Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scottish Valuation Rolls - What can they tell us about Ancestors?

Scottish Valuation Rolls - What They Tell Us About Ancestors

Scottish Valuation Roll 1915 - John McDade

Every document on which we discover the name of an ancestor is a significant asset to family history research. Each individual piece of information gathered, helps to piece together a more complete picture of our ancestors' lives. 

If you are a family historian who is interested only in collecting names and dates for your family tree, then Valuation Rolls will probably be of little concern to you. If, like myself, you seek to put 'flesh on the bones' of each and every ancestor, then the unique information that these records offer, will I warn, cajole you into many late nights of researching. Scottish Valuation Rolls are available online on the Scotlands People website for the years, 1895, 1905, 1915 and 1920. Valuation Rolls from 1856-7 and 1957-8 are fully digitalised and although not online, are available for searching in the reading room at the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). Valuation Rolls not yet digitalised, but which are indexed, can also be searched at the Archives. For the rolls not yet indexed, the search process is a time consuming one which involves looking through many volumes of records, and for this reason, the National Archives of Scotland does not undertake searches on behalf of applicants. The following websites offer excellent explanations of the Scottish Valuation Rolls:

National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh

A Short History of Scottish Tax and Valuation Rolls

Scottish Land Tax Rolls date from around 1645.  These inventories listed the owners of landed estates and recorded  the assessed  value of their land.  Compiled on an irregular basis, these rolls allowed for the established of tax collection on land ownership in Scotland from 1679 onward. Hearth Tax Rolls introduced in 1691, imposed a tax on anyone who owned a hearth, (this included kilns) . Owners of households and the amount of tax paid is listed on these rolls, although hospitals and the poor were exempted from Hearth Taxes. A fascinating list of taxes, arranged by county and burgh were introduced in Scotland from 1748 through to the end of the 18th century. These taxes provide a wealth of exceptional information about ancestors, the dwellings they lived in and their lifestyles. Such taxes and valuation rolls include, Window Tax Rolls(1748 which was a tax on the number of windows in a dwelling, Male Servant Tax Rolls 1777, Shop Tax Rolls (1785) , Horse Tax Rolls (1785), Female Servant Tax Rolls (1785), Carriage Tax Rolls (1785), Cart Tax Rolls (1785), Clock and Watch Tax Rolls (1797), Farm Horse Tax Rolls (1797) and Dog Tax Rolls (1797). Despite limited information on the actual records themselves, finding ancestors on tax rolls in itself can be quite informative. Discovering that an ancestor was wealthy enough to possess several watches or clocks or that a forebear could afford to pay 5 shillings per year in tax for each non working dog they owned, contributes substantial evidence of their social and economic circumstances. Many of these rolls have survived and are searchable online through the Scotlands Places website by means of a subscription.

In 1854, The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, introduced a means of systematic assessment of all property in Scotland. A Valuation Roll was produced each year and sent to Register House in Edinburgh. 

Horse and Carriage Tax Roll

Scottish Hearth Roll 1691-1695 for Denny showing my ancestor Robert Gilmour

What are Valuation Rolls? 

Prior to the Lands Valuation Act of 1854 in Scotland, land taxes contained only the names of land owners and little or no information concerning tenants or occupiers of properties. The Lands Valuation Act was significant in that it authorised assessors to gather information regarding every house, building and piece of land in every county and parliamentary burgh in Scotland. These rolls, compiled annually from 1854 to 1988, listed the name of the owner of the property, the property type, the occupier and the valued amount of rate paid. Other family members do not appear on valuation rolls, however there is a treasure of other information which can be found in these rolls for family historians researching Scottish ancestors.

What else can be found in Valuation Rolls?

If you have Scottish ancestors, the property valuation records can be an invaluable source of information which may not be found anywhere else. Unlike birth, death and marriage certificates, which often do not give a precise address, valuation rolls list not only a complete address, but also the type and description of the building a forebear inhabited, ( ie house, shop, church, factory), whether your ancestor owned or rented the property and the rateable value of the property based on the amount of rent paid per year. This information along with a comparison of rents paid and dwellings occupied by neighbours of ancestors, offers a considerable perspective of the social and economic situation of  the communities in which forebears lived and worked. Valuation Rolls also provide evidence of addresses for years between the census records.

