ARE you descended from the people who signed Scotland’s Declaration of Independence in Arbroath Abbey in 1320?

The intriguing question is raised by a new report on the signatories of Scotland’s historical document.

Genealogy researchers at the University of Strathclyde have compiled a progress report on the men who signed or attached their seals to the Declaration, and their descendants.

The Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project has, to date, gathered information on 40 of the document’s 48 signatories, while the remaining eight were covered in the previous Battle of Bannockburn Family History Project. The new report focuses on 15 of them, along with King Robert the Bruce.

The new report is based on latest research by postgraduate diploma students at Strathclyde and staff from the university’s Genealogical Studies postgraduate programme. It is being published to coincide with St Andrew’s Day.

Graham Holton, principal tutor on the programme – based in the university’s Centre for Lifelong Learning – said: “The project was devised to provide a learning opportunity for our postgraduate diploma students to carry out research in medieval genealogy, to research the lives and families of the signatories of the Declaration, including present-day descendants, and to develop methodologies for the use of genetic genealogy in tracing early descents.

“Brief biographies, four-generation genealogies and coats of arms have now been compiled for the 48 signatories, forming a significant foundation for further research and covering a number of lesser-known barons.

The researchers have reached firm conclusions about descents from families such as Dunbar, a family that is likely to be one of the longest British unbroken documented male line ancestries. It descends from Crinan the Thane, who was born around the late 10th century and has male line descendants to this day, as shown by both documentary and DNA


Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, who is named in the Declaration of Arbroath, left no male line descendants, but three baronetcies still exist, held by descendants of his brother Alexander.

Research has identified DNA markers called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, usually known as SNPs, which indicate descent from Alexander Dunbar.

At least 10 descendants of Alexander in the UK and North America, including three with documented unbroken descents to Alexander, have tested confirming the markers as indicative of this descent.

The Alexander Seton who placed his seal on the Declaration left no sons of his own but his daughter Margaret married Alan de Wyntoun, who was very likely a Seton by descent, the family having taken the surname from their estate of


Many of their male line descendants are living today.

Holton added: “The genetic genealogy research is very much ongoing and conclusions are likely to be refined and clarified in due course.”

The researchers hope to be able to stage a public exhibition next year.