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 documentary strand of the Project saw both students and staff carry out research into these individuals and their families. It also involved a genetic genealogy strand, to discover previously unknown descents from these individuals through DNA testing.
It is hoped that at some point an exhibition focussing on the Project will be held at Arbroath Abbey.
Further information relating to the project can be found in the information sections below.
This was 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 three years – academic sessions 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 and consisted 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
This was based largely on staff research with some student involvement and consisted 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
Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project
Progress report 11, 3 September 2020
Since the main work of the Project is now drawing to a close, this is just a very brief report providing details of recent articles and how the work of the Project will be further reported on and presented.
For further details, please consult earlier Progress reports and the Project webpage.
The following two articles relating to the Project by Graham Holton and Alasdair Macdonald have appeared recently –
The Declaration of Arbroath: new research on stories of the signatories. History Scotland, September/October 2020.
DNA and the Declaration of Arbroath. Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, September 2020.
The talk on the work of the Project for the Victoria University of Wellington NZ Scottish Interest Group was supplied for the planned meeting of the Group on 28 August, but unfortunately, due to the introduction of stricter Covid-19 lockdown measures in New Zealand only a few days before, the meeting had to be cancelled. The Group hope to be able to reschedule the meeting for a date in 2021.
Work has begun on the compilation of a Project report which it is hoped will be completed around early October.
Plans for holding the Project exhibition at Arbroath Abbey, Dumfries Museum and possibly other venues at some point in 2021 are still on hold.
Previous progress reports can be downloaded and viewed via the links below;
Presentations by Graham Holton and Alasdair Macdonald:
- Declaration of Arbroath Conference, 20 May 2021, online. The men of the Declaration of Arbroath – their significance and influence then and now.
- Victoria University of Wellington NZ Scottish Interest Group - Recording of general talk on the project.
- Markinch Heritage Group, 4 November 2021, online - Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project.
- Foundation for Medieval Genealogy Conference, 2 September 2022, University of Strathclyde, Centre for Lifelong Learning. Humble and devout sons" – the men of the Declaration of Arbroath and their families: the role of documentary and genetic genealogy research in medieval genealogy.
Publications and Press Coverage
The Scotsman 13 August 2019 - https://www.scotsman.com/heritage/dna-search-to-identify-descendants-of-declaration-of-arbroath-nobles-1-4983072
Was your ancestor a signatory of the Declaration of Arbroath? / Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald. History Scotland, November-December 2019
The Herald 28 February 2020 - https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18269419.new-study-uncovers-30-descendants-family-signed-declaration-arbroath/
The Declaration of Arbroath: new research on stories of the signatories / Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald. History Scotland, Sep-Oct 2020.
DNA and the Declaration of Arbroath / Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald. Who do you think you are? magazine, Sep 2020.
Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project: report / Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald. Vowchurch, Hereford: Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, 2020.
The Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project: context, results and genetic genealogy methodologies / Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald. Foundations, v. 13 (2021).