Celebrating Personal History

21 Apr

by Melissa Burns-

As Americans, we all know that our families originated somewhere else. At one point in time our relatives immigrated here from places across the globe. The farther removed we are from those immigrant relatives, the more difficult it is to remember just where our roots are. Some people do not really seem to care where there families came from, and there are others who would like to know but do not have the time or resources to find out. This, I think, is sad, because knowing your family’s history can tell you a lot about yourself and open up a whole new world of friends and relatives that you never knew existed.

Scottish marchers

Men taking part in the Tartan Day Parade

I am fortunate enough to have an aunt who spent a great deal of time researching our family tree. She has traced the family’s roots to Scotland, where my grandma’s side goes back to Clan MacBean and my grandpa’s family is from Clan MacLeod of Lewis.  My husband’s family has also been traced to Scotland.  There, Clan Burns was fairly small and eventually became incorporated as a sept, a family giving allegiance to another, of Clan Campbell.  I do not know the specific villages that my family came from, but I do know the regions of Scotland where they originated.  I hope very much to be able to visit them one day.

Scottish pipe band

March of a Scottish Pipe Band

My family, and especially my mom, is very proud of our Scottish heritage. Growing up, there was always a lot of bagpipe and celtic music playing, and we love traditional Scottish food, like shepherd’s pie, scotch eggs, and pasties. My brother also likes to eat haggis, but I have never gotten over the idea of it long enough to like it. We also like to show our heritage by wearing our clan’s tartan. Every clan has multiple tartans. There are ancient and modern versions, as well as ones for casual and formal wear. The one that my family likes to wear is commonly known as the Loud MacLeod because it is has a bright yellow background with a red and black pattern. My mom and brother both have kilts in this tartan, while I have a tam, a traditional, almost beret-like hat.  There is absolutely no mistaking who you are when you wear the Loud MacLeod tartan. As of yet, I do not have anything with the Clan Campbell tartan, which is also known as the Black Watch tartan, but I have been keeping my eyes open.

Caber Toss

Caber toss in the Highland Games

Visiting with members of the Lincoln Place Heritage Group a couple of weeks ago reminded me of the importance of remaining connected with your heritage.  This is the exact reason why my family goes to the St. Louis Scottish Festival each year.  We were also able to go to Tartan Days in St. Charles this year for the first time.  The fests are always great fun. There is plenty of good, traditional Scottish food, traditional and modern Celtic music and dancing, and the Highland Games are never boring. I will never cease to be amazed at how someone can toss a caber!  Each year we see the same people at the festivals, and we have met other members of Clan MacLeod who are beginning to feel like an extended family. These relationships are a prime example of why maintaining our heritage is so important.  I will always believe that knowing your past is a fantastic way to enrich your future.


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