The Court of Session is Scotland's supreme civil court and National Records of Scotland (NRS) holds Court of Session records from the 16th century onwards.
This guide explains a type of record called extracted processes. Other guides deal with different types of record:
Extracted processes (EPs) after 1660
Extracted processes (EPs) are those in which a decree or decreet of the Lords of Council and Session has had to be formally copied or 'extracted' from the record of the action to act as a warrant to implement the terms of that decree. The decree was copied into the Register of Acts and Decreets and the papers in that case preserved as an 'extracted process'.
Some series of processes are now fully searchable on our online catalogue. For others, the reference conversion procedures described in the rest of this guide still need to be followed. There is a table of extracted processes searchable on the online catalogue at the end of this guide.
Extracted Processes 1660s-June 1810
In this period, you will be searching extractors' minute books, arranged into the court's standard offices: Dalrymple (DAL), Durie (DUR) and Mackenzie (MACK). The minute books list decrees by the date of extraction, and normally only provide the parties' surnames. There are separate minute books for each office, so you may have to check the books for each office, but there is a way of narrowing the search: using the clerk's mark.
Each office had the services of various clerks, each of whom had his own 'mark', consisting of two or three letters. Once an action began, the same clerk was responsible for it during its proceedings. On his retirement or if he died his successor in office would take on the action, so no other record series needs to be checked. If a decree were extracted, the clerk would put this work through his office, in whose registers the decree was recorded.
Finding clerks' marks before 1781
Before 1782 it is harder to search. You may be able to identify the process by working through the relevant extractors' minute books for each office: Dalrymple (CS19), Durie (CS23) and Mackenzie (CS27). Alternatively, if you can locate the clerk's mark in the general minute books (CS16), you will be able to carry out a focussed search in the extractors' minute books, confident that you have the right series.
Finding clerks' marks from 1782
This is relatively easy from 1782, when the series of printed general minute books begins. As long as you can find the action in the indexes to these volumes, you will be able to locate the clerk's mark.
- Stage 1. You have searched unsuccessfully in unextracted process (UP) indexes for Boak v Gairns, about 1796.
- Stage 2. Ordering out the relevant minute book (CS17/1/15), you find an entry for 25 Nov ember 1796 on page 374, which is clearly the right case. Work back through the minute book, column by column, until you find a set of initials mid-column: here they are, 'H.S.S'. This is the clerk's mark.
- Stage 3. Having got the mark, you now need to establish the office: either Dalrymple, Durie or Mackenzie. Look on the open shelves for a slim typescript volume entitled 'Court of Session Clerks' Marks 1695-1860'. It is arranged alphabetically. You find that 'H.S.S.' was the mark of a clerk in Dalrymple's office, and it is here that his EPs will be found.
- Stage 4. There is a further stage before you can finally obtain the process call number. You must now order out the relevant extractor's minute book. Look at the CS catalogue for the volume which covers the date of extraction. The extractors' minute books series are CS19 for Dalrymple, CS23 for Durie, and CS27 for Mackenzie. Here you need CS19. Because the date of decree you located in CS17/1/15 p.374 (see above) was 25 Nov 1796, you would need to call out CS19/1/5 definitely, and it might be best to call out CS19/1/6 as well. The reason for doing so is that the decree might not be extracted for a month or two (or even longer) after the award.
- Stage 5. Fortunately, in this instance, we do find the decree dated 25 November 1796. Note next the entry in the minute book a pencil number '2'; and retain the full decree date. The relevant EP's are reference CS21 so the full process call number then becomes: CS21 no.2 of 25/11/1796.
With slight modifications, the same procedure is followed for all EPs before June 1810. You will not always find a pencil number beside the decree. If you don't, simply quote the date and the names of the parties.
|Extractors' minute books
|Register of acts and decreets
Extracted processes June 1810-June 1821
Changes in the court's procedure regarding extract decrees bring a change in rules for conducting searches and calling out EPs.
Go to the open shelves and search the 2 volumes of the 'Index of Acts and Decreets', covering 1810-1814, and 1815-1821. Within each volume the arrangement is alphabetical, then chronological within each letter, for example the first volume starts with decrees for 'A' surnames from June 1810 to December 1814, then the 'Bs' and so on. Each of the 3 offices is split into 2 divisions, making 6 series of EPs (CS31-41) within the whole series. Fortunately the procedure for finding the call number does not vary.
- Stage 1. We are looking for a case Borthwick or Richardson v Neilands, found on page 385 of the general minute book (CS17/1/30) for 24 May 1811. Quickly we locate the right entry: the decree was extracted on 27 June 1811. Now we have to obtain the process call number.
- Stage 2. To do this, first of all find the clerk's mark by working back through the list of processes until you find a set of initials: here 'W.B.R.' (You can also use the General Minute Books to find the clerk's mark, as described in the 1660s-1810 section above.)
- Stage 3. Having got the mark, you now need to establish the office. Look on the open shelves for a slim typescript volume entitled 'Court of Session Clerks' Marks 1695-1860'. It is arranged alphabetically. You find WBR was Durie Office, 2nd Division.
- Stage 4. The CS catalogue tells you this series is referenced CS37, and consists of the registered version of the decrees (the Acts and Decrees). Find the CS37 volume covering the date of extraction, 27 June 1811 (CS37/3).
