Home » Musings and Media » Clan and Identity

Clan and Identity

A clan is more than genetics and genealogies. A clan encompasses identity, affinity, common heritage, and even a perpetuation of kindred spirit. In the case of Clan McCulloch, there is an intriguing blend of fact, DNA discovery, and known history, along with mysterious origins and a bit of legend. Because the origins of the McCullochs and kindreds such as the McCulloughs is not known, there is room for research, discovery and even imagination about the historic relationships of these ancestors, as well as their shared ongoing identity.

It is known that today’s McCullochs, McCulloughs, McCullohs, et al do not all share common modern ancestors. But even traditionally, a clan was more than blood descendants. Clan chiefs have been described as feudal lords, war lords, and even compared to mafia dons. Before the arrival of the Normans, each generation might be called by their forename, son of their father. Thus Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpin) was so named after his father Alpín mac Echdach. Norman influence led to the adoption of more standardized names based on an honored ancestor or a place name, such as Robert de Brus.

As surnames were adopted, followers of a clan chief who were under the protection of the chief and clan, may adopt the chief’s surname whether or not they were blood relatives. Today, we do not know if all McCullochs and McCulloughs, though sharing the same or similar name, considered themselves members of the same clan or family. However, we do know that some Scottish McCullochs adopted the spelling McCullough as they migrated to Northern Ireland and North America.

A Common Journey

With the growing interest in genealogical research and DNA studies, McCullochs and McCulloughs of all spellings find themselves on a shared journey. By sharing our family trees and DNA studies we are able to help each other trace our own family lines and origins (even by precluding some genetic hypotheses). Also, our kindred families have shared a name and a broader Gaelic culture along the Irish Sea that has spanned Northern Ireland and Western Scotland.

Combined, all of the McCullochs, McCulloughs, McColloughs, McCullohs et al around the globe may total 350,000 people or more. Together we can share historic inquiry, discover our genetic origins, trace our family lines, and learn about our shared history in Scotland and Ireland, as well as our experiences in the Scotch-Irish diaspora.

Deeper Discoveries

What may begin as an inquiry into one’s personal family line, may grow into a discovery of a broader origin story in Scotland or Northern Ireland. This may stir feelings of national pride, even among those of us in the diaspora. But if you keep digging, you may see that the histories of our ancestors was complex, multicultural, and changing. In our family trees we may meet Gaels, Scots, Picts, Saxons, Normans, Vikings, Britons, and more. We may find that our ancestors sense of identify was not fixed in time like some coat of arms approved by the Court of Lord Lyon. Rather, their identity was likely fluid and subject to various competing loyalties (just as our own political and social identities are today). At a certain point, what starts as a study of a family line may become an inquiry into our shared human experience with musings about when our ancestors came to the British Isles and whence they came.

Identity and Heritage

Our identity and heritage come from more than genetics and a family name. It is a blend of our history, archeology, literature, music, family oral traditions, including the tall tales and legends. Our familial identity is the story we tell ourselves about who we are, and share with our loved ones.

The Future Clan

If a clan has value in our modern world, it is cultivating this shared identity, heritage, and sense of discovery, as well as fostering our commonweal. To that end, we heartily welcome all who share these interests and values as our kindreds.