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
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
exuberant branches in a better place."
Some branches! Some
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
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
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.