History of Clan Little Society North America


Who are the Littles?

THERE are at least three distinct groups of Littles -

English Littles whose ancestors never even set foot in Scotland.;

Littles of the Scottish Border

"Huguenot" Littles who came from France 300+ years ago.


MANY of the 45,000 Littles who are dispersed around the globe may be aware that their progenitors came from Dumfriesshire on the Scottish side of the Anglo-Scottish Border, or perhaps from neighboring Cumberland on the English side of the Border, or from Ulster in Ireland.


THE 1587 Act of the Scottish Parliament Roll of the Clans that have Captains, Chiefs and Chieftains "on whom clansmen depend against the will of their landlords in the Borders and the Highlands" names "Litillis" among the names listed under West March. Thus in 1587 the Littles were clearly regarded as a Clan.


A SEPT in Scotland, is often a family that is absorbed into a larger Scottish clan for mutual benefit. i.e. A very small British family and of questionable heritage gained legitimacy and protection and the clan absorbed a potential rival for British affection in Scotland. Each Scottish clan typically has a number of septs, each with its own surname. Septs have rights to wear clan tartans although they often have tartans of their own. Related septs were also normal in Scotland.



The Scottish border Clan LITTLE was named in an act of the Scottish Parliament of 1587 as one of only 51 truly independent clans in all Scotland, 17 of which were clans of the English-Scottish border. A Clan is a tribe with a strong tie of family blood.


In the Anglo-Scottish border wars of 1296 - 1603 the LITTLES were one of the fighting clans living close to the border on the Scottish side. They were constantly raiding or reiving on both sides of the border (Reivers are thieves and ruffians, a group of lawless independents). They were horsemen and held in contempt all who went on foot, and by the close of the 16th century they had earned a reputation as the finest light cavalry in Europe. The borders clansmen were an ever ready source of fighting men, a permanent mobile task force when war broke out.


Many clansmen with less warlike dispositions found their vocation as monks in various abbeys such as Sweetheart, Holyrood and the Franciscan convent of Greyfriars in Dumfries, scene of the murderous episode which launched Robert Bruce of Annadale on the road to the throne.


The LITTLES for over three centuries shared with the Armstrongs and Beatties  the steep-sided dales (valleys) immediately to the North and West of the present town of Langholm at the extreme east of Dumfriesshire (county). Each successive Chief resided on an estate at the foot of the side valley half-way up Ewesdale which is beside the present day road A7, near the stretch from Langholm to Hawick.


Edward Littil founder of Clan Little (and there have been over 25 spellings of the surname) was active in 1296/7 in South-West Scotland as a guerrilla fighter with Sir William Wallace, the great Scottish patriot who led the first phase of the wars of independence against the oppressive occupation of Scotland by Edward I of England. Many of those who supported Wallace most closely were kinsmen, not the least of whom was “Eduuard Litill" his nephew.


Simon Little was chief of the Little clan at the ending of the border wars; his son Thomas succeeded him, to be followed by David Little, last Laird of Meikledale, who in 1672 was the last chief to be officially recognized. Since David's time, the Littles have been one of Scotland's many “heidless" clans  (headless - without a chief).


The clans began to scatter in the 17th century. Littles and Lytles, with neighboring Beatties, Thomsons, Elliots, Armstrongs and Irvings fled from persecution and overcrowding to the Ulster plantations. (Plantations were communities established in North Ireland by England) Many moved later into neighboring English Cumberland where today, as in Ulster, there are twice as many Littles as in their home country of Dumfriesshire. Many crossed the oceans to North America, Australia, New Zealand, proud of their origins but, over the generations, losing contact with the descendants with those who stayed behind.


Many of the Littles, Lytles and Lyttles in Ulster re-emigrated as Scots-Irish back to Great Britain or, like hundreds of Littles from the border, headed overseas. The most numerous are in the United States. There are now over 45,000 Little families in the English speaking world, some of English and some of Huguenot origin but most (and especially those in and from Scotland, Ulster and England's northernmost counties) with deep roots in the old West March of the Scottish border.


Mr. A. Patterson Little III (1939 - 1998) is the one person most responsible for the restarting of the Clan Little Society from the ground up A. Patterson Little III (Pat) and his wife Sally from Savannah Georgia were both interested in Scottish culture and genealogy and while working with the McLaren Clan Society, Pat chanced upon an article in a Scottish newspaper about Dr. Johnnie C. Little of Dumfries Scotland who was doing some research on the genealogy of the ancient Clan Little. Eventually Pat made contact with Dr. Johnnie Little and asked about the possibility of forming a Clan Little Society, both in Scotland and in the US, and Dr. Little replied firmly, that his primary  interest was in the genealogy of the Clan Little and not in the formation of a Society. After several more contacts with Dr. Johnnie, in 1990 Pat found him receptive to the idea of re-forming the Scottish Clan Little which now sounded very appealing to him.


