The Burgar/Burgess families in Shetland

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The Testament and Inventory of David Burgar, died 1664

The details below are a translation (as far as possible) of David Burgars Testament and Inventory.52

In summary it states that probate was granted on 31st January 1668 to his widow Isobell Burgar.  His estate, which  was valued at  36-18s-8d, comprised a horse, 2 geese, 5 sheep, property and something we have not been able to decipher.  The fee for proving probate was 018s-6d.

Thus David Burgar died in 1664 but we do not know when he was born.  His wife was Isobell Burgar.  This is unusual since in Shetland the wife usually went by her maiden name.  Does this mean that her maiden name was Burgar and therefore she was some form of cousin  to David Burgar?  Or did this Burgar family originate in Scotland, where women adopted the surname of their husbands?  As far as we can understand the Probate was granted in 1668, but David  died in 1664. 

A Testament Testator is where a person makes a Will and it then goes through the probate process.

A Testament Dative occurred when a person died without making a Will. 

This happened in David Burgar's case.  Often the deceased persons possessions were divided up amicably by the family.  Sometimes at a later date (in this case 4 years later) it was necessary to apply to the court for a ruling on how the proceeds were to be split up. Why that happened in this case is unknown.  But the court decided that the applicant, Isobell Burgar, was entitled to have the estate of David Burgar

See actual Testament and Inventory 

The translation

(The translation has been done line by line).

The Testament Dative and Inventory of the goods

gear and debts nothing omitted here set

within the   ?  which pertaining

to the late David Burgar in Skelloway at

the time of his decease who deceased in the

month of September 16 hundred three score four

years (i.e. September 1664) faithfully made, made and given

up by David Burgar sayth to the said

deponent in name of Isobel Burgar his

relict for herself and executor dative decree

and confirmed to her by decree of the Commissioner

prince of Orkney and Zetland as the 

of the day the last day of January 16 hundred

three score and eight years in it best 



Firstly the said Deponent and his said

relict spouse and said goods gear and ? of the

values and quantities and prices examined follows

my pertamony to them the Princes foresaid of his

discretion, viz   

ITEM two fine? estimate to 18-6s-8d

ITEM one Stallion? Shetland ? horse estimate to 10    

ITEM 2 geese 1.0s.0d 

ITEM the domiciles with the abutments estimate to 10. 

ITEM five sheep estimate 8.

Sum of the Inventory  38-6s-8d   (NB. this is the correct total for the above items)

Follows are the debts owing to the dead

ITEM by David Cross 4 . 

ITEM by George Sinclair 12s

Sum of Inventory and debts is 42-18s-8d (NB. this is the correct total for the above items)

Follows the debts  owed by the dead

ITEM for the deceased burial 6

Remains of sum are                  36-18s-8d (NB. this is the correct total for the above items)

To be divided in 2 parts becomes 18-9s-3d

Fee                                  0-18s-6d


The latter is the Fee to be paid for the granting of probate.  This is up to 10% of the estate value, but for small estates was much less.  In this case it was about 5%.

This Inventory suggests that David Burgar died in Skelloway, but it was not his permanent address. His wife was Isobell Burgar, who was claiming his estate. Since David had horses, geese and sheep, he must have had a croft.  It is not clear whether he resided in Skelloway or just happened to be there when he died.  Because he was married, and left a considerable amount of money, he was certainly older than 20, and possibly older than 40.  If this were so, he would have been born by about 1620, and therefore might be a son of William Burger, the tailor, and his wife Marian Irving.  If David was much older than 40 then he might be the brother of William Burger, the Tailor.



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