Sunday, 8 September 2013

Recognising yourself as an heir...!

This one tickled me slightly during a visit to the National Records of Scotland last Friday, when I was looking up the minute book to the Particular Register of Sasines for Renfrewshire. Amongst various finds I noted an entry that had nothing to do with what I was researching for my client, but which was just a little odd and worthy of note!

The sasines registers record all transactions that involve the exchange of land, whether by purchase, gift, exchange or inheritance (the minute books provide short abridgements to these entries). Here's the entry that interested me:

5 December 1778

James Ritchie from himself  /  Govan

Seisin James Ritchie of Paisley Merchant in Glasgow. On a precept of Clare Constat from himself for infefting him as heir to John Ritchie, Merchant in Glasgow, his father In twenty six acres and a half acre of land or thereby acquired from John Colquhoun and part of Tewerhill quarter of Meikle Govan with moss & salmon fishing and twenty eight acres of Craigton houses salmon fishing & part of Robert Wallace's twenty four shilling land and the lands of Drummaid or Drummoyn. All lying within the parish of Govan and shire of Lanark, dated 21 November last presented by the said, Alexander MacCulloch and registered on the 205 and 206 leaves of the register.

Jas Hill   Alex MacCulloch

Now here's the thing! A precept of clare contant was a document issued by a subject superior to a vassal to clearly show recognition by the subject superior that the vassal was indeed somebody's heir. It was a preliminary towards the formal inheritance of the property (every bit of land had a superior over it in the feudal system, so all permissions had to be sorted, all i's dotted and t's crossed, for the transaction to be formally complete - though this could take many years, and the new owner may already have taken up occupation). In this case though, James Ritchie has decided to just recognise himself as his father's heir. Was he therefore both his own vassal and his own superior? And how does that even work?!!!

I posted the comment on Twitter, and one response I had was "is that even legal"? At this stage, I genuinely have no idea - but it happened!

For more on Scottish land records, and how they can help with research, my book Discover Scottish Land Records may help. It can be purchased from Gould Genealogy in print form, or via an ebook from Gen-eBooks.

The print copy costs AU$20, whilst the ebook (in PDF format) is much cheaper at AU$9.95. Hope it helps!


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