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Clan Ross Origins


Clan Ross Connections

What is a Sept?

Septs Historically Associated with Clan Ross are:
*Anderson Andison Andrew Andrews Corbet Corbett
Crow Crowe Croy Deas Denoon Denune
Dingwall Duthie Fair Fear Fearn Gillanders
Hagart Haggart *Lockhart MacAndrew MacAndrews MacCullie
MacCulloch MacLulloch MacTaggart MacTear MacTier MacTyre
McLulich *Mitchell Taggart Tarrel Tullo Tulloch
Tyre Vass Wass Waters
*Has a seperate Clan Organization. You may belong to either group at your choice.

"Sept" is a term borrowed from Irish culture in the nineteenth century to explain the use of a variety of surnames by member of a single clan. In Ireland, "sept" is roughly synonymous with the Scottish "clan" and refers to an intra-related family. Where Scots would refer to "MacGregor and his clan" an Irish historian might say "O'Neill and his sept". The Irish historically have princes and think in terms of land rather than names. Thus, the name "O'Brien" might be a sept of several different princes. In Scotland, only in the case of larger clans with distinct and sometimes widely separated sub-families is the term "sept" appropriate. The various branches of Clan Donald, for example, all using the name "MacDonald of ..." or "MacDonell of ..." may properly be viewed as septs. The many other names of Clan Donald are just that -- names of Clan Donald.

The variety of surnames within a Scottish clan do not represent separate and definable sub-clans but instead reflect the vagaries of transition of the Gaels into the English naming system as well as marriages, migrations and occupations. The main family itself may have developed a variety of surnames. In the Glen Urquhart parish record, one man is variously identified as "John Miller" (referring to his occupation), "John Ban" (referring to his hair colour) and "John Ban Miller". In Gaelic he was called Iain Mac Aillein, "John, Son of Allan". When his name was "made official", he could have been named either 'John Miller", "John Bain", or "John MacAllan." Actually, he was "John Grant".

The preferred modern usage is to avoid the use of the term "sept" and to simply describe these names as what they are -- surnames of the family and of allied or dependent families. It is preferable to speak of "The names and families of Clan X" rather than to call a name "a sept of Clan X".

From "Tartan For Me! 7th Edition. Heritage Books, 1540-E Pointer Ridge Place, Bowie MD 20716

Is your name spelled a little differently? Many people ask: "My family's surname is close to one of the Ross names, but not quite the same. Does that mean Ross is my clan, or not?"

Clan Ross genealogist, Fran Bumann FSA Scot says: "There are lots of variations in spelling of all of our names. One must remember that a large percentage of our ancestors were illiterate. (And, sometimes I suspect the county clerks and the census takers were somewhat illiterate too.)

"The first rule of genealogy is: 'Spelling doesn't count!' If a person has a name that looks like one of ours and he or she wants to be a Ross, great.

"If they have a family legend that they're Rosses, or that they're Scottish, it works for me," Fran says. "We'll use this approach until they decide to require DNA testing to prove our heritage!"

Clan Ross has two families of Rosses, one spelled Russ and the other spelled Rose. Both knew themselves to be Ross long ago, but the spellings changed over the years. The same goes for our "sept" or associated family names. An extra letter here or there? An a for an e? No matter.

Occasionally a family chose a new spelling on purpose, but names were usually changed accidentally, through misunderstanding of foreign languages, interpretation of handwriting, what sounded like something else, spelling irregularities, Anglicized versions -- things like that.

Think about how often your own surname has been misspelled.

So if your name sounds like one of the Ross names, or the spelling is close, we'll assume that it got twisted a bit in translation over the centuries. We invite you to join Clan Ross while you sort it out. We might be able to help you do that.

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