The Lairds of Aberdeenshire
The Laird Family Tree
This document is entirely the work of Mic Laird with any assumptions and theories being his own and determined after careful and reasoned thought. Any family has paternal and maternal roots so it is logical that firstly the research is in two parts tracing the family origins of both my mother and father.
It has long been thought that due to a lack of a rail network and roads with automotive power that families and generations remained static within a particular area marrying and having associations within a small defined area such as might be walked within a day or two. This has not proved to be the case and certainly many family members appear to be itinerant following work or lack of it within their local area, a trade or by activities such as the ‘clearances’ in the highlands or due to religious beliefs and or intolerance.
The Scottish element of this research have much basis in sound fact but with surmised reasons for the movement to new locations often hundreds of miles removed when viewed within two census returns.
There is no doubt that religion and local politics held particular importance with a less lawful society driving peoples away and underground often changing their names where appropriate to avoid detection and persecution.
The Scottish Connection
The paternal side – the Lairds
There is no record of the Laird name that can be traced back to Aberdour before Joseph Laird born 1741 at New Deer, Aberdeen and married to Elspet Mavor born 1763 also in New Deer which is adjacent to Aberdour. The Mavor family can be traced back for a further two generations through John Mavor married to Elzabeth Fleeman to his father John Mavor married to Elspet Hamer sometime about 1690.
The selection of first (Christian) names within Scotland seems to have followed a traditional and distinct pattern –
• The eldest son named after the paternal grandfather
• The eldest daughter to have been named after the maternal grandmother
• The second son to be named after the maternal grandfather
• The second daughter to be named after the paternal grandmother
• The third son after his father
• The third daughter after her mother.
Whilst not always the case it does allow some informed guesses as to the names of the preceding generation and as was also common for the wife to have her maiden name inscribed on the gravestone and fairly accurate assumption can be made as to identifying the correct link between generations when looking at records.
The registration of births, deaths and marriages did not become compulsory in Scotland until 1855 and before that records are unreliable and patchy, complicated further with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar on the 1st September 1752 as before that time the New Year began on the 25th March.
A headstone might represent more than one burial so stones themselves give only an indication as to who is interred below. The Church did not permit those who had committed suicide or under particular Church censure to be buried in consecrated ground and it was often the case that still births or child death were buried in secret. Indeed a child that had not drawn a breath need not be recorded at all and it was not uncommon for a first name to be re-used within the same immediate family should this be the case.
Typically a wife was younger than her husband and frequently died in childbirth so it was common for the surviving party to remarry often to a brother or sister of the decreased. This further complicates the research into family origins as does the common practice of a deceased being buried with other family members in a ‘plot’ rather than where they were residing at the time of death.
Extensive research as to the origins of the Laird as a family or clan reveal that there is no sure point of origin or that a single clan is determined as being possible. There are a number of explanations all of which might have some founding truth but as far as known and can be proved there are two seats of family members evident within this research.
The Civil Parishes and Counties map for Aberdeen is shown below in two parts with the notation giving the birth and/or baptism; the marriage or proclamation of banns and death or burial given for specific dates and held within the Edinburgh archives.
The traditional, text book description has the clan coming from Peeblesshire and are lowland or border Scots where indeed a tartan exists and is registered for the clan Laird. However without exception the Lairds within this document are based exclusively within Aberdeenshire in and around Aberdour on the north coast into the Moray Firth and centrally as Highland Scots in Crathie and Braemar. In addition and logically their association and subsequent marriage is aligned to the local and established clans with whom they were neighbours and in the times when clans strength was the loyalty and size of its members they became that local clan and were perhaps mercenaries serving the hand that fed them. That is not to say that these Lairds are not indeed a sub set or branch of this wider community but at this time the link cannot be proved.
The name Laird would however appear to be present globally and there are a great deal of people with this family name in and around Liverpool and across in Ireland and it is speculatively possible that the migration of the name came from these origins. Indeed the name Laird with various hyphenations are common throughout the USA and other parts of the world including Australasia where it can only be surmised that it was the product of the ‘clearances’ – an opportunity to provide a better life for ones family or as the result of some sort of transgression resulting in deportation.
