From the office: Seven reasons why you might have Scottish ancestors

By Editor, 3 July 2014 - 12:06pm

Not sure if you've got Scottish ancestors? These seven clues might help, says editor Sarah Williams

Thursday 3 July 2014

Sarah Williams, editor
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We’re all getting ready in the office for WDYTYA? Live at the SECC in Scotland this August. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for us to meet readers who haven’t been able to make it south to WDYTYA? Live in London before, but it is also an opportunity for Scottish businesses and family history societies to come together and offer advice all under one roof. 

It will be the best opportunity that has ever come to Scotland for researchers to uncover their Scottish roots in a day (or three days if you want). Not only will you be able to access free records from ScotlandsPeople all day but you will be able to get advice from specialists covering the whole country – and all included in the price of a ticket!

I love the feeling of common purpose that creates such a buzz at Olympia but that sense of community will be even stronger at the SECC because the vast majority of visitors will be looking for their Scottish forebears. So, in the light of this, I went for the extremely unscientific process of asking people around our office why they have Scottish ancestors. Judging by their answers, and the WDYTYA? celebrities who have found Scotland connections, here are seven reasons why you might have family from Scotland:

1) You’re Scottish! Yes, I know that’s obvious but let’s start with the easy ones. It came as no surprise to singer-songwriter Annie Lennox that she had strong family connections to Scotland.

2) You live in Canada. According to the 2001 census of Canada, the Scottish-Canadian community accounts for 4,719,850 people. That’s almost as many people as live in Scotland today. Better buy your flight to Glasgow now! Both Jeremy Paxman and Richard Madeley have Canadian family members who descend from Scots, but Canada didn't work out for everyone. One of Sarah Millican's Scottish ancestor came back from Canada having lost both of his feet!

3) You’ve got a Smith or Brown in the family. We would all know to look to Scotland if we had a MacDonald in the family, but the most common surnames are Smith and Brown. June Brown's episode didn't go to Scotland, but perhaps it should have done...

4) You’ve got a doctor in the family. For a long time Scotland was ahead of the rest of Britain (and most of the rest of the world) when it comes to medical education and churned out thousands of doctors including Moira Stuart's grandfather and Rory Bremner's great grandfather. Some people came to Scotland for their medical education, but many Scots will have studied there and then taken their skills elsewhere. 

5) You’ve found Presbyterian connections. If you find a marriage record that happened in a Presbyterian church then it might point to a Scottish connection. Although this branch of Reformed Protestantism was also active in Ireland and England, it was in Scotland that it had its strongest base and many Presbyterians who left Scotland took their religious beliefs with them.

6) You find family in Ulster. James VI of Scotland and I of England clearly didn’t like the Irish nobility. He confiscated much of their land, especially around Ulster. Settlers from Scotland came over in their thousands during the 17th century and in the case of David Tennant's family you can see that migration between Northern Ireland and Scotland continued right into the 20th century.

7) Someone disappears from the records. It’s not unusual to hit the occasional brick wall in family history research. If you can’t find someone when looking in the England and Wales records, try looking in Scotland!

Of course there are plenty of other reasons why you may come across Scottish family during your research. Why not share them with us below or come along and meet us at WDYTYA? Live Scotland 29-31 August.

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