Ask the Archivist - Valuation rolls

Posted on 25 May 2020
A black and white photograph of workers in office attire, sitting at designated tables covered in papers, working in a large room held up with many architectural pillars.

Our second topic was one of the most used and useful sets of records we hold:valuation rolls. The Q&A is below.

Q1: How was the information in the valuation rolls gathered?

Whilst the census provides a snapshot on a particular day, valuation rolls were compiled over many months. Staff from the Assessor’s Office (see below photo!) surveyed properties between the autumn of one year and summer of the next. The roll would be compiled by that August and, after allowing time for corrections, made available in September. Each roll was in force from the Whitsunday (15 May) of the year of collection to the following Whitsunday.

Q2: How useful a source are they for family history?

They're a great family history resource! For one thing they help fill the gaps between (and beyond) census years. They can also provide occupations, tell you whether your ancestors owned or rented their home, and give info about their neighbourhood. These can lead you onto other sources, like occupation or land records.

Q3: How accurate a source can they be considered?

They’re very useful but need to be evaluated like any other historical source. One thing to bear in mind is the potential for time lags. Because the rolls took some time to compile, changes can sometimes take a year or two to show up. For example, a new tenant might move into a property in December 1920 so should be recorded in the 1921-22 roll, but not appear until the 1922-23 roll.

Q4. Can I use them to find the previous owners of a property?

Yes! Valuation rolls are a great source for house history since they show both owners and occupiers. They are arranged geographically, so all you need to know is an address or rough location of a property. It should be possible to find everyone who owned a property between 1855 and 1989.

Q5: Were valuation rolls compiled during the wars?

Yes! Production carried on during both World Wars. Voters' rolls, on the other hand, were not produced for some of the war years (1915 - 1917 and 1941 - 1944). It's worth making the distinction between the two types of record. Voters' rolls list everyone eligible to vote at a particular property. Valuation rolls show only the 'head' tenant.

Q6: The rolls on ScotlandsPeople only go up to 1940 – what about more recent ones?

Good news! The rolls go right up until 1989 and can be searched in person at local archives (see what we hold at: or the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, which has them for the whole country.

Q7: Are there any records before 1855?

There are earlier versions of valuation rolls, sometimes going back to the 17th century. These are called things like assessment, cess or stent rolls. They're sporadic and vary in detail and format. Some might only give values or proprietors. They're held in different collections but can be really useful for researchers of the pre-1855 period. You can find out what we hold on our website (see link in Q6 above.) Here's an example of a 1670 stent roll for Rutherglen.

Q8: Have you ever come across any famous people listed?

Loads! For example, here’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the 1913-14 roll at 78 Ann Street, also known as Florentine Terrace. Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald left Glasgow shortly afterwards. The house was later bought by Glasgow University and the interiors reassembled as ‘The Mackintosh House’ at the Hunterian Art Gallery. We've also come across the house that boxer Benny Lynch was born in - 17 Florence Street. Benny's father John is listed as a surfaceman in the roll of 1913, the same year the future world flyweight champion was born.

A blue valuation roll paper with typed writing in black in from Glasgow.