Author Topic: Clans, families and Tartans  (Read 6007 times)

Offline Abygail

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Clans, families and Tartans
« on: Sunday 03 June 12 11:55 BST (UK) »
Can someone explain to  me in as simple a manner as possible how a modern day person of Scottish ancestry is able to work out what clan, family and tartan they descend from?
Once families left Scotland marriages didn't always follow within the clan they once strongly supported. 
I have come across records where the husband took the wife's family name as she was the sole heir to estates etc and the name would have otherwise been gone.
Is it the male line that is maintained or do some names take precedence over others?
Abygail
Durham - HARDY Ann, Mary, CLARKE William, Elizabeth, DABRON Robert, Thomas, Rhoda >1853
Tyrone- SEETON George, John; COULTER Mary>1919
Clonmel Tipperary - KELLY Daniel b1812 wed in Aust.1849 
Cornwell - Newton on Abbot area SYMON(D)S - George Harvie wife BALSOM(E) Mary b1795
Headford Galway - Bridget KING famine orphan and Tuam Workhouse
  Abygail

Offline Forfarian

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Re: Clans, families and Tartans
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 03 June 12 15:24 BST (UK) »
Can someone explain to  me in as simple a manner as possible how a modern day person of Scottish ancestry is able to work out what clan, family and tartan they descend from?
Once families left Scotland marriages didn't always follow within the clan they once strongly supported. 
I have come across records where the husband took the wife's family name as she was the sole heir to estates etc and the name would have otherwise been gone.
Is it the male line that is maintained or do some names take precedence over others?
Abygail

The first thing to note is that the majority of Scots did not ever actually belong to a clan. The clan system was a feature of society in the Highlands and Islands, not in the Lowlands, which was always the most populous part of the country.

There was no requirement to marry within the clan you were born in. Generally inheritance went down the male line, though as you have found, brotherless heiresses sometimes married men who took their wives' names.

I'm afraid the Brigadoon industry has peddled a huge amount of disinformation about clans and tartans over the years. For instance, you can consult lists which tell you that if your surname is Taylor you are a member of Clan Cameron. This is obviously nonsense, because the surname Taylor is an occupational surname which would have arisen independently all over the English-speaking world. Just because there were a lot of Taylors among the adherents of Clan Cameron is a long way from meaning that everyone named Taylor is descended from Clan Cameron.

You will also find that if your surname is, say Adamson, you belong to Clan Gordon, Simpson to Clan Fraser and so on. These are based on the prevalence of the given name Adam among the Gordons, and Simon among the Frasers. A moment's thought will tell you that both Adam and Simon are biblical names occurring all over the Judaeo-Christian world, and that there must be legions of sons-of-Adam who have nothing to do with Clan Gordon, and sons-of-Simon with no connection to Clan Fraser.

Most Lowland Scots in the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries probably regarded Highlanders as dangerous savages and would have been horrified at any suggestion that they were connected in any way to a Highland clan. Most modern Scots are not much interested in whether or not they belong to a clan, and if so which one. If you have a genuine clan surname, like MacDonald or Cameron, then you belong to that clan. If, on the other hand, your surname is Clark, or Brown, or Hill, or Thomson, you might have a clan affiliation if your mother, or a grandmother, or some other ancestress, had a clan surname, but the chances are that you have no connection through your male line.

There are also clan associations formed in relatively recent times around non-Highland surnames, such as Scott, which is in fact a Borders family, not a Highland clan.

If you are serious about your own genealogy, forget about clans and tartans unless and until you find that you definitely have an ancestor who can be proved to have been a member of a particular clan.

As for tartan, almost every design available today is a 19th century invention. If you want to wear a tartan, just pick one you like and get on with it. There are no laws saying that you can't wear any tartan you like, there is no tartan police, and no-one will take any notice which tartan you are wearing, even if they could recognise and name it, which is unlikely.