Where census records state the occupation of an ancestor, the valuation rolls list not only occupations but most significantly, you may very well find the name of the company which employed your ancestor, or the name of a business owned by an ancestor, or the name of a farm on which they worked. If your Scottish ancestor happened to be a coal miner, like quite a few of mine were, knowing the name of the company and the mine in which they worked, is an extraordinary find. There are some extremely helpful websites which offer information about Scottish mines, work conditions, living conditions, details of accidents which occurred in particular mines as well as details concerning housing and living conditions for miners and mine employees. The Scottish Valuation Rolls provide a window into the past which offers a glimpse as to how ancestors really lived.  Two such websites well worth exploring if you have Scottish mining ancestors are: 

The Scottish Mining Website
WARNING: Once you enter the above site... you may not leave for some time! It is extremely interesting. 

My Great Grandparents and what  the Scottish Valuation Rolls added to my Research

My Great Grandmother Elizabeth Gibson McDade 1915 and son John, a coal miner in Scotland

On my paternal McDade branch of the family tree, I come from at least five generations of Scottish miners, including my grandfather, who was a miner before he came to Australia in 1923. 
My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade was born in Cumbernauld, in the district of Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Scotland in 1901. I have written in previous blogs about the significance of place and the way in which understanding the places from which our ancestors come, becomes an integral part of our heritage and our identity. 

The 1901 Scottish Census shows my great grandparents, John and Elizabeth McDade living in Roadside Street in Cumbernauld with the first three of their children, John (1894), Margaret (1896) and Andrew (1899). When I was a child and unwise to my grandfather's sense of humour, I loved his entertaining tale of being born 'roadside' in Cumbernauld. I spent my childhood years envisaging his birth on the side of a road. [ Mind you, this was not entirely implausible in my family. I have a maternal great aunt whose birth certificate states that she was indeed born, 'by the side of the road'  in 1910, Bauple, near Maryborough, in Queensland. My great grandfather, fearing his pregnant wife would not make it to the nearest doctor, left her by the roadside, on little more than a dirt track, and rushed away in his horse and buggy to find help. On his return with the doctor, he discovered that my great grandmother had given birth by herself. But that is another story entirely!] 

Colin Hamilton McDade after arriving in Australia

The most relevant information for family historians with regard to ancestors, (after collecting names and dates), is where they lived, what they did for a living and how they lived. 
Prior to searching the Scottish Valuation Rolls of 1895, 1905, 1915 and 1920, on the Scotlands people website, I had made use of census records as well as birth, marriage and death certificates to find information about my Scottish ancestors. Although one old window tax record had enlightened me as to how many windows a certain Campbell of Argyle ancestor possessed in his home, it was the Scottish Valuation Rolls which set me on a concrete journey of discovery about the types of homes and the living conditions in which my McDade great grandparents lived, as well as places in which they worked.  

The addresses and movements of ancestors can be traced by a number of means. Census data collected every 10 years provides reliable places of residence, however, census records do not account for moves within the decade between censuses. Marriage records, death records and birth records for children do not always afford dependable information, especially with regard to addresses, since births are often recorded in places other then the family home. 

John McDade, born in 1872, in New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, was, as his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him had been, a coal miner.  He married Elizabeth Gibson in the Roman Catholic Church, Maryhill, Lanarkshire on the 4th of January, 1894. Between the year of their marriage 1894, and 1899, from birth records of children, I had several addresses for the family in Renfrewshire. From the 1901 census I knew the family then lived in Cumbernauld but the address was given vaguely as 'Roadside'. [To put your mind at ease, and before you despair that my great grandparents were entirely destitute, there is a street in Cumbernauld called Roadside Street.]

