How to Figure Out My Scottish Clan

by Rachel Kolar

Your Scottish clan is more than your last name. The major clans of Scotland have "septs" -- families who share blood with the clan but have different last names due to marriage. This means that your last name may have no apparent connection to your clan. For instance, people with surnames as diverse as Petrie, Alpin and MacConachie are all members of the MacGregor clan because they belong to its septs. The Internet has made it easier to discover the clan to which your sept belongs.

Review your family tree or genealogy for Scottish surnames. It may be helpful to have your list of clans and septs with you to make sure which names are Scottish, as they are not always obvious. While many names begin with the telltale "Mac-" or "Mc-", not all of them do. Jot down any Scottish surnames you find.

Verify whether certain common last names, such as Taylor, Miller or Wright, are Scottish, as they may be signs of Irish or English blood rather than blood from a new sept. You can do this by interviewing family members, checking genealogy websites on the Internet or visiting your county courthouse for any old records. If you live in the Washington, DC area, you may also be able to check the Library of Congress's genealogical records.

Check the last names on your list against your list of septs and clans, or enter the last name into a Scottish clan search engine such as those found on Ancestral Scotland or Electric Scotland. If you have bloodlines from multiple clans, choose the clan that appears most recently in your family tree.

Research the clans' histories if you have a surname associated with multiple clans, such as Black or Allanson. Check them against the history you uncovered while researching whether that family was Scottish. What part of Scotland did your family come from? What other septs or clans married into yours? These could give you clues as to whether you are a MacDonald Allanson or a MacFarlane Allanson.


  • Check variant spellings of your surname. Not only might your name have been anglicized when your family immigrated, but different branches of your sept may have spelled the name in slightly different ways. For instance, MacAslan, MacAuselan, MacAuslane and MacAusland are variant spellings of the same name.

About the Author

A resident of the Baltimore area, Rachel Kolar has been writing since 2001. Her educational research was featured at the Maryland State Department of Education Professional Schools Development Conference in 2008. Kolar holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kenyon College and a Master of Arts in teaching from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

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