The earliest Scottish emigration dates back to the early seventeenth century. Scots began emigrating to the United States, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the British Isles. Many left to promote trade or set up military outposts and way stations for merchant ships.
Later, following the destruction of the clan system after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, increased numbers of Scots decided to cross the Atlantic and settle in America – fleeing from poverty or oppression.
The spread of large-scale sheep rearing in the first part of the 19th Century resulted in the Highland clearances where thousands of crofters were evicted from their land. Most Scots emigrated to Canada, but there were also large numbers who went to the United States to escape poverty and political unrest.
During the 19th Century, Scotland lost a much higher percentage of her people than either England or Wales. By 1890 there were over 250,000 Scots living in the United States. Since then, varying numbers have chosen to relocate to different areas across the globe – forging a new life in New Zealand, Australia, the Far East and the Baltic States.
Thus it is no surprise that people come from all over the world to learn more about distant members of their family. Perhaps you’d like to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors; discover more about your clan identity and find out more about how people lived in the past by immersing yourself in the rich heritage, history, and archaeology of Scotland.
Practical steps to research your Scottish Ancestry?
Firstly, try to collect together as much information as you can from your family. Have they got any old photos? Can they remember past relatives’ names or perhaps where they lived or their occupation? All of this information will help you draw up a family tree. This will help you structure your research.
The next step is to tap into some of the many records that are held online. This is a brilliant way to start as you can do this from your home. You can search records for deaths, births and marriages and try and fill in the gaps in your family tree. Have a look at these resources to get you started: Scotland’s People, National Records of Scotland and the Scottish Archive Network.
Do you have a Scottish surname or has your family tree revealed a name from the past? Search for your name and find your clan – perhaps find out more about their history. Many clans have records dating back hundreds of years: Scotclans or The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs may be able to point you in the right direction.
Now it’s time to look more closely at the region or area from which your family hailed. One way to do this is to join a local family history society where you can talk to other people researching their ancestry and also make use of brilliant local resources. For example, if you have details to suggest that your ancestors were from the Argyll area you might contact Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society or The Highland Family History Society.
Hopefully, by now you will have been successful in your research and have a wealth of information about your ancestors. If, however, you have drawn a blank and have been unable to find out much about your Scottish roots then you could always contact a professional genealogist.
Finally, the best and most exciting way to learn more about your Scottish past is to visit Scotland!
Immerse yourself in the land of your ancestors – visit research centres, cemeteries or churches; explore local historical sites and attend genealogy events (sharing your experiences with like-minded people), or take part in spectacular clan gatherings steeped in history and tradition.
Whatever your plans you can always be assured of a warm welcome here at Knockderry – and we look forward to hearing your stories.