Help finding a Clan

Not all Scottish names are Clan names or have a clan connection. Traditionally Clans really only operated in the North-West of Scotland. Other areas such as the Borders had large powerful families that have come to be known as clans for the sake of convenience. With the revival of interest in Scotland's clan traditions many more names are either recognised as clans or connected to clan in some way. 

Knowing that your branch of the name dates back to specific Clan lands in Scotland during Clan times can be near impossible. With the advancements of DNA testing and sharing of information you may be lucky and find a cluster of ancestors from the specific area of Scotland. Uncovering the story.

So lets start...

Firstly look through the A-Z and see if your surnmame is there. It's simple if your surname is a single Clan name but you may find:

There may be a close match. If so please see 'Spelling Differences' below.

You name may be connected to a Clan as in a Sept. So a family name. How do you know if this is fact?


Spelling Differences

Spelling Differences among names are usually trivial no matter how much pride a person has in a particular version. Most of our ancestors were illiterate until recently, especially if they were Gaelic speakers. Most Gaels were not taught to read or write their own language. In contrast with English, Gaelic speakers place more emphasis on the spoken language than on the written form. This means that Gaelic spelling is constantly being modified to match the spoken form, Irish in 1948 and Scottish Gaelic in 1982. However, there are constant revisions and up-dates. In addition, Gaelic speakers did not need nor use family names until they began to interact with the English speaking culture. The Gaelic naming system is quite different and either shows a person’s lineage or some personal attribute. “Donald of the race of Donald”. “Donald, Son of John”, and “Donny Little” all might be the same person. Land holders were known by the name of their holdings — “Locheil”, “Corriemony”, “Keppoch”.

Most persons first had their names written for them by others — ministers, school masters, government officials or ship captains. These people wrote as they heard the name., often differently from one time to the next.

In modern spellings one can find the second part of the surname capitalised or in lower case, “MacDonald” and “Macdonald”. This style was adopted in the nineteenth century to distinguish between a person who was actually the son of a man named Donald (Mac Donald) or one of the general clan surname (Macdonald). This soon lost its meaning.


More than one choice?

This is quite common, people often have connections with a combination of clans. Can’t find a Scottish Connection – What to do next

Try your Mother’s maiden name, if not try looking further back at the surnames in your family’s history.


My ancestors are Scottish but their surname isn't in the list?

This is quite common and we touch on this at the top of the page. Many Scottish names are 'occupational' such as 'Cooper' and can pop up in all areas in Scotland so would not have the same territorial connection of a clan. In the 19th century there was a fashion to connect many Scots names with clans as 'Septs', sometimes the evidence is vague at best. 

I can't find a Clan - what can I do?

If you have traced back your ancestry to Scotland, wearing the district tartan of the area your family lived could mean more to you than just a general tartan.