The links between Scotland and the countries lying along the southern shores of the Baltic can be traced back as far as the late Medieval period, when Scottish knights accompanied the Teutonic knights on their Baltic Crusade. Since then there have been economic links, which led any number of western merchants–Scots included– to settle in the main seaports of Eastern Europe, such as Danzig. The main period of Scottish settlement in Eastern Europe occurred from 1560 to 1650, when Scottish, German, Dutch, and Jewish entrepreneurs were lured to the Baltic by the promise of economic opportunity. Still other Scots left in pursuit of religious freedom, as soldiers of fortune ultimately settling on lands granted for service rendered, or as itinerant cramers (pedlars). By the 1640s, according to one authority, as many as 30,000 Scots were resident in Poland alone. After 1650, Eastern Europe waned as a beacon for Scottish emigration, and some Scots returned to their Scottish homeland. The majority, however, became integrated into their adopted Baltic societies. In due course, their Polonised descendants would emigrate to America and elsewhere, some no doubt as part of the wave of Polish refugees which settled in North America in this century.
For this book, Mr. Dobson combed through more than forty manuscript collections and published works to arrive at a list of 2,500 Scots who settled in the Baltic. Arranged alphabetically, the entries furnish the individual’s name with variants, a place of residence in Eastern Europe, the date of the record, and its source. Given the widely disparate character of the subject matter, one may also find a reference to the individual’s place of origin in Scotland, occupation, relationships to other persons named (i.e., parent, spouse, offspring), membership in a fraternal organization, etc. Spanning a period of 300 years, Mr. Dobson’s ground-breaking collection of Scots in the Baltic may just produce the ancestral clue to your Scottish heritage in the last place you were expecting to find it.