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  Scottish Clans and Families

A clan is a group of people united by kinship and descent, which is defined by perceived descent from a common ancestor, group or family collective. Kinship bonds are the basis of loyalty and common support between clan members, and is expressed in shared traditons, symbols, and marks of the clan inheritance and unity.

The clans originate from powerful families in ancient times and the clan system was the basic system of social power and organisation in all of the ancient peoples who came to, and remain part of, Scotland.

The official body dealing with matters of clans,
heraldry and tartans is the Court of the Lord Lyon
This official office deals with all matters relating to Scottish Heraldry and Coats of Arms and maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies.
According to the Lyon Court, a clan is a 'community which is both distinguished by heraldry and recognised by the Sovereign'. Many families with long histories in Scotland are not yet so recognised, but can obtain such recognition under Scottish Law by presenting itself and its chief to the Lyon Court.

Every person who has the same surname as the chief is deemed to be a member of the clan. Equally a person who offers allegiance to the chief is recognised as a member of the clan unless the chief decides that he will not accept that person's allegiance. People with other names can be part of a clan due to historic ties of allegiance, and such names are described as Septs.There is no official list of recognised septs. This is a matter for each chief to determine.

According to the Lyon court, a single name as a Sept should be attached to only one clan. There are those who feel that this ignores some of the truth and fact of Scottish history. For example, every Wilson is supposed to be in the sept of clan Gunn. When surnames became established (11th to 13th century) every son of William became a Wilson, and not all were from that single small family up in the north-east who supported clan Gunn. The very large groups of Wilsons from Dumfries, Ayrshire, and many other parts, never had any historical connection with the Gunns, and will have historical allegiance to another clan. This is true of many names that are included in Septs. So, look into your own clan and family history and make your mind up (see genealogy).
If you can see the connection the clan chief will accept you as a descendant of an old friend.