- The Tartan History
- A group of travels set out on the ancient caravan route through
the heart of Asia, known as the Silk Road. Illness or natural
disaster overtook this group of early travelers and they're bodies
were over taken by the moving sands of the Talkamakan Desert
in Xinjiang, western China.
- Nearly 2,500 to 3,000 years later, a Swedish explorer named
Sven Heden discovered the burial place of what had become exceptionally
well preserved mummies. Despite being in western China, their
faces were not of the Asian lands. They had long slender noses,
reddish brown or brown hair and fair skin, they were Caucasian.
The textiles found in their burials were exquisitely woven from
wool yarn and amongst them were perfectly preserved, complex
patterns. This is the first and earliest evidence of the Tartan.
- Those ancient tartans, had been woven at least 500 years
King Tutankhamen of Egypt had been born. They are proof that
tartan was a complex art form of those tall and long-nosed Celts,
long before they became popular and well known to the Highlanders.
The Celts were a group of west European peoples from what we
know today as Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the northern parts
of Spain. They include the pre Roman inhabitants of Britain and
- After that early manifestation of tartan, the art seemed
to disappear into obscurity. Roman chronicles tell of brightly
colored and striped clothing worn by the inhabitants of the Celtic
people, but they were not specific enough to identify the patterns
as tartans. Another 1500 years passes before any meaningful references
to the 'tartan' is documented. Even then the situation was extremely
- The etymology of the word Tartan is linked to Middle French
around 1454, tiretaine meaning a "strong, coarse fabric".
It might also be linked to the Middle Latin tyrius "cloth
from Tyre." If this is the source, spelling likely influenced
during the time of the Middle English language around 1343 as
tartaryn meaning a "rich silk cloth" and Old French
tartarin meaning "Tartar cloth,". The reason this view
of the word might be important comes from the link of those early
travelers on the Silk Road. It is conceivable they were traveling
that road, bringing woven silk material or methods and technology
to improve the manufacturing of weaving back to the early Celts.
- In the 1600s Tartan is referred to as a kind of cloth rather
than the pattern in which the cloth is woven. The first positive
proof of the existence of the modern tartan comes from a German
woodcut of about 1631, thought to show Highland soldiers in the
service of the army of Gustavus Adolphus. These Highland soldiers
were most probably mercenaries, and they are depicted wearing
a clearly identified tartan worn in the old style, known as the
- During the Battle of Culloden in 1745, Charles Edward Stuart,
also known as the Bonnie Prince Charlie, gathered his Jacobite
forces of Highlanders against the English Duke of Cumberland's
disciplined army. The Jacobite army was organized into Clan regiments.
Historian Jamie Scarlett explains "here we have the first
hint of the use of tartan as a clan uniform."
- The Tartan became a symbol of Celtic Districts out of general
artisanship. A weaver would be part of the artisans in each regional
area, providing services to his community. The weaver would produce
the same tartan for those around him and that tartan would initially
become what we now call a District Tartan. A District Tartan
is defined as a pattern worn by individuals living in close geographical
proximity. By its very nature, that community would be one huge
extended family that became identified by tartan pattern of the
- These patterns became known either by their weaver, which
is often the case in Scotland. Or by their District or county,
which is often the case in Ireland.
- Family Tartans
- For the Holland side of the family, we can be sure of the
Scottish connection and therefore the corresponding tartan pattern.
The family name traces back to the Angus Ancient pattern. The
Carey side of the family has connections to both Scotland and
Ireland. Many genealogy sites, put the Carey's in Ireland however,
with the alternative spelling Kerry. In Scotland the family name
is associated with the Kidare District and therefore that tartan
would be appropriate used. The Irish side links back to Kerry
County and their tartan could also be appropriately used.
- Below are examples of all three tartans, based on the research
so far. As more information becomes available and verified, these
- Angus Ancient Tartan
- Carey - Scotland
- Kildare District Tartan
- Carey - Ireland
- Kerry County Tartan