The Clan system is a popular area of
Scottish history which emerged from the old tribal ways of the people living in the land
we now call Scotland. From around the 10th to 13th centuries more and more names became
recognized as Clan names with varied histories and genealogies drawn from the Oral
tradition. Not all Clan names can be identified as being solely Celtic, many came into
being with the arrival of the Normans and others have been drawn from the names of Saints.
This in itself reflects the changes in power affecting the land at that time as the people
allied themselves to leaders who, in their eyes, seemed to be the most influential. This
also brings up the point that although Clan names are now representative of blood lines,
this was not the case initially as the Clan system came into being.
The following is a list,
in alphabetical order, of the Highland Clans
From the Gaelic 'Brothach' and one of the original tribes of Moray. An ancient Clan with
Brodie Castle at Forres being the uninterrupted seat of Brodie of Brodie. Clan Badge:
Periwinkle. Known branches: Brodie of Lethen, Brodie of Idvies in Angus.
From the 'Siol O'Cain' (along with the MacMillans) one of the ancient tribes of North
Moray. The Historian, Buchanan of Auchmar says the name O' Cain came from the progenitor
Ansela O'Cain or O'Kyan in the 11th C.
Taken from 'Cam-Shron' or 'wry-nose' of an early Chief. Territory in Lochaber. Once
vassals to the Lord of the Isles and once formed a branch of Clan Chattan. Ancestral seat
at Achnacarry. Known branches: MacMartins of Letterfinlay, MacGillonies of
MacSorlies of Glen Nevis.
The Celtic name for this Clan is Clan Duibhne taken from the hero Dairmid
title is MacCailein Mor. The name Campbell came into being when Eva O'Duine, the head of
the Clan, married Gillespic Campbell.
Name taken from the Chief, Gilliechattan Mor, 'Great Servant of St. Catan. Lands in
Glenlui, Loch Arkaig, Gellovie, Lochaber and Badenoch. One of the Chattan line, Ewan Ban,
became the ancestor of Clan MacPherson. There were 17 tribes considered kin of Clan
Chattan listed as follows: MacKintosh, Vurich (MacPherson), Gillivray (MacGillivray), Vean
(MacBean) Dhai (Davidsons), Tarrell, Clan vic Gorries, Cheandui of Glenbeg, Slioch Gow
Chruin (Smith), Tearlaich, Revan, Clan vic Gillandris na Connage, Clan Clerich, Slioch
Illvorvic Innish, Clan Phail (MacPhail), Clan Fionlaigh Cheir, Clan Inteir.
There was also nine tribes of the Clan
MacKintosh mentioned above. Of these the three major ones were Farquharson, Shaw and
Toshach. All the tribes together were known as the Cattenachs. This large group was once
seen as a threat to both the Lordship of the Isles and to the King of the Scots.
From the Borders, Roxburghshire area. Norman in origin from De Chisolm. Seat is Erchless
A territorial name in origin from the area of the Parish of West Kilpatrick,
Dumbartonshire. The seat of the Chiefs is Rossdhu House, Luss, Dumbartonshire.
This family is Norman in origin and migrated from England. They received land from the
Scottish King in Roxburghshire.
(See Chattan) A principal branch of Clan Chattan. Clan Dhai comes from David Dhu, fourth
son of Muiriach, Chief of Clan Chattan. From David Dhu comes the name Davidson or
MacDhais. Territory was the Ross-shire, Inverness area.
A territorial from the lands of Drummond or Drymen in Stirlingshire. A Malcolm Beg of
Strathearn is the first of the line on record. His son used the name Drummond or De
Drymen. Chief's motto - 'gang warily'. Their seat is at Strathallan.
The Dunbar's of Moray were recognized as a Morayshire Clan in 1579. Chief's of the name
Dunbar later resided at Mochrum Park in Wigtownshire.
Taken from the Barony of Erskine in Renfrewshire. Seats at Migvie and Kildrummy Castle in
Mar. A branch of Erskines also inherited the Earldom of Buchan.
This Clan comes from Farquhar, fourth son of Alexander Ciar, the 3rd Shaw of
Rothiemurchus. Shaw being a branch of Clan Chattan. They took up residence in
Aberdeenshire. Farquharsons are also termed 'Clann Fhionnlaigh' from Finlay Mor, grandson
of Farquhar. Known Branches: Farquharson of Monaltrie, Whitehouse, Haughton,
Breda and Finzean.
