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Tartan Sugestions
( The tartan at left is that of the "Tartan Army". )

It must be understood from the outset that a person may wear any tartan of his or her choice -- the exceptions being personal tartans, tartans restricted by copyright or trademark, and those reserved for members of the Royal Family. The term "suggested tartan" is exactly what it says, a tartan suggested as appropriate for a person with a given surname. It does not imply that persons may not choose another tartan if they so wish
In no way should the Names listed here be regarded as a complete list of clan or family surnames. But as guide to aid in your search for family ties, all the information in these pages is readily available from the many books on this subject, which go into much greater detail than is shown here. Use this as a starting point for your research.

Clan or family membership comes about by one of three means:
Birth, as generally understood as having one of the surnames traditionally associated with a Clan or Family; Marriage, although a woman may choose to wear her own tartan;
Adoption. This last process continues as evidenced by The Lord Strathspey's recognition in 1977 that the descendants of John More are members of Clan Grant. More had been a tenant in Strathepey before emigrating to America in 1741.

Some clans and families encourage friends and admirers to adopt and wear their tartan. It is an old Highland custom to so honour your host. Other families wish their tartan to be worn only by persons bearing or related to a specific name or spelling. For example, the Fleming family wears the Murray tartan in recognition of a long friendship between the two families while the Johnston(e)s and the Boyds prefer that their tartan be worn only by those who bear the name or are associated by marriage.
Persons wishing to establish their clan or family relationship should contact the clan association, preferably through the Clan or Family Society rather than directly to the Chief. One is always best advised to select a tartan associated with his or her own surname before choosing a tartan associated with a name acquired by marriage or through a maternal ancestor.

"Scotland of Old" was divided into two distinct social systems: the clan, with a blood or marriage relationship, and the feudal land-rent society. Despite a romantic preference for the clan, feudalism predominated and eventually prevailed.

By 1704 the Chief of Clan Grant could pointedly direct that his tenants named "Mac Donald" were required to wear the Grant Colours

By the 1600's the majority of Scots lived in non-Gaelic speaking areas with territorial or land-rent obligations more important to them than a mythical common ancestry. They were expected to follow their lord, whatever his name might be. On the Borders, men were required by the March Law to identify with one of the major families and be a "clannit man" no matter what their own surname The alternative was to be an "outlaw"

A person has the right to wear the tartan associated with his or her name. Individuals with a clan or family tartan may also wish to wear an appropriate "district" tartan (if there is one) or one of the "national" tartans as an alternative or second tartan.

A person with a surname associated with several clans, families, or districts should try to identify with one and select that tartan, rather than acquiring and wearing items of differing tartans. Specific suggestions are given later for helping persons make reasonable choices among several possible tartans.

Many of the tartans included are based upon clan or family associations. In cases where district tartans are suggested, the choice is based upon early documentation of members of that surname living in the district. In one case a family tartan is suggested for an area that was formerly controlled by a feudal overlord, i.e. a "family" tartan is used as a "district" tartan. The Orkney and Shetland Islands were never in the "tartan area" but were under the influence of the Sinclairs. Hence the "Sinclair" tartan is suggested for names with origins in these islands.

In cases where the name has proven to be untraceable to a particular area or is clearly a recent importation, the "Caledonia" tartan is suggested. This lovely tartan is appropriate for all Scots and friends of Scotland.Those families with an association to the "Aulde Alliance" with France might consider that of the "Jacobite" in rememberance of the struggle for Scottish independence.

For help in making a selection of tartan please call 270-886-2010
or use the form on the Contact Us page

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