Other Court of Session Series
Other Court of Session Series
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 several types of Court of Session records. Other guides deal with specific types of record:
Jury Court (NRS reference CS300-311)
In 1815 jury trials in civil causes before the Court of Session were introduced. In 1830, the Jury Court was united with the Court of Session, but its records continued to be kept separately until 1850. There was no separate extractor of decrees for this court.
Accordingly, Jury Court actions between 1815 and 1850 will be traced only in its own series of records (NRS reference CS300-311). The processes are fully searchable on the online catalogue. Failing this, try the minute books (NRS reference CS301).
Note that although the coverage of the Jury Court processes is nominally 1815-1850, there are a number of 18th century processes intermingled with them.
Bill Chamber (mainly NRS reference CS271, 275)
Apart from dealing with actions as a court of first instance, the Court of Session could also be asked by litigants to call cases from an inferior court, eg sheriff courts or burgh courts, for review of decrees pronounced there. Accordingly, many very minor matters could be dealt with by the Court of Session. Actions like this could be termed suspensions, suspensions and interdicts, and advocations; all essentially asked the Court to delay execution of a sentence pronounced elsewhere.
There is a vast quantity of processes in such actions, often containing only one or two papers. The main series of processes are CS271 (1660s-1838) and CS275 (1839-1955). The indexes of both are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
From 1955-1994 Bill Chamber processes will be found in the main unextracted processes (UP) series. Refer to the guide on unextracted processes for further information.
Other Bill Chamber record series
There are a few other process indexes on the open shelves which could be checked, as follows:
- Index of Summary Petitions, 1857-79 (NRS reference CS272/1)
- Index to Junior Lord Ordinary Petitions: 2nd-5th Series (NRS reference CS272/2-5). This is fully searchable on the online catalogue.
- Bill Chamber: Indexes to Miscellaneous Collection of Petitions and Appeals (CS273/1-4 and 6, 274, 277, 278/1 and 2, 279, 284, 285, 286, 287/3 and 298/29-31).
A glance through the indexes will quickly show the type of action. These indexes are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Like Jury Court actions, Bill Chamber actions before the 20th century are not covered by the Court of Session general minute books (CS16 and 17).
Extracted decrees ought to appear in the main EP series, but the series of Decree Registers, 1855-96 (CS270), has sometimes proved useful for Bill Chamber actions not located elsewhere. See the CS catalogue for further details of these.
Another potentially useful series of Bill Chamber processes is CS298. In the absence of a full index you will need to search bundles covering a particular period of years. Boxes 29-31 though have been indexed and are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Accountant of Court: factories and curatories (includes NRS reference CS313-317)
Factors and curators could be appointed on petition to the Court of Session and finding the process could involve extensive searching.
Stage 1. Check the main unextracted and extracted processes series. Factors and curators usually obtained an extract of their appointment and discharge. A check of the court's general minute books is advisable in order to try to establish the date of appointment of the curator or factor, especially when searching the EPs. In searching indexes or lists of these series, try checking both the name of the curator or factor, if known, and the name of the subject of the appointment.
Stage 2. A further search could be made of the indexes to NRS reference CS313-314 and 316-317, which are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Stage 3. The exception, CS315, will certainly cause a problem. This series contains factories, 1850-1948, where the factor was not judicially discharged. There are 106 boxes of processes in this series, and there is no index. A possible means of access is as follows.
The paper catalogue of the boxes in CS315 lists the reference numbers given by the Accountant of Court to the Factories. The key to the system of numbering is supplied by the Accountant's 'Annual Reports' from 1915 (NRS reference CS322/60 onwards). For factories either occurring after that date or likely still to be current then, you could call out a relevant Report and begin to search for the case in which you are interested.
In these reports, each case is allocated a number in the left-hand margin and a summary of financial transactions in the year of the report is provided. Try to match the number against the list of numbers in catalogue of CS315. If the number is not there, it means that the factor was discharged, and any papers must be elsewhere.
Other curatories and factories record series
The following series could also be checked:
- CS96: Productions in processes which are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
- CS97: There is an index of processes in this series in the index drawers immediately after the end of the 4th series of card index drawers (green-labelled) for the main UP series. There are 2 sections to this index; alphabetical by surname; and alphabetical by place name. The series includes factory and curatory accounts. The process order number is immediately apparent on the right hand side of the index card.
- CS272/5: A miscellaneous collection of petitions on a variety of subjects, including a number of factory and curatory processes, mainly 20th century. These processes are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
If the process is post-1912, try checking the main UP series. There are a variety of indexes which can be quickly checked. Searching in these series has thrown up an additional complication: in the indexes for 1959, 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1966 there are separate indexes called 'Factor on Damages'. The processes in this index are given a number such as 'F.2'. It is not possible to call the process out on the basis of this number: it is only a temporary number supplied by the Court, which retained the process until the factor was discharged. The discharge could take place many years later, but if the factor were appointed to act for a minor, a discharge would be likely to be no more than 16 years at most after appointment.
If you want one of these processes, carry on searching through the main UP index, as you ought eventually to find an entry there and the process can then be called out in the usual way.
The 1962 factor on damages index has an entry John McLellan v A G Barr & Co Ltd, no.F.4. Searching on through the main UP index throws up the process, under the same designation, in the 1965 transmission, where it bears the process order number CS258/1965/2346.
If all this fails, depending on the period, there are a few other avenues you could try.
If the process for which you are searching is roughly between 1661 and 1680, you could try CS15, which contains for that period 239 boxes of processes sorted only by year: see the general catalogue for relevant call numbers.
If the process for which you are searching falls between the late 19th century and c1980, check CS272/5. These processes are fully searchable on the online catalogue.
Index to unextracted processes volumes 1-10
Always worth a check are 4 typescript bound volumes on the open shelves at the end of the CS series, 'Index to Unextracted Processes Vols.1-10'. The entries in these volumes all ought to be on cards in the main series of UP card index drawers, but some processes have been found here which could not be traced elsewhere: perhaps because an index card has been misfiled, for example.
For actions between 1713 and 1820, there is a four-volume typescript index on the open shelves at the end of the CS catalogues: 'Subject Index to Session Papers in the Signet Library'. Note that this is not an index to papers in NRS, but to bound volumes of printed case papers which complement the manuscript processes in NRS. The names of parties and dates of an action in the index volumes may help to locate an original process in NRS.
This set of the session papers is held in the Signet Library, Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF, which is a private working library for Writers to the Signet. Applications for the purposes of serious historical research should be made to the librarian. The index provides the relevant volume and page references to the volumes, which would be used when using the volumes in the Signet Library.
This series contains printed petitions to the Court of Session, 1847-1934, which might help if you have not found any trace of an action in any other series. The CS catalogue summarises the contents of the volumes in this miscellaneous series. As the series only contains petitions, you will find probably only one paper in the action and you will not be able to ascertain the result of the petition.
Printed law reports
You could try the printed 'Law Reports' volumes in the National Library of Scotland or Edinburgh Central Library, both located in George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, or other specialist libraries. These volumes contain the reported decisions of the Courts, and are helpful for legal practitioners in determining precedents or the application of principles. The volumes would provide you with the Court's decision in a particular case if it was 'reported', although not all were. You may find that these volumes are the only readily identifiable source for cases appealed to the House of Lords. Processes for such actions can often be difficult to trace in NRS, as they may be transmitted many years after proceedings in Scotland. A list of the Law Reports is in 'Sources and Literature of Scots Law' (Stair Society, volume 1, 1936).