Maclarens, Birtwistles and Many Other Families

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  • ID: I28071
  • Name: CLAN origins MACKENZIE
  • Sex: M
  • Death: 1200
  • Note:
    See also Notes in "CLAN information sources MACKENZIE" in this file.

    Essay from
    Douglas Hickling, 516 Blair Avenue, Piedmont CA 94611. Dhhic@comcast.net

    THE PEDIGREES OF THE EARLY CHIEFS OF CLAN MACKENZIE--
    CAN THEY BE TRUSTED?

    The several published pedigrees of the early Mackenzie chiefs--from Kenneth, for whom the clan is named, through Alexander "Ionraic"--that are contained in family histories compiled between the 17th and early 20th centuries are based upon traditions, real, perceived, or contrived. Considering that these pedigrees frequently contradict each other and that they are not supported by existing contemporary records, can any of them be relied upon?

    The two earliest surviving manuscript histories of the Mackenzies were compiled in the seventeenth century by George (Sir) Mackenzie, created first Earl of Cromartie by Queen Anne in 1703. His first account, written circa 1650, takes the form of a letter and was published in volume II of William (Sir) Fraser's THE EARLS OF CROMARTIE (1876), at 462 et seq. It was followed by a shorter manuscript history entitled THE GENEALOGY OF THE MACKENZIES PRECEEDING THE YEAR 1661 WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1669 BY A PERSON OF QUALITY, published in 1900 in Volume I of Walter Macfarlane's GENEALOGICAL COLLECTIONS in PUBLICATIONS OF THE SCOTTISH HISTORY SOCIETY, volume 33. The pedigrees of the early chiefs contained in both manuscript histories are similar. Earl Cromartie's pedigree, based upon his 1669 shorter manuscript history, at 54-60, follows:

    PEDIGREE I

    1. Kenneth, son of Colin Fitzgerald and the daughter and heiress of Kenneth MacMahon (Matheson), was named for his maternal grandfather. He married Morba, "daughter to MacDougal of Lorne." He was succeeded by their son,

    2. Kenneth, who supported Bruce in his contest with the Comyns. He was succeeded by his son,

    3. Kenneth na Sroine, who married Finguala, daughter of MacLeod of Lewis. He was executed by the Earl of Ross at Inverness, and succeeded by their son,

    4. Murdoch Dow, who married a daughter of "MacCaula of Lochbroom." He was succeeded by his son,

    5. Murdoch Nidroit ("of the bridge"), so called because his mother while pregnant with him had been saved from a fall at the bridge of Scatwell. He married Fingala, daughter of MacLeod of Harris. He was succeeded by his son,

    6. Alexander Ionraic ("the upright"), who married (1) Anna, daughter of MacDougal of Lorne, by whom he had Kenneth and Duncan, and (2) Margaret, daughter of MacDougal of Morir.

    The shorter manuscript history of the Mackenzies, b y the first Earl of Cromartie, was soon followed by THE GENEALOGIE OF THE SURNAME OF M'KENZIE SINCE THEIR COMING INTO SCOTLAND collected in 1667 by John Mackenzie of Applecross, a friend of the first Earl, and copied from the former's papers in 1670. This manuscript was published in 1916 as volume II of HIGHLAND PAPERS and volume XII of PUBLICATIONS OF THE SCOTTISH HISTORY SOCIETY (second series). The pedigree of the early Mackenzie chiefs as set forth in the Applecross manuscript follows:

    PEDIGREE II

    1. Kenneth, son of Colin Fitzgerald and the daughter of Kenneth Matheson, was named for his maternal grandfather. He married a daughter of MacIver, and was succeeded by his son,

    2. Murdoch, who married a daughter of MacAulay. He was succeeded by

    3. Kenneth na sroine, who married a daughter of MacDougall of Lorn, whom he caused to be thrown over the bridge at Scatwell while she was pregnant with

    4. Murdoch na drochaid ("of the bridge"), w ho married a daughter of MacLeod of Lewis. He was executed by the Earl of Ross at Inverness, and was succeeded by

    5. Murdoch dubh, known as Black Murdoch of the cave. He married a daughter of MacLeod of Harris, and they were the parents of

    6. Alexander Ionraic ("the upright"). He was brought up by MacDougall of Lorn, and married (1) a daughter of MacDougall of Lorn, by whom he had Kenneth and Duncan, and (2) a daughter of MacRanald.

    It is widely believed that John Mackenzie of Applecross borrowed the Colin Fitzgerald descent from the first Earl of Cromartie and that they both relied upon one or more earlier manuscripts that no longer exist.

    The foregoing are the only published seventeenth century manuscript histories of the family. Several later unpublished family histories by compilers, including the Rev. John Macrae, Hector Mackenzie, Dr. George Mackenzie, and Captain John Matheson of Bennets-field, are held in Scottish libraries, but they are not readily accessible because they are in manuscript form only.

