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23 August 2014
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Scottish Roots - Searching for your family history in Scotland

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Tracing Scottish roots brings about its own peculiarities. Here we help you get your head round the clan system, and point you in the right direction for some roots in the Gaeltach.


CLANS
When people think of clans, they tend to think of a group of people all descended from one individual. Whilst many people can accurately claim descent from one person, other people allied themselves to a clan for protection. Whether or not you belong to a clan can be tricky to understand and you can get lost between the clans and the septs. Imagine the clan as the main branch and think of the side-branches as the septs, i.e. people who have married outwith the clan who are nevertheless still blood related, or people who are not clansmen themselves, but aligned to them. You can get a list of septs and clans from many different places – including most tartan shops!

GAELIC
Many parts of Scotland have recorded family history through an oral tradition and nowhere is this more evident than in Gaelic speaking communities. Whilst this can be useful, as generations know where they come from, it an lead to confusion. As the oral tradition dies out this information could be lost, and it is also harder to verify facts conclusively as written records are poor.

For help in tracing relatives from the Islands you could start with a charitable organisation. The Seallam Visiting Centre which is home to Co Leis Thu (literally ‘who do you belong to’) have researched the oral history of virtually every household in the Outer Hebrides of the last 200 years. They have a bank of over
30 000 family tree sheets and also hold information on census returns, emigration and Old Parish Records. You can visit them at:
www.seallam.com

EMIGRATION
Emigration started in the 17th Century in earnest, and reached its peak by the Second World War. One very conservative estimate puts the amount of ‘Scots’ living around the world today at twenty million, so the chances are you’ll find a ‘cousin’ somewhere overseas. You can find information at the National Archives, but having established where your ancestors settled you can contact foreign societies to help dig for information at their end. Your local library may also have a list of foreign societies.

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Getting Started
Further Steps
Initial Sources
Digging Deeper
Feature
Histories
Webguide


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