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Monday 25 May 2015

Customs and excise records


Many of the customs and excise records are held by the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). This series forms a valuable resource for genealogical and historical research. The chapter on ports in 'Tracing Scottish local history in the Scottish Record Office' by Cecil J Sinclair describes in more detail the information which can be obtained from these records. Two further publications which illustrate how customs and excise records can be used for family history are Frances Wilkins, 'Family histories in Scottish customs records' (Kidderminster, 1993) and Frances Wilkins, 'Scottish customs and excise records with particular reference to Strathclyde' (Kidderminster, 1992).

Customs records before 1707

Customs records before the Union of 1707 are to be found in the records of the Scottish Exchequer (NAS reference (ref.) E38, E71-74). The customs books (NAS ref. E71-72), which record the duties levied on goods carried by ships into and out of individual ports, can include names of ships' masters (but not crews) and merchants.

Customs staff records after 1707

The names and salaries of customs officers (excluding junior clerks and crews of cutters) who were employed at headquarters and at each Scottish port between 1715 and 1822 are recorded quarterly in the Scottish Customs establishment books (NAS ref. CE3). Separate establishment books record the names and salaries of customs officers employed in the collection of salt duty at headquarters and at various Scottish ports between 1714 and 1798 (NAS ref. CE12). The letter books of the Board and of the local customs out ports can provide further information not only about revenue officers and their families, but also about persons in other occupations such as merchants, tobacconists, mariners, ship owners, farmers and fish curers. As these names are not indexed staff at the NAS cannot search them on behalf of enquirers.

Excise staff records after 1707

Unfortunately most of the official staff (and other) records of the Scottish Excise were lost in a fire in the 19th century. To try and fill this gap, Mr J F Mitchell compiled information about excise officers between 1707 and 1830 from the surviving records held in the National Archives of Scotland and from other sources. The result was his biographical card index, which can be consulted in the NAS's Historical Search Room on microfilm (NAS ref. RH4/6/1-2). NAS also holds a list of all excise officers in 1743 (NAS ref. GD1/54/10). The Scottish Excise registers of appointments and removals, 1813-1829, are held by the NAS and contain excerpts from Board minutes concerning staff appointments, dismissals and removals (NAS ref. CE13). The Scottish Excise establishment minute books contain staff details for the period of the subordinate Scottish board between 1824 and 1830 (NAS ref. CE16). The records also include a list of all officers in 1794, noting the age of the officer and the number of his family (NAS ref. CE6/19).

Shipping registers

Ships and fishing boats must be registered in a port of registry before they can be navigated. Local customs officers frequently maintained shipping registers and sea fishing boat registers on behalf of the Registrar-General of Seamen from 1786, and surviving registers of these ports are included among the Customs and Excise records. Though the information contained in shipping registers can vary, they usually record the names of ships, their owners and changes in ownership, the ship's master and a basic description of the vessel, including the year it was built and its size and tonnage. Some shipping registers are also held at local customs offices. Staff in the NAS can advise enquirers about particular local holdings. Local customs officers were often appointed Receivers of Wrecks and also carried out work on behalf of the Royal Naval Reserve.

On the west coast of Scotland the shipping registers were generally maintained by the Fishery Offices. Some of these registers of fishing boats, which fall within the years 1869-1988, are included in the Fishery Board records (NAS ref. AF17-36). Annual lists of Scottish fishing vessels between 30 and 79.9 feet from 1965 onwards are contained in the files (NAS ref. AF62) of the former Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS), and some are also held in the Scottish Government's Library. These lists give the boat's name, port of registration, registered number, year built, length, tonnage, horsepower, and the DAFS vessel code and base district. From about 1980 DAFS and its successors have published The Scottish Fishing Fleet, including additional information such as the vessel type and fishing method, producer organisation, and the numbers (but not the names) of crew. Copies are available in the NAS from 1983 (NAS ref. AF87/2), in copyright libraries such as the National Library of Scotland and the British Library and in the Scottish Government's Library. Recent lists are available for purchase from the Stationery Office. Please note that records of the Fishery Board are generally closed for 30 years from the last date of each record. In effect this means that most records more recent than the 1960s are not open to the public. Shipping registers and registers of sea fishing boats are open to access. Further sources for tracing the history of ships are Lloyd's Register of Shipping and the Mercantile Navy List. Complete sets of both are held by the Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ. Information on Lloyd's Register of Shipping can be obtained from their website.

