Customs and Excise Records

Customs and Excise Records

Introduction

Many of the customs and excise records are held by National Records of Scotland (NRS). This series forms a valuable resource for genealogical and historical research. The chapter on ports in 'Tracing Scottish Local History in the Scottish Record Office' by Cecil J Sinclair (1996) describes in more detail the information which can be obtained from these records. Two further publications which illustrate how customs and excise records can be used for family history are Frances Wilkins, 'Family histories in Scottish customs records' (Kidderminster, 1993) and Frances Wilkins, 'Scottish customs and excise records with particular reference to Strathclyde' (Kidderminster, 1992).

Customs records before 1707

Customs records before the Union of 1707 are to be found in the records of the Scottish Exchequer (NRS reference (reference) E38, E71-74). The customs books (NRS reference E71-72), which record the duties levied on goods carried by ships into and out of individual ports, can include names of ships' masters (but not crews) and merchants.

Customs staff records after 1707

The names and salaries of customs officers (excluding junior clerks and crews of cutters) who were employed at headquarters and at each Scottish port between 1715 and 1822 are recorded quarterly in the Scottish Customs establishment books (NRS reference CE3). Separate establishment books record the names and salaries of customs officers employed in the collection of salt duty at headquarters and at various Scottish ports between 1714 and 1798 (NRS reference CE12). The letter books of the Board and of the local customs out ports can provide further information not only about revenue officers and their families, but also about persons in other occupations such as merchants, tobacconists, mariners, ship owners, farmers and fish curers. As these names are not indexed staff cannot search them on behalf of enquirers.

Excise staff records after 1707

Unfortunately most of the official staff (and other) records of the Scottish Excise were lost in a fire in the 19th century. To try and fill this gap, Mr J F Mitchell compiled information about excise officers between 1707 and 1830 from the surviving records held in the National Archives of Scotland and from other sources. The result was his biographical card index, which can be consulted in our Historical Search Room on microfilm (NRS reference RH4/6/1-2). We also hold a list of all excise officers in 1743 (NRS reference GD1/54/10). The Scottish Excise registers of appointments and removals, 1813-1829, are held by us and contain excerpts from Board minutes concerning staff appointments, dismissals and removals (NRS reference CE13). The Scottish Excise establishment minute books contain staff details for the period of the subordinate Scottish board between 1824 and 1830 (NRS reference CE16). The records also include a list of all officers in 1794, noting the age of the officer and the number of his family (NRS reference CE6/19).

Shipping registers

Ships and fishing boats must be registered in a port of registry before they can be navigated. Local customs officers frequently maintained shipping registers and sea fishing boat registers on behalf of the Registrar-General of Seamen from 1786, and surviving registers of these ports are included among the Customs and Excise records. Though the information contained in shipping registers can vary, they usually record the names of ships, their owners and changes in ownership, the ship's master and a basic description of the vessel, including the year it was built and its size and tonnage. Some shipping registers are also held at local customs offices. Our staff can advise enquirers about particular local holdings. Local customs officers were often appointed Receivers of Wrecks and also carried out work on behalf of the Royal Naval Reserve.

On the west coast of Scotland the shipping registers were generally maintained by the Fishery Offices. Some of these registers of fishing boats, which fall within the years 1869-1988, are included in the Fishery Board records (NRS reference AF17-36). Annual lists of Scottish fishing vessels between 30 and 79.9 feet from 1965 onwards are contained in the files (NRS reference AF62) of the former Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS), and some are also held in the Scottish Government's Library. These lists give the boat's name, port of registration, registered number, year built, length, tonnage, horsepower, and the DAFS vessel code and base district. From about 1980 DAFS and its successors have published The Scottish Fishing Fleet, including additional information such as the vessel type and fishing method, producer organisation, and the numbers (but not the names) of crew. Copies are available in the NRS from 1983 (NRS reference AF87/2), in copyright libraries such as the National Library of Scotland and the British Library and in the Scottish Government's Library. Recent lists are available for purchase from the Stationery Office. Please note that records of the Fishery Board are generally closed for 30 years from the last date of each record. In effect this means that most records more recent than the 1960s are not open to the public. Shipping registers and registers of sea fishing boats are open to access. Further sources for tracing the history of ships are Lloyd's Register of Shipping and the Mercantile Navy List. Complete sets of both are held by the Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ. Information on Lloyd's Register of Shipping can be obtained from their website.

