History of the Scottish Clan System
The Scottish clans system has ancient origins in the Celtic, Norman-French and Norse traditions, and can be traced back to a time when people lived off the land, and border disputes were a common occurrence.
What is a Clan?
The word ‘clan’ derives from the Gaelic word ‘clann’ or ‘clanna’ for children, and describes a close-knit group of relatives. However, you didn’t need to be related to the clan chief to be considered a part of the clan. Anyone who pledged their allegiance to the chief could use the clan name as their own, and this included those who worked for the clan or needed protection. When surnames came into use in the 16th and 17th centuries, many took their clan leader’s name as their own.
Clans were generally associated with a geographical area of Scotland, for example, the Armstrong Clan originated in the Borders, the MacGregors in Argyll, and Clan Campbell ruled the roost across much of the Scottish Highlands. Clans often had ancestral castles too, such as Clan Murray’s Duffus Castle in Blair Atholl.
Today, Scottish clans are celebrated across the world, with many descendants making the pilgrimage to Scotland to discover their roots and ancestral home.
The Council of Scottish Clans and Associations exists to represent the interests of Scottish clan and family associations, mainly across the USA.