Ancestry in the Highlands

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  • Poeple tracing their ancestry at the Clan Gunn Heritage Centre and Museum
    The Clan Gunn Heritage Centre and Museum, Latheron
  • The headstone of Clan Mackintosh on Culloden Moor at dusk, near Inverness
    The headstone of Clan Mackintosh on Culloden Moor, near Inverness
  • People tracing their ancestry at the Highland Archive and Registration Centre
    The Highland Archive and Registration Centre, Inverness
  • Looking onto the exterior of the Highland Archive and Registration Centre
    Trace your ancestry at the Highland Archive and Registration Centre, Inverness
  • Looking onto the exterior of the Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore
    The Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

Did you know more than 50 million people have Scottish roots? With the infamous Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th century, which saw many surplus tenants removed from their land, people from right across the world often trace their ancestors back to the Highlands.

While in the Highlands you might want to explore your own roots. With archive centres and numerous museums and heritage centres, re-tracing the footsteps of your ancestors is easier than you might think.

Visit the fantastic Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, which has historical records that date back to the 14th century. This new £10.5 million state-of-the-art facility hosts a searchroom, archive conservation unit, a dedicated family history centre and repository facilities.

There are also three other centres run by the Highland Archive Service throughout the region. The Caithness Archive Centre in Wick has archives that date back to 1589, the Lochaber Archive Centre in Fort William collects and preserves local archives from the 17th century, as does the Skye & Lochalsh Archive Centre in Portree.

The Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore is certainly worth visiting. Effectively a mile-long ‘living’ history site, the displays reflect the social and rural life of the Highlands. You’ll enjoy the recreation of an old Highland township and can visit the clockmaker’s workshop and the shepherd’s bothy, as well as having the opportunity to go back to school in the 1930s. What’s more, admission is free!

In Fort William, the West Highland Museum gives a fascinating insight into the history of the Lochaber region. The museum places a particular emphasis on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite uprisings and exhibits many relics from this turbulent period of Scottish history.

The Skye Museum of Island Life features a fascinating township of thatched cottages, portraying life on the island during the 19th century. Wander around the township and visit the crofthouse kitchen and the weaver’s cottage.

Explore the art, history and heritage of the Highlands at the excellent Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. There is a strong focus on geology and archaeological findings as well as more recent Highland history with intriguing exhibits of Jacobite memorabilia, authentic Highland weaponry and a whole lot more.

Uncover interesting exhibits on the whisky, coal and woollen industries at Brora Heritage Centre and Caithness Horizons in Thurso, a 5-star visitor attraction, which brings to life the fascinating heritage of Caithness. Browse the museum and art exhibitions at the Timespan Heritage and Arts Centre in Helmsdale, find out more about clan history at the Clan Gunn Heritage Centre in Latheron and learn more about the area’s history from Neolithic to Vikings at the Wick Heritage Centre - the largest multi award-winning museum in the north of Scotland.

If all that wasn’t enough, at the award-winning visitor centre at Culloden Battlefield, you can discover whether your clan took part in the last battle to be fought on British soil.

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