Pat’s dream of a newly revived Clan Little was born on Saint Andrew's Day, "1991" November 30, 1991, when a group met in Dumfries, Scotland, to reactivate the Clan and inaugurate the Clan Little Society. The USA was well represented and among the attendants from the US were A. Patterson and Sally Little. At that founding event, Dr. J. C. Little of Dumfriesshire was elected Guardian (International President), and an interim constitution was adopted. The group agreed to hold the Society's first Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Roots Gathering, the first-ever gathering of the Border and Lowland Clans and families.

Problems arose at the AGM which could not be resolved because of major differences in philosophy between the Guardian in Scotland and the Steuarts from the other countries. The US branch of the Clan Little Society decided to move out from under the leadership of the Scottish administration which accorded preferential treatment of those members able to trace their ancestry directly back to the descendants of the Border Little families. After a great amount of time and effort by A. Patterson Little III and others, the Clan Little Society USA Ltd was formed with friendly ties to Clan Little Society in Scotland.


The Clan Little Society USA Ltd was incorporated under the laws of the State of Georgia, on August 4, 1994 as a Non-Profit Corporation. The By-Laws are based strictly on democratic principles and were approved at the annual meeting in Atlanta, GA during the Stone Mountain games in 1994. Our society is open to anyone with the surname of Little or a derivation of the same and to their descendants, even if their lineage cannot be traced back to Scotland. Also our Society is open to anyone who has an interest in Scottish lore and who wishes to join the Society and participate in our “doings" Copies of the By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation are available upon request.


The Society is managed by a Board of Directors consisting of the elected officers and the Past Steuart . The elected officers are; Steuart, (President), Marischal (VP), Mailin (Treasurer), and Secratur (Secretary).


English speaking North America is divided into regions with commissioners responsible for the administration and promotion of the Society in each region.


 All genealogy information provided by the members is passed on to our Society’s genealogist for cataloguing and possible matching with long forgotten cousins.

We learned many Canadians wished to join our Society, however they were reluctant to join a USA Clan Society, therefore, the name was changed to Clan Little Society North America Ltd, after a majority vote of the members and the new name was officially adopted at the AGM in Williamsburg, VA on 9/20/1998.


Even though our Logo is the Reiver and we no longer recommend the occupation of reiving we are all as friendly as "a pack of thieves". We all enjoy visiting and sharing family interest stories, visiting with old friends and meeting new people,  so come join us. Look us up at some of the Scottish Games and come by our tent and make yourselves known to us, “set" a spell and just visit. You’ll be welcome!





Raider and free-booter, plunderer and rustler, Border Lords and outlaw riders.

Reiving, raiding for cattle and sheep, and whatever else which could be transported,  was the only way to survive and it became an established way of life, a profession, which was regarded with no discredit amongst the Borderers. The practice spread and was passed down through the generations. 


Reiving was not confined to cross boundary targets. Indeed the borderers had a much closer allegiance to their family than to their country. Raids were made, not in the name of Scotland or England, but in the name of their family or clan.

 (ref: http://www.sorbie.net/border_reivers.htm )


Not only did the Scots raid the English and the English raid the Scots but they took to raiding each other, especially when some act, real or imagined, sparked off conflict between families which often resulted in feuds lasting for generations. 


Reiving was not limited to the poorest people, and many a nobleman condoned and even participated in the activities. Officials such as the Wardens of the Marches, who were there to uphold the law, were not above indulging in reiving if they had the opportunity.  



March: (march) n. 1. The border or boundary of a country or area of land. 2. A tract of land bordering on two countries and claimed by both; i.e. the whole valley of the Thames was a devastated march. (Alfred Duggan).

 V. marched, marching, marches. To border upon or have a common boundary (with): i.e. England marches with Scotland. {Middle English marche, from Old French, marche, marc. borderland, from Germanic}. American Heritage Dictionary.





Five generations after Normandy's Conquest of England in 1066 AD Richard Lytle was born. He was in line of descent from William the Conqueror, King of England and the Duke of Normandy, whose ancestry can be traced back to Ingiald who ruled in Central Sweden 1,300 years ago. 


Nine hundred years after Ingiald the Littles, as well as other unruly Scottish clans in Eskdale and Liddesdale, were to suffer executions, persecutions and banishments by the Royal command. The Eskdale and Liddesdale chiefs, with the exception of Armstrong of Mangerton, were lucky to hold on to their lives and lose only their lands. So it was that the grand titles and like Royal favors destined for Scotland went to their persecutors and not to them.