    In 1833, an ancient parchment now known as the manuscript of 1467 was found by William F. Skene in the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. The manuscript is a compilation of crude lists of names, believed to be the pedigrees of the chiefs of most of the highland clans up to about 1400. According to Skene, the manuscript was compiled by an Irish sennache employed by Clan Maclachlan as indicated by the fact that the pedigree of that clan is quite detailed and includes intermarriages.

    In 1834, Skene published his English translation of this manuscript in volume 1, part 1, of the TRANSACTIONS OF THE IONA CLUB, at 54. In a note, Skene pointed out that the manuscript established "[t]he comparatively late invention of many of the traditionary origins of all the highland clans."

    Skene became more specific in his THE HIGHLANDERS OF SCOTLAND (1836), in which he attacked the notion that the Mackenzies were descended from Colin Fitzgerald as claimed by the 17th century, and subsequent, family historians. First, at 187-188, he stated that whenever a clan tradition, such as that of the Mackenzies, asserts a marriage of the foreign founder of the clan with the heiress of that family, the family claiming the foreign founder is invariably the oldest cadet of the family which has somehow usurped the power and estates of the clan chief. It then attempts to conceal the defect in its right by blood by asserting the foreign founder who married the chief's heiress.

    Second, Skene, at 325-326, stated that the documents frequently quoted as supporting a Mackenzie descent from Colin Fitzgerald were either (1) non-existent, (2) inconclusive, or (3) "a forgery of later times." Not only was there no documentary support for the claimed descent from Colin Fitzgerald, such a descent was rejected by the manuscript of 1467, which shows a Gaelic descent from Gilleoin of the Aird.

    In his THE EARLS OF CROMARTIE (1876) volume I, at v, William (Sir) Fraser sets forth a Mackenzie pedigree in tabular form which provides the basis for the following:

    PEDIGREE III

    1. Kenneth, son of Colin Fitzgerald and a daughter of Kenneth MacMahon or Matheson, married Morba Macdowal, daughter of Alexander Lord of Lorn, and was succeeded by

    2. Kenneth Mackenneth, who married Margaret, daughter of David de Strathbogie, Earl of Athol. He was succeeded by

    3. Kenneth Mackenzie, who married Fynvola, daughter of Roderick Macleod of Lewis. He was succeeded by

    4. Murdoch Mackenzie. who married Isabel, daughter of Murdoch MacAulay. He was succeeded by

    5. Murdoch Mackenzie, who married Fingala, daughter of Macleod of Harris. He was succeeded by

    6. Alexander Mackenzie, who married (1) Agnes Campbell, daughter of Colin, Earl of Argyll, and (2) Margaret Macdougal, "a daughter of the House of Lorn." The mother of his son Kenneth is not identified.

    Fraser, who published his history forty years after Skene's THE HIGHLANDERS OF SCOTLAND, stoutly defends the genuiness of the documents upon which the claim of a descent from Colin Fitzgerald is based and declares the manuscript of 1467 to be "quite fabulous." He adheres, in most respects, to the pedigrees contained in the 17th century Mackenzie family histories. As the historian an d patron of the Earls of Cromartie, Fraser no doubt felt pressured to uphold the theories advanced by the first Earl in his history of the family.

    Only three years later, Major James D. Mackenzie of Findon published his GENEALOGICAL TABLES OF THE CLAN MACKENZIE (1879). The notes which accompany the tables, at 7-10, set forth the following:

    PEDIGREE IV

    1. Kenneth, son of Colin, "the 'Gerald' of tradition, or of early Celtic or Irish derivation" and a daughter of Kenneth Macmahon of Lochalsh. He married Morba, daughter of Alexander MacDougall of Lorne. He was succeeded by

    2. Kenneth "or in some manuscripts Murdoch." He married Margaret, daughter of David de Strathbolgy, eleventh Earl of Athol. He fought at Bannockburn, 1314, and was succeeded by

    3. Kenneth na Sroine of Kintail, who married Fynvola (or Finguala), daughter of Torquil MacLeod II of Lewis. The compiler notes that, according to Dr. George Mackenzie, Kenneth was murdered by the Earl of Ross at Perth. His only son,

    4. Murdoch Dubh, is said to have been conveyed to the Lewis upon his father's death and to have been called "of the caves" because he led a "hole in the corner existence" before he was able to regain his father's estates. He married Isabel, daughter of MacAulay of Lochbroom, and was succeeded by his son,

    5. Murdoch na Drochaid ("of the bridge"). He married Finguala, daughter of MacLeod, chief of Harris, by whom he had one son,

    6. Alexander Ionraic (the upright"), who married (1) Anna, daughter of MacDougall of Dunollie of the lineage of Lorn, by whom he had Kenneth and Duncan, and (2) "another MacDougall or MacCoull of Morar, or 'Morir' on the mainland."