Customs and excise records not held in the NAS

The records of some customs out ports and excise districts have been retransmitted to local authority archives. These are listed below:

Repository and placeReference number
Aberdeen City Archives  
Aberdeen Outport and DistrictCE87/4/38-45
Aberdeen Outport and District CE87/11/1-43
Dumfries and Galloway Archives 
Dumfries OutportCE51/1/18-20
Dumfries Outport
Dumfries OutportCE51/4/9
Dumfries OutportCE51/11/2-11
Kirkcudbright Creek shipping registersCE51/5/16-17
Langholm Station CE51/10/1
Lockerbie StationCE51/10/2
Stranraer OutportCE77/11/1-6
Wigtown Outport CE61/11/1-4
Dundee City Archives 
Arbroath Outport and DistrictCE80/1/1
Arbroath Outport and District CE80/2/1-67
Arbroath Outport and District CE80/4/1-17
Arbroath Outport and District CE80/11/1-10
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/1/1-70
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/2/1-172
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/3/1-22
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/4/1-30
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/62-90
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/111-116
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/119-125
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/129-198
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/5/1
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE70/11/1-27
Dundee Outport and DistrictCE60/12/1-24
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/1/1-34
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/2/1-97
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/3/1-7
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/4/1-8
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/5/1
Montrose Outport and DistrictCE53/11/1-6, 9
Glasgow City Council Archives 
Ayr Outport and District CE76/1/1-52
Ayr Outport and District CE76/2/1-15
Ayr Outport and District CE76/4/1-13
Ayr Outport and District CE76/5/1-2
Ayr Outport and District CE76/7/1-14
Ayr Outport and District CE76/10/1-8
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/1/1-48
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/2/1-112
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/3/1-4
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/4/1-40
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/6/1-34
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/7/1
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/9/1-4
Campbeltown Outport and DistrictCE82/11/1-7
Dumfries OutportCE51/11/1
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/1/1-59
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/2/1-99
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/3/1-54
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/4/1-115
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/5/1-5
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/10/1-7
Glasgow Outport and DistrictCE59/11/1-68
Irvine Outport and DistrictCE71/1/1-24
Irvine Outport and DistrictCE71/2/1-60
Irvine Outport and DistrictCE71/4/1-3
Irvine Outport and DistrictCE71/5/1-5
Oban Outport and DistrictCE75/1/1,
Oban Outport and DistrictCE75/2/1-3
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/1/1-114
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/2/1-402
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/3/1
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/4/1-45
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/5/1-3
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/7/1-3
Port Glasgow and GreenockCE60/8/1
Rothesay Outport and DistrictCE73/1/1-6
Rothesay Outport and DistrictCE73/2/1-17
Tobermory Outport and District CE74/2/1-14
Troon Outport and DistrictCE72/1/1-2
Troon Outport and DistrictCE72/2/1-50
Troon Outport and DistrictCE72/4/1
Orkney Library and Archives 
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/1/1-27
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/2/1-51
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/ 3/1-21
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/4/1-20
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/4/22-51
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/4/53-60
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/10/1-10
Kirkwall Outport and DistrictCE55/11/1-
Perth and Kinross Council Archive 
Blairgowrie Outport and DistrictCE79/6/1-6
Blairgowrie Outport and DistrictCE79/7/1-2
Blairgowrie Outport and DistrictCE79/9/1-7
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/1/1-22
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/2/1-66
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/4/1-3
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/8/1-3
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/9/1
Perth Outport and DistrictCE52/11/1-6
Shetland Archives 
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/1/1-63
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/2/1-108
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/3/1-27
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/4/1-46
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/5/1
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/6/1-6
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/7/1-2
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/8/1-19
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/9/1-2
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/10/1-2
Lerwick Outport and DistrictCE85/11/1-21

You can use the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) website's directory of Scottish archives to find contact details for the archives services listed above.

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