|SHETLAND ISLANDS SURNAME Y-DNA: HISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY
4000 BC - First archaeological evidence of human presence on Shetland Islands. Ethnic
100 BC - Romans recorded that the occupants of Shetland were at time the "Picts". A
group of loosely federated people (known for their blue tatoos) also found as far south as
Pentland Hills on the Mainland of Britain. They were likely the builders of the various
"castle - like" stone "brochs" which dot the Islands.
100 AD - Possibility that some early Nordic settlers arrived on the Islands. The evidence
for their presence until the late 700s is questionable.
780 - First known settlement of Scandanavians on Shetland. The first occupants may have
been raiders or settlers or both. At this point the ultimate fate of the Picts becomes a
matter of conjecture. There is scant archaeological evidence, and even less evidence
from place names (most in the Islands are Norse) - and furthermore the Norn language,
used until the 19th century, did not incoroprate more than a handful of potential Pictish
words. It is possible that most of the first Norse arrivals in Shetland were young males,
and if so they may have taken Pictish brides. The Norse Vikings, may have found the
Islands deserted, or "put to the sword" all that they found. It is also possible that the
Picts resided comfortably and peacefully side by side from the first days. If so, then some
individuals with Norse names (e.g., Manson), with the characteristic "son" at the end of
the surname may have Pictish male ancestors. In other words, both may have used
patronymic naming practices and only DNA will indicate who is who.
From the earliest days, there was contact between Shetland and Norway, as well as with
Orkney and the Faroe Islands. Shetland was ruled from Norway (with or without Royal
connection with Denmark and Sweden).
1312 - Contacts with Scotland begin, but apparently no mass movement of people at this
1379 - Henry Sinclair (from an old Caithness, Scottish family) was made Earl of Orkney
and Shetland. Also at this date, Norway was in a federation with Denmark and Sweden -
so it is possible that some individuals with Scottish or various Scandanavian genetic
backgrounds arrived in Shetland and stayed.
1469 - Shetland was pledged to Scotland by a debt - ridden King Christian. Originally this
was conceived to be a temporary arrangement, and over the years there have been
unsuccessful attempts to recover control of the Islands by Norway. None - the - less,
from the end of the 1400s large numbers of Scots immigrated to Shetland as ministers,
merchants, lairds, and government officials. Descendants of these Scottish immigrants
kept their surnames (e.g., Sinclair) and passed it to their children in the typical English
fashion. Into the next century there were links with the Hanseatic League (Holland and
Germany), and other European countries such as Spain. These commercial links may
have resulted in some individuals of Germanic or Spanish descent making the Islands
their home. Ties with Norway were still in effect, so a further genetic contribution may
have come from later Nordic immigrants (unlikely to be large in numbers).
1600 - By this date, estimates were that one third of the population of the Shetland Islands
were of Scottish descent.
1700 on - The population of the Islands fluctuated. By this middle of the 18th century
there were about 15,000 inhabitants; by the middle of the next - 30,000. Since there there
has been a large emigration from the Islands (8,000 persons between 1861 and 1881) to
Scotland, England, North America, Australia and New Zeland. Many, for example, joined
the merchant navy and never returned to Shetland. Since the oil boom days in the mid
1900s, there has been an increase in immigration (largely from mainland Britain) to
|Some Visual Images of Shetland