Burghs were urban settlements which enjoyed trading privileges from medieval times until 1832 and which regulated their own affairs to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the type of burgh) until 1975. Burghs produced characteristic forms of historical record, such as court books, guild records and registers of deeds.
The first eight volumes of Aberdeen burgh registers, which cover the period 1398 – 1511, are included in the UK Register of Important Documentary Heritage, part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The 5,238 pages of the first eight volumes represent the earliest and most complete body of surviving records of any Scottish town. Alongside the Exchequer Rolls and the Register of the Great Seal held by the National Records of Scotland, these records are the only surviving near-continuous record for Scotland in the fifteenth century which give an unrivalled insight into the political and social life of the Scottish medieval town.
Aberdeen's medieval city council functioned both as a policy making unit and as a legal court and usually met twice a week. The early council records contain not only documents of detailed council discussions of policy, but also of the council's more routine concerns, such as legal decisions in hundreds of disputes between citizens, either at the instigation of individuals or the council's own officials.
The registers include information on many aspects of civic and mercantile life in Aberdeen, including the elections of office bearers and councillors; admissions of burgesses; property transfers; promulgations of regulations and prices; property and trade debts; cargoes of foreign vessels; statements regarding public health issues; rentals of burgh lands and fishing; royal missives; tax rolls; and much more.
Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives hold the original registers among the records of Aberdeen burgh (http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/education_learning/local_history/archives/loc_archiveshomepage.asp). The images of the burgh registers are the copyright of Aberdeen City Council.
'Connecting and Projecting Aberdeen's Burgh Records' is a project, funded by the University of Aberdeen’s Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS) to test the practicalities of creating an online, publicly-accessible database, which links a full transcription and translation of the registers’ text with corresponding images (for more information go to http://www.abdn.ac.uk/riiss/about/aberdeen-burgh-records-project-97.php).