The NRS maps and plans collection contains many exceptional items, but we’re looking today at the estate plans of John Home. Home was a land surveyor who worked across Scotland during the mid to late 18th century. It was something of a golden age of surveying in Scotland – a time when estate plans were much in demand from landowners wanting to assess and ‘improve’ their holdings.

His plans are highly detailed and contain a wealth of information which users may not initially expect. A major point of interest is that many give the names of the owners, tenants or possessors of individual holdings in rural areas, or of dwellings in his urban plans. A good example is this plan of Stonehaven in 1795, which gives individuals’ names and the location of their dwellings.

Detail from: National Records of Scotland, RHP142494: Plan of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, 1795.

Another plan which is representative of Home’s work is his survey of the lands of Mosstowie, Morayshire. In this small part of a much larger plan, we can see a number of names – including those of some female tenants. As sources for women can be scarce prior to the 19th century, the presence of their names on this plan is of interest.

Detail from: National Records of Scotland, RHP21: Plan of the moss and lands of Mosstowie, Hillside and the Greens in the parish of Elgin, Feb 1766.

These people were neighbours who lived, worked, and worshipped together. Plans like these allow researchers to pinpoint how closely families lived to each other, and how individuals might have met as neighbours and married ‘the girl next door’.

The people named in these plans were often all present together at the important life events of their neighbours, and just a quick look at the parish records shows how interwoven these peoples’ lives were. In February 1757 William Shiach (whose name appears on the plan, above) baptised a daughter named Christian. The witnesses to the baptism were all neighbours: from the Robertson, Findlay, Jeans, Allan, and McIntosh families – all of these families appear on the larger Mosstowie plan. One of the witnesses, James Findlay, lived in the property next to the Shiach family and their homes can be seen on the plan above.

Many of John Home’s plans have already been digitised and images of them can be viewed in the Historical Search Room of the National Records of Scotland. They, along with so many other maps and plans from the national collections, represent a fantastic resource for local and family historians.

Descriptions of many of the NRS plans can be found by searching the online catalogue and copies can be obtained by contacting us.

Kirsteen Mulhern, Archivist

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