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Scottish clanship contained two complementary but distinct concepts of heritage.These were firstly the collective heritage of the clan, known as their duthchas, which was their prescriptive right to settle in the territories in which the chiefs and leading gentry of the clan customarily provided protection.

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In such cases, these arms are differenced from the chief's, much like a clan armiger.

The former Lord Lyon King of Arms, Thomas Innes of Learney stated that such societies, according to the Law of Arms, are considered an "indeterminate cadet".

Many clans have their own clan chief; those that do not are known as armigerous clans.

Clans generally identify with geographical areas originally controlled by their founders, sometimes with an ancestral castle and clan gatherings, which form a regular part of the social scene.

Historically, a clan was made up of everyone who lived on the chief's territory, or on territory of those who owed allegiance to the said chief.

Through time, with the constant changes of "clan boundaries", migration or regime changes, clans would be made up of large numbers of members who were unrelated and who bore different surnames.Today, anyone who has the chief's surname is automatically considered to be a member of the chief's clan.Also, anyone who offers allegiance to a chief becomes a member of the chief's clan, unless the chief decides not to accept that person's allegiance.The second concept was the wider acceptance of the granting of charters by the Crown and other powerful land owners to the chiefs, chieftains and lairds which defined the estate settled by their clan.This was known as their oighreachd and gave a different emphasis to the clan chief's authority in that it gave the authority to the chiefs and leading gentry as landed proprietors, who owned the land in their own right, rather than just as trustees for the clan.Most clans have their own tartan patterns, usually dating from the 19th century, which members may incorporate into kilts or other clothing.

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