But I Thought They Were Wealthy Land Owners! – The 1915 Scottish Valuation Rolls

Around the same time as the excitement of the 1940 U.S. Census release was the much quieter release of the 1915 Valuation Rolls for Scotland (available on a fee basis through the ScotlandsPeople website). As described by the ScotlandsPeople website, “The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs (eventually 90 burghs produced valuation rolls). The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value.”

Unlike a census record, the Valuation Rolls do not list all occupants of a property but just typically the head of the household. However, like a census record, the valuation rolls are terrific for seeing where your Scottish ancestors were living and under what circumstances.
I looked at two of my ancestors (with many more to find) and was actually surprised by some of the results.

First, my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden can be found on Page 591 of the city of Aberdeen valuation rolls. He is listed as being a tenant at 42 1/2 Charles Street which is described as being a house. His occupation is listed as ‘seaman’ (he was in fact a steam engineer on numerous ships in the merchant marine) and was paying an annual rent of 7 pounds for what was likely a flat or apartment. I noticed in particular that the rent being paid was slightly higher than that paid by the other tenants perhaps indicating that the Hadden apartment was a bit larger than average. Or perhaps there is another explanation? Below is a photo of what Charles Street looks like today (captured from a screen shot on Google Maps – street view). Although the location of No. 42 1/2 is the newer looking building in the photo, I suspect there was an older building, more closely resembling the building further down the lane, that was the home of the Hadden family in 1915.

Next, I looked at the 1915 Valuation Rolls listing for John Gaull, my great great grandfather, an Aberdeenshire dairy farmer. More than 30 years ago, I interviewed a great uncle who had spent considerable time on the Gaull farm, visiting his grandparents and apparently being mischievous from time to time. I have photos of John Gaull and his family from the 1920’s taken at the farm so I thought I knew a lot about John and his farm. What I didn’t know was that he didn’t own the farm, he rented it! I confess I hadn’t even considered that possibility.

The listing for John Gaull in 1915 can be found on line 72 for the parish of Kemnay in the valuation rolls. The property was owned by John Alexander Burnett of Kemnay and John rented the croft and house at Glenhead for 27 pounds, 16 shillings, and 9 pence annually. The size of the farm is not listed however based on a comparison of the rents paid by John and his neighbours, the Gaull farm was one of the more substantial, but far from the largest, pieces of property occupied in the area. John’s occupation is not given in the listing which for the parish of Kemnay is typed and not in what I should think was it’s handwritten original form.

Just like a census record the valuation rolls provide a glimpse of the state on ancestral residence almost 100 years ago, including a look at who your Scottish ancestors neighbours and friends (or enemies?) might have been. Well worth the look if you have Scottish ancestors living in Scotland in 1915.

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