Historians believe that the clan system has existed for 1,000 years emerging in the 11th century in Scotland. The word clan comes from the Scottish Gaelic clann, which means kindred. A huge part of the tradition of Scottish festivals and games is the gathering of the Clans. Each Clan has a unique tartan with a pattern that belongs exclusively to them.

Were my ancestors part of a clan?

Visiting the festival is the perfect opportunity to learn whether your surname or that of one of your ancestors is connected with a Scottish clan. Clan hosts can help you learn more about a clan, including their tartans, as well as welcome you into membership should you decide to officially join a clan.

In addition to more than 50 Scottish clans participating, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games features a number of cultural heritage organizations that can also help you become better acquainted with the history of the Scottish immigrants and Scots-Irish in east Tennessee.

Scottish clans with their tartans
Honored Clan for 2023

Clan MacLeod Society USA

The Clan MacLeod Society USA was founded in 1954 to establish a foundation for charitable, historical, and educational pursuits for clan members in all 50 states, which the Society has divided into 13 regions.

The progenitor of the Clan was Leod, who gained possession of much of the Isle of Skye, including the Cullins, Harris and Lewis in the 13th century. Later tradition claimed that Leod was descended from the Norse Kings of Man. Leod had two sons, or grandsons, Tormod (Norman) and Torcall, (English Torquil) who became progenitors of the MacLeod of Harris and Dunvegan, and the MacLeods of the Lewes.

Dunvegan was acquired by marriage to the MacRailt heiress and became the principal seat of the Clan MacLeod where their Castle was built. Alasdair Crotach MacLeod built the Fairy Tower, and the Fairy Flag is still the most celebrated relic at Dunvegan Castle. The flag was given to a MacLeod by the fairies and had the power to summon up a magic host in time of need. It was twice used in defeating the MacDonalds.

The MacCrimmons, hereditary pipers at Dunvegan, were preeminent pipers and conducted one of the best known “piping colleges” in the Highlands of Scotland. At a highland festival in each of its 13 regions, Clan MacLeod Society USA awards the MacCrimmon Quaich (a traditional Scottish drinking vessel) to the winner of the grade I amateur Piobaireachd piping competition.

Clan MacLeod Society USA supports Scottish heritage and education through its Dunvegan Foundation, which awards grants and scholarship programs to deserving entities. In 2022, those awards totaled more than $44,000.