    James D. Mackenzie of Findon vigorously attacked the reliability of the manuscript of 1467 as well as the writings of Skene and others that questioned the existence of Colin Fitzgerald. As is clear from Pedigree IV above, the compiler was willing to concede only the possibility that Colin was not of Irish origin while at the same time insisting that he was the founder of the clan, whatever his origin may have been. James D. Mackenzie was the last Mackenzie historian of consequence to adhere to the 17th century family histories and to the claimed descent from Colin.

    Alexander Mackenzie was the first historian of the family to adopt many of Skene's views as well as his translation of the manuscript of 1467. He published his HISTORY OF THE CLAN MACKENZIE in 1879, a work which was first serialized, beginning in 1877, in THE CELTIC MAGAZINE, volume III, a periodical which he edited.

    Skene published the third volume of his mature work CELTIC SCOTLAND in 1880. In the revised 1890 edition of this volume, Skene discusses the role and reliability of clan genealogies. In his view, stated at 338-339, the clan pedigrees contained in 14th and 15th century Irish manuscripts, including the manuscript of 1467, "as far back as the eponymous or common ancestor from which the clan takes its name, are in general tolerably well vouched, and may be held to be authentic," but the early historic portions of these pedigrees, "when analyzed, prove to be entirely artificial and untrustworthy."

    At 346 et seq., Skene explains that, in 1597, the Parliament held at Edinburgh passed an act which required that inhabitants of the highlands show by what right they possessed their lands. Many of the clans, which had at one time held charters to their lands, had lost them during the conflicts that followed the forfeiture of the Lords of the Isles. Many times, lands were feudally vested in an alien family, but actually possessed by competing clans. Other clans had held their lands for time immemorial, maintained by the sword. The chiefs "found themselves compelled to defend their rights upon grounds which could compete with the claims of their eager opponents, and to maintain an equality of rank and prestige with them in the Herald's Office." They did not hesitate "to put forward spurious pedigrees better calculated to maintain their position when a native descent had lost its value and was too weak to serve the purpose."

    According to Skene, at 349, from this period, the "manuscript histories of the leading highland families began to be compiled, in which these pretensions were advanced and spurious charters inserted." At 351-354, he states that "the most remarkable of these spurious origins is that claimed by the Mackenzies," first put forward by the first Earl of Cromartie. "[T]he evidence of the construction of a false legend is too palpable to be disputed." At 353 note 28, Skene says that other charters not related to Colin Fitzgerald "said to be granted by David II in 1360 and Robert III in 1380, are equally suspicious."

    Skene's English translation of the genealogy of the Clan Kenneth, as set forth in the manuscript of 1467, beginning with the most recent person in the pedigree is printed at 485: "Murdoch son of Kenneth son of John son of Kenneth son of Angus son of Cristin son of Kenneth son of Gilleeoin og son of Gilleeoin of the Aird." In a note, Skene explains that he regarded the listing of Agad (Adam) in the manuscript as the father of Cristin as a mistake which he corrected by substituting the name of Kenneth, as shown in the Black Book of Clanranald by MacVurich.

    In compiling his revised HISTORY OF THE MACKENZIES, published in 1894, Alexander Mackenzie rejected the claimed descent from Colin Fitzgerald, as he had in his earlier HISTORY OF THE CLAN MACKENZIE (1879), and quoted Skene's THE HIGHLANDERS OF SCOTLAND and CELTIC SCOTLAND several times and at length. The pedigree of the early Mackenzie chiefs set forth in the 1894 history and below is substantially the same as in the earlier 1879 history:

    PEDIGREE V

    1. Kenneth, who is placed fourth from the top in the Mackenzie pedigree in the manuscript of 1467. In accordance with that manuscript, Kenneth's father is listed as Angus, but his mother is not identified. He married Morna or Morba, daughter of Alexander Macdougall of Lorn "de Ergedia," by a daughter of John the first Red Comyn. He died in 1304 and was succeeded by their only son,

    2. John Mackenzie, aided the Bruce and married Margaret, daughter of David de Strathbogie, 11th Earl of Atholl, by Joan, daughter of John, the Red Comyn. He died in 1328 and was succeeded by his only son,

    3. Kenneth Mackenzie na sroine, who led the clan during troubled times and was eventually executed at Inverness in 1346 at the order of the Earl of Ross. He was married to Finguala, or Florence, daughter of Torquil Macleod II of Lewis, and succeeded by his only son,

    4. Murdoch Mackenzie, who was known as Black Murdoch of the cave and as Murdoch Dubh. He married Isabel, only child of Macaulay of Lochbroom and died in 1375, being succeeded by his son,

    5. Murdoch Mackenzie, known as Murdoch of the bridge, who married Finguala, or Florence, daughter of Malcolm Macleod III of Harris and Dunvegan. Murdoch died in 1416, and was succeeded by his only son,

    6. Alexander Mackenzie Ionraic, who married twice. First he married Anna, daughter of John Macdougall of Dunolly, and his second marriage was to Margaret, daughter of Macdonald of Morar, a cadet of Clanranald. He explains that some of the family manuscripts identify Margaret as a daughter of M'Couil or Macdougall of Morar but that all of these named wives are really the same person, as one of the families of Clanranald or Moydart or Morar was named "Macdougall" after its ancestor, Dougald Macranald. Alexander was succeeded by Kenneth, a son by his first wife.

