Many people get interested in their Scottish roots through family stories about their clan or tartan. But what is a clan exactly? Although the term derives from the Gaelic word for family (clann), not all clan members were necessarily related.
Clans sprang up as groups of loosely related families (septs) united under a clan chief, and had become firmly rooted in the Highlands by the time of the most famous clashes with the English. After England won the 1746 Battle of Culloden, the Act of Prescription aimed to crush the Highland clans though fines, jailing and forced conscription. The later Dress Act banned kilts and tartans.
But clans persisted as an important part of Scottish culture and identity. Each clan has its own tartan pattern, and is generally identified with a geographical area originally controlled by the chiefs (see a map). Today, clan associations are much like family history groups. To learn more about clans and link to a clan search, go to the VisitScotland website.