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Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 10 Jul 2011 7:39PM GMT
Classification: Query
I have Scottish on so many branches of my family tree, but Im not sure which one is the clan that I "belong" to. Do I pick any of them that my ancestors were part of, or am I supposed to follow a specific branch (father's mother's father, etc.)? My paternal side, where my last name comes from, is all German, but my father's grandmother is where our Scottish starts. I want to have my clan crest printed up and apply for membership in the clan. So can anyone tell me how to find which one is "Mine"?

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 10 Jul 2011 8:19PM GMT
Classification: Query
Hi Meghan,
Sorry to burst your bubble but, it's all a myth made-up mostly by Sir Walter Scott and his like in the 19th century. The clan system only existed in the highlands and Islands and after 1745 it was destroyed for ever by the government in England.
To wear a clan tartan means nothing now - if it ever did. The only reason a distinctive weave was worn by a particular group was to identify friends and foe on the battlefield. Basically, you had to fight for the chief of the clan who owned your land and if his name was McDonald and yours Chisholm then too bad.
Here is a very good website that explains it all
http://www.scotland.org.uk/guide/clan-system

Regards,
Jim Leonard,
Motherwell, Scotland.

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 5:55AM GMT
Classification: Query
I couldn't agree more with Jim. Our tourist industry here in Scotland has promoted this fallacy, encouraging people to believe that clans were based solely on surnames. As Jim said, the clan your ancestors belonged to would have been decided by their location, not their surname. It's also worth bearing in mind that your ancestors may not have been part of ANY clan, as many areas of Scotland, particularly in the south and central belt, did not use the clan system at all. Another invention is linking a particular tartan to a clan. This custom (again commercial) only became popular in the 19th century, long after clans ceased to be a reality in Scotland.

The purpose of a clan was to work together for the common good, and to provide protection in numbers. This was only possible if the group was tight-knit, living in the same community. It stands to reason therefore that someone named Campbell for instance who was living in the north-east of Scotland would have no advantage in being part of the Campbell clan, which was located in Argyll in the west.

Another myth is the belief that people of the same surname are all related. When it became popular to use fixed surnames (and in certain areas of Scotland this was often as late as the 19th century), many people chose their occupation (Fisher, Taylor etc). Many others chose a descriptive name (White, Little etc). Others chose a description of where they lived (Hill, Burnside etc). So it's easy to see that there would have been totally unrelated people named Fisher (for example) living all around the coastal areas of Scotland. What purpose could possibly be served by them being in a "Fisher" clan ?

Hope this helps explain the reality M, but if you still want to go ahead and buy into what has became a big industry, then maybe Jim and I should keep quiet !

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 12:26PM GMT
Classification: Query
My Scottish family database has more than 12 thousand people in in, but no known connections to any Clan. Practically all the modern clan societies are based in the USA, where the enthusiasm for Scottish cultural history is greatest.
If you ask any Scotsman (in Scotland) what Clan he belonged to, he most likely would have no answer at all: the concept being a strange one today.
Finally, most of the population of Scotland has never been part of the clan system, and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland catalogue which I am looking at says "There is little evidence about Highland dress and the use of distinctive tartans by the clans until the 17th century, and even then it is conflicting. No tartans in the museum are older than the 18th century"
From the above, you might understand why we in Scotland regard the modern Clans more with amusement than anything else. If it appeals to you, by all means join a clan society - they will welcome you with open arms.

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 1:00PM GMT
Classification: Query
Megan,

I belong to a clan and there are many advantages to belonging to a clan. Mine has a very experienced genealogist to help us with our lines. We can exchange information with others of the same line. That is only two reasons, both good. And I have found more good reasons to join a Clan Society. Choose the clan name that you want to learn more about and find out for yourself. I choose my family name since my grandfather and his family immigrated from Scotland but then I learned of the names of all my Scottish grandmothers.

What the others have said about clans is true but don't let it prevent you from joining a society as there are benefits from joining. You can learn more and you can help others who may be stuck on your line. My email is Wstjs@aol.com if you want to write to me.

Good luck,
Janet

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 5:32PM GMT
Classification: Query
Jim,

While I will admit Im a bit disappointed, it is better to know the truth. I was kind of hoping there really was a tie back to my ancestors, but oh well.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Meghan

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 5:35PM GMT
Classification: Query
Don,

Thank you for your reply. As I told Jim, I will admit Im a bit disappointed. I guess we Americans are gullible and naive when it comes to this kind of stuff, but I am glad to have two genuine Scotsman tell me the truth. I suppose that the "Old Country" has become highly romanticized to us.

Thank you for your honesty, and I will stop the foolish hope of belonging to something that doesnt exist lol

Meghan

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 5:36PM GMT
Classification: Query
Gordon,

Thank you also for your reply. It was a definite eye-opener as to how misleading things can be. I wish it were as an exciting thing as we are lead to believe but... *shrug* Oh well! :)

Meghan

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 5:38PM GMT
Classification: Query
Janet,

Thank you for the information. I realize that the clans are helpful--in fact, that was hope all along was to find "mine" and get them to help me with research. But now, I just cannot bring myself to become a member of something that doesn't really exist---that is to say, something that doesn't predate modern history and go back to my ancestors. But thank you again.

Meghan

Re: Determining Which Scottish Clan you Belong To

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 7:05PM GMT
Classification: Query
Dear Meghan,

Don't let these people put you off. I am as Scottish as anyone else who has responded to your emails and although there is truth in what they say it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The clans existed and exist and some people can trace their families back through the centuries.

For example the McGregor's were proscribed by the Scottish king more than four centuries ago and anyone using that name was considered an outlaw and suffer the fate of outlaws and yet people wore that name with pride and ignored the proscription which was not lifted until the end of the 18th Century.

If your ancestor was a tacksman, like Flora Macdonald's husband you family (within the clan) are easily traceable.

It is true in a sense to say that clans were only in existence 200 years ago above the Highland line but this is also a play on words. Were the great Border families and their riever followers different from the clansmen of the north? If not then the famous author Sir Walter Scottt was a clansman himself.

Please list the Scottish surnames you wish to trace and we will tell you something of who they are and how you might find out more.

Regards

John Shearer
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