In Scotland on the death of a landowner, the local sheriff held an inquest to establish the credentials of any person claiming to be the true and rightful heir to lands which were in the possession of the deceased at the time of his or her death. The documentary evidence associated with the inquest–taken by the sheriff to determine identities, relationships, and claims to property and known as the Services of Heirs–is a particularly valuable if little known genealogical source. The records of the Services of Heirs, now located at the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh, provide authentic and reliable confirmation of the relationship between deceased individuals and their heirs. This makes the records an invaluable source for those seeking a trans-Atlantic family connection, as many of the entries link families in North America with Scotland.
Indeed, David Dobson, the well-known Scottish authority, has found 2,657 trans-Atlantic links in the records–links providing irrefutable evidence of the relationship between families in America and families in Scotland. Taken directly from the records of the Services of Heirs, his new work contains abstracts of every Scottish-American connection found in the records in the 200 years between 1683 and 1883! As a rule, the abstracts give, for the deceased, his name, occupation, residence in Scotland, date of inquest, and relationship to heirs; for the heirs, name, occupation, place of residence in America, and relationship to the deceased. For convenience the abstracts are arranged alphabetically by the name of the deceased, while all other names mentioned in the abstracts are listed in the index. As far as Scottish genealogy goes, this is so good it’s almost cheating!