Scottish ancestry

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A couple gaze out over Edinburgh from Calton Hill
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Many people across the world are lucky enough to have ancestral ties to Scotland, but not everyone has uncovered their connection yet - why not delve into our history books and discover if you are in good company, joining millions of others with Scottish ancestry?

If you already know you’re a proud Scot, you can always uncover more colourful details about your family’s past by visiting some of the ancestral attractions Scotland has to offer.

Find out about relatives you never knew existed by tracing your family tree back in time, or discover the occupation of your ancestors and the trade that kept them busy. Scotland has a number of great resources so you can start your search right now.

Look up your surname using the clan search, which will tell you if you’re connected to one of the great Scottish families. You can also try searching other surnames in your family, such as your mother’s maiden name. If you find a matching Scottish clan, you can find out more about them and their place in history.

To go deeper into your family tree, visit ScotlandsPeople, the official government website where you can search birth, marriage, death and census records stretching back over hundreds of years, or if you are in Edinburgh, you can visit the ScotlandsPeople Centre in person.

Once you find that special connection to Scotland, you can plan a trip to visit the towns and streets where your ancestors once walked. Pay a visit to local libraries and archives to find out more about that area and see pictures of how it looked when your relatives lived there.

Make sure to consider locations such as the Orkney Isles in your search for ancestors as whole families left the islands in times of hardship to seek a new life on the other side of the world. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Hudson’s Bay Company recruited at Stromness in Orkney for young men to make the passage across the Atlantic to Canada.

Contact the Orkney Family History Society, run by volunteers who work closely with the local library and archive system, to find out more.

  • Very old ledger sits open surrounded by other old volumes of books
    Old parish registers are a valuable source of information for ancestor-hunters
  • People admiring the Broch of Gurness, Evie
    Broch of Gurness, Evie
  • The statue dedicated to the Declaration of Arbroath at Arbroath, Angus
    The statue dedicated to the Declaration of Arbroath at Arbroath, Angus
  • The family tree of Mrs Chris Lawson on display at the Seallam! Visitor Centre, Northton, Isle of Harris
    A family tree at the Seallam! Visitor Centre, Northton, Isle of Harris
Ancestry guide

Check out our Ancestral Guide today

Check out our free guide to researching your Scottish ancestry

Close up of the tartan of the Maclean clan and brooch


Few aspects of Scotland’s history were as colourful, or as bloody, as the clan system. Learn more and discover your clan.

The memorial to the massacre at Glencoe

Ancestry itineraries

Find out more about your ancestors using our itineraries around Scotland.

Close-up of the spines of a run of old bound books

Family history resources

Explore the wide range of genealogical resources available online and at centres around Scotland.

The statue of Adam Smith on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Famous Scots

Discover famous scots and how they made a significant contribution to their genre.

Looking up to Edinburgh Castle at the top of Arthur's Seat


Uncover Scotland’s literary greats, trace back your family history and marvel at some truly breathtaking castles and monuments.

A vintage steamroller at Summerlee - Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire.

My ancestor was a ...

Find out more about the occupations your ancestor may have done for a living.

Ancestry map

Clan map

Use our map to find your clan. From Macleod and Macdonald on Skye to Scott in the Scottish Borders, follow the itineraries around Scotland and find out more about these well-known ancestors.

Big Sands beach, Highlands

Scotland's regions

Explore the 15 different regions of Scotland with travel, accommodation and ideas on things to see and do.

Two Highland dancers, wearing kilts, at the Gathering, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

Uniquely Scottish

This is a land where people are proud of their heritage and very passionate about being Scottish. Each of the items featured in this section represents a Scottish icon, something of which most Scots are fiercely proud to claim as their own.

The crowd at the main stage at T in the Park, Balado

Events & festivals

Search our comprehensive what's on listings for arts, culture, music and festival events and Highland games in Scotland.