Did your Scottish ancestors become masters of their trade? 64,000 records added to Scotland Burgess & Guild Brethren Index

07 May 2019
More than 64,000 records spanning 650 years of trading have been added to FindMyPast's burgess & guild brethren index.

More than 64,000 records spanning 650 years of trading have been added to FindMyPast's burgess & guild brethren index.

Each of the transcripts reveals a combination of the person's occupation or trade, dates, locations and notable life events.

Medieval & early Scottish burghs

Medieval and early Scottish burghs were controlled by a minority of residents known as burgesses. The burgesses were merchants and craftsmen of the burgh, they had the right to elect the Town Council, and the merchants were more influential.

The other residents of the burgh were 'unfree' and had no vote of special privileges from living in a town. Affluent householders such as chamberlains and lawyers were often 'unfreemen', although many were awarded the status of burgess 'gratis', this conferred citizenship but little else. Widows who were respectable, may also be awarded this citizenship. Becoming a burgess was viewed as the key to social position, it was evidence of economic success within the community.

Becoming a burgess

There were several ways in which a person could become a burgess. They could pay a fee and prove that their name was listed in the town’s apprenticeship books. If a son’s father was a burgess, they could pay a smaller fee and serve a shorter apprenticeship than the sons of a non-burgess. A son-in-law of a Burgess was able to avail himself of the same privilege.

If a person has served their apprenticeship outside the town, they generally had to pay a substantial amount for the title, the Towns Council carefully vetted those individuals with regard to their 'moral and financial credentials'.

What information is on the records?

Each record includes a transcript of the original record. While the amount of detail will vary between transcripts, most will include a combination the following details:

  • Name

  • Year

  • Date

  • Place

  • Occupation and trades

  • Details of close relations

  • Notable life events

  • Collection

Start exploring

Explore the records at FindMyPast (n.b. whilst searching is free you will need a FindMyPast subscription to access the full records).

QUICK LINK: Did your ancestor sign the Declaration of Arbroath?


Image copyright Rijks Museum