Scottish Genealogy

Monday, 23 July 2012

Old Scots Words: Fewfermorer

Today's letter is 'f' and we have a word that is often seen as a designation in older documents:
'Fewfermorer' (or 'Fewfirmorer')

As usual, there are a fair few different ways of spelling this one, it can be 'feu' or 'few' at the beginning and the vowels at the end can be 'o's or 'i's or 'e's but it is usually quite easy to spot it. 

It simply means someone who holds a fewferm.  Which then rather begs the question 'what is a fewferm then?'.  Well, a fewferm is defined by the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) as being:

'The tenure of land or other property in feu.'
'The payment made by the tenant of a feu.' 

so the 'feufirmorer' (however you see it spelled) will be the individual who holds a specific property in feu.

The DSL has examples of this word being used from the early 1400s onwards: indeed the following example from the Newbattle Charters is thought to date from c.1400:

'Landis quhilk he haldis in few ferm of the abbot'

[lands which he holds in feu ferm of the abbot] 

and as late as 1749 the term 'feuferme' is found in the papers of the Earls of Morton (ref. GD150/1720: held at Orkney Archives):

Feuferm charter in favour of Harry Miller, notary in Stromness, of lands of Appihouse and Neitherbiggin and Heyvell in parish of Stennes, 19 Sep 1749

Being in active use for as long as that, you will probably come across this word at some point in your research.

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