I had an address also for John and Elizabeth McDade from the 1911 Census Record which showed my great grandparents living at 7 Watson Street Uddingston, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. This corresponded with the address on the birth certificate of their 8th child, Robert born in 1911. The last known address for this family was listed on their immigration papers in 1922, as 3 Woodlands Terrace, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. 
Main Street Uddingston
So, although I had a number of addresses of places where my great grandparents had lived in 1894 when they married, in 1901 and  1911 from the census records and 1922 from immigration documents, I had little meaningful information about the way in which this family lived or the places in which they worked. 

A search of the Valuation Roll for 1895 found 35 men by the name of John McDade. Many could be eliminated as not being my great grandfather from their occupations. I knew that my great grandfather was a miner. My real complication for me in the 1895 valuation roll was the number of family members I had with the name John. I had a great and a great great grandfather both named John McDade as well as a number of uncles and cousins not only by the same name, but all miners.  On this particular roll it was impossible  for me to determine without doubt which one was my great grandfather, however,  I did find my two times great grandfather as the occupier of number 48 Double Rows, Thorniewoods, Uddingston, Bothwell. 

The rent which he paid per year for this house at the age of 53 years, was 4 pounds 6 shillings. The significant piece of information on this roll was the name of the mining company which employed my great great grandfather. John McDade worked for the Haughhead Mining Company Ltd. 

In the 1905 Valuation Roll I found 32 John McDades. Once again I eliminated those with the wrong occupation, however it was still difficult to determine which was my relative. The last known addresses I had for John were in Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire in 1901 and 7 Watson Street, Uddingston, Bothwell, County Lanarkshire from the 1911 census.

Searching the 1915 Valuation Roll I discovered 41 men with the name John McDade, spread over a number of counties, and with a range of occupations. To my great delight I found my great grandfather living still at the same address as in the 1911 census,  7 Watson Street, Uddingston.  His occupation was given as a miner and he was recorded as paying 11 pounds 10 shillings per year to the owner of the house, one George Copeland, a joiner. The most significant piece of information on the valuation Roll for me, was the name of my great grandfather's employer. He was employed by The Haughhead Coal Company Ltd.  This was a crucial discovery since many records have survived which describe  details regarding the living, working and health conditions of miners in individual mines.

Uddingston today

In the 1920 Valuation Roll my McDade family were still dwelling at the same address in Watson Street but now the record showed that John McDade was employed by the Clydeside United Colliery Ltd, which operated under the management of Daniel Martin. The amount of rent paid for the house was now 6 Pounds Ten Shillings per year, which was less than in 1915, possibly due to economic difficulties after World War 1. Amongst my great grandfather's immigration documents I have since found a letter written by the above mentioned Daniel Martin, manager of the Clydside Colliery dated 18/12/1922.  He wrote of my great grandfather,

" It gives me great pleasure to testify that I have known Mr John McDade for the past five years during which time he has been employed underground at this Colliery. He is a steady sober and industrious workman and had been in every way an exemplary character signed Daniel Martin Colliery Manager"

From my searches of the Scottish Valuation Rolls I have established new lines of research which I have yet to pursue and  I have filled a number of gaps in information about places where my great grandfather and his family kived and worked. Although My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade was not named on the Valuation Roll, I havelearned something of his life also, since he worked in the same mines as his father and brothers until they left Scotland bound for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on board the ship Largs Bay in 1923, when they left behind their life as coal miners forever. 

Stay tuned for my NEXT BLOG which will be entitled  Scottish Mining Ancestors - How they Lived.


  1. I don’t know of any Scottish ancestors in my line, but I know I would want to check out these records.

  2. Hello Sharn
    I am intending to get to the Scottish archives when we travel to the UK later this year. Unfortunately we are only overnighting in Edinburgh so I won't have a lot of time to check out these records - they sound really invaluable to the family historian! We are trying to spend as much time meeting the family I haven't seen since 1975 so the focus wasn't on spending days trawling through archives, although that is a dream of mine. Still trying to work out how to convince the kids that visiting the archive will be cool! This years visit I am wanting to focus on my convict, George Brand, whose court transcripts runs to over 500 pages! I have some copies of pages from a genealogist I hired a couple of years ago, however, I want to look into them further. I will definitely have to make another trip to Scotland in the future, alas the cost and the distance from Australia will mean this another few years down the track. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable resource!