    Skene's THE HIGHLANDS OF SCOTLAND was republished in 1902 without change other than the addition of extensive notes by Alexander Macbain to the original text. At 408, Macbain says that Skene has made "overmuch use" of the manuscript of 1467 and that where it stands alone, as in the case of Clan Mackenzie, "it has to be used with caution, even as late as 1400," which is about the date that that pedigree ends. In commenting on Skene's discussion of charters that relate to the early Mackenzie chiefs, Macbain states, at 417, that "little or nothing is known of their history until the forfeiture of the last Earl--1463. Anything before that is spurious."

    The article on MacKenzie, Earl of Seaforth, set forth in volume 7 of THE SCOTS PEERAGE (1910), beginning at 495, was written by Peter J. Anderson. The compiler sets forth the following:

    PEDIGREE VI

    1. Kenneth, said to have married Morna, daughter of Alexander Macdougal of Lorn. He died in 1304 and was succeeded by their son,

    2. John Mackenzie, who supported Bruce. He is said to have married Margaret, daughter of David de Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl. He died in 1338 and was succeeded by their son,

    3. Kenneth Mackenzie na sroine, who appears to have been in constant strife with the Earl of Ross by whom he was made prisoner and executed in 1346. He is said to have married Fynvola, daughter of Torquil Macleod of Lewis. He was succeeded by their son,

    4. Murdoch Mackenzie of the cave, who is said by the first Earl Cromartie to have had a charter from King David II, the authenticity of which "is not now admitted by genealogists." He is said to have married Isabel, a daughter of Murdoch Macaulay of Lochbroom. He died in 1375 and was succeeded by their son,

    5. Murdoch Mackenzie of the bridge, who is said by the first Earl Cromartie to have had a charter from King Robert II, a charter "not now believed to be authentic." He is said to have married Fynvola, daughter of Malcolm Macleod of Harris. He died in 1416 and was succeeded by their son,

    6. Alexander Mackenzie Ionraic, who had, in 1463, from John, Earl of Ross, a charter of the lands of Killin, Garve, Kinlochluiconan and others, and in 1477 a Crown charter of Strathconan, Strathgarve, Strathbraan and others, forfeited by the Earl of Ross. He married (1) Anna, daughter of John Macdougall of Dunolly, and (2) Margaret, daughter of "M'Coull of Morir." He died in 1488 and was succeeded by Kenneth, his son by his first marriage.

    Although Anderson claimed that he was setting forth the pedigree of chiefs given by the first Earl Cromartie, a comparison of the pedigree in THE SCOTS PEERAGE with Pedigrees I and V, above, shows that he relied far more upon Alexander Mackenzie than the first Earl as his source. The article gives continuing currency to this particular version of the pedigree of the early Mackenzie chiefs, while at the same time disparaging its authority on the ground that there is "no record evidence for the existence of any of them previous to Alexander Mackenzie Ionraic,'" and by the continuing use of "said to have been" in his identification of the chiefs' wives. He casts further doubt on the identification of Margaret Strathbogie as the wife of John Mackenzie, noting, at 496, that "no record of this daughter has been discovered."

    In his introduction to the Applecross manuscript, published in 1916, several years after the appearance of the Seaforth article in THE SCOTS PEERAGE, J. R. N. Macphail noted, at 4, "that there is no record evidence for the existence of any of the alleged chiefs prior to Kenneth-a-bhlair, who rose to a position of some importance towards the end of the fifteenth century, on the fall of John, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross." At 13 note 2, Macphail rejects the charters relied upon by Anderson, set forth in line 6 of Pedigree VI as proof of the existence of Alexander Mackenzie Ionraic, on the ground that "the authority cited is only an Inventory of the Allangrange Papers. He does not appear in the Register of the Great Seal or other public records."

    The 20th century historians have looked with even greater skepticism at the traditional listing of the chiefs who precede Alexander Ionraic, based on the lack of any record evidence of their existence and the fact that the early pedigrees are contradictory.

    Continued in "CLAN origins 2 MACKENZIE"
    From Douglas Hickling, 516 Blair Avenue, Piedmont CA 94611. Dhhic@comcast.net




    Father: CLAN information sources MACKENZIE b: 1200

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