'In', 'of' or 'at' a place

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  • When searching through records or gravestones in Scotland, it is common to find a person described either 'of', a place or 'in' a place or 'at' a place. These words are of considerable importance and are still in legal use in Scotland.

    When a person is described as being 'of' a place, this means that the person is the owner of the property, does not pay a feu duty to anybody, and in fact is the feudal superior of that property. Not long ago there was a spate of small land owners and farmers who had acquired their own property, and in Scotland were entitled to be called Barons. This led to the familiar term of the cloth cap Barons. If a person owns their land in Scotland, it means that they, as owners will be recorded in the Sasine Records of Scotland, and gives another source of infomation for the searcher.
    If a person is described as being 'in' property, this a means that this person is a tenant to a feudal superior and is not the owner of the property. This can be misleading as sometimes persons 'in' a place have quite vast estates but of course are tenants because they are renting their estate from a feudal superior.

    When a person is described as being 'at' a place, this means he could be a lodger to a tenant, perhaps renting some property from the tenant, or even being exactly a lodger in someone else's property.

    Ministers were usually very important persons in their parish, but correctly they were described as being 'at' a parish because they did not own it, they did not pay a rent, but were given the Manse and Glebe to live in by the superior in early days and later by the Kirk Session of the particular parish.

    Norman Douglas of Dundarroch

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    Last modified: Saturday, 16 June 2018