I have to go back to my great-great-grandmother before I find a Highland clan name in my ancestry, and I have to go back to my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother to find a direct ancestor with a surname beginning with 'Mac'. Yet every single one of my forebears was a Scot, born in Scotland, brought up in Scotland, married (apart from two couples) in Scotland, brought up their family in Scotland and died in Scotland. I do not, and never have, regarded it as either necessary, or relevant, or even interesting, to work out whch clan I might belong to, and I assure you that I am not at all unusual in that.
Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith

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Offline sancti

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Re: Clans, families and Tartans
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 03 June 12 22:40 BST (UK) »
Abygail, As Forfarian has said, very few people in Scotland were connected to the clan system and the tartans of today bear no resemblance to the highland 'tartans' of the clan system. Even the modern kilt was invented for the English king George 1V

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartan

Offline Abygail

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Re: Clans, families and Tartans
« Reply #3 on: Monday 04 June 12 14:04 BST (UK) »
Thank you Forfarian for your comprehensive reply.   I had already disregarded the anglicised names and was looking at surnames from pre 1800 where the family had strong connection to the Church of Scotland - with at least 4 consecutive generations of Reverends.
Names featuring Robertson, Bayne/Bain, Munro and Bethune.  The maternal line has Robertson, Bethune, Beveridge and Murdoch, some of which I know are either lowland or english.
Once families arrived into Australia the main common denominator was being 'Scottish' as apposed to being a Highlander.
Yes, you are correct re tartans - what is passed off as clan tartans today bears no resemblance to what existed prior to the ban that was placed on the wearing of them.
Abygail
Durham - HARDY Ann, Mary, CLARKE William, Elizabeth, DABRON Robert, Thomas, Rhoda >1853
Tyrone- SEETON George, John; COULTER Mary>1919
Clonmel Tipperary - KELLY Daniel b1812 wed in Aust.1849 
Cornwell - Newton on Abbot area SYMON(D)S - George Harvie wife BALSOM(E) Mary b1795
Headford Galway - Bridget KING famine orphan and Tuam Workhouse
  Abygail

Offline Forfarian

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Re: Clans, families and Tartans
« Reply #4 on: Monday 04 June 12 14:26 BST (UK) »
Names featuring Robertson, Bayne/Bain, Munro and Bethune.  The maternal line has Robertson, Bethune, Beveridge and Murdoch

According to Black's Surnames of Scotland

Robertson means 'son of Robert', but as a surname it is often ascribed to Clann Donnchaidh, i.e. Duncan.
Bayne/Bain is from Gaelic 'bàn' meaning fair-haired or of fair complexion.
Beveridge is supposed to be from an island in the River Severn, and means 'beaver island'.
Bethune is from the town of that name in the Pas de Calais in France, and it has many variants including Beaton. A family named Bethune or Beaton were famously hereditary physicians to the chief of Clan Donald.
Murdoch is probably from Gaelic meaning 'sea-warrior'.
Munro is said to indicate a person from the River Roe in Derry, Ireland

Interestingly, your list contains at least one surname from each of the four different types of surname

- a patronymic (son of ....)
- a descriptive name
- a name of territorial origin
- an occupational name

I don't think I would read a great deal into adherence to the Church of Scotland. There were Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and various Presbyterian sects, but for the majority of the population for most of the 18th century the C of S was either the obvious or even the only publicly acceptable denomination.
Researching

AITKENHEAD, Lanarkshire; BINNY, Forfar; BLACK, New Monkland; BRYSON, Cumbernauld; BURGESS, North-East Scotland; CRUICKSHANK, Rothes; DALLAS, Botriphnie; DAVIDSON, Oyne; GUTHRIE, Angus; HOGG, Larbert; LESLIE, Rothes/Mortlach; MENDUM, England; MOLLISON, Lethnot; PATERSON, Larbert; RHIND, Forfar; SANG, Scotland; SCOTT, East Kilbride; STOR(R)I/E/Y, Shotts; THORNTON, Shotts; WADDELL, New Monkland; WILKIE, New Monkland; WILKIE, Tannadice; WYLLIE, Angus; YOUNG, Keith

Offline Abygail

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Re: Clans, families and Tartans
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 05 June 12 13:20 BST (UK) »
Looks like my husband's people had 50 cents each, making sure they covered all the bases.  Dread to think what my side breaks down to.   Seaton, Coulter (born and died in Ireland but originally from Scotland)Lawson, Dougall, McNichol and Monteith.
It's all good fun, knowing where one comes from helps drive you forward.
Thanks for your input,  Abygail
Durham - HARDY Ann, Mary, CLARKE William, Elizabeth, DABRON Robert, Thomas, Rhoda >1853
Tyrone- SEETON George, John; COULTER Mary>1919
Clonmel Tipperary - KELLY Daniel b1812 wed in Aust.1849 
Cornwell - Newton on Abbot area SYMON(D)S - George Harvie wife BALSOM(E) Mary b1795
Headford Galway - Bridget KING famine orphan and Tuam Workhouse
  Abygail