Finding one's forebears in Scotland can be a daunting task; therefore, researchers whose Scots ancestors came to colonial America must sometimes fall back on whatever clues are at hand. For example, knowledge of Scottish surnames can sometimes lead the genealogist to the clan from which his/her North American ancestor is descended. In his latest book, genealogist David Dobson has compiled a list of Scottish surnames of the estimated 150,000 Scots who settled in the America colonies. Many of the same surnames, of course, apply to the even greater number of Scots-Irish colonists whose forebears had originated in Scotland before re-settling in the province of Ulster.
The Scottish Surnames of Colonial America attempts to identify Scottish names, provide explanations of their meaning and significance, give examples, and where applicable, name the clan to which the family is linked. Consider the following illustrations. Adam Dryden immigrated to Georgia in 1774; the name "Dryden" is derived from two places in southeast Scotland, and it has been in use since the late 13th century. Similarly, Charles MacLatchie settled in East Florida by 1774, and Robert McLatchie was working as a schoolmaster in Savannah before 1766. Since the name McLatchie, which means "son of the servant of Eidich," was found mostly in Ayrshire after the 15th century, McLatchie descendants may wish to comb through parish registers for Ayrshire (just as Dryden descendants could do the same for southeast Scotland) in the absence of other links from their colonial forebear in Scotland. In all, Mr. Dobson identifies about 1,000 Scottish surnames and their derivatives and also mentions one or more actual Scottish North Americans who bore that name before 1776.