathered annually for the financial year following the term day of Whitsun (25 May), and within burghs and counties right up to 1989. Each is arranged either by parish or electoral ward, and then by street name and number, and records the names and addresses of the tenants or occupiers, and the proprietors to whom an annual rental value or feu duty was owed.  

Prior to 1884 the properties listed included the head tenants’ names only if the annual rental value was worth £4 a year or more, and if their lease was for at least a year in length. If your ancestor was from the fishing villages and settlements of the north-east, be aware that many valuation rolls from the region are indexed by the 'tee-names' or 'bynames' of individuals, a form of nickname for areas where there were common surnames in usage.  

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Where do I find valuation rolls?

Whilst the annual valuation records from 1855-1989 can be consulted at the National Record of Scotland, some of these have been digitised also and made available on ScotlandsPeople. From 1855-1915 the registers are available and searchable by name and address in ten yearly intervals, with the online census available to plug the middle of the ten year gaps between them, followed thereafter by valuation registers for every fifth year, from 1915-1940. Each records costs 2 credits to access (50 pence).    

Extracted from an in-depth study on Scottish land records by Chris Paton in the February issue of Family Tree magazine. Get your copy here