Centre for Lifelong Learning Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project

The University of Strathclyde Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme launched the Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project in association with the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy in October 2018. King Robert’s mission, to gain recognition for Scotland as an independent nation, particularly from England, following the Scottish War of Independence, led to the creation of a letter to the Pope in 1320, which has become known as the Declaration of Arbroath. The letter was sent on behalf of the nobles and barons of Scotland, many of whom were named in and attached their seals to the document. The new Project will see both students and staff carry out research into these individuals and their families, culminating in an exhibition which it is hoped will tour several venues. It will also involve a genetic genealogy strand, to discover previously unknown descents from these individuals through DNA testing. 

The project will consist of two strands, a documentary strand and a genetic genealogy strand. Further information relating to the project can be found in the information sections below. 

Documentary strand

Documentary strand

This will be based largely on PG Diploma student work in researching specific individuals who are named or set their seals to the Declaration of Arbroath, accumulated over two years – academic sessions 2018-19 and 2019-20 and would consist of the following:

  • brief biographies of the individuals presented as narrative biographies of a maximum of 300 words.
  • 4 generation descendant charts and reports beginning with the individuals’ grandparents and including as many of the grandparents’ descendants as can be traced to the third generation.
  • images and blazons of the individuals’ coats of arms.
Genetic genealogy strand

Genetic genealogy strand

This will be based largely on staff research with some student involvement and will consist of the following:

genetic genealogy research into the families of significance in relation to the Declaration of Arbroath to –

  • discover previously unknown descents from these families through DNA matching with individuals with documented descents and
  • to advance the knowledge of genetic branching within these families
  • to investigate the origins of these families
Progress Reports

Progress report 6, 17 October 2019

Documentary strand

As reported previously, at least one set of research findings on all 48 individuals associated with the Declaration have now been submitted by Diploma students – 40 as part of this Project, in addition to findings on another 8 who had previously been researched as part of the Battle of Bannockburn Family History Project. These findings will be supplemented by submissions from Diploma students in the current academic session. The findings consist of brief biographies, four generation genealogies showing descendants of the grandparents of the focus individual and details of coats of arms. The list of their names can be found on the Strathclyde genealogy website at http://www.strathgenealogy.org.uk/declaration-of-arbroath/

Genetic genealogy strand

Student work detailing male line descendants for up to 10 generations of 16 of the individuals will help to inform further staff work in the genetic genealogy strand of the Project. The first phase of this strand involved the gathering of DNA test results from well documented male line descendants of some of those who were associated with the Declaration. This strand is now entering the second phase, which will focus on analysis of test results and identifying matches with individuals who do not have documentary evidence of their medieval descents.

25 relevant DNA test results are now included in the Project and the major focus will be on the following families –

Boyd (including descent from Hay)


If feasible, further research on other families may be carried out, such as the families of Campbell, Maxwell and Umfreville.

Contact has been made with a number of DNA surname projects and we are working with these as the research progresses.

Previous progress reports can be downloaded and viewed via the links below;

Progress report 5, 16 August 2019

Progress report 4, 27 June 2019

Progress report 3, 23 April 2019

Progress report 2, 5 February 2019

Progress report 1, 3 December 2018


Exhibition and Talks


A provisional list of the 16 individuals to be featured in the Project exhibition has now been compiled. The exhibition will display biographies, genealogical charts and coats of arms of these individuals as well as details on the genetic genealogy research carried out.

The Project Exhibition will be held initially at Arbroath Abbey from 3 July to 14 August 2020.

The exhibition will also be presented at Dumfries Museum from 12 September to 31 October.

Forthcoming Talks

Presentations by Graham Holton and Alasdair Macdonald

  • Medieval Bruce Heritage Trust symposium on the Declaration of Arbroath, 28 March 2020, Dumfries
  • Declaration of Arbroath 700th Anniversary Conference, 23-25 April 2020, Newbattle Abbey College
  • Pre-exhibition presentation, 11 September 2020, Dumfries Museum (provisional)
Press Coverage