An Ancestry Story: Clan MacGregor

You know the legends: the Scottish clans that roughed it in the Highland wilderness, fighting for their freedom and for their livelihoods?

I was delighted to discover that I have heavy ties to Scotland. In fact, I’m tied to the Fraser clan (you know Jamie Fraser from Outlander? Yep, that Fraser clan) and to several other Scottish bloodlines. But until I had done this genealogy research, I hadn’t ever heard of Clan MacGregor.

Scottish poet and author Sir Walter Scot called them “The Children of the Mist.” This was a fitting name for a people who from 1488 to 1775 were stripped of all rights as Scottish citizens, and had to avoid all areas of population. The name MacGregor comes from the Gaelic “MacGrioghair” meaning “Son of Gregory.” With the motto “Royal is My Race,” this proud clan continually boasted of their royal ancestry. They claim direct descent from Griogar, the son of King Alpin (833-841 A.D.), and have never failed to assert their seniority in the Alpinian “family.”

The clan’s earliest lands were in Glenorchy and date as far back as the reign of Malcolm Canmore (1058-1093). John of Glenorchy, who was MacGregor chief in 1292, was captured by the English in 1296 when King Edward I conquered the land, and his successor in the chieftainship, Malcolm, fought for Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. Afterwards Malcolm accompanied Edward Bruce to Ireland, where he was wounded at the battle of Dundalk and known thereafter as “the Lame Lord.”

Despite his support for Bruce’s cause, King David II (Bruce’s son) gave the Campbell clan title to the MacGregor’s Glenorchy lands. The MacGregors did not take this sitting down and refused to quit their land. To evict them, the powerful Campbells used every legal process to obtain their ends and the MacGregors had to leave. It became illegal to be a MacGregor- one had to renounce their name and take another, or be killed publicly. (We’re talking about beheading, mostly.) For years, these Scots roamed other clan lands, poaching and scraping out a livelihood wherever they could.

My genealogy almost ended before I discovered my relation to these people. I was stuck on a man named William MackGehee, who lived from 1618-1675, but I couldn’t find anything about his parents. Until…

I realized he’d changed his name from James MacGregor to William MackGehee.

Why? I wondered.

And then I found out: he’d fled this persecution. And the mystery and the legend of the MacGregors found its way into my ancestry. William MackGehee’s granddaughter married a man named David Arnett/ Arnot. He, a Scottish Highlander, was captured in the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and deported to America as an English prisoner. (I’m still working on proving this- it’s very new information to my family tree)

Also- That buffalo plaid (the red and black) that everyone is so fond of (myself included. Seriously. I love it) is associated with Rob Roy MacGregor, a son of the MacGregor clan.

Also- fun fact: my wedding was ancestral-themed (you can see the huge family tree in my previous post about genealogy) and instead of having my husband and other male family members wear boutonnieres- I gave them sword-pins with our various family Scottish crests on them. (Is that cool or what?)


That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed!

2 thoughts on “An Ancestry Story: Clan MacGregor

    1. Sarah, I really am. I adore the hunt and the mystery of solving the riddles about my ancestry. History has always fascinated me, and it’s amazing to learn about these brave people. <3

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