There are recorded ‘Lairds’ in the south of Scotland from the 13th century documented as:
• “one Roger Lawid of Berwick making agreement, over land at Waldefgat (Waldesgat?) in 1257 with the Abbey at Kelso;
• Thomas le Lanerd of Peebleshire rendering homage in 1296;
• In 1552 a Thomas Lairde giving witness in Glasgow.”
There are also unproven references to Nordic (Viking) ancestry which are probable on account of the proximity and relative ease of access, by boat from Scandinavia to the northern coast of Scotland. For many this would have been the first landfall following such a sea crossing. Direct association by way of name is not possible but the adoption of crests and talisman of Viking use are most likely to be the base origins of many Scottish badges, crests or coats of arms and incorporated into such designs.
Certain American ‘Laird’ sites would have the Laird clan descended from a German, Saxony warlord ‘Hlawford’ who is reputed to have settled the northern coast about Aberdour. This cannot be substantiated although such settlement is again possible for the same ease of access conditions for sea passage.
A letter by W T Laird written on the 31st December 1888 and apparently found by an Heraldic Commissioner in Chancery, London supports this claim. However the Royal College of Arms, London have investigated their records and cannot substantiate this to be true.
The map above gives Laird Distribution 1881 from National Trust Names - map of Scotland demographically with concentrations of those having the Laird name as being in descending numbers – purple – most; red – 2nd; orange – 3rd; yellow – 4th; light yellow – 5th and white – least is shown below
Laird by definition is explained, as below, however there was obviously another less titular use of the name which cannot be explained.
LAIRD. Perhaps = laird, a landowner of land or houses, ME laverd. Roger Lawird or Lavird of Berwick made an agreement with the Abbey of Kelso relating to his land of Waldefat, Berwick 1257 (Kelso 35). Thomas le Loverd of Peebleshire rendered homage 1296 (Bain 11 page 207) Thomas Lairde witness in Glasgow 1552 (Protocols, I). David Laird reidare at Forvern 1574 (RMR)
• Reference – The General Armoury – Glenhuntly – Renfrewshire 1777
The Lairds of Aberdour appear to from research to have intermarried with whilst those in Crathie and Braemar aligned themselves to the Farquahson Clan where there is much evidence of intermarriage with families such as Grassich, Hardy and Riach or derivation of each.
An anomaly which links the Aberdour Lairds with those of Crathie and Braemar is Alexander Laird born Aberdour - February 1821 but recorded in later records as being present in both locations throughout his life which ended in November 1904. His trade was that of ‘shoemaker’ with at least two employees – his apparent itinerant status may well have been due to his trade and quality reputation where he may have attained royal patronage with the castle at Balmoral?
The memorial stone to Alexander and Jane have a prominent place and is of substantial size and may be seen within the Kirk yard at Crathie - below.
Crathie Kirk yard – OS reference NO 265948 Explorer Sheet 388
“Sacred to the memory of ALEXANDER LAIRD d. West Lodge, Abergeldie 14 Nov. 1904 aged 84. JANE TASTARD widow of ALEXANDER LAIRD d. 8 Dec. 1910 aged 85, ALEXANDER LAIRD 4th son d.3 Dec 1910 aged 56.”
His marriage to Jane Testard on the 13th March 1847 at Crathie adds further and greater dimension to the family tree as the family Testard are much documented throughout the region where they themselves seem to be without a Clan or Tartan and their origins of perhaps greater interest?
TESTARD, TASTARD. Apparently a nickname from Fr., = la grosse tete, great head. James Testard in Luidmuic of Glenmuick, 1800(Aberdeen CR.) “Testard is a fairly common name in France; but the mod. form Tetard is more frequent” (Harrison). Cf. Tester.
• Reference – The Surnames of Scotland – The New York Public Library.
“TESTER. A family of this name in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, are said to be descended from a Frenchman who was the ‘taster’ to Mary, queen of Scots, whom he accompanied from France. If this is correct the name may be from AF. tester, testar, assayer. More likely, however, the name is the same as TESTARD, q.v., with loss of final d.”
• `Reference – The Surnames of Scotland – The New York Public Library.
