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Scottish Clans: A Resource Guide

Clan society dominated Scottish culture for centuries and is still celebrated as part of Scottish cultural identity. This guide provides access to digital materials at the Library of Congress, links to related external websites, and a print bibliography.


For centuries, the population of the highlands of Scotland was largely divided amongst various clans. These clans--family groups led by chieftains--functioned as local governments, made alliances and fought wars against other clans and groups of clans, and even against armies and kings. As the era of the clans dissipated in the eighteenth century, many Scots emigrated to Northern Ireland, North America, Australia, and elsewhere, many taking their clan heritage with them in the form of their surnames and other cultural attributes. In the nineteenth century, the works of Sir Walter Scott renewed interest in (and romanticized the history of) the clan society. Today, in Scotland and in many countries of the Scottish diaspora, clan heritage societies, highland games, and other cultural events celebrate this cultural heritage. Additionally, many people around the world trace their genealogy back to the clans and their related septs.