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erection of the present General Register House, no proper Repository had been provided for this branch of the Public Records; many of them meanwhile appear to have been lost ; many others to have perished by damp; and of those which remained, and were in a tolerable state of preservation, no arrangement had been made till the year 1807; when, on the suggestion of His Majesty's Commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom, that necessary Work was accomplished, at the expence of the Director of Chancery.
Of the present series of Inquisitions retoured to Chancery, commencing in the minority of Queen Mary, no Record appears to have been made till about the year 1630. The office of Director of Chancery was then held by Sir John Scott of Scottstarvet, a person of considerable note, and who has left behind him numerous traces of his activity and zeal in the discharge of his official duties. The retoured Inquisitions of all sorts, which had been preserved in the Chancery Office, were then recorded in a series of Books; and from that period, the practice of recording Inquisitions has been regularly continued. The whole of the series, ending March 25. 1811, consists of 102 volumes in folio; but of this series the fifth Volume relative to the years 1611-1614, is known to have been lost; and from the very considerable number of original Retours which have been discovered in consequence of the late arrangement above alluded to, of which there are no traces in any of the existing volumes of the Record, it must be inferred, either that several other volumes have been lost, or that the original plan of recording the whole had been imperfectly executed. Of the completeness or accuracy
of this Record in other respects, it might be difficult to speak with confidence; but it ought not to be disguised, that throughout the series, from its commencement downwards, it exhibits many instances of negligent transcription, which can be detected only by a collation with the original Inquisitions, or the “ Warrants” of the Record.
The importance of the Record of Retours, independently of its primary purposes, is too well known to require illustration. With certain limitations, it
be considered as exhibiting an authentic history of the transmission by inheritance of the far greater part of the landed property of Scotland, as well as that of the descent of the greater number of its considerable families during the course of the two last centuries. That part of the Record which precedes the date of the Scottish statute of 1681, “ concerning the Election of Commissioners “ for Shires,” derives a peculiar importance from its affording the appropriate evidence of a certain class of Freehold Qualifications. But, in all these respects, the usefulness of this Record has been hitherto greatly diminished by the difficulties of research ; and a methodized Abridgment of its contents must therefore be considered as an important public work, by which the value of the original Record will be greatly enhanced.
It has been already stated, that the two distinct classes of Inquisitions under the Brieve of Succession, commonly called Special and General Retours, have been entered promiscuously in the Record, nor has the order of time, at least in the earlier volumes, been very exactly observed. But in the following Abridgment, the Retours of Special and of General Services have been separated from one another, as well as from these other species of Retours with which they are blended in the Record.
In the Abridgment of the Retours of Special Services, a local arrangement has been adopted, according to the several Counties in which the Lands are situated ; subdividing the complex Retours, and arranging their different portions under the Counties to which the Lands respectively belong. In arranging the Retours of each County, the order of time has been exactly observed ; and in framing the Abridgment of each Retour, whether simple or complex, there is given the date of the Service ; the names of the Heir and the Ancestor ; their natural relation to each other; the specific description of Heirs to which the former belongs; an exact enumeration of the Lands and Annual Rents to which the Claimant has been “ served heir;" and a statement of the Valuation of the whole, or of its different portions, according to the Old and New Extent. There is subjoined a reference to the Volume and Folio of the Record ; and
where the Retour is of a complex kind, there is added a reference to the other Counties under which, in their chronological place, the other portions of the Retour are to be found. In connection with this part of the work there are given Alphabetical Indexes both of Persons and of Places; and for the sake of easy reference in these Indexes, the successive articles of the Abridgment under each County are regularly numbered.
In the arrangement of the Retours of General Services the order of time has been observed ; and in framing the Abridgment of each, nothing more has been necessary than to specify the names of the Heir and the Ancestor; their natural relation to each other; and the particular description of Heirs to which the former belongs. In like manner as in the Abridgment of the Special Retours, there is subjoined a reference to the original Record ; and in connection with this part of the Work there is given an Alphabetical Index of Persons, in which the references are likewise made to the numbers of the successive articles of the Abridg
The other classes of Inquisitions retoured to Chancery, and there recorded, are of inferior importance to those hitherto considered. One class of these originates in what is called the Brieve of Tutory; and has for its object to ascertain who is the person that by Law ought to be appointed to the office of Tutor to a Minor under the age of puberty, as being the nearest agnate or paternal relative, of the age of twenty-five years. Another class originates in what is called the Brieve of Idiotry or of Furiosity ; the purpose of which is to ascertain, in the first place, the mental incapacity of the individual alluded to for the management of his own affairs ; and, in the second place, who is the nearest agnate of proper age and capacity
on whom that management is to be devolved.
In the following Abridgment, the Retours of both these classes have from their analogy been arranged together in the order of time, under the general title of
Inquisitiones de Tutela.”
Two other sorts of Retours have been found in these Records ; but so few in number, that it has been thought fit, instead of abridging them, to print them entire in an Appendix. These
in the first place, Inquisitions of the Extent, or estimated Value of the whole of the Lands of a County or other district; of which, it is to be regretted, that only a few have been preserved : And, secondly, Inquisitions taken and retoured to Chancery, in virtue of an Act of the Parliament of Scotland, 1584, e. 2. of which the object was to ascertain the real estates of which persons forfeited for Treason were in possession for five years preceding the dates of their Forfeiture.
The present Work has been brought down no further than to the end of the Seventeenth Century. It embraces the contents of about forty-nine Volumes of the Record; as also those more ancient Retours which have been deposited in Chancery at a later period, and which are to be found in the posterior Volumes of the Record. And as a necessary Supplement to the Work, there is annexed an Abridgment of those original Retours of which the existing Books contain no record, but which were fortunately recovered to the Public in the manner already alluded to. An accurate copy of these Retours has also been made, and deposited in the Chancery Office.
It may be proper to add, that throughout the whole of this Abridgment, the names of Places, as given in the Record, have been exactly followed. Where the Record was known to be grossly erroneous in this respect, the true name or spelling has been frequently added, within brackets ; and where a gross error was suspected, a conjectural reading, followed by a point of interrogation, has sometimes been inserted. But there is good reason for believing that many other errors of the same kind exist in the Record, and have been unavoidably transferred into the Abridgment, of which only a minute local knowledge could possibly have afforded the means of detecting.