The earliest Shedden reference I have found is to Johanneus Skhaddane (Schaddane) of Glengarnock of Kilbirny, who features in an entry in the Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland dated 24 May 1565 (Kilbirnie is in Ayrshire). The earliest testament is that of James Schadden in Barcoule, Sheriffdom of Ayr, and Janet Burne, his Spouse, dated 24 Dec 1594. The earliest baptismal record is that of Margaret, daughter of Charlis Schedden, in Edinburgh Parish, dated 15 May 1597. This latter is anomalous, in that there are only two other Shedden entries for Edinburgh between then and the 18th century. In contrast, all the Shedden deeds for the first half of the 17th century are by Ayrshire residents and all the baptismal and marriage entries to be found for that period appear in the records of the High Church of Glasgow, the earliest being the baptism of Johne, son of John Scheddane and Jannet Dunlop, on 10th Oct 1610.
In the latter half of the 17th century, parish records became available for areas outwith the larger towns. It is clear from these that the Sheddens predominated in the West of Scotland within a corridor only a few miles wide and running north-east from Irvine, on the Ayrshire coast, to the towns of Paisley, Govan and Glasgow, with the heaviest concentration in the contiguous parishes of Beith, Dalry and Kilbirnie.
Elsewhere, a few Shedden (Sheddan) families lived in South Kintyre, almost certainly having moved (or been moved) there from Beith around 1650 as part of the Duke of Argyle’s scheme to develop his farming lands. However, there was a significant group of Sheddens in the Muthill-Auchterarder region of Perthshire, dating from the mid 17th century and connected at that time with some Sheddens in Dunblane. Unlike the West of Scotland Sheddens, who, outside the towns, were mainly farmers, the Perthshire Sheddens (Sheddans) in this period were smiths, although some became land owners and farmers later. I can find no connection between the Ayrshire and the Perthshire Sheddens.
Throughout the 18th century, following on the union with England, there was considerable agricultural improvement in Scotland, the Shedden farmers in Beith prospered and several became landowners, merchants and minor gentry. Trading links were established with London, the continent and the American colonies. The marriage records suggest that there could well be over 100 families of Sheddens nationwide around mid-century – almost as many as there are in Scotland today. However, the 19th century saw a movement from the traditional farming areas to the larger industrial towns and to England, the U.S.A. and, later, to the British Dominions. This trend has continued to the present and as a result some 75% of Shedden families now live furth of Scotland, including 10% in England, where Shedden births in recent years outnumber those in Scotland.
Despite these changes, however, nearly two-thirds of Sheddens in Scotland still live in the West, mainly in Glasgow and environs, Kilmarnock and the Ayrshire coastal towns. Only one or two families now live in the Beith-Dalry area or in Kintyre, while the Perthshire Sheddans (now Sheddens) have moved east to the neighbourhood of the city of Perth. A significant number of Shedden families live in or near Edinburgh, many of their ancestors having moved to the shale and coal mining parts of the Lothians from Ayrshire or perhaps from Perthshire. (Several of the coal mining families retain the Sheddan name).