Tartans: A Detailed resource sought.

Are there any good tartan websites around, with detailed histories?

I’m sure there must be, but I’m interested in hearing from Dopers who have had good results when researching genealogies and/or Scottish history.

My specific query is relating to the Douglas tartan. There are several different Douglas tartans, each relating to a particular local clan. However, I have found it difficult to find which clan Douglas would be the closest to the English/Scottish border area (Jedburgh, to be precise) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

So far, I’ve only come across the type of website that offers a generic ‘Douglas’ tartan for sale, but doesn’t give much in the way of histories.

As always, any help is much appreciated.


The alleged long-term connection between a particular pattern of cloth and a particular clan is greatly exaggerated, especially by companies that sell cloth. If I were you I wouldn’t build my hopes up of finding any reliable source connecting a particular tartan to a particular branch of the Douglas family in a particular part of the country much before the mid-C19[sup]th[/sup], and even after that time many designs were simply made up for Scottish military regiments.

Sorry if this isn’t what you were hoping for.

The alleged long-term connection between a particular pattern of cloth and a particular clan is greatly exaggerated

Unfortunately, agreed. The evidence sums up in general as showing that early tartans tended to be associated with region rather than clan, and after the massive discontinuity due to the post-Jacobite ban, the specific clan associations sprang from the era of their reinvention in the late 18th / 19th century. While not everyone goes as far down the revisionist route as the historian Hugh Trevor Roper, even many of the clothing manufacturers, such as Donaldsons of Crieff, admit to tartan’s “doubtful pedigree”. So I also doubt that it’s much use for genealogical tracking.

I’ve also heard that there are several different tartans, even for the same clan/region, like “everyday” tartan and “special occasion” tartan. I can’t prove this, because I can’t remember where I read it, but basically you’re fucked if you want to find “your” tartan, unless you trace your genealogy back several generations to a particular ancestor, go to Scotland, find their grave, dig them up, and see what they were buried in. If the fabric has survived, of course.

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This is true, I’m Leslie and we have a “Hunting”, a “Dress”, an “Ancient”, and an “Ancient Hunting” tatan

I don’t know about different family branches though

While I won’t argue with other posters I have found http://albanach.org/ to have a large collection of known tartans (over 3000-including 6 or 7 different Douglas tartans). Each tartan also has a small history along with a sample.

At the site click Links on the left and then in the new frame click Tartans Search. This will bring up a search box and just place Douglas in the tartan name-don’t worry about the other boxes.

Hope this helps.

Thanks, Xgemina, I’ll check that link out a bit later when I have a bit more time.

I should perhaps have been a bit more specific in my background, as this isn’t a genealogical search per se, so I’m not ultimately trying to find a particular person. Just really what the Douglases closest to Jedburgh might have been wearing around that time. Pity there’s not a back-copy of Scottish Vogue around that I can refer to… :wink:

So other, more general Scottish/Border history links might prove fruitful as well.

I’ve already read The Steel Bonnets - an excellent narrative history of the Border region which covers clans in that region in depth, but unfortunately, it doesn’t match the geographical information up with anything about tartans.

I appreciate the ‘cautions’, but rest assured I’m not trying to establish links where none exist or anything like that. Thanks for the help, everyone.