A Samoan woman whose great-grandfather emigrated from the Highlands to New Zealand in 1862 has traced her roots at the Clan Donald Year of Homecoming rally.
Elizabeth To’oa MacDonald, who now lives in Sydney, Australia, has been desperately trying to find out about her ancestors since she was a child, but with very little success.
The 36-year-old then heard about the Clan Donald rally at Arisaig in Lochaber and decided to travel half way around the world in the hope it would assist her in her search.
And she is now very glad she made the journey as she has discovered her family came from the Knoydart area.
Miss MacDonald, who teaches Samoan in Sydney, said: “I’m really pleased I came. It’s given me a real sense of identity, a feeling on belonging. It really does feel like a homecoming.
“I love it here and would love to be able to stay, but my link is too far back – if it had been my grandfather who emigrated I could have stayed here – and I am too old to get a work permit.”
She explained that her great-great-grandfather, Donald MacDonald, emigrated to New Zealand with his family, including her great-grandfather John MacDonald.
Her grandfather was also called Donald MacDonald, and her father, Colin Stuart MacDonald, who was a linguist, travelled to the South Pacific islands to learn their languages.
It was while he was in Samoa that he met and married her mother, Patosina.
She said: “From when I was quite young, I kept asking my father where in Scotland he was from, but he couldn’t give me a direct answer because he did not know himself as both he and his father, were born in New Zealand.
“I started trying to trace the family back and thought they were from Inverness so I got a genealogist to help me and she found my grandfather’s and my great grandfather’s death certificates and discovered the family was from Inverness-shire, which meant I had a much larger area to search.
“I always felt a connection with Scotland so I thought the best way to trace my ancestors would be to go to the clan gathering and within three days of arriving in Arisaig, I discovered they were from Knoydart.”
Miss MacDonald said genealogists, Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald, of Arisaig, recognised some of the names of her relatives and they started checking out the censuses for the relevant period.
And, soon after she arrived, she received an e-mail from a genealogy centre in New Zealand she had contacted earlier in the year saying her great-grandfather, who had seven children, had made the journey from Glenelg to Otago in 1862 and she was able to trace him in the 1861 census.
The Clan Donald rally started on Wednesday July 23 and ends today with a gathering at Arisaig Highland Games, where they are being hosted by Clan Ranald at their 10th anniversary gathering.