Glossary

This glossary defines archaic words and phrases, mostly Scots law terminology, commonly found in our documents and records. For a larger resource go to the online Dictionary of the Scots Language, which contains Scots words and phrases, including legal terms.

It also includes definitions of archival terminology, although not all these terms have been used in this catalogue

With thanks to the Scottish Archive Network

caption
"letters of caption" are an authority to arrest a debtor, or someone who has not fulfilled a promised obligation.
casualties
"feudal casualties" were payments which fell due to a feudal superior when certain events happened, usually to an heir to property held from the superior; the usual casualties were marriage, non-entry, relief and wardship.
 
Cataloguing
The process of arranging and describing of archives.
caution, cautioner
security; bail; one who stands surety for another.
cessio bonorum
surrender of a debtor's goods in favour of his creditors.
chalder
a measure, which varied from place to place and depending on what it was a measure of.   When applied to grain, it was (about) 16 bolls, the boll being (about) 6 imperial bushels.
 
Chancery
the royal writing office which created brieves, charters and other royal documents.
 
chapman, chopman
shopkeeper; 'chapman traviler' was a travelling salesman.
charge
a command in the king's name to do something; usually to enter a person as heir; i.e have him accepted as heir to landed property.
 
circuit court
an itinerant court which goes round the country trying criminal cases; the one in Scotland is the Court of Justiciary.
 
clait, claith
cloth; clothing.
clare constat
name of a precept (an order), in which a superior acknowledges that it 'clearly appears' that someone is heir to landed property held of the superior, and which orders the giving of sasine.
Closure period
A period of time when archives are held in a repository but are not yet available for public access and consultation, for legal or privacy reasons. Some categories of archives which are less than 100 years old may be covered by a closure period.
cocket, cocquet
seal used by a customs house, applied to a certificate (a "letter of cocket") certifying that duty has been paid on goods to be exported.
Collection
A group of archives created by the same individual, family, business or other organisation and which is managed as a single unit.
 
cognition and sasine
the process by which an heir is accepted into property in a burgh.
commendator
this was originally a churchman who levied the income from a benefice while it was vacant, but later he was a layman who had a grant of a vacant benefice for life.
commissary
originally, one of a bishop's officials; but after the Reformation an official of an organisation called the Commissary Court; in both cases he dealt with matters to do with inheritance, particularly the confirmation of testaments.
Commissioners of Supply
people appointed in each county to assess the land-tax due from it, keep up the roads and control the raising of militia etc.
commonty
a common; a piece of ground used by or belonging to more than one person.
compearance
in Scotland, defenders don't "appear" in a legal action; they "compear".
composition
a payment made by an heir succeeding to land, to the superior of the land.
confirmation
the process of recognition by a court of law, for example where executors are empowered to secure or dispose of the deceased. The equivalent term in English law is 'probate'.
conjunct fee
any title to lands held jointly, usually by husband and wife; a 'conjunct' right is any right held jointly.
conjunctly and severally
an obligation or empowerment to two or more people to do something, either acting singly or in consort.
 
cordinar, cordiner
cordwainer; shoemaker.
cottar, cotter
the tenant of cottage (a rural dwelling house, usually a small building attached to farm or agricultural estate). A group of such dwellings can be referred to as a cottarton (or cottertown etc) or a fermtoun.
Council and Session
the "books of council and session" is the common name for the Register of Deeds; it can be taken as meaning "books pertaining to the Court of Session".
Court of Justiciary
the High Court of Justiciary is the principal criminal court in Scotland, operating through a number of circuits.
Court of Session
the main court in Scotland which tries civil cases.
Creation dates
The date or dates when archives were created. If it is unknown, this may be indicated in a catalogue by terms like 'undated', 'no date' or 'n.d.' If a copy of a document is described in a catalogue, the creation date given is generally the date when the copy was made.
Creator
In archives catalogues, the name of the organisation, family or individual responsible for creating or accumulating archives.
croft
a small agricultural holding, originally a general term (for example the house and large garden belonging to a burgess might be termed 'toft and croft'. After the Crofters Act of 1883 the term became a specific type of land tenure in the counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Shetland and Sutherland.
cruives
constructed enclosures used in salmon-fishing.
curator
a person who is appointed to act for someone else who cannot manage his own affairs, usually someone who administers the estate of a minor.
 
curtilage
a courtyard, or some other piece of ground lying near or belonging to an occupied building.
Custodial history
Information about the history of archives - such as former ownership, storage or custody. Used interchangeably with ‘Archival history’.


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