Diane Baptie Picture by SeeSawPhotos: Gairloch Village and Baosbheinn (Hill of the Wizard), Wester Ross, Scotland.

Commissary Court Testaments

Prior to 1824, when a person died, the relatives would apply to the Commissary Clerk for an edict to place on the church door on a Sunday, inviting those who had any claim to the deceased’s movable estate to come forward. After the Inventory had been drawn up, it, and the will (if there was one) would be taken to the Commissary Clerk’s office to be confirmed and inserted in the Register of Testaments

There were two types of testament:

  • Testament dative – the deceased died intestate and so there is only an inventory.  The executor would be appointed by the court in a decreet or judgement
  • Testament testamentar – the deceased died testate and so there is an inventory and a will in which the testator appointed his executor(s)

A testament only involves movable property and takes a specific form:


This gives the name of the deceased, the date of death, residence, may include an occupation and names of the executor or executors

Inventory of the deceased’s goods and gear

Money was written in Roman numerals
l, li or lib – short for the Latin ‘libra’ = a pound
Sh or s = shilling
d = pennies
c or ct stands for centum = 100
Jaj or Jai is a corruption of 1m = a thousand
There were 20 shillings in a pound and 12 pennies in a shilling
A merk was worth 2/3rds of a Scots pound
From 1600 one pound Scots was worth 1/12th of one pound Sterling

The Inventory is then totalled

Debts owed to the deceased

These are then itemised, totalled and then added to the value of the inventory

Debts owed by the deceased

These are listed, totalled and then deducted from the total of the inventory and debts owed to the deceased.  So, the value of the deceased’s estate is then determined

Under Scots law, the deceased’s estate had to be divided into three parts – the widow’s terce, the bairns’ part and the ‘deid’s’ part.  In other words, one third went to the surviving spouse, one third to their children and one third could be bequeathed as the testator wished.  In the case of intestacy, the ‘deid’s part just went into the residue

Quot or Quotta is often written in the margin.  This was the cost levied by the court to confirm a testament

Finally, if the deceased died testate the Legacy and Latter will is inserted

The Confirmation clause by the Commissary Clerk or his depute

This may be followed by a Bond of Caution by a person binding himself to act as cautioner for the executor(s) and/or a Protestation by the executor(s) to ‘eik’ (add to the original confirmed testament at a later date)

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