Author Topic: Are all clan members related?  (Read 10772 times)

Offline MatthewG

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Are all clan members related?
« on: Thursday 19 July 12 23:23 BST (UK) »
I'm wondering if anyone can suggest how likely it might be that one person bearing the name of a clan might be related to the chief. All of the official clan societies tend to suggest that everyone goes back to the same founder of the name, but can this really be the case? My own family interest is Maclachlan, and my ancestors can certainly be traced to an area where the clan was active, but I've always doubted whether this actually means we are all related! Would be grateful for any insights.

Matthew

Offline bleckie

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #1 on: Friday 20 July 12 07:42 BST (UK) »
Hi Mathew

Scottish Clan Names
Scottish clans, from the Gaelic clann, meaning "family," provided a formal structure for extended families of shared descent. Clans each identified with a geographical area, usually an ancestral castle, and were originally controlled by a Clan Chief, officially registered with the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which controls heraldry and Coat of Arms registration in Scotland. Historically, a clan was made up of everyone who lived on the chief's territory, people for which he was responsible and who, in turn, owed allegiance to the chief. Thus, not everyone in a clan was genetically related to one another, nor did all members of a clan bear a single surname.

The above was taken from the link below.

http://genealogy.about.com/od/surname_meaning/a/scottish-surnames.htm


Yours Aye
BruceL

Offline Forfarian

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #2 on: Friday 20 July 12 10:02 BST (UK) »
I'm wondering if anyone can suggest how likely it might be that one person bearing the name of a clan might be related to the chief. All of the official clan societies tend to suggest that everyone goes back to the same founder of the name, but can this really be the case? My own family interest is Maclachlan, and my ancestors can certainly be traced to an area where the clan was active, but I've always doubted whether this actually means we are all related! Would be grateful for any insights.

You cannot be sure that people bearing the same surname are blood relations of the clan chief.

Passing over the possibility that your ancestor's father was not the person his mother said he was, there are all sorts of reasons why this might be the case.

First of all, someone with an entirely different lineage might attach himself to a chief's retinue, and adopt the chief's surname. This is analogous to slaves in the West Indies taking their masters' surnames.

Or the surname may have arisen separately in different places. MacPherson, for instance, means 'son of the parson' and a moment's reflection will tell you that it is very likely that parsons in many different places probably had sons who were known by that surname. Williams(on) and MacWilliam (and a myriad of spelling variants) mean 'son of William' and given the prevalence of William as a given name, it's obvious that such names must have originated separately many times over in different places in the English-speaking world.

MacLachlan means 'son of Lachlan', of course ('Lachlan' being from Gaelic and meaning 'warlike'). G F Black, in his book The Surnames of Scotland says that, "The chief seat of the clan is in Cowal, Argyllshire, the lands of which were acquired by Gilleskel Maclachlan in 1292, and as early as 1314 we find their stronghold there referred to as 'Castellachlan', i.e. Castle Lachlan. Some Maclachlans were for centuries hereditary captains of Innischonnel to the Argylls. They were probably originally Campbells as it is highly unlikely the custody of the chief fortress of Lochow would have been entrusted to members of another clan".

What he seems to be implying is that there were at least two separate origins of the surname, one being a Gilleskel whose father was named Lachlan, the other springing from a Lachlan Campbell. There could also have been other Lachlans who had sons known as MacLachlan.


Never trust anything you find online (especially submitted trees and transcriptions on Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast and other commercial web sites) unless it's an image of an original document - and even then be wary because errors can and do occur.

Offline Skoosh

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #3 on: Friday 20 July 12 15:35 BST (UK) »
Many of these families have died out in the male line but held on to the heritable property and changed their name. The Macleod is no more a Macleod than I am, the real Macleod DNA is probably in the US somewhere, descended from Macleod of Gesto? So with Hamilton, Douglas, Sutherland etc'. A bit of a con really.
Who mentioned Windsor?

Skoosh


Offline Forfarian

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #4 on: Friday 20 July 12 15:53 BST (UK) »
Many of these families have died out in the male line but held on to the heritable property and changed their name. The Macleod is no more a Macleod than I am, the real Macleod DNA is probably in the US somewhere, descended from Macleod of Gesto? So with Hamilton, Douglas, Sutherland etc'. A bit of a con really.

Are you suggesting that female DNA is somehow inferior?  :o
Never trust anything you find online (especially submitted trees and transcriptions on Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast and other commercial web sites) unless it's an image of an original document - and even then be wary because errors can and do occur.

Offline hdw

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #5 on: Friday 20 July 12 15:53 BST (UK) »
The modern science of genetic genealogy is revealing that more people with a certain surname share common ancestry than used to be thought. I recommend you to read Bryan Sykes's book "Adam's Curse. A Future Without Men". Sykes is a professor of genetics at Oxford University and the founder of the DNA-testing agency Oxford Ancestors.

In the abovenamed book Sykes describes his research into some Scottish clans. He tested representatives of the chiefly lines, and also as many "ordinary" bearers of the name as he could find. His McDonald research was particularly interesting. He identified a common pattern of Y DNA (male, from the father's father's father ...) which he believes is the patrilineal strain going back to the founder of Clan Donald, Somerled, Lord of the Isles. The point about chiefs like that is that they had a lot more "wives" and concubines than the average male, so their genetic inheritance is pretty widespread.

Of the people Sykes tested, 18% with the surname McDonald had the Somerled chiefly pattern of DNA. But this rose to an astounding 40% of testees with the name McAlister. Traditionally, the McAlisters claim to be descended from Somerled too and to be kin to the McDonalds. Sykes's theory is that when surnames became more widespread, or even compulsory, a lot of people would have taken on the surname of a powerful local clan, like McDonald, but there was no pressing reason to take on a common or garden name like McAlister, so a lot of McDonalds at the present day probably have non-McDonald origins, but most McAlisters are the "real McCoy", to coin a phrase!

I read the other day that, I think, about 15% of Stewarts are descended from the royal lot, and on the Scottish DNA Project blog I read that the Clan Chisholm DNA project has identified their chiefly line as being a classic Y DNA I1 type, which means Norse, and seems to confirm that the founder of the clan Chisholm was an Anglo-Norman, whose ancestors would have gone back beyond Normandy to Norway. Of Chisholms who have been roped into the Chisholm DNA project, between 30% and 40% have tested as being of the chiefly line. Vikings under the skin!

Harry

Offline hdw

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #6 on: Friday 20 July 12 16:00 BST (UK) »
I meant to mention above that in Gaelic tradition the name Lochlann refers to Scandinavia, in particular Norway.

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

Harry

Offline Skoosh

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #7 on: Friday 20 July 12 22:51 BST (UK) »
A study in Skye, despite the Norse placenames, found little evidence of Norse DNA. Was this to be found in the tacksman class who emigrated, taking it with them?
 If you look at portraits of the Highland gentry before they started marrying English heiresses for their money, they have that look about them, centuries of interbreeding ensured any wealth in the region stayed in this extended family, despite religious & political differences.

Skoosh.

Offline Munro84

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Re: Are all clan members related?
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday 25 July 12 11:46 BST (UK) »
The answer is No. Not all clan members are related, even if they have the same surname. The fact of the matter is people would take/adopt the surname of the chief/lord to show allegiance, solidarity, for basic protection or for much needed sustenance. In other words to show that they were part of his clan.

DNA is proving this. For example in the Clan Donald DNA study there was actually 22% who were related to eachother and related to the clan chiefs - but that is still a minority number.

Then theres the clan members who had different surnames entirely: the septs.