a Scottish landscape
 

Technical Details

This section provides a brief insight into the technical background to the website.

Websites containing maps and data are still relatively uncommon for a number of reasons. Digital mapping is expensive, file sizes can be problematic, and map navigation can be tricky. In developing this site we have had to work around all these issues and, although we think we have achieved a worthwhile initial product, are well aware that further technical development is both desirable and necessary.

The Research Process

All the data on landownership contained in this site is obtained from research in the Registers of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland using title deeds as the source material. The legal ownership of all properties is therefore definitive although the detailed delineation of property boundaries comes with a health warning - see Using the Site under the heading "The Map".

However, occasionally, we have relied on information from other sources to determine the boundaries of properties where existing legal sources are inadequate. For example, maps available from the public records are frequently next to useless. A description "the lands as delineated in pink on the plan annexed" is not very much use when all one has is a blue microfiche or black and white photocopy. In such cases resort will be made to other sources including the owners themselves and other historical sources.

Data Processing

Information on ownership is derived from legal records and transferred to a computer database. Maps are generated by digitising boundaries at scales of between 1:10,000 and 1:25,000. A geographic information system (GIS) software programme is then used which enables sophisticated storage, manipulation and publication of geographic information. Storing data this way means that it is in a format which is common throughout the GIS community and which will be robust enough to be adapted in future to a wide range of formats and applications.

The data is uploaded to a server whenever changes are made and the property pages are then generated to reflect the new and/or additional data.

In future I am considering adding more sophisticated search and query facilities so that, for example, a use will be able to search for all landholdings in Angus between 400 acres and 1000 acres or all landholdings owned by a particular owner.

Mapping

Increasingly, GIS data is being served directly across the internet enabling users to zoom in and out, pan across maps, query selected areas for specific information and generate bespoke maps. In the case of whoownsscotland, this is not possible due to the prohibitive cost of such technology and the limitations that many people have in access to the internet. Thus, property records are displayed as static pages with static jpeg maps. However, under the map navigation function it is possible to do a map based search using a German-designed piece of software that utilises SVG (scaleable vector graphics) to allow the export of GIS data to the internet. It's fantastic and does the job at a very modest cost.

Google Maps

It is possible to provide all the data on this site in the form of .kml files which can be viewed in Google Maps or Google Earth. However, there are limitations on the size of the files that can be used and the release of .kml files also means that the data will be in the public domain and freely available to all. That would destroy the subscription business model that I have developed which enables the ongoing expansion and updating of the data.

I am, however, considering introducing an alternative map navigation method using .kml files that would enable rapid searching in google earth and provide links to the property pages.