For almost 400 years, a large part of the rural Scottish Borders has been owned by just 3 landowners. As a legacy from the reiving times, the ancestors of the Duke of Roxburghe, the Marquis of Lothian and the Duke of Buccleuch acquired vast swathes of the Border country. Much of this land remains with these major landowners. Consequently, historical records from these estates can be a very useful source of family history information for genealogists. In particular, rental lists for the estates give names of tenants and often sub-tenants and cottars too. By comparing successive rental lists it is often possible to work out family relationships. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) the rental is quite specific about family relationships (mothers, brothers, spouses, cousins etc)
National Records of Scotland
Two of the three estates have deposited their historical records in the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and are consequently publicly available. Lothian Estates covers much of the area around Jedburgh and Ancrum. Buccleuch Estates is the largest landowner in Britain and covers much of Selkirkshire, about half of Roxburghshire and eastern Dumfriesshire. Rental records for both of these estates are available in the NRS. Unfortunately, Roxburghe records, covering much of eastern Roxburghshire around Kelso, remain with the estate and are not available for general public access.
Lists of Farms
I have included lists of all the farms and farmtouns as recorded in the rental for 1814-1815 (for Buccleuch) and 1734-1735 (for Lothian). Perhaps these will be of some interest to you if you had any ancestors in these locations. In the archives, rentals for many different years are available roughly covering the period from the mid-17th to the mid-20th century. These records are particularly useful for the era before 1841 when no census information was available.
With a Reader’s Ticket, you can access the records at the NRS in Register House in Edinburgh. Alternatively, I will be happy to take commissions to investigate on your behalf.
Rentals from 1630
Some 25 years after the lawlessness of the Border Reivers had been ruthlessly snuffed out on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border by a combination of mass executions and large-scale fleeing of suspected reivers to Ulster, it is interesting to see that most of those populating the former badlands of Liddesdale and Canonbie were still from the most infamous reiving families. Armstrongs, Elliots, Croziers, Irvings, Grahams and the rest. Take a look at the lists below, transcribed from the original Buccleuch rental books.