Of Scoto-Dalriadic descent, first settled in Kintyre, Argyll. Clann Fhearghuis of Strachur
has been established as coming from an ancient line. Held the estate of Glenshellich their
seat being Caisteal Dubh on Bein Bheula.
Tradition gives this Chief and Clan as coming from Ochonochar who slew a savage bear at
the braes of Forbes, Aberdeenshire. Ochonochar settled in the territory won from the bear.
Of Norman origin. Originally designated 'Frisell' or 'Frasell'. They were first heard of
as supporters of Kelso Abbey and settled in Tweedale. Several other petty Clans adopted
the name Fraser in the district of Aird.
A name taken from the Parish of Gordon in Berwickshire. The progenitors of the Clan were
Anglo-Norman and settled in South Scotland around the 12th Century. Their seat is Huntly
Allegedly from 'Gramus' demolisher of a line of defense built by Antonius betwixt Forth
& Clyde! First authentic Grahams appeared in 1128 from 'De Graham' who obtained lands
of Abercorn and Dalkeith in Midlothian.
One of the principal branches of 'Siol Alpine' of which Clan Gregor is Chief. The Grants
are said to derive their origin from Gregor MacGregor who lived in the 12th Century. Their
territory is Strathspey where there is a moor called Griantach or Sliabh-Griantais meaning
'Plain of the Sun' and may be the origin of the Clan name. The seat of Clan Grant is
Castle Grant in Freuchie, Speyside. Craigellachie is the Clan gathering place. Slogan -
'Stand Fast' Known Branches: Clan Allan, Clan Phadraig, Clan Donnachie, Clan Chiaran and
the parent stem - Freuchie
Of Norse origin, descended from Guinn, second son of Olave, the Black King of Man and the
Isles who died in 1237. Ancient seats at Hallburg and Kilearnan. Said to be a warlike Clan
of Caithness and Sutherland.
Springs from 'Berowald' who in 1160 was given the Barony of Innes in Moray which covers
the lands from Spey to Lossie along the shore. The name means 'greens'.
Also known as Lamond and once owned a large area of Cowal. This Clan was founded by
Ferchar about 1200. Ferchar had three sons, Murdoch, Malcolm and Duncan. Around 1238 we
find Duncan son of Ferchar and Lauman, son of Malcolm, son of Ferchar. Prior to this time
the Clan was known as Chlann 'ic Fhearchair but assumed the name of 'Lauman' from their
ancestor. Their Seat of Toward was destroyed by the Campbells.
From the Aberdeenshire area. They claim origin from a Hungarian nobleman called Barthoff
who married a Fifeshire heiress and in doing so obtained land in the area.
From the territory of Levenach which originally belonged to Celtic Chiefs, the first being
Alwin MacMuredach, MacMaldouen, Mormaer of Levenach. This Alwin had several sons, the 5th
son was Aulay de Faslane whose descendant, Allan de Faslane became the Bailie of Lennox.
Gilchrist, the 7th son of Alwin, founded the clan MacFarlane.
Taken from a Norman, Baldric de Lindesay, the first recorded member of the Clan. Their
territory is in the Braes of Angus.
One of the principle branches of Clan Donald. Their descent is traced from Alexander, son
of Angus Mor, son of Donald, founder of Clan Donald and grandson of Somerled of Argyll.
Their territory covers South Knapdale in Kintyre and their ancient seat was at Ard
Phadruig on the North of West Loch Tarbert.
Also known as MacAlpine. One of the chief branches of the royal clan Alpin. Their seat is
said to have been at Dunstaffnage in Argyll though they are now landless and without a
One of the old Clans of Argyll whose territory was on the shores of Loch Awe. They claim
descent from King Arthur and this particular Clan distinguished themselves from other
named Arthur by the name 'Clann Artair na tir a chladich' - 'Clan Arthur of the
shore-land'. Slogan - Eisd! Eisd!
A minor branch of Clan Alpin. Their name appears in the Ragman Roll of 1296 and paid
tribute to the MacGregors. There are other, different MacAulays at Uig in SW Lewis who are
followers of Clan MacLeod of Lewis with no connection to Clan Alpin. The Lewis MacAulays
are descended from Ollave or Olla, black brother of Magnus.
