There are an estimated 90 million people around the world who claim to have Scottish ancestry; either through a known family tree or by having a familiar Scottish surname in the mix. The reasons for the great diaspora are legion: economic opportunities, displacement and a myriad of motivations personal and public. But, the influence and contribution that those Scots made is incalculable as they built the New World, establishing communities, forging enterprises and sowing the seeds of prosperity.
The Scots have always been an emigrating people, from medieval resettlement in Poland and the Baltic to the overcrowded ships crossing the Atlantic in the 19th century; but wherever they went they took Scotland with them and left an indelible mark; and a legacy that is fascinating to trace. Ancestral research can be really addictive; and a lot of fun too – nothing like finding out where your heritage lies and perhaps unearthing some hidden skeletons along the way.
In a way it doesn’t really matter if your ancestors crossed the seas in the year dot, or came in on a visa through Newark Airport a generation ago; the Scottishness in the veins never diminishes and there are two kinds of ancestral trail that can be followed. You can start at the roots of a partially known family tree and connect the dots back to the twigs; or you can learn more about the generic clan or family heritages in your background. Both ways are fascinating and there is no reason not to combine both.
On both counts, Scotland is a country uniquely placed to help you put together the jigsaw pieces of your background. There are few places on earth where you can trace a heritage, a locale and be part of a wider kinship than Scotland, or a nation that has kept such impeccable records over the last 170 years; and even some half decent ones over the last 500. So, whether discovering that your granny worked in the jute mills of Dundee, or the Campbell chiefs are distant ancestors with a legacy spread across the west, you can pick up the thread quite easily. But, it’s more than dusty records and tartan cloth.
It’s a truly cathartic experience to walk in the footsteps of your forefathers; to see the world through their eyes, comprehend the way they lived, worked and died in, and perhaps even find some understanding behind their decision to leave Scotland behind. This is the philosophy behind the kind of ancestral tour that we at Vacation Scotland plan and put together; but the first step is deciding what sort of trip – clan or family tree based, and how intense it should be. You can do a lot of research online to put together the personalities in your lineage, learn about what they did, where they lived and so on through the Births, Deaths and Marriage Certificates and the Census records; but on-line is no substitute to actually sitting in Register House in Edinburgh and unravelling the story from there – with a raft of experts on hand to help you. This can be the opening part of a trip: fill in some gaps before heading out into the field.
From there we’ll craft an itinerary that takes you to key places in your research – towns, street addresses, graveyards, and so on. But, it is also important to find out a little more about the history of a place and the sort of work people did in the past, so we’ll include local museums, historical centres, attractions and if possible find a knowledgeable local to discuss the area and the lives of the people who used to live there. From this you will garner a better conceit of where you come from, not just names on bits of paper. We will also arrange all the accommodation, transport and guiding so that the family history part fits into a wider vacation or tour. From experience it is better to combine both.
The other sort of ancestral tour package is one that can be woven around a generic clan or family name. Scotland is almost unique in that you can place a name to a specific, or several specific, locations. Centuries ago people didn’t really have surnames, particularly in the Highlands where they adopted the name of the local chief whether they were related to him directly or not. But, certain names did begin to evolve locally and with this kind of trip we will visit the key sites important to the clan – castles, churches and graves, battle sites and so forth. Many clans or the areas the clans are situated often have a museum or visitor centre that will go through the history of the area. These centres also have curators on hand to help with anything, and some even have reading rooms to do ancestral research. In addition we might even be able to track down your chief and see if they’re willing to meet you.
So, whether you’re chasing up the lives of your great grandparents in a hidden corner of Glasgow or donning the kilt and heading to hills to find out more about your clan heritage it is a wonderful experience to come home to Scotland, see the country, learn its past and be guided from start to finish by the experts.
For more information – http://www.vacationscotland.biz/family-history-clan-heritage