Mackenzies derive from the Norman Sir Other Fitz Othoere who arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Sir Other's pedigree traces back to the Italian Geraldinis, Dukes of Tuscany.[1] Sir Other's descendants completed the Norman Conquest in Wales and Ireland.  The FitzGeralds, now including the Dukes of Leinster, were one of these powerful descendant families, complete with their own navy. A younger son, Gerald FitzGerald, distinguished himself at the Battle of Callam at Desmond in Northern Ireland in 1261.  In 1262, Gerald led his followers to Scotland and after joining King Alexander III of Scotland Gerald distinguished himself again in the defeat of King Haakon and the Vikings at the Battle of Largs in 1263.[2]  The Anglicised name Colin was from Callam, as Gerald FitzGerald was given that name - as was then common - as a battle honour.

The same Gerald, or Colin, saved the king during a hunt in the Forest of Mar, when a 'furious stag' attacked the king.  For these acts Alexander granted Colin a stag's head cabossed, or for his coat of arms.  Alexander further created Colin Baron of Kintail, granted him the Barony of Kintail by Royal Charter dated 9 January 1266, and included Eilean Donan in the barony.[3]  The FitzGerald name was changed to Mackenzie by his grandson Kenneth son of Kenneth according to Highland Scottish custom.  The XIth Baron of Kintail was again a Colin who fathered Alexander of Coul by Mary Mackenzie of Davochmaluak c1610 in Kinross Scotland.  The Kintail Chiefs have now died out.

 Of the line of FitzGerald
Remains nat a male,
To bear the proud name of
The Chief of Kintail.[4]




Kenneth McKenzie's Toronto grave indicates 'born 17 September, 1837, in Lochbroom Ross-shire, Scotland, died 6 December, 1903'. The engraving identifies his wife as Margaret McEachern and indicates that two sons were buried there, Archibald Grant and Kenneth Alexander McKenzie. His eldest son was George, who with his wife Helen changed his name to Mackenzie and bought a separate burial plot. Helen left a confusing Coul genealogy.

The Ontario Registrar General confirmed the 1903 death of Kenneth McKenzie, a '67 year old gentleman widower, born in Scotland'. (This year was in error as Margaret was buried with him in 1905.) The National Archives of Canada noted that he married Margaret McEachern in Rothsay, Upper Canada in 1866. Cousin Janet Harding provided a search report from the Surrey library at Gildford, in British Columbia. An 1881 Canadian census indicated Kenneth McKenzie was then a 42-year-old carriage maker, born in Scotland, married to Margaret (born in Megantic, Québec). Their children are all listed as born in Ontario. They were Annie 14, Ellian 12, George 10, Archibald 4, and Alexander 1. There is reference to a rural Ontario community called Rothsay without explanation, presumably their first, or subsequent, Canadian home. Janet speculated that Kenneth changed the spelling of his name deliberately to dodge the title, but the explanation is probably simpler. Kenneth merely reverted to the earlier spelling McK, vice Mack, or MacK - the gaelic for 'son of'. (Early Celtic spelling is quite difficult for outsiders and encorporates considerable flexibility.

The Ontario Registrar General confirmed the death of George Gilchrist Mackenzie (father of Murray and Alan) in Toronto on 25 December 1933. His father is listed as Kenneth Mackenzie, born in Scotland.  Helen [née Moore], George and Annie McKenzie all quoted Kenneth as having often stated that he was heir to the Coul title. Annie had been outraged (witnessed by family stories) that the inheritance had been denied the others. But Helen put in writing that Kenneth (her father-in-law) had not wanted his life disturbed and that in Kenneth's absence in Scotland, the title went to his uncle Robert. A formally drawn Mackenzie of Coul genealogical chart was passed down to me.

Helen prepared a rough hand drawn genealogical tree showing Coul baronets and separately, without apparent lineal placement, she wrote George; and a bar showing Kenneth, Phoebe, Christie, and Alex.  In two other apparent groups are also the names Kenneth; also John and Kate and perhaps Smith (the handwriting is hard to read) to the side. A last group is Charles and then a bar with John, indecipherable David? and George. The meaning is apparently that Kenneth, younger brother Alex and sisters Phoebe and Christie had a common father George. The separate Kenneth and Charles lists remain obscure, unless they were alternate specific family groupings, or George's brothers,  since they do not seem to relate to any known personalities.  Sadly, I do not know what my Granny had found and so I cannot interpret the writings.

A genealogist, Mrs Cory, states that she found a George Mackenzie married to Anne Mackenzie in Lochbroom in 1823.  She notes the couple either bore or baptised a son Kenneth in 1837. Presuming that 17 September represented Kenneth's birth, then he was born a twin with Anne, since there was no other Kenneth registered born on that date and only two others, in Lochbroom, for the entire year 1837. The name Anne is repeated in this family. It seems certain our Kenneth was born 17 September in Lochbroom, and that his parents are the George and Anne above.  There is no further reference to them as a Lochbroom family. No emigration information has yet been found. As the third son of George Steuart (VII Bt), George Mackenzie would have been 16 then. George's name is recorded as McKenzie. Their registered children are: Catherine, 7 January 1826; Christian, 9 January 1829; Eve, 21 November 1830; Alexander, 5 January 1834; and Kenneth and Anne, 17 September 1837. Kenneth's father George spelt his name as McKenzie. But, Gaelic originated as an oral language and spelling was unimportant to the Gaelic 'mac' or 'son'.[5]

Helen Mackenzie's genealogical list, based on the Mackenzie of Coul chart a century later, shows: Kenneth; Phoebe; Christie; Alex. The Lochbroom register shows Catherine; Christian; Eve; Alex; Anne; and Kenneth. If either Catherine or Phoebe and also Anne died early (and the other of Catherine/Phoebe were called Eve as a family name), then these lists match.

The Mackenzie of Coul genealogy shows Sir George Steuart Mackenzie succeeded by his sons Alexander, who had no children, and then by William who died unmarried on 21 December, 1868.  The third son was George Mackenzie, born in 1807 and recorded dead at Madeira in June, 1839.  If this George were either alive (but we know he was dead) or had already fathered our Kenneth (we know Kenneth was born in 1837, two years before George died), then our Kenneth would himself have then been in line to succeed his uncle William Mackenzie.  Instead, Robert Ramsay Mackenzie the fourth brother succeeded in the absence of any word of George's heir