Have you ever wondered where your Scottish surname comes from? Does it belong to one

of the clans of Scotland? Or does it derive from the ancient Gaelic language or even a 

profession that your ancestors did? The clan history of Scotland is fascinating and both

colourful and bloody in equal measure, so read on to find out more information.


It was often thought that people with a clan surname were direct descendants of the clan

chief. But sometimes it was common to adopt a surname when land was taken over to

show solidarity and ensure protection with the clan.


Few aspects of Scotland’s fascinating history were as colourful, or as bloody, as the clan

system. From ancient origins in the Celtic, Norse or Norman-French traditions, by the 13th

century, the clans had grown firm roots in the Highlands of Scotland.

While the term ‘clan’ means family or children in Gaelic, not everyone in the same clan

was actually related to each other. The clans lived off the land, with cattle being their

main source of wealth and, along with border disputes, the prime cause of inter-clan

unrest. The most important clan chiefs at this time were part-kings, part-protectorates and

part-judges and they held real power over their controlled lands.

The system remained largely intact until the time of the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746,

where the Jacobite rebellion was mercilessly crushed by the royal troops of King George II.

                                                                          By this point, improved trade and communication links between northern and
                                                                          southern clans were already leading to the dilution of the clan system and the
                                                                          infamous Highland Clearances effectively signalled the end as thousands of Scottish
                                                                          land workers sought the promise of a better life on distant shores.

                                                                          Today, many clans can be traced back to a specific part of Scotland, for example
                                                                           the MacLeods of Skye, the MacNeils of Barra or the MacNabs of St Fillan on Loch
                                                                          Earn. If you have ancestral ties and a clan history in Scotland, a trip to your clan’s
                                                                           homeland is an incomparable and moving experience like no other.


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