- Stage 5. To order out the relevant process you need to identify the corresponding series of Extracted Processes, (CS38). Add the volume number (as above) as the second element in the process call number. Finally, add the date of extraction and the parties' names. So, the process call number becomes CS38/3/27 June 1811 Borthwick v Neilands. You need all this information to ensure you get the right process.
|Register of acts and decreets
Please note there are additional ordering complications with the 1810-1821 series. You should refer to the online catalogue for a note on these.
Extracted Processes June 1821-December 1829 (NRS reference CS44)
A further change in order procedure occurs for EPs 1821-1829, but is much simplified, because only one series, CS44, is involved.
Find the relevant volume of 'Index of Acts and Decreets' on the open shelves. Entries in these annual indexes are arranged alphabetically.
- Stage 1. We are looking for the process for Winton v Winton's Tr[ustee]s, noted in the general minute book on 1 July 1825 (CS17/1/44, p.574).
- Stage 2. Having found the entry in the index, we can immediately make up the process call number in the form CS44 / number / full date. Read both the left and right hand side of the entry. On the left there is occasionally a number, here 31, and on the right always a date, here 1 July 1825. The call number becomes CS44 number 31 of 1 July 1825.
If there is no number on the left hand side of the page, the call number would read, say, CS44/3 July 1824/Smith v Jones. Ensure that you cite the parties' names if there is no individual process number.
Summary of record series June 1821-December 1829
- Extracted processes - CS44
- Register of acts and decreets - CS43
Extracted processes 1830-1994 (NRS reference CS46)
One of only two differences with the 1821-1829 section is the basic series: now it is CS46. Again, you find the relevant volume of 'Index of Acts and Decreets'.
- Stage 1. We require the process number for Bertram v Hogg, 27 Feb 1838 (CS17/1/57, page 246).
- Stage 2. Having found the entry in the Index, we can again immediately make up the process call number. The series is CS46. All we need from the Index entry is the number on the left hand side of the page (here it is 13) and the month and year of extracting (here April 1838). So, the process call number is CS46 number 13 of April 1838.
For 1913-20, consult the relevant section of the card index drawers. EP cards are intermingled with a series of 20th century UPs. You can quickly tell if a card you find here is an EP. At the bottom right hand side of the card you will see a number and a month, with an 'X' above. This means it is an EP. If you find a card here for an EP, make up the process call number as usual: CS46 / number / month / year.
Processes from 1952-1994 are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Summary of record series January 1830-1994
- Extracted processes - CS46
- Register of Acts and Decreets - CS45
EPs 1995 onwards (NRS reference CS348)
Since 1995 the separate series of extracted processes (CS46) and unextracted processes (CS258) have been discontinued by the court, and amalgamated into a single series (CS348) with a combined index. Refer to the CS catalogue for additional information on the indexes. The processes are fully searchable on the online catalogue. Note that processes are not transferred from the Court of Session to the NRS until they are five years old.
Summary of record series 1995 onwards
- Extracted processes - CS348
- Register of Acts and Decreets - CS45
Problems common to all extracted process series
There will be occasions when the extracted process cannot be traced despite the fact that the decree was definitely extracted. There are several reasons for this. Often this lack of a process is flagged in the index.
In the pre-1810 series, it is common to find the entry marked 'No wts', that is no warrants. This means that there is no EP.
From the 19th century to current, you may see in the margin a capital 'R' beside the entries. 'R' means 'Retained': again, there will be no EP under that reference. This may mean that an interim decree was extracted but that the final one was not. The process should therefore have a later reference, and this reference can either be extracted or unextracted.
Remember even though you can find a minute book entry for the action you want, but cannot find an EP, it could be a considerable time before the decree was extracted, so you may have to carry out quite a lengthy search of EP indexes.
If you find an entry like this, but do want to see what the action concerned, you can inspect the relevant volume of the 'Register of Acts and Decreets'. What you will find in the acts and decreets volumes depends on the date. Before 1810 you will find the proceedings extracted at length, giving you a long account of proceedings in the action before the decree; thereafter the proceedings prior to decree are only briefly narrated.
Extracted processes: Carmichael and Elliot arrangement (NRS reference CS98-227)
The series mainly consists of processes c.1660-c.1830, and is separate from the main EP series. All processes are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Note that there are no registers of acts and decreets associated with the Carmichael and Elliot series of EPs, as there are with the main series. On the other hand, you will very seldom find entries marked 'No Warrants'.
For information on divorce records see our guide on divorce records.
|Dates covered in online catalogue
|circa 1660 – circa 1830
Carmichael and Elliot arrangement.Series mainly spans the 1650s to 1830s.
|Third Series. Dalrymple's office, First Division. Indexing complete.
|Third Series. Dalrymple's office, Second Division. Indexing complete
|Third Series. Durie's office, First Division. Indexing complete.
|Third Series. Durie's office, Second Division. Indexing complete.
|Third Series. Mackenzie's office, First Division. Indexing complete.
|Third Series. Mackenzie's office, Second Division. Indexing complete.
|Fourth series. Indexing ongoing.
|Fifth series. Indexing ongoing.
|Since 1995 the separate series of extracted processes (CS46) and unextracted processes (CS258) have been discontinued by the court, and amalgamated into a single series (SC348). with a combined index. Refer to the CS catalogue for additional information on the indexes. Note that processes are not transferred from the Court of Session until they are 5 years old.