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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scottish clans: cadets, septs & more

A Scottish Clan is a tribal concept, generally meaning an extended family all related by birth. A Clan is usually named for one person -- for example, Clan Mackenzie derives its name from Kenneth, its Progenitor. In theory, all Clan members are descended from him. In reality, some may not be, as over time a Clan may have been joined by other people. The seniormost branch of the family is the direct line of descent from the Progenitor to the current Chief [this is where the concept of tanistry meets the concept of primogeniture]. The senior branches of the family, or cadets, generally signify a subgroup, or family, that each descend from one of the Chief's sons. The affiliated branches, the septs, are often said to be unrelated by those who assume that a sept's allegiance to the Chief was a matter of safety during dangerous times. In fact, members of the septs are often the descendants of the Chief's daughters. Only DNA tests can show these relationships, but descendants of the septs would then show up as having the Y DNA of the men the daughters married, not the DNA of their father. It would take a very detailed DNA analysis to prove all the links.
Finding the above confusing...? Many Clans today welcome new members based on a mutual desire to respect and preserve Scottish heritage. A good place to find your Clan is in the Highlander Magazine, where they list their mailing addresses. Many Clans have a presence at the Highland Games. See also Electric Scotland.

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