It is further suspected that both branches of the family had Jacobite origins and had at on least one occasion made the journey across for mainland Europe in support of the Bonnie Prince Charlie cause.
Motto: Fidelity and Fortitude
Crest: From a Red Velvet and Ermine cap, a Red Demi Lion Rampant in his Right Paw a Sword with a Gold Pommel.
The Farquharsons trace their origins back to Farquhar, fourth son of Alexander Kier (Shaw) of Rothiemurchus, who possessed the Braes of Mar near the source of the River Dee in Aberdeenshire. His descendants were called Farquharsons, and his son, Donald, married Isobel Stewart, heiress of Invercauld. Donald's son, Findla Mhor, was the real progenitor of the clan. The Gaelic patronymic is MacFionlaigh Mor. Findla Mhor was royal standard bearer at the Battle of Pinkie, where he was killed in 1547. From his lifetime on, the clan grew in stature, important branches being founded through the nine sons of his two marriages. Before the time of Findla Mhor the Farquharsons were called clan Erachar or Earachar (the Gaelic for Farquhar) and most of the branches of the family, particularly those who settled in Atholl, were called MacEarachar. Those descendants of Findla Mhor who settled in the Lowlands had their name changed from MacKinlay to Finlayson.
Being numerically weaker than some of their predatory neighbours, the Farquharsons joined the confederation known as Clan Chattan by a bond of man-rent to the chief of the Mackintosh in 1595. Each time the Fiery Cross was sent through the glens of the Upper Dee, the Farquharsons would gather at the Cairn-a-Quheen (Cairn of Remembrance) at the foot of Glen Feardar. This cairn is said to have originated in a custom of the clan whereby each man, on being summoned, would bring a stone to the cairn and lay it a short distance away. On returning from the raid, each survivor would lift a stone and carry it away. The remaining stones were counted, to ascertain the number of dead, and then added to the cairn. Each stone therefore represents a Farquharson killed serving the clan.
The clan's fierce reputation led to their being known as the fighting Farquharsons, and they were staunch supporters of the Stewarts. Donald Farquharson of Monaltrie fought with Montrose in 1644, and followed Charles II to Worcester in 1651. They were part of the Clan Chattan regiment in 1715 and, during the '45, formed two battalions, one of Farquharsons of Balmoral, and the other led by Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie
Reference - The Clans of the Scottish Highlands - James Logan
Farquharson Clan Cairn Memorial stone.
Farquharson Clan Cairn – Carn na Cuimhe at tranquil site next to the River Dee OS reference 309964 Explorer sheet 388. The booklet ‘Follow the key to – History with boots on’ – Walk 3a War and Settlement gives greater description – as below:
1. The Story of Ballater – from Royal Tullich to Royal Deeside- Sheila Sedgwick
2. The Legion of the Lost – The story of Glen Muick – Royal Deeside – Sheila Sedgwick
3. The Scottish family tree detective - - Tracing your ancestors in Scotland – Rosemary Bigwood
4. Your Clan Heritage – Clan Farquharson – Alan McNie
5. The Farquharsons – The Origins of the Clan Farquharson and their place in Scottish History – Ann Lindsay Mitchell
6. The People of Aberdour & Tyrie 1696 – Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
7. The People of Crathie & Braemar (Kindrocht) 1696 – Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
8. The People of Tullich, Glengairdine & Glen Muick 1696 – Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
9. The Kirk yard of Aberdour (Aberdeenshire) Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
10. The Kirk yard of Aboyne - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
11. The Kirk yard of Birse - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
12. The Kirk yard of Braemar – Graham Ewen - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
13. The Kirk yard of Crathie - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
14. The Kirk yard of Glen Muick, Glen Tanar & Kirkton of Aboyne - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
15. The Kirk yard of Tullich - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
16. The Kirk yard of Towie - Sheila M Spiers - Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society
17. The Kirk at Towie 1803 -2003 – Towie Parish History Group – Rev Richard Darroch and others
18. Aberdeen & North–East Scotland Family History Society – Journals from February 2007 onwards
19. History with Boots On – five walks through historical sites around Ballater – Royal Deeside Partnership