Friday, 18 September 2009

Tilda Swinton - Famous Scots exhibition

From the National Archives of Scotland:

Famous Scots exhibition – Tilda Swinton
22 September – 6 November 2009

Scots Oscar-winner is direct descendant of Robert the Bruce

Oscar winning actress, Tilda Swinton is the subject of the latest Famous Scots exhibition in the ScotlandsPeople Centre, Edinburgh. Genealogy experts there have traced Tilda's ancestry directly back to Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, 1306 – 1329. Astonishingly, Bruce was Tilda's great x 19 grandfather in both her mother's and her father's line. Her parents, Sir John Swinton of Kimmerghame, Berwickshire, and his wife Judith, Lady Swinton, who was born in Australia, share a common descent from Robert II, the Bruce's grandson. The Swintons descend from Robert II's illegitimate son, the Duke of Albany, while Lady Swinton descends through her Balfour ancestors from the child of Robert II's favourite mistress, Mariotta Cardney.

Robert the Bruce is only one of several fascinating family members who are revealed in the exhibition. Her family tree includes a renegade preacher, an Archbishop of Canterbury, a pioneer of television, an East India Company soldier, a Lord Lyon, a professional singer, two professors of botany, one of the great minds of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the man who helped develop the tank.

Tilda Swinton starred in the highly successful film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), and co-starred with Brad Pitt, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky (2001) and Pitt and George Clooney in Burn after Reading (2008). In 2008 she won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for playing a ruthless corporate lawyer sparring with Clooney in Michael Clayton (2007). Many of her roles have been in independent and avant-garde films, such as Caravaggio and other works by the director Derek Jarman. She has created a body of exceptional and thought-provoking performances.

George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records at the National Archives of Scotland said: “These exhibitions, which have previously featured Billy Connolly, Sir James Black, Shirley Manson and Brian Cox, are proving popular, giving people a much more individual insight to our shared past and some of our biggest stars’ family stories.

“These stories are inspiring and fascinating, and they are available to everyone for free. I encourage as many people as possible to see this impressive exhibition series at the ScotlandsPeople Centre for themselves and, those unable to join us here in Edinburgh, to investigate their own family ancestry through the website.”

Marie Christie, Project Director Homecoming Scotland 2009, said; “Homecoming Scotland is delighted to be working in partnership with the ScotlandsPeople Centre to stage the ‘Famous Scots’ exhibition in 2009. Ancestry is a key theme for Homecoming Scotland and visitors to the exhibition can see not only Tilda Swinton’s family history but learn how to undertake their own genealogical research.”

During Homecoming, experts in the ScotlandsPeople Centre will be delving into the ancestry of one further celebrity, and the rolling exhibition will show visitors how easy it is to trace their own Scottish family history.

The exhibition is being staged in New Register House, part of the new ScotlandsPeople Centre, Edinburgh, surrounded by over half a million registers recording the lives of Scots going back more than 400 years. Monday-Friday, 9.00-4.30 – some evening openings (see website).

For people not able to visit the Centre, the key genealogical resources of ScotlandsPeople are available online at

(A huge thanks to Pete Wadley at the NAS. Picture of Tilda courtesy of Rob MacDougall)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

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