Digital Volumes

Burgh records

Burghs were urban settlements which enjoyed trading privileges from medieval times until 1832 and which regulated their own affairs to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the type of burgh) until 1975. Burghs produced characteristic forms of historical record, such as court books, guild records and registers of deeds.

Historical Tax Rolls

When the Crown collected taxes, it collected information about its subjects. Most taxation was levied from landowners until the late 18th century when government sought to broaden the tax base by taxing other forms of property. A by-product of this is a useful series of records for historians, listing different types of people in each of Scotland's parishes and burghs. The farm horse tax and clock and watch tax rolls can be viewed freely. More tax volumes will be added shortly.

Hydrographic Surveys

Hydrographic surveys focus on the depths and physical characteristics of bodies of water and the surrounding land. This includes the flow of water and studies the biological, chemical, physical and geometrical characteristics of water. Specific areas of hydrographic surveys, namely bathymetric surveys, focus on the impact that water has on the submerged terrain. These surveys result in charts and maps which provide accurate and measurable descriptions of this impact. Historical surveys of this nature provide a great deal of insight into scientific methodologes in hydrographic study and reveal the historical interest in the unknown aspects of the Scottish lochs.

Official Reports

Official reports by central and local government often contain detailed information about places in Scotland and issues affecting people who live there. Published reports currently available on the site include county medical officer of health reports from the 1890s and the lists of who owned land in Scotland from a parliamentary commission of 1872-1873. More government reports will be added to this section in due course.

Ordnance Survey Name Books

Ordnance Survey name books (or 'original object name books') provide information about place names and building names on the first edition Ordnance Survey mapping which took place in the mid-19th century. The original object name books used in Scotland came in two forms, each with a different system of headed columns. The first type, commonly used in surveying and naming the Highland parishes, was essentially a 'field' version of the name book and had five headings: Received name; Object; Description; Township or parish; Authority for spelling, with their names and addresses. The collector, usually an officer in the Ordnance Survey, would consult local historians and etymologists (authorities) in order to fix the spelling (the received name) of each 'object' (natural feature, inhabited place, building and so on). A second type, used commonly in the Lowlands, had an additional column: 'Orthography as recommended to be used in the new Plans'. Another column of 'Descriptive Remarks, or other General Observations which may be considered of Interest' usually duplicated the information contained in the 'Description' column, but additional information was sometimes given. This fuller version was completed by staff in the local Ordnance Survey office who might add further information from sources such as early maps, historical texts or local scholarly bodies.

Published gazetteers and atlases

Historical gazetteers and atlases provide a wealth of information about the history of a place and it's evolution including information on early Scottish place names, parishes, and the organisation of the country at that time. Maps and diagrams provide invaluable information on boundary areas. When a boundary line is drawn between places it can have a huge impact on the everyday life of the people who live there. These lines can affect how much local tax must be paid, who provides local services, which school children go to and where, and who owns what. Consequently boundaries are often disputed and have to be redrawn. For the historian, the boundaries between parishes, burghs and counties are important in determining where to find information about those places. Changes to boundary lines are therefore an issue. There were many changes to parish boundaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1889 many parish and county boundaries, based on an out-of-date pattern of landownership, had to be revised to meet the needs of local government. More boundary changes were made in 1900 and 1929. On this site you can read how the widespread boundary changes in 1889 affected towns, villages and individual houses in Scotland.

RCAHMS Archives

RCAHMS (the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland), 1908 to 2015, was responsible for recording, interpreting and collecting information about the built and historic environment. On 1st October 2015, RCAHMS and Historic Scotland will merged to become Historic Environment Scotland. The Royal Commission was established in 1908, twenty-six years after the passage of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882, which provided the first state protection for ancient monuments in the UK. Since this time, RCAHMS has been surveying and recording the historic environment of Scotland, compiling and maintaining the public record of the archaeological, architectural and historical environment, and promoting an understanding of this information.