Search By Tartan Name
Enter the name of the tartan you're looking for. If it starts with Mc or Mac - type in Mac first since that's the most popular way of spelling it.
If you are not sure of the exact spelling of a tartan name then just type in the first few letters that you do know and click Find That'll produce a much larger choice but there's a greater chance that the one you want will be amongst them.
Search By Tartan Number
If you know the number of the tartan that you're seeking, then just type it in and click Search. For historical continuity the International Tartan Index (ITI) which the Ferret searches, uses the old Tartans Society reference numbers up to and including 2702 at which point their records finish. Dedicated ITI numbers range from 2732 up to 9999.
In 2009 the Tartans Authority relinquished its tartan registration function to The National Records of Scotland who - in line with the Act of Parliament - established the Scottish Register of Tartans with reference numbers starting at 10000.
Search By Surname
Enter the surname that you're looking for. If it's in the surname database the system will give whatever tartan or tartans are recommended for that name. If the name starts with Mc or Mac - type in Mac first since that's the most popular way of spelling it.
If you're not sure of the exact spelling of the surname then just type in the first few letters that you do know and click Find That'll produce a much larger choice but there's a greater chance that the one you want will be amongst them. You should note that there is not a tartan for every surname in existence so don't be too disappointed if a search doesn't produce anything. There are no laws governing what tartan you can wear although most people like to feel they have some historical or 'genetic' link with what they choose.
If you have no tartan of your own you could wear any of the available district tartans that might represent an area of Scotland that is relevant to you or an area closer to your home - a country, state, province or city - or you could choose one of what are called Universal tartans such as the Black Watch, Caledonia, Jacobite, Royal Stewart etc. Or you could wear an appropriate one from amongst the very many hundreds designed for corporate companies, military organisations, educational establishments and special interest groups.
Search By Colour
This is an extremely useful function if you're trying to identify a tartan. Just start at any point in the tartan and make a note of the colours in the order in which they appear - perhaps make a note of half a dozen to start with. Then click Search and see what appears!
You can choose the colours either by clicking on the colour boxes provided or typing in one of the colour codes which are as follows: Blue - B. Red - R. Yellow or Gold - Y. Green - G. Orange - O. White - W. Purple - P. The only odd ones are Black which is K. Grey which is N (for Neutral) and Brown which is T (for tan).
The search system doesn't need to differentiate between shades of colours so if you had a tartan with medium blue, light blue medium blue, dark blue in that sequence you would type in BBBB.
Sometimes you may come across a colour in a tartan that you can't easily identify. If that occurs, you can use the very powerful wild card of the question mark - ? Just type that in place of the unknown colour. You can experiment with a tartan that you know to see how many colours you can replace with the ? before the choice offered to you is too large to handle.
The more colours you type in, the more specific is your search. Equally, the less you type in, the greater the choice the system will offer you. As an example, if you type in R you would get almost 3,000 tartans. If you type in RB you would get 1200. RBK would give you 298. RBKW gives 26. RBKWG produces 4 which is telling you that out of some 4,300 tartans in the database there are only 4 which contain a colour sequence of Red, Blue, Black, White and Green.
If you have problems deciding what colour is next in the sequence, it might help if you read the following. Tartans are composed of lines and bands of colour that cross each other at right angles. It's an irrefutable fact that solid colours are created only where the same coloured lines or bands cross each other. Where they cross another colour, they produce a shade made up of the two.
It's that characteristic that gives tartan its unique visual appeal. It's also a rule that solid colours can only touch each other at the corners - look at any tartan and you'll see what we mean. So if identifying the next colour is a problem, look diagonally to find what solid colour comes next and you'll have solved the quandary.
Browse By A to Z
Our Tartan Ferret search facility is the leading independent
online information source containing over 60,000 Scottish-related
surnames. It uses the most authoritative source in the world - the
STA's International Tartan Index - to ferret out your search by
surname and tartan.
Tartan research is ever-evolving so if you come across any
omissions or you can provide further information on a tartan to
enhance the historical record, please contact us.
We try to match colours, as closely as our colour palette allows,
to the known colours of a tartan. Colour shades differ
between weavers and there is not necessarily a correct set of
colours for any tartan. In some cases we lighten colours to allow
the sett to be clearly seen. Please note that reliance on
colours or information supplied on tartans is at your own risk.