Tracing Your Ancestors

Most people who come to Bowhill to trace their ancestors are doing so because they are either a ‘Scott’ or one of their ancestors lived or worked on the Estate or for the Buccleuch family.

Before you visit, we recommend you do some research as there are some helpful resources online such as VisitScotland’s excellent beginners guide to tracing your ancestors. As they advise, we also recommend that your first port of call before you set out anywhere, should be existing family members.

old kitchen


Bowhill is the ancestral home of the Scott Clan, with the Duke of Buccleuch regarded as the Clan Chief. The Scotts of Buccleuch, later the Montagu Douglas Scott family, can be traced back to Scott of Kirkurd in 1116.

The name Buccleuch originates from the 10th century when legend has it that King Kenneth III was hunting in a deep ravine or ‘cleuch’ in the heart of the forest, when a young buck became cornered and charged towards the unarmed King. A young man named John Scott seized the buck by the antlers and wrestled it to the ground, saving the King’s life. From that day, the Scotts were referred to as Buccleuch (bəˈklu), the ‘buck from the ravine’ and were rewarded for their bravery. The Buccleuch family tree can be found here.

The Buccleuchs are not the only branch of Scotts in the Borders. The Scotts of Harden, from whom novelist Sir Walter Scott is descended, are led by Lord Polwarth who lives at Harden, near Hawick, which is a private residence. There are also other names in this region of Scotland associated with the Scott Clan such as Geddes, Laidlaw, Napier and Langlands.


Abbotsford House
Abbotsford House

home of Sir Walter Scott

Smailholm Tower

With rich links to Sir Walter Scott

Ancestors who worked/lived at Bowhill

As a traditional estate Bowhill has a rich history and has employed a large number of local people, including gardeners, cooks, maids, builders, joiners and many more. During the First World War, Bowhill served as a military hospital and was occupied by the Army from 1939-45. In the Second World War it was used as a training base. This makes the Estate very popular with people tracing their ancestors.

Partly due to this background, however, many records were lost or damaged, making it difficult to assist with individual searches. Furthermore, many of the records that are held on the Estate are political or ecclesiastical records and not domestic ones.

Although we have very few records, we have been fortunate enough to have someone donate their research of past workers at Bowhill to us. This information has come from various sources such as Scotland’s People and is limited, but you may be lucky enough to find details of an ancestor. To see this information please email in advance.

Useful online links

Scotland’s People
National Records of Scotland
National Archives of Scotland
The Scotsman newspaper online archive from 1817 to 1950

Useful local information sources

If you are coming to the Borders to trace your ancestors we thoroughly recommend a visit to the ‘Heritage Hub’ in Hawick where you may be able to find specific information about your family and also learn more about life in the Borders at that time (Scottish Borders Archive & Local History Centre, Heritage Hub, Hawick or call 01450 360699).

Heritage Hub is the key source for 800 years of archives for the Scottish Borders (Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire). The diverse collections also include:

• Extensive rugby and textile collections
• Local government and administration, police, law and order records
• Business records and accounts, including textile, fishing and farming industries
• Archives of schools, churches, charities, clubs and societies, families and
• Title deeds, maps and plans, letterheads, photographs, correspondence and diaries

You can find more local ancestral resources in the Scottish Borders here.

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