Kings of Scotland; Elvis Had Scots Roots and Obama's Ancestor Was Our 12th Century Ruler IN HONOUR OF HOMECOMING, WE FIND STARS WITH TARTAN HERITAGE

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), February 6, 2009 | Go to article overview

Kings of Scotland; Elvis Had Scots Roots and Obama's Ancestor Was Our 12th Century Ruler IN HONOUR OF HOMECOMING, WE FIND STARS WITH TARTAN HERITAGE


Byline: By Craig McQueen

AT first glance, Barack Obama, Elvis Presley and Reese Witherspoon don't seem to have that much in common.

But, like many of the world's best-known faces, the unlikely trio can all trace their roots back to Scotland.

While the US president's family tree goes all the way back to a 12th-century king, Elvis's ancestors came from Aberdeenshire.

And Reece Witherspoon's Scottish forefather signed the Declaration of Independence.

Now, with the launch of the Year of Homecoming campaign, more and more people around the world are finding out if they have any Scottish blood.

Genealogist Stuart Reid, who runs Edinburgh firm Scottish Roots, said: "A lot of the interest is because Scotland has a well-established public profile around the world.

"There are a lot of people who know about the country and have an almost romantic desire to be linked to it in some way.

"Over the last 25 years, there's always been a fairly high demand from people wanting to research their ancestors from Scotland, although the internet has made it easier and even more accessible."

Stuart believes another reason people from overseas look to Scotland to trace their lineage comes down to a desire to feel connected to an ancestral homeland.

He said: "Many of these people want to discover things, such as where their ancestors lived, and will go as far as trying to research where their great-grandfathers worked in the late 1800s, or coming to Scotland to see if their ancestral homes still exist.

"For them, it's a desire to find a missing piece of the jigsaw about their family history."

Chris Paton, a genealogist who runs Scotland's Greatest Story, argues that popular culture helped make Scottish heritage attractive.

He said: "You can't discount the legacy of something like Braveheart. Before it was released in cinemas, people tended to be proud of having Irish heritage, but Scottish lineage soon became just as popular and trendy thanks to Hollywood.

"With the Homecoming celebrations this year and a continued Scottish presence in modern culture and the arts, I can't see that changing any time soon.

"The appeal of looking for Scottish ancestry will be popular for many years and I'm sure we'll see a lot more people highlighting their family history's links back to Scotland."

Here's just some of the famous faces with ancestors who once called Scotland home.

BARACK OBAMA

As with all presidential candidates these days, no branch of Obama's family tree was left unchecked by genealogists.

In the 44th president's case, the Scottish link is said to come from maternal ancestor Edward Fitzrandolph, who emigrated to America in the 17th century.

He is also said to be descended from William the Lion, who ruled Scotland between 1165 and 1214.

EMINEM

The controversial rapper's great-great grandmother comes from Scotland. The Detroit-born hip hop star's granny, Betty, revealed the family can trace their roots back to Edinburgh woman Ailsa Macalister.

She came to New York with her family in 1870, before moving on to Kentucky two years later.

REESEWITHERSPOON

The star of Walk The Line can trace her roots to Edinburgh-born Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon, who emigrated to America in 1768.

Eight years later, he was one of only two Scottish signatories to the American Declaration of Independence.

He also spent time in the Ayrshire town of Beith before emigrating, giving developers an excuse to name a new development there Witherspoon Grove.

ELVIS PRESLEY

Four years ago, a Scottish author claimed tohave traced Elvis's family tree to blacksmith Andrew Presley, who moved to America from Paisley in 1745.

His parents married in the Aberdeenshire village of Lonmay in 1713. …

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