Rediscovering your Scottish roots

Do you have any Scottish blood?

It could be more likely than you think. It is estimated that between 30 and 40 million people worldwide can call Scotland their ancestral home. Considering that the population of Scotland is only about 5 million, the figures are quite staggering.

Nowhere is the legacy of Scots migration more pronounced than in Canada. Almost 5 million Canadians 15 per cent of the countrys population claim Scottish descent; and those are just the ones who know about their Scottish heritage. An unknown number (which would probably also be counted in the millions) have Scottish roots of which they are unaware.

The contributions of Scots-Canadians

Contributions to the culture and wellbeing of their country are many and varied. Particularly in the political arena, Canadians of Scottish birth or descent have been outstanding. The first Prime Minister of Canada, John A. Macdonald, was born in Glasgow, and under his leadership the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of that vast nation were first linked by rail. Canadas second Prime Minister was another native Scot, Alexander Mackenzie, born in the village of Logierait in Perthshire. Canadas first woman Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, is of Scottish descent, as was Canadas World War II leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King. Tommy Douglas, who introduced public healthcare in Canada and was in 2004 voted the Greatest Canadian, was born in Falkirk.

To celebrate the achievements of Scots-Canadians, and to commemorate the tragic circumstances of many of their departures, a new statue was unveiled in September of this year in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Entitled , the ten-foot bronze depicts a family of four leaving Scotland for Canada, one of many families forced from their homes by the Highland Clearances. Lacking protection in law, the crofters were simply evicted. Having had their homes taken from them, some fled to the growing industrial cities of southern Scotland and northern England, and many braved the Atlantic to find a new life in the New World. A twin statue Emigrants was unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond in July 2007 at Helmsdale in Sutherland, Scotland.

Homecoming Scotland 2009

Canada was a prime destination for these exiled Scots, and hardened by the rigours of Highland life they prospered there. Now in the twenty-first century, their descendents are invited to trace their family history back to the old country. Speaking in advance of unveiling ceremony, Canadas Environment Minister, Michael Russell, urged Scots-Canadians to take part in Homecoming Scotland 2009. Marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of our national poet Robert Burns, Homecoming Scotland was a celebration of Scottish culture and an open invitation to the descendents of the Scottish diaspora to pay a visit and discover the land of their fathers.

Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935

Discovering your Scottish ancestry has never been easier for Canadians, thanks to the online launch of the Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935. Thousands of hours of work have gone into collecting and digitising the lists of passengers arriving in Canadas ports. The names, ages, countries of origin, occupations and intended final destinations of millions of passengers are stored in a searchable archive, and if your ancestors came to Canada during this period then it is likely that they are recorded too. And you wont be alone: it is estimated that 11.6 million Canadians have ancestors recorded in the lists.

Further Genealogy Resources

If you do have Scottish heritage, whether it is long-established or newly found, then finding the ship your ancestors arrived on may only be the beginning of your journey of discovery. Here in Scotland we have many resources that could help you trace your family back even further. The National Library of Scotland, situated on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh, would be a good place to start your search, with access to a wealth of directories and registers. Also of interest will be the new ScotlandsPeople Centre, where you can search centuries of local and national records under the dome of Robert Adams magnificent eighteenth century General Register House and the adjoining New Register House. ScotlandsPeople has combined the efforts of the National Archives of Scotland, the General Register Office for Scotland, and the Court of Lord Lyon (Scotlands highest heraldry authority), into a single easily accessible resource to help people from all over the world discover their Scottish ancestry. If you cant make it over in person, much information is available online to help you trace your Scottish roots. With searchable records available from many sources, the riches of your Scots heritage could be only a click away.

Statue in memory of exiled Scots unveiled in Canada - Herald Scotland

Scottish Canadians

Passenger Lists 1865-1935 - from Library and Archives Canada

Ancestral Scotland - Help with planning your trip to Scotland

National Library of Scotland

Scotland's People

National Archives of Scotland

The Scottish Genealogy Society

Last updated 17 Mar 2015