Scots urged to seek out distant relatives in preparation for Homecoming 2014


By Martin Kelly
An MSP is calling for Scots to seek out their overseas relatives and to find out about their family’s history as the nation prepares for Homecoming 2014.
Hamilton MSP Christina McKelvie is urging fellow Scots to trace their family roots after becoming inspired by the story of her own relatives from Hamilton in Canada.

Ms McKelvie’s great aunt, Mary McLeod O’Neill, set sail alone from Greenock heading across the ocean to a new life in Canada.  During the Atlantic voyage she met and fell in love with Alex McGee, the two were married on Christmas Day 1929 and went on to raise a family in Hamilton, Ontario.

Ms McKelvie says that Scotland’s second year of Homecoming in 2014 presents a great opportunity for people to find out more about their family history and their contribution to the wider world.

She said:

“I am really excited about the second year of Homecoming in 2014.  There are an estimated 40 million people in the Scottish diaspora everywhere from Argentina to Australia and in my case Canada.

“The run up to 2014 is a fantastic opportunity for Scotland to go on a genealogical treasure hunt, to find our own families in that diaspora and to invite those 40 million people to visit Scotland. 

“Scots have a history of travelling the world and building communities in far flung places.  We will all have great stories in our families of people who set off on boats and trains and made their lives elsewhere.  These people are all part of our Scottish diaspora.

“I’d always known I had relatives in Canada but didn’t know the story behind it.  In my family’s case it’s like something from Hollywood when my great aunty Mary set off on her own from Greenock to Canada, fell in love on the boat and got married on Christmas Day but we all have amazing stories like that in our family.”

Scotland produced more migrants per head of population than almost any other country in Europe.  Scots travelled further and continued leaving long after other restless nationals had decided home was best.

According to historian Professor Tom Devine not all migrants were victims, burned off their land.  In his new book To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora,  Mr Devine explains that while the Highland clearances were very real, many more migrants were positive, well qualified people, ambitious for a better life.

Ms McKelvie added:

“As families gather for Christmas and Hogmanay what better time to think of and to begin to find your ancestors who took Scotland to the rest of the world and the friends and family you may not know of, living in the diaspora.

“Scotland has great resources online with Scotland’s People to help families trace their history and to follow that history around the world. 

“I’ll certainly be inviting my relatives in Hamilton, Canada to come over in 2014 and visit Hamilton, Scotland, and I look forward to showing them the sights in my constituency.”

Independent published research showed the positive impact of Scotland’s first ever year of celebration, with the first Homecoming delivering a string of benefits to the country and bolstering Scottish tourism during one of the toughest economic downturns.

According to official figures, over £53 million of additional tourism revenue was generated for Scotland, representing a return on investment of nearly 1:10 and 22% above the target set for the year.

95,000 visitors to Scotland were influenced to travel to Scotland as a result of Homecoming.  72,000 were exclusively drawn by the celebrations, with a further 23,000 citing the year as a factor in making their decision to visit in 2009.


  1. I have relatives in NZ, Australia, Canada, Ireland and US, that I know of, there may be many more. Whether any can or will be able to make the Homecoming in 2014 I don’t know, but I hope they can.

  2. Interesting views and facts about Diaspora Scots, here are some more from one.

    Those Diaspora Scots left because they just wanted to survive. Staying in Scotland was a death sentence to their lives, freedom, sense of equality and fraternity and the futures of their children. The conditions causing the relocation were forced upon Scots by Westminster endorsed elites.
    No sane animal or person ever leaves a comfortable nest for the uncertainties of a strange hostile environment, they go there because they have to, forced to. Diaspora Scots did not just waltz out merrily shopping for a new home like some holiday maker. It was go or die.

    I’ve read and enjoyed the history in the Devine book. Explaining forcing Scots out of the country in pasteurised terms to make it more palatable to an elite readership embarrassed about their ancestors activities is odious. No one can get away from the point that the Scots left to survive because the conditions they were forced to live or die in at home pushed them out. Trying to describe that as “aspirational”is rewriting actual history. No reasonable person would describe a person just wanting his/her family to live and avoid dying as “aspirational” it is brutal survival.

    Another point not recognised in the matter is that the Scots forced out were indigenous people of Scotland pushed by a more powerful neighbour orchestrating the conditions to do the dirty deed.

    My recent ancestors were Diaspora Scots, they left Britain/Scotland because they had to in order to stay alive, some succeeded but many more have had their spirits crushed and lives destroyed. I was one of the lucky successful descendants and have returned home to Scotland. I do not forget the heartbreak and struggles inflicted upon my grandmothers and see the generational devastation wrecked upon some of their descendents and other Diaspora Scots by similar struggles.

    The homecoming and independence should also be used as a time of healing, a time for Diaspora Scots to have it recognised by their “home” that what happened to their ancestors was wrong and a form of exploitative genocide of indigenous Scots.
    We cannot afford as a country to right all those wrongs inflicted on our fellow Scots overseas, but we can recognise that it happened and at least insist that UK laws recognise their right to return home as Scots the same way as many other civilised European countries do for their Diasporas.

    A reasonable start would be to insist that any Scot descendant who can support himself/herself and their family reasonably without government handouts be allowed to resettle back home in Scotland. Current UK immigration laws specifically stop that from happening. As an aside, all British Diaspora should have the same right, their ancestors did not relinquish right of return when they left.

    If we want Diaspora Scots to truly feel welcome enough to return home to visit and spend money here for the homecoming and well into the future we should be insisting that they be allowed to return home.
    The vast majority would not want to or could not make such a harrowing relocation, but having that sense of “home” and being welcome to live back here will bring them back visiting and investing again and again, generation after generation. Scotland really needs that sort of tourism, investment and international support now and into the future.

  3. My Mum’s relations all headed to Australia in the early 30’s, the Maclean / Gregors’s settled around Murrwullimba my Mum came back in July 1939 with her parents because Granny Gregor was ‘dying’ (she popped her clogs in 1963 when I was 7) and got stuck here by the war. I met a second cousin (Ken MacLean) in 1974 ish when he was full back for a rather indifferent Wallaby Team. I do not doubt there will be lots of Scots like me with family spread across the world (my son is about to marry a Japanese lass and settle down in Fukui- a modern day Thomas Glover – aye and I believe in fairies).

  4. Let’s welcome them back to help us win the referendum. I’m sure we can find all the beds we need for thousands of them.

    I wonder why we do not do more with our diaspora. I doubt if any person living in Scotland does not have more relatives everywhere else in the world than he has at home – though contact has been lost in many cases.
    Just before she died my mum had me trying to find out what happened to her uncle Davie Campbell who emigrated to Wogga Wogga in the 1920s with his two daughters but no luck. I know I have Campbell, Drummond, McEwan and Moncrieff relatives all over the world from my mother’s side (because they were very literate people who stayed in touch to some extent up to around WW2). No idea on my father’s side as his father – an agricultural worker from Dumfries area died from being gassed in the trenches in WW1. My wife’s people are in West Australia and N Zealand.
    Of my genersation of five children in my immediate family only two of us remain in Scotland and even we have both spent huge parts of our lives overseas.
    I am sure I am entirely typical.
    We could use all the help we can get in 2014

  5. How can we help advertise the Homecoming? I’m on a few genealogical forums I could post there? Do we have dates yet?

  6. How can we help advertise the Homecoming? I’m on a few genealogical forums I could post there? Do we have dates yet?


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