Customs and excise records not held by us

The records of some customs out ports and excise districts have been retransmitted to local authority archives. These are listed below:

Aberdeen City Archives;
  • Aberdeen Outport and District (CE87/4/38-45)
  • Aberdeen Outport and District (CE87/11/1-43)
Dumfries and Galloway Archives
  • Dumfries Outport (CE51/1/18-20)
  • Dumfries Outport (CE51/3/4-12)
  • Dumfries Outport (CE51/4/9)
  • Dumfries Outport (CE51/11/2-11)
  • Kirkcudbright Creek shipping registers (CE51/5/16-17)
  • Langholm Station  (CE51/10/1)
  • Lockerbie Station (CE51/10/2)
  • Stranraer Outport (CE77/11/1-6)
  • Wigtown Outport (CE61/11/1-4)
Dundee City Archives  
  • Arbroath Outport and District (CE80/1/1)
  • Arbroath Outport and District (CE80/2/1-67)
  • Arbroath Outport and District (CE80/4/1-17)
  • Arbroath Outport and District (CE80/11/1-10)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/1/1-70)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/2/1-172)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/3/1-22)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/4/1-30)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/62-90)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/111-116)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/119-125)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/129-198)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/5/1)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE70/11/1-27)
  • Dundee Outport and District (CE60/12/1-24)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/1/1-34)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/2/1-97)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/3/1-7)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/4/1-8)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/5/1)
  • Montrose Outport and District (CE53/11/1-6, 9)
Glasgow City Council Archives
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/1/1-52)
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/2/1-15)
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/4/1-13)
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/5/1-2)
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/7/1-14)
  • Ayr Outport and District (CE76/10/1-8)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/1/1-48)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/2/1-112)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/3/1-4)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/4/1-40)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/6/1-34)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/7/1)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/9/1-4)
  • Campbeltown Outport and District (CE82/11/1-7)
  • Dumfries Outport (CE51/11/1)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/1/1-59)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/2/1-99)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/3/1-54)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/4/1-115)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/5/1-5)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/10/1-7)
  • Glasgow Outport and District (CE59/11/1-68)
  • Irvine Outport and District (CE71/1/1-24)
  • Irvine Outport and District (CE71/2/1-60)
  • Irvine Outport and District (CE71/4/1-3)
  • Irvine Outport and District (CE71/5/1-5)
  • Oban Outport and District (CE75/1/1)
  • Oban Outport and District (CE75/2/1-3)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/1/1-114)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/2/1-402)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/3/1)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/4/1-45)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/5/1-3)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/7/1-3)
  • Port Glasgow and Greenock (CE60/8/1)
  • Rothesay Outport and District (CE73/1/1-6)
  • Rothesay Outport and District (CE73/2/1-17)
  • Tobermory Outport and District (CE74/2/1-14)
  • Troon Outport and District (CE72/1/1-2)
  • Troon Outport and District (CE72/2/1-50)
  • Troon Outport and District (CE72/4/1)
Orkney Library and Archives 
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/1/1-27)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/2/1-51)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/ 3/1-21)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/4/1-20)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/4/22-51)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/4/53-60)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/10/1-10)
  • Kirkwall Outport and District (CE55/11/1-)
Perth and Kinross Council Archive  
  • Blairgowrie Outport and District (CE79/6/1-6)
  • Blairgowrie Outport and District (CE79/7/1-2)
  • Blairgowrie Outport and District (CE79/9/1-7)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/1/1-22)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/2/1-66)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/4/1-3)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/8/1-3)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/9/1)
  • Perth Outport and District (CE52/11/1-6)
Shetland Archives  
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/1/1-63)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/2/1-108)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/3/1-27)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/4/1-46)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/5/1)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/6/1-6)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/7/1-2)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/8/1-19)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/9/1-2)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/10/1-2)
  • Lerwick Outport and District (CE85/11/1-21)

You can use the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) website's directory of Scottish archives to find contact details for the archives services listed above.