The Scottish Border region has a history that is both rich and complex, making tracing one’s ancestry in this area an intriguing journey. The region has been a contested zone between Scotland and England for centuries, resulting in a unique culture and identity for its inhabitants.
In my search for my ancestry, I have wandered the Borders as much as my Lindsay, Carruthers and Litt forebears. The movement between the Scottish and English side of make researching a very difficult, but ultimately rewarding task. If you are researching your Scottish Border family, or thinking about doing it there are lots of fantastic tools and resources to help you on your way.
Scottish Borders & The Clans
One defining feature of the Scottish Border area is the presence of several powerful clans, each with its distinct traditions and history. These clans played a crucial role in the region’s history, providing identity and protection to their members during times of conflict. Political intrigue was also prevalent in the Scottish Borders during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.
In the Borders, sometimes Clans are called ‘Graynes’ or ‘Riding Names’ – because often a person would ride or be associated with a particular family. I have an ancestor called John Carruthers who married into the Armstrong family – and lived just a short mile away from Gilnockie Tower, so I imagine John could/would have ridden under the Armstrong name and could have been a Border Reiver.
The region was frequently embroiled in power struggles between the Scottish and English monarchies, with shifting alliances and loyalties leading to complex and often violent political machinations.
Historical Figures of the Borders
William Wallace, the Scottish warrior who led a rebellion against English rule in the late 13th century, is one of the most famous figures in Scottish Border history. Wallace’s exploits continue to be the subject of legends and myths and remain a symbol of Scottish resistance.
Sir Walter Scott, the famous writer born and raised in the region, is another essential figure from Scottish Border history. Scott’s novels and poems, including “Waverley” and “The Lady of the Lake,” helped to popularize Scottish culture and identity worldwide.
Researching your ancestors
To research one’s Scottish Border ancestry, local archives and historical societies can provide valuable information on genealogy and family histories. I use tools such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and FindMyPast, but there are others too that are very useful tools.
While the Borders may have had powerful clans, political intrigue and famous figures, I’ve found searching for my ancestors very rewarding, just finding out they were tenant farmers, weavers and possibly one Jacobite. The Scottish Borders have much to offer for those interested in discovering their roots.
The Scottish border wasn’t originally a fixed boundary, but rather a contested area between Scotland and England that shifted with time. During the medieval era, this zone extended from the River Tweed in the east to the Solway Firth in the west, with the actual border moving back and forth depending on the results of battles.
The Scottish-English border was not agreed upon at a single point in time, but rather through a series of treaties and agreements over several centuries. The Treaty of York, signed in 1237, established the River Tweed as the boundary between Scotland and England. However, the border continued to be contested and shifted over the following centuries due to wars and other conflicts.
The Union of the Crowns in 1603, which saw James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, helped to stabilize the border, and subsequent treaties such as the Treaty of Union in 1707 further established the modern-day border between Scotland and England.
There are numerous historical records that offer information about Scottish ancestors who migrated from Scotland. Find the collection of free Scottish documents on FamilySearch. Some record image images are on Scotland’s People, an internet site for Scotland which requires a modest fee.
The southeastern part of Scotland that shares a border with England is known as the Scottish Borders. It consists of various historical counties like Roxburghshire, Berwickshire, Selkirkshire, and Peeblesshire. This region is renowned for its beautiful landscape which comprises rolling hills, moorlands, and valleys. The River Tweed flows through this area and attracts fishing enthusiasts. The Scottish Borders has many picturesque towns and villages, including Melrose, Jedburgh, and Coldstream. Its rich history is evidenced by the ruins of ancient structures and landmarks, such as the Melrose and Jedburgh abbeys, which date back to the medieval era.