| If you are visiting the NAS to research
Court of Sessions (CS) records, you may wish to print out our guides,
familiarise yourself with them, and refer to them during your visit.
This guide looks at series of Court of Session records other than
the extracted and unextracted processes.
There are five Court of Session guides:
to Court of Session processes
processes (UPs) after 1660
processes (EPs) after 1660
4 Other Court of Session series
Jury Court (NAS ref. 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 (NAS ref. CS300-311). The processes
are fully searchable on the electronic
catalogue. Failing this, try the minute books (NAS ref. 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 NAS ref. 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
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 electronic
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 (NAS ref. CS272/1)
- Index to Junior Lord Ordinary Petitions: 2nd-5th Series (NAS
ref. CS272/2-5). This is fully searchable on the electronic
- Bill Chamber: Indexes to Miscellaneous Collection of Petitions
(CS273/1-4 & 6, 274, 277, 278/1&2, 279, 284, 285, 286,
287/3 & 298/29-31). A glance through the indexes will quickly
show the type of action. These indexes are fully searchable on
- Like Jury Court actions, Bill Chamber actions before the 20th
century are not covered by the Court of Session general minute
books (CS16 & 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 electronic
Accountant of Court: factories and curatories (includes NAS ref.
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 NAS ref.
CS313-314 and 316-317, which are fully searchable on the electronic
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
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 (NAS ref. 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
- 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
- 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
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
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 electronic
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 the NAS, but to bound volumes of printed
case papers which complement the manuscript processes in the NAS.
The names of parties and dates of an action in the index volumes may
help to locate an original process in the NAS.
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 the NAS, 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, vol 1, 1936)