Valuation rolls

Background information

What can I learn from valuation rolls records?

How to search valuation rolls

Understanding the content of valuation rolls

Further reading

Other tax records

Background information

Valuation rolls were local tax records, listing properties and people in each Scottish county and burgh between 1855 and 1996.

Local taxes based on the rental value of property had been used in Scotland since the seventeeth century but valuation rolls in the modern sense were first compiled in 1855 when the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, with an assessor in each of Scotland's 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs; there were 90 burghs eventually. Consult our counties, cities and burghs guide for further information.

The assessor in each county or parliamentary burgh compiled annual valuation rolls, listing most buildings and other property in their areas, along with the names and designations of the proprietor (owner), tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value. The rateable value was based on the annual rental value of each property (real, in the case of properties which were actually rented, or notional, in the case of an owner-occupied or otherwise un-let property).

The assessor had to draw up a valuation roll by 15 August each year, to allow appeals by any owners and occupiers who disputed the rateable values by 15 September following. Once the appeal process had ended, the resulting roll was authenticated and was made available for public inspection. The roll was in force from Whitsunday in the year of collection to the Whitsunday following. In Scotland the legal quarter day of Whitsunday (or Whitsun) was fixed at 15 May.
To summarise this process in the case of a 1915 valuation roll, the staff of the Assessor for the Burgh of Edinburgh would have carried out a survey of properties between autumn 1914 and summer 1915 and compiled the roll by 15 August 1915. It would purport to show the property owners, tenants and occupiers of each property in Edinburgh at 15 May 1915. After appeals had been dealt with and corrections made, the roll would be made available for public inspection on or before 15 September 1915.
Every six years all counties and burghs had to send copies of the six preceding valuation rolls to Register House in Edinburgh to become part of the national series of valuation rolls and it is this series which is held by the National Records of Scotland. This periodic transmission also explains why some valuation rolls (especially for some small burghs) are bound up in six year volumes.

What can I learn from valuation rolls?

Valuation rolls can be used to research people, places and buildings.

  • Initially you may want to search the valuation rolls if you are trying to find someone between census years. If that person is the head of household you should be able to trace how long he or she lived or occupied a property after the census was taken. The valuation roll should tell you whether someone owned or rented the property he or she lived in. It can show whether someone owned or rented other property, such as shops or garages, for example a shopkeeper might own his house but rent a shop.
  • If you are interested in the history of your house, you can use the valuation rolls to see who owned and lived in your property in a particular year or years.
  • You can also use valuation rolls to research the history of buildings, communities, shops and businesses and occupations.

How to search valuation rolls

Indexes and images of valuation rolls for 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1920, 1925, 1930, 1935 and 1940 are available to search on this site.

Search valuation rolls. Select a valuation roll year and search on some or all of the following index fields:

  • Year
  • Surname
  • Forename
  • Group
  • Status - tenant and occupier, occupier only or all.
  • County/city
  • Parish
  • Burgh/city
  • Place

The search form includes tips for each field with links to more detailed research guides where appropriate.

Please note that you cannot do a search using numerical values, for example, a search by property number.

All Mc surnames have been expanded to Mac to account for inconsistencies in the rendering of Mc, Mac and M' names by assessors. When searching the indexes, please also be aware that the spelling of a surname might not be as you expect owing to:

  • Mis-spelling, phonetic spelling or other misinterpretation by an assessor;
  • Surname variants;
  • The alteration or anglicisation of a surname upon arrival in Scotland;
  • People from the Highlands and Western Isles may have anglicised their Gaelic surname, for example, MacIan to Johnston;
  • Use of tee-names – these are most prevalent in fishing towns and hamlets in the north east of Scotland, whereby families of fishermen are known by their boat names rather than their surname. Depending on how these names have been captured, you may find a fisherman's boat name captured as part of his surname (for example John Brown 'Beauty' or George Cowie-Helldom). In some circumstances, only the boat name has been captured as the surname by the assessor (for example George Helldom, John Beauty).
  • Surnames of noble families are often different from the names in their titles. For example, the surname of the Dukes of Buccleuch is Montague Douglas Scott, but it is more likely that the title will appear in the surname field than the family name. In this example, Buccleuch would appear in the surname field and Duke will appear in the title field, with Montague Douglas Scott not necessarily recorded in any of the fields.

Forenames are captured as they are given on the valuation roll. Reasons for a forename not appearing as expected include:

  • Mis-spelling, phonetic spelling or other misinterpretation by an assessor;
  • Forename variations including abbreviations (for example William, Wm., Willm) and use of diminutives (for example Margaret, Maggie, Meg, Peggy), nicknames, or middle names as first names.

Understanding the content of valuation rolls

The information you find in valuation rolls varies from year to year and the records for the earlier years, particularly those in rural areas, tends to be brief. There is little detail about properties whose annual rental value was less than four pounds unless they were on a long lease. The later valuation rolls are more detailed and accurate and you can usually find the following information:

  • Address of property
  • Type of property, for example, house, shop, croft, mill
  • Name of proprietor - surname, forename and title, sometimes forename can be omitted
  • Name of occupier, tenant or inhabited occupier - surname, forename and title, sometimes forename can be omitted
  • Occupation
  • Yearly rent or rateable value of property

Valuation rolls are not like census returns, in that they do not list all the occupants of each house. The Assessor was only interested in the owner of a property and the resident head of household as they were responsible for half the local tax (rates). So valuation rolls provide information on almost all buildings and other properties in a particular area, including those which do not appear in census records because they were unoccupied.

The head of the household in a census return may not be listed as the tenant or occupier. In many cases it is the wife rather than the husband listed in the census return who is described in the valuation rolls as the tenant or occupier. You may find that only the surname and title of the proprietor, occupier or tenant has been recorded. This is especially the case for married or widowed females, for example, 'Mrs. William Fraser' rather than under their own name. There are many names in the valuation rolls that have not been indexed, for example, factors, company secretaries, managers, solicitors and agents. Early valuation rolls may not include property numbers and street names and, even if they have been recorded, they may have changed later.

This timing of any changes to ownership of occupancy of a building can have consequences for when the changes appear in the valuation rolls. For example, if a tenant moved into a house in late 1915, after the assessor’s survey had been carried out, he or she would not normally appear in the 1915-16 roll and would first appear as tenant at this property in the 1916-17 roll deposited at General Register House.


For examples of valuation rolls, read our features on Valuation Rolls and The last households on St Kilda in 1930.

Further reading

For further information about the content of these records see the National Records of Scotland's guide on valuation rolls.

Some valuation rolls are difficult to read. Look at the guides on reading older handwriting, unfamiliar words and phrases and search the glossary, for assistance with abbreviations, legal terminology, occupations and other unfamiliar words.

Other tax records

The ScotlandsPlaces website offers access to images of valuation rolls for land-tax, and a variety of other types of Scottish tax records, including horse tax, window tax and servants’ tax rolls. The years covered vary for each type of tax and in total cover the period 1645 to 1831. These tax records generally list names of individuals and the amounts paid.