Tracing Your Ancestors in the Scottish Highlands
Over the weekend I attended a seminar at the Genealogical Society of Queensland (GSQ) on Tracing Your Ancestors in the Scottish Highlands. The presenter was Graeme Mackenzie, a historian with a Masters Degree from the University of Cambridge.1 He is also the Chairman of the Association of Highland Clans and Societies (of Scotland) and a professional historian and genealogist for Clans Mackenzie and MacMillan.1 He is also the author of many books related to Scotland including numerous books on Clan Mackenzie History, and Genealogy in the Gaidhealtached: Clan and Family History in the Highlands of Scotland.2
Graeme talked about the many records available to people searching for ancestors in Scotland and provided a handout that had links to many resources. I’ll cover a few of them here.3
National Records of Scotland – this is now the overall body for the following records which are available at the Scotlands People Centre that you can visit for £15 per day or pay-per-item on Scotlands People:3
- National Archives of Scotland – includes church registers, Scottish Government records, national records, court records, private papers, and much more.3
- Court of the Lord Lyon – heraldic records and clan matters e.g. chiefships.3
- General Register Office of Scotland – Civil births, deaths, and marriages from 1855, Parish Registers pre-1855, Census records, Family histories, and grave inscription.3
Other Places or Websites to Search
- Local Register Offices – you can search for these on National Records of Scotland.3
- Local Archives – you can search for these on National Records of Scotland.3
- National Library of Scotland – they old national and local histories, family histories, maps, newspapers, amongst other treasures.3
- The Scottish Association of Family History Societies – a list of the various family history groups in Scotland.3
- The National Archives, Kew, England – a wide range of UK and English records pertaining to colonial records, military records, amongst many others.3
Books on Scottish Research
I have included links to books on Amazon (affiliate links) as well as places where I could find the book online. Some books I was unable to find for sale but provided a link to libraries or other locations to search. These are all the books he recommended on his handouts.3
“Scottish Roots” by Alwyn James (Edinburgh, 2002) – Amazon reviews say it is an outdated book but is still full of great information if you are just starting out with your Scottish research.
“Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry” by Kathleen B. Cory (Edinburgh, 2009) – this has 5 star reviews on Amazon.
“Scottish Genealogy” by Bruce Durie (Stroud, 2012) – this has 4 star reviews on Amazon.
“Genealogy in the Gaidhealtachd” by Graeme M. Mackenzie (Inverness, 2013) – I was unable to find where to purchase this but it is listed on WorldCat so you could possibly find it in a library near to you.
“Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: Official Guide [to NRS records] by Tristram Clarke (2012) – available from the National Records of Scotland website
“Scottish Family History” by Margaret Stuart and Sir James Balfour Paul (Edinburgh, 1930) – a revised 2009 version available on Amazon
“Scottish Family Histories” by Joan P.S. Ferguson (Edinburgh, 1986) – available at World of Books
“Highland Clan and Family Histories” by Graeme M. Mackenzie (Inverness, 2015) – can be purchased online from the Highland Family History Society
“The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands” by Frank Adam (Edinburgh, 1934) – a revised 2012 version available on Amazon
“Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia” by George Way and Romilly Squire (Glasgow, 1994) – available on Amazon
“The Surnames of Scotland” by George F. Black (New York, 1979) – this has 4.5 star reviews on Amazon
“Tracing Scottish Local History [in NRS records]” by Cecil J. Sinclair (1996) – available on Amazon
“Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700: a self-help pack [available from NRS] by Alison Rosie – available from the National Records of Scotland website
Graeme also provided us with a handout of name equivalents which is very handy for looking up different uses of the name. As I haven’t gotten his permission to attach the PDF I’ve listed a few of my favourites from his handout.4 You can read more on FamilySearch Scotland Names Personal for further information on naming conventions, similar names, and further reading.
- Daibhidh/Da’idh – David
- Iain/Eoin – John/Johan/Johannis
- Greumach – Graeme/Graham
- Raibeart – Robert
- Aine/Anna – Ann or Agnes or Nanny/Nancy
- Aoife – Effie/Eufane/Euphemia/Phemie or Eufane/Effie or Erica
- Eubh – Eve
- Seonaid – Janet or Jessie
It was a very informative talk and I learned some new things which is what attending seminars and conferences is all about. Even better I ended up sitting next to an old family friend of my mum who I see a few times a year. Her daughter and I have been friends for 37 years and catch up with our sons who are now good friends. I had no idea she was doing her genealogy or would be attending this conference. And then I ran into a second cousin once removed who I had met in about 2002 who lives in Brisbane. We share great-grandparents on my dad’s mothers’ side of the family. Her father had jumped ship in Brisbane and never returned to Staffordshire and the family apparently never knew what happened to him. He was a cousin of my grandmother Dorcas. We have now reconnected and hope to get together at some point to further our family history.
Do you have Scottish highlands ancestry in your tree? What have you found? Let me know in the comments below.
- 1. Mackenzie, Graeme, ‘Tracing your ancestors in the Scottish highlands’, Genealogical Society of Queensland, https://www.gsq.org.au/event/tracing-your-ancestors-in-the-scottish-highlands/, accessed 18 March 2019.
- 2. Mackenzie, Graeme, Handout provided at Tracing Your Ancestors in the Scottish Highlands seminar, 17 March 2019.
- 3. Mackenzie, Graeme, Handout of websites and books provided at seminar Tracing Your Ancestors in the Scottish Highlands, 17 March 2019.
- 4. Mackenzie, Graeme, Handout of Personal Name Equivalents provided at Tracing Your Ancestors in the Scottish Highlands seminar, 17 March 2019.
- a. Graeme Mackenzie, Highlands Roots, http://highlandroots.org/images/Graeme.jpg, Accessed 18 March 2019.