Also MACBAIN. Of ancient origin belonging to the province of Moray. MacBains of Badenoch
were designated 'Chlann 'Ac al Bheath', the lineage of MacBeth. Those of Inverness formed
an important branch of Clan Chattan whilst those in Perthshire called themselves
Clan Donald. The founder was Somerled, son of Gillebride who expelled the Norwegians at
the end of the 10th Century. There were three sons, Dugall, Ranald and Angus. Dugall held
Mull, Coll, Tiree and Jura and from him came Clan Dugall of Argyll and Lorn. Angus held
part of Arran and Bute and Ranald held Islay, Kintyre and part of Arran. From Ranald came
Donald, founder of Clan Donald or the MacDonald's of Islay and Ruari, founder of Clan
Ruari or MacRories of Bute. Their Chief was designated Lord of the Isles.
The kings of Fife claim descent from Conall Cerr, a son of Eochaid Buidhe, King of the
Picts. MacDuff, lord of Fife was said to have vanquished MacBeth and restored Malcolm
Ceann Mor as King. Their ancient lands and castle stand on the southern shore of Fife.
Their territory was at the head of Loch Lomond, between there and Loch Long. The seat of
the chief was at Inverglas, later at Tarbert and then at Arrochar. They derived their name
from the Chief Parlan or Bartholomew. Also a sept of MacAllans or Allans.
Also MacDuffie. A branch of Clan Alpin and the most ancient inhabitants of
Connections, through descent, with the MacGregors and MacKinnons. MacFie of Colonsay was
also Hereditary keeper of the Records of the Isles during the times of the 'Lordship'.
A branch of Clan Chattan, their original home being in Morvern and Lochaber. Along with
many others, they appear to have come from the original stock of the 'Siol
Cuinn'. Seat at Dun-ma-Glas in Strathnairn.
The senior line of Clan Alpin claiming descent from Griogar, 3rd son of King Alpin who
ascended the Celtic Scottish throne around 787. Glenurchy was the original seat of the
MacGregors although they once held territories on Perthshire and Argyllshire.
Unfortunately, the land was won by right of first occupation, they possessed no title
deeds. The Campbells managed to acquire Crown charters for the MacGregor lands and in
doing so dispossessed the MacGregors.
There is little history on this Clan although it seems that, along with the MacGillivrays
they were of the original Dalriads and kin to the O' Duine.
The name is said to be derived from the Gaelic 'Toisach'. The 1st chief of MacKintosh was
Shaw, 2nd son to Duncan. He was given many lands in the north and commonly became called
'Mac-an-Toisich mhic Duibh' meaning 'Thane MacDuff's son'. The ancient seat of the Chief
of MacKintosh was on an island in Loch Moy.
A small but ancient Clan who seem to have been an offshoot from Clan Donald. Traditionally
in possession of lands near Bunawe in Lorn. MacIntyre of Sorn in Ayrshire is said to be
the only territorial branch of the Clan left in Scotland.
They claim descent from the old Royal House of Moray although this is seen as being a
junior line springing from Morgund of Pluscarden. The rise of the Clan took place around
the beginning of the 13th Century.
Said to be descended from Gilleon Og, a younger son of Gilleon na Airde the ancestor of
Anrias, progenitor of the O'Beolans, the old Earls of Ross. Their territory certainly was
in that area, the seat of the Chief became Brahan Castle in East Ross.
The Clan is a branch of Clan Alpin claiming descent from Fingon, grandson of
of Kenneth MacAlpin. Ancient lands held were many including parts of Mull, Skye,
Arran, Tiree, Pabbay and Scalpa. Their original territory was in the district of Gribun on the
Island of Mull and Strathordell on the Isle of Skye.
Along with the MacNeills and the MacEwans, the MacLachlans are said to be descended from
an ancestor related to the progenitor of the MacDonalds. Original seat seems to have been
Descent is claimed from Loarn, son of Erc of the line of Dalriada. Loarn is said to have
given his name to the district of Lorn. Were once the Lords of Tiree, representatives of
this line being the MacLaurins of Dreghorn, Chiefs of the Clan. The name Lavernani or
Laurnani is also associated with the MacLarens around the 11th Century.
Tradition gives the Clan Gillean as coming from the neighbourhood of Scone. The ancestor
of Clan Gillean is 'Gilleathain na Tuaidh' called Gillean of the Battle-axe. The MacLeans
eventually divided into four branch Clans which are: MacLeans of Duart, MacLeans of
Ardgour, MacLeans of Coll, MacLeans of Lochbuie. Duart Castle became the seat of the
Also Logan. A small Clan who were standard bearers to the MacKenzies. Descended from Logan
a Scottish priest, who like many of his time, fathered several children. He was a devotee
of St. Finnan and his descendants were called Mac-Ghille Fhinnein, MacLennan from this.
Many try to give the MacLeods a Celtic origin but it seems that they are Norse in origin.
The two great branches of the Clan are Siol Tormod and Siol Torquil which seems to verify
their Norse ancestry. The progenitor of the Macleods is said to be Leod, son of
brother of Magnus, the last King of Man. The seat of the Chief of Siol Tormod is Dunvegan
castle in Skye.
From the Siol O'Cain, one of the tribes of the Mormaer of Moray who are said to be of the
ancient tribe of the Kanteai, a subdivision of the northern Picts. The principal territory
of Clan MacMillan was around Loch Tay. The MacMillans of Knapdale in Argyll were vassals
of the Lords of the Isles. In Gaelic a MacMillan is called Mac-Mhaoilean or
Mac-Gille-Mhaoil, or the son of the tonsured one.
The MacNabs, Clann an Aba, derive from the hereditary Celtic Abbot of Glendochart in the
reign of David I. The MacNabs supported the Clan MacDougall of Lorn against Robert the
Bruce, hence when Bruce became the victor they lost a large slice of their lands. The last
chief died in France in 1860. The family burying place lies on the island of Innis
Earliest references connect them with Strathtay and Argyllshire. The name Nectan is
Pictish. Strongholds were "Fraoch Eilean" castle, Loch Awe, and the Castle of
Dundarave on Loch Fyne.
Derives its descent through forty-five generations from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Niall,
21st in descent, came to Barra in 1049 and founded the Clan Niall in Scotland. The seat of
the chief is the island castle of Kismull, in Barra. After the forfeiture of the Lords of
the Isles in 1493, the MacNeills of Barra became allies of MacLean of Duart, whereas the
MacNeills of Gigha followed the MacDonalds of Islay and Kintyre. The MacNeills were
hereditary harpers, and pipers, to the MacLeans of Duart.
The name denotes 'son of the parson', from Duncan, Parson of Kingussie,1438, descended
from Kenneth son of Ewen Ban, second son of Muriach, Chief of Clan Chattan 1173. The seat
of the chief of the MacPhersons was at Cluny castle, near Kingussie. The oldest cadets are
those of Pitmain and of Invereshie (the Slioch Gillies).
This small clan possessed the little island of Ulva, to the west of Mull. They form one of
the branches of Clan Alpin. According to tradition they descended from Guarie, a brother
of Fingon, who was the ancestor of the MacKinnons. The MacGuires of Ireland are said to
derive their descent from Gregor, second son of Cormac Mor, chief of the
Come from the same stock as the MacDonalds, of the race of Conn. The MacQueens of Garafad
in Skye held lands for many centuries.
They occupied the position of a subordinate clan to the MacKenzies. Little is known of
their early history. The MacRaes are said to have settled in Kintail in the fourteenth
Small Argyllshire clan, with territories in the Loch Awe district. Traditionally said to
be an offshoot of the MacGhilleChallums (or MacLeods) of Raasay. Dugald MacCallum of
Poltalloch, 1779, was the first to adopt 'Malcolm' as the patronym. Malcolm of Poltalloch
is the chief of Clan Malcolm.
Early history is obscure. The country of the clan appears to have been in the district of
Lochalsh. Some say originated from MacKenzies, others say they are of Norse origin.
Though the clan is descended from a Gaelic speaking race, the chiefs are of Lowland
origin. The clan appears to have settled in Atholl from early times.
The Chlann Mhic-Gille-Mhoire are said to be Scandinavian. Tradition says their founder was
the son of the king of Norway, who along with his wife and child was cast ashore on the
island of Lewis. The Clan's badge is therefore 'sgoid cladach' or driftwood. Morrison of
Habost attained the position of hereditary brieve, or judge. The clan were also known as
Chlann na Breitheamh. They held this hereditary position until 1613. The Morrisons formed
colonies in the north of Scotland. The Morgans of Wales and the MacNamaras of Ireland are
supposedly related to the Morrisons, being of the Morganaich (sons of the sea).
They were anciently vassals of the Earls of Ross. Their chief seat is at Foulis. Origin is
from the Siol o' Cain of North Moray. The first chief, Hugh, lived in the twelfth century.
The ancestor of this powerful family was Freskin de Moravia, who acquired the lands of
Strabrock in West Lothian, and held Duffus in Moray. It is from Freskin's grandson William
that the Dukes of Atholl are descended.
The Gaelic name is 'MacNeacail'. The Nicolsons held the lands of Scorrybreac, in Skye.
MacNicol of Portree was one of the sixteen men of the Council of the Isles. Local
tradition says that over one hundred chiefs of the clan were borne to their last resting
place at Snizort Churchyard.
The chiefs of this clan derive their name from GilleBride, second son of
Earl of Angus. The Barony of Ogilvie, in the parish of Glamis, in Angus, was bestowed on
this GilleBride by King William the Lion about 1163.
The Robertsons, or Clan Donnachie, are derived from the old Earls of Atholl. The chief,
who gave the clan the patronymic of Donnachie, appears to have been Donnchadh or Duncan
Reamhar, who led the clan at the battle of Bannockburn. From a later chief, Robert, who
lived in the reign of James I, the clan took its name. Duncan Reamhar left two sons,
Robert, ancestor of the Robertsons of Struan, chiefs of the clan, and Patrick, of the
Robertsons of Lude. Besides Struan, the chiefs had at one time wide possessions on the
banks of Loch Tay and of Loch Rannoch. The ancient residence of the clan Donnachie was at
Dun Alister, at the east end of Loch Rannoch.
Before the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles, this small Nairnshire clan were
vassals of the old Earls of Ross. The family of Rose of Kilravock, chief of the clan,
settled in the county of Nairn in the reign of David I, but their first designation was
"of Geddes". Bonds of friendship and loyalty were given to their powerful
neighbours the MacKintoshes. The seat of the chief is still the Castle of Kilravock (their
residence since 1460).
The progenitor of the old Earls of Ross was the eldest son of Gilleon na
ancestor of Anrias, who was the progenitor of the O'Beolans or Gillanders, the old Celtic
Earls of Ross. The first of the O'Beolan Earls was Fearcher MacinTagart, grandson of
Gillianrias, and son of the 'sagart', or hereditary abbot at the monastery of Applecross
founded by St. Maelrubha in the seventh century.
The founder was Sir William Saint-Clair, son of Robert de Saint-Clair in Normandy. In 1455
they got granted from the Scottish crown the Earldom of Caithness. This line came to end
with the death of George the sixth Earl in 1676, after which the title was usurped by the
Campbells. A fierce battle took place between the Sinclairs and the Campbells which was
fought at Allt nam meirleach, near Wick. Although Sinclair was defeated, he eventually won
back his claims by other means. The Sinclairs of Roslin were long hereditary Master Masons
The progenitor is said to be a younger son of Robertson of Struan. The arms bear wolves'
heads. For service to one of the early kings, Malcolm Canmore the young Robertson was
given the lands and lake of Skene in the Forest of Stocket, Aberdeenshire. The king
offered Robertson the choice of two things - as much land as was encompassed by a hound's
chase, or what could be covered by a hawk's flight. Robertson chose the latter. The Gaelic
name is Siol Sgeine, no Clann Donnachaidh Mhar (Clan Robertson of Mar). The family of
Skene of Skene became extinct in the direct line in 1827.
A royal clan which sprang from a scion of the ancient hereditary Stewards of
Normandy. Of this family Alan Fitz Flaald obtained from Henry I. of England the Barony of
Oswestry. His son William was the progenitor of the Earls of Arundel. Simon the youngest
son of Alan became the progenitor of the Boyds, his son Robert having been designated
Buidhe from his yellow hair. The Clan Stewart held many lands, too numerous to mention
here, and the history of this clan is linked very largely with the wider history of
This county was long overrun by the Norsemen, and is a corruption of the Norse
The Highlanders call it Cataibh. Lord Caithness is called Morair Chataibh (the Lord of
Cataibh). The crest of the Sutherland family is a 'cat-a-mountain'. Some say the original
Celts of that country were driven out by the Scandinavian invaders, and that the Gaelic
speaking population is derived from immigrants from Ross and Moray. Another account says
the Celts of Sutherland retreated from the Norsemen into the mountains and inaccessible
areas. The chiefs of the clan are descended from Freskin, the progenitors of the
Though small, this is a very ancient clan. The castle of Urquhart is on the north side of
Loch Ness, and was a place of great strength. There are records of their chiefs from the
year 1306. For about 50 years the Urquharts, as vassals of the Earldom of Ross, were
connected with the Lordship of the isles. The direct line of the Urquharts ended in 1741.
There are parishes of the name of Urquhart in Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and