ALEX SALMOND has met American relatives he did not know existed until a chance discovery during family tree research.

The First Minister was thrilled to learn last year that he had blood relations in the United States from Salmonds who had sailed from Scotland in the 1870s seeking a new life.

It turned out the ­transatlantic adventurers were pioneers of the Wild West, with two of them even becoming famous for their stagecoach driving skills.

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Now, more than a century on, Mr Salmond has brought the two sides of his family together for the first time by meeting the modern-day descendants of the first settlers in Edinburgh.

Mr Salmond discovered the full extent of his US line as a result of online research by Faith Tyler-Odell, an American pastor who had traced her roots back to Falkirk in 1704. Among those welcomed to Holyrood was Ms Tyler-Odell's daughter, Tanya Levander, whose great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was the SNP leader's great-great-great-great grandfather.

Mrs Levander, an art teacher from Michigan, and the First Minister are descended from two of the sons of farmer John Salmond, who kept cattle on a farm in Slamannan.

One son's family line remained in Scotland - where Alex Salmond was born seven generations later in 1954 - while the other led to the creation of the American Salmonds.

Mr Salmond said: "It was fantastic to meet Tanya and my other relatives from the US. I knew about the branch of the Salmond family that had gone to seek a new life in America, but to actually meet up with some of their descendants was something special. It was a privilege to welcome Tanya and her family to Holyrood."

It was in 1872 that Peter Salmond and his family set sail from Scotland and became the first of the clan in the US.

They headed to the ­Minnesota outpost of Parkers Prairie, which is ironically about 140 miles from the town of Independence.

The revelations come in a new book by Mr Salmond's Canadian fifth cousin, Myrla Birch.