Potts Trust

December and January, at least here, are cold, I mean really cold, -20 to -30 during the short days, they are also the most depressing time of the year, especially the silly season in the last week of December. It makes it worse as the start of the stupidity gets earlier each year. I avoid it all by not going out and not having any live ‘entertainment’ coming in.  I used to use the time constructively by cleaning the cess pit but now I just hang a ‘gone fishing’ sign on the gate and do something constructive online.

This year I revisited the Potts Trust relatives, to try and bring some order to the genealogy that many cousins seem to have got wrong.

The Potts trust came about because of Thomas Potts who died without children in 1800. Various stories have been told about him, he was a millionaire and a silk merchant, in reality he was moderately well off and a grocer in Edinburgh, he was a grocer at the top end of the market as can be seen from advertising he did and he was involved with the city council, he also got involved in property development and rented homes to dowager duchess’ and other nobility.

Shortly after his death his widow Isabella set up a trust fund for their joint estates. The main provision was that at her death the fund would pass to any of the surviving siblings of Thomas, it appears she have been the end of her line. In any case she lived longer than any of the siblings and on her death the second provision came into force, the income from the fund would be split between any children of the three siblings and their descendants, in perpetuity, which is how came into being an inheritor.

Unfortunately there were several problems created when the trust was set up. The first problem was the size of the fund, it seemed from reading the legal document that half of Scotland was in the trusts control, well at least half of Argyle, with several villages and land in other parts, but that was property deposited as security for a mortgage borrowed by the Lord of Argyl, a loan of 400 pounds. The funds in the trust may have been higher in 1800 but maybe Isabella used a lot to live on for the next 25 years.

The second problem was that many people had 10 or 12 children and the number of people sharing the payout ballooned and as inflation had not been invented then there was no provision made to reinvest some earnings in order to create capital growth.

In the first years the payouts were not to bad, about the same as an agricultural labourer might earn in a year but by the 1970’s people were getting three or four shillings, the cost of administration and sending payments became greater than the income. Perpetuity is not as long as you think it might be, about 150 years.

But it is a genealogical gem, everyone entitled to a payment is a cousin or child of someone else in the trust. I have a copy of a petition to the courts in Edinburgh from 1900, the petition is for the appointment of a new legal factory as the old accountant had died, this needed approval of all members of the trust and they are all listed. Some have an address, one or two mention their marriage partner but all of them list their line of descent, in a convoluted legal way.  The only date is the date of the petition and some people are listed as deceased, just getting the relationships right took two weeks.

Starting with their sometimes vague address in 1900 census records were searched for family groups and moving backwards it was possible to confirm the families as I knew at least one parent. Some were still difficult as they were in South Africa, Naples or Barbados others were easier as they were in the UK or USA and a large number are now confirmed though there are some anomalies that need to be followed up.

Am added bonus was that Lost Cousins had a competition running to add more family members and I could add about 700 which led to finding some living cousins doing research on my lines.

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