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Family History

Scottish Roots

Book cover of Roots by Alex Haley.One could almost claim that the quest to find 'from whence we came' was introduced to the world at large by the hugely successful 1977 American television series Roots - based on Alex Haley's award winning book of his search for his African forebears. The series finale still stands as the third-highest rated U.S. television programme ever and, as recorded in Wikipedia, captivated American television audiences, successfully crossed ethnic lines and piqued the interest of families of all ethhnic groups. America's black population was estimated at 40 million in 2007 - as was the huge Scottish Diaspora spread around the globe, with up to half of that number being in the USA.

Geneology's remarkable growth has been hugely facilitated by the modern marvel of the Internet and - in Scotland's case - by the realease of Holywood blockbusters such as Braveheart and Rob Roy. It has to be mentioned too of course, that the traditional Scottish Highlander presents one of the most romantic figures in world history - one that ranks with the Russian Cossack, the Japanese Samurai and the North American Indian.

Add to that, the perceived Scottish values in a recent US survey (Campbell Rinker) of tenacity, independence, patriotism, loyalty and honesty, and one can see why discovering Scottish forefathers is of such value. The effect on those Scottish Americans interviewed in order of precedence was: "makes me proud . . . makes me feel connected to Scotland . . . enhances my sense of who I am."

Another aspect of discovering Scottish roots is that one can rejoice in the reflected glory of the generations of Scots who left their own shores and made such a hugely disproportionate impact in almost every corner of the globe as explorers, doctors, engineers, missionaries, educators, entrepreneurs, mercenaries, statesmen . . . their national characteristics spilled over into in almost every walk of life.

That this tiny island country - almost half the area of North Carolina and almost half the population - should have such an impact around the globe is truly remarkable. A foretaste of what was to come was afforded by comments in the English Parliament in 1606 when a union between England and Scotland was proposed. The indignant opposition said:

"If we admit them into our liberties, we shall be overrun with them,
as a tree taken from a barren place will thrive to excessive and
exuberant branches in a better place."

Some branches! Some exuberance!
How prescient those English comments were!
 

Are you an Overseas Scot?

If there's any Scottish blood in your veins, chances are that knowledge of its existance has been passed down from parent to child through many generations. It may be something very vague such as 'We think your great, great grandfather came from Scotland' but it's probably enough to start you on your journey of discovery. But . . . what baggage do you need for that journey?

Start by quizzing all the older members of your family about their parents, grandparents, family stories . . . as far back as they can go . . . record all the names - male and female - record the dates and any places named. Then start laying out a simple family tree - or, if you're confident enough - jump straight into a computerised family tree.

Having assembled all the useful baggage you can find, it's then off to the Internet station to start the journey proper. This is when it starts to become confusing - there's such a huge wealth of information providers on the Web that it can be difficult to know which to pick. As a first stop you could do no better than have a look at Scotland's People, the official government source for genealogical data for Scotland - http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk You have to pay for access but the charges are mostly reasonable and explained in detail on the site.

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DVD cover for the 1954 film Brigadoon.

 

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy.

 

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the blockbuster film Braveheart.

 

 

Islay Woollen Mill


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