How far back can you trace your family history? What has it revealed about the connections between people and place? Are you also interested in Scotland’s history and key events further back in time? Research into one area of heritage can often lead to the discovery of new areas of interest, such is the interplay between genealogy, ancestry, antiquarianism and archaeology.
Many people across the world are lucky enough to have ancestral ties to Scotland – are you one of them? If you haven’t already, follow these steps to research your Scottish roots and family history:
Make a Family Tree
If you are starting to compile your family tree the best way is to work backwards in time. Start with a relative whose full name you know, together with identifying details such as place and date of birth, marriage or death. You will usually find tracing a Scottish line of descent back to 1855 fairly straightforward but going beyond 1855 can be more difficult. A personal useful guide to getting started created by Claire Mitchell might help you.
Use Online Resources
The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is a useful mine of information. It has produced a brief guide to explain the main records for tracing Scottish ancestors, where and how to access them and the services available to aid research. For more information visit the websites of the National Records of Scotland (www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/family-history and www.ScotlandsPeople) and the Scottish Archive Network (www.scan.org.uk).
Ask a Professional
Professional genealogists can help you dig deeper and find out more about your Scottish ancestry, advising at all stages in your family research. For more information you can visit the Scottish Genealogy Society, run by volunteers and based in Edinburgh (www.scotsgenealogy.com). There is also the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA), which is an accredited group of professional genealogists who undertake research for clients, including family and local historians, authors and legal firms. More information is available here www.asgra.co.uk/index.php .
Check Clan Websites
Today, many clans can be traced back to a specific part of Scotland, for example the MacLeods of Skye, the MacNeils of Barra, the Macleans of Mull, the Grants of the Highlands or the Kerrs in the Borders. If you have ancestral ties and a clan history in Scotland, a trip to your clan’s homeland is a must! You can find out what clan your surname belongs to and where in Scotland it originates on Scottish clan websites, such as www.clanchiefs.org.uk and www.scotclans.com.
Join a History Society
Dig even deeper and further back in time to discover more about Scotland’s past. From prehistory and antiquities, through the Middle Ages to Renaissance, Enlightenment and modern Scotland. Interested? If so, then why not attend one of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s events and consider joining the Society?
Founded in 1780 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1783 the Society is the oldest antiquarian body in Scotland. Its purpose is the study of the antiquities and history of Scotland, more especially by means of archaeological research. The Society today is concerned with every aspect of the human past in Scotland. Its offices are in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Further resources and information to aid research are available at www.socantscot.org/resources .
Help us: champion research; stimulate discussion; enhance public understanding; and share our extraordinary heritage. Donate directly to the Society now.