Monday, May 14, 2012

Exploring My Heritage- In Person

Originally uploaded by katzeye

I just got back from two weeks in the UK.

My dad is Scottish. My mother is Scottish-Dutch-Danish.

My Dad’s Scottish parents/ancestors are named Wilkinson (or at least, that is his closest Scottish relative, there are many, many other Scottish names because they have all come from there, and some of them during my lifetime). My mother’s Scottish names are Barnes, and Beveridge, and Moffat, and her Dutch name is Van Schoonhoven. Her Danish name is Nelson (her grandmother direct from Denmark).

So, there are some names. But what’s in a name?

Apparently a lot if you’re in Scotland. Before going there, I knew that the name Wilkinson is the result of marriage between the Scotts and the Norse, way back in those Viking invasion days. Having talked to various Scottish ancestry experts from time to time, I understood that the Wilkinson line came out of that kind of intermarriage, and that they were part of another clan, which may have been part of yet another clan. Apparently there were so few of them that they had to be adopted in or something.

But while exploring the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye, I learned a few more things.  But let’s begin in Edinburgh, where I spoke to a gentleman in a shop there that sold clan stuff.

I asked him if he had anything Wilkinson. He nearly became angry, declaring that Wilkinson was not a Scottish name, with the “son” on the end indicating Scandinavian.

I found that interesting since my son and I had gone to the Scottish Heritage shop in Old World in Huntington Beach the night before my dad’s funeral. My son wanted to wear a tie in the family tartan to the funeral, and the store’s owner was kind enough to let us in after hours. He pointed out to us that the Wilkinson line had, as I had been told before, been kind of adopted into another clan. He told me MacDonald, and so we chose a tartan from that clan for the funeral.

So, there I was in Edinburgh being told that a name with “son” at the end was Scandinavian and not Scottish, even though I was seeing, on his rack of tartans, “Wilson,” for example.

He was tellling me that whoever told me that was just trying to sell me something, and so therefore was lying to me. I was pretty jetlagged and found that I was near tears at his harsh way of addressing me. When I told him of other Scottish names, Beveridge, Barnes, Moffat, and Wallace, he completely changed his attitude. Especially with the mention of the name Wallace, which seems to be pretty sacred in those parts. I almost wished I had thrown the Wallace name around a bit more, as many more doors might have opened and maybe a free dinner or two! But I left his store after laying those names on him, and did not buy a thing!

As Mark was witnessing our exchange, he said not a word. And he had already secretly purchased for me the keyfob pictured above, which has not only the Wilkinson crest, but the tartan on the back. So he knew that the guy was just being rude.

But it made me start to wonder. Were the Wilkinsons black sheep in the family of Scots?

So, we continued on, into the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. From time to time, I would look into records, such as war records in the Edinburgh castle where I found many of my family’s names, except Wilkinson.

In an information shop, I found Wilkinson in a list of clans. It said that the name was originally MacQuilkan. MacQuilkan! I recorded it in my book for future reference.

Then, at an old, beautiful church, on the bank of a loch, in the highlands, there was an older gentleman in a kilt sweeping the stone floors inside the church. I asked him about MacQuilkan and his eyes lit up.

He told me about how Quilk is the origin of Wilk, and that Quilkan was the same as Wilkin, or Wilkan, or Wilken. Quilkan is the original spelling from way back. So, that would make me a Quilkinson, essentially.

He said that many clans lost the Mac, or Mc from the beginnings of the names.  He also said that there are not many MacQuilkans left in the world. He thought there was one in the film industry in California! He said that some of the MacQuilkans were asked to change their name to Cameron.

I wish that I could remember the stories as to why this was, wish I had recorded him. It was something political as I recall. Some of the MacQuilkans/Wilkinsons did change their names to Cameron, which means that I might be related to more than one clan member in the film industry. Some refused to change their names, and some went back to their original names after changing them under pressure.

(Sounds like a nightmare for future genealogy that I do on this line.)

And he confirmed my earlier knowledge that the MacQuilkans had been taken into the MacDonald clan.

While doing all of this, I was emailing back and forth with my son who was very interested in all of this. I would send him some names to look into and he would email back with some new info, etc. I found it amusing to read about his research about why the MacQuilkans married Vikings. They were tired of being attacked by them so decided that intermarriage might bring about the end of warfare.

Some of these ancestors worked, generation after generation in the coal mines. I found myself a little sad/offended that there is a jolly, amusing coal mine tourist attraction in Edinburgh.

There was another Scottish line that I forgot to bring with me, and that is one of Scottish Royalty. My sister had sent me information on this one guy, a benevolent king. I wish I had brought that with me, because we went to so many castles that I can’t remember which was which now, and will need to sort out my notes. I may have found evidence of him, too, somewhere. Perhaps a royal name would have opened some doors for us, too.

But it’s just as well. Even if he was benevolent and promoted literacy, as I have heard, I think it may have made for a different kind of trip.

This trip was about immersing ourselves in the culture and people, and even picking up some expressions and a wee bit of an accent in the doing so (I still hear it; all those Scottish conversations in my head). And we did immerse ourselves. And it was rich, indeed.

Except for that one shop owner, we found the Scots to be kind, courteous, warm, and generous. We stayed in their B&Bs all across the Highlands and it was like being in their homes.

And Mark even tried haggis!!!


Lisse said...

What about you? Did you try haggis?

Lisse said...

But did YOU eat Haggis?

... said...

Sorry, Lisse, just saw your comment! No way! I am not a fan of haggis!!!

Sherrie said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip. One my sweetheart and I want to take one day. Loved your pix, too.

Did you know the Scottish Festival is going on this Sat and Sun at the OC Fairgrounds? You can get discounted tickets at until noon, tomorrow. They have booths for each clan and you can get all kinds of clan history. There's a lot more available, too. Check out at