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An Introduction to our Scottish & Irish Clan / Family Archive

The Chief welcomes you to our Clan ArchiveClick here to go straight to our clan section!
Or read on for our introduction...

Understanding Clans
It is helpful to understand how the clans and families came into being, where we came from, how they were organised and the influence they played in society as a whole. It is thought that all clans and families in Scotland and Ireland are as a result of just 5 tribes of the Gael. So if you are hunting up your clan associations it would be useful to read C Thomas Cairney's book on the Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland which he has kindly let us publish on the site.   In particular, Part I of his book, explains how they all came into being.   Part II goes on to discuss individual clans and families and if you go to the Index page of his book you can quickly locate your own family or clan name and from there go right to the appropriate page.

As an alternative, or perhaps in addition, we'd recommend a read of the Explantion of Clanship which will give you an extremely detailed guide to how clans were formed and how they operated. Having read that you might move to our section on Kings of the Isles as this shows the influence of the Irish as well as the Danes and Norwegians. The information on these two pages come from sources researched around 1830.

The Clans
When it comes to Scottish clans we have individual pages for Official Clans recognised by the Lord Lyon Court which you can see on our Scottish Clan Menu Index. We do also have information on "unofficial" clans and other family names in our Other Names page.

It is important to note we at Electric Scotland are not experts in Clan histories and merely continue to seek accounts of individual clans from many sources. We are not adverse to adding additional accounts as we come across them simply because out of each account a little more is learned. It should also be noted that Clan Chief's themselves were not adverse to "improving" on their own official histories to make themselves look a little more important or to minimise a particularly sorry part in their clan history.

You should also look out for "Clan Members Web Sites" on individual clan pages as there we list any clan members with their own web sites. These often contain useful additional information. We also provide links from the clan pages to any official clan society web site. Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland Part II will also give you additional information and in particular covers the Irish and Scots-Irish families. We have also recently embarked on a Scots-Irish section where we will be providing some history on significant Irish Families.

It is important to note that Official Clan Society web sites should be your main source for information on your clan so do check them out.  From each of our clan pages we do list any official clan site where we know of them.  We are also in the process of adding the Great Historic Families of Scotland to the site.

We'd also recommend a read of the MacDonalds, Campbells and MacGregors to give you a flavour of just three of the major Scottish clans. Note however that most clan pages contain information on other clans as there were many battles with each other and so many references and additional information can be included in other clan pages. On this subject our General History of the Highlands contains many accounts of clan battles.

Researching your Clan
Should you be trying to find out which clan you belong to then try our Septs page where we explain all about what Septs are and also list most of the known septs under the major clans and then our Alphabetical clan name listings if you still can't find your name. There is also a listing of Surnames under the Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland.

I'd just add here that many spellings have changed over the years and especially due to emigration to the US where many names were spelled as they sounded. That being the case if you can't find your actual spelling try saying your name out loud and try an alternative spelling from that and also remember that many Scots that emigrated to the US were Gaelic speakers and hence the accent would be different. 

If a name is not found look under other possible spelling variations such as "Lezly" as "Leslie". "Gil" may have been "il" or "el"  " Mc " and " M' " are simple abbreviations for "Mac" and do not denote Scots or Irish heritage.  A name that once began with "n" may now begin with "r" and the final "c" of "Mac" may have been duplicated into a second "c" or a "k" (MacOmber-MacComber; MacIntosh-Mackintosh).

Since Gaelic requires sound changes when "Mac" is prefixed, try pronouncing the new name aloud substituting a new first letter on the second part of the name, and you may hear the original...

"b" or "m" for a "v"  MacVean to MacBean, MacVickle to MacMichael.
"p" for an "f"  MacFall to MacPaul
"d" for "g" or "t"  MacGonell to MacDonell, MacLout to MacLeod

Gaelic "f" becomes silent after "Mac"; try reinserting it - MacLetcher to MacFletcher.

Note that the most populous two-thirds of Scotland was under the Anglo-Norman feudal, not the clan, system. The majority of Scots were not "Highlanders" nor Gaelic speakers and did not historically wear tartan.

The next most asked question we get is where is my clan shield and the answer to that is really that there isn't one as it's owned only by the chief of the clan and can't be used by clan members. But this page will tell you all about it and as it comes direct from the Lord Lyons office you can be assured of its accuracy. Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland does include an Appendix on Coats of Arms. 

For general advice on genealogy research we have included our ScotRoot page where we tell you what we can and can't do to help. We also provide pointers to other sites that might be able to help.

Should you be looking for your clan tartan then check out our page where you can use the Scottish Tartans Society database.

Having done all that you might consider joining one of our webboard systems as 91% of our visitors come from a Scottish ethnic background and so you'll be able to message with fellow Scots in either our main webboard or our clan webboard. It's all free and if this is your first time in such a system then you just need to register the once and we'd recommend you just have a wee read of the various messages to get a hang of how it all works then post your own messages when you are ready.  (Note: You do require to have cookies and java enabled to use the service). This does give you many more people to talk with and as most will come from a Scottish or Irish background there is a reasonable chance someone in there can help.

I'd recommend that you make use of our Site Search Engine as through using that you may well find various documents that refer to your clan.  For example I did a search for Killiecrankie, the famous battle, and that gave me a number of links to other clan pages where the clan had participated in the battle.   So the Site Search Engine will help you do some cross reference work. 

We also have a genealogy section where you can post your own family information and any mini bios on clan members as well as read information sent in by other Electric Scotland Visitors. The section is called Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants.

In addition, tucked away in our history section, you can read about Scots and Scots-Irish descendants at our Scots Descendants page and do also check out our Page on Burke's Peerage & Gentry.

For general advice on what tartan to wear you might visit our Wearing the Tartan page.

On a final note I'd also just remind you that we have loads of historical information in our History section and I'd recommend a read of the History section's introduction page for an overview. Our General History of Scotland contains masses of information on Scottish clans and their battles with one another and indeed our Highland Regiments page will also give additional information.

I hope this short introduction is useful and hope you enjoy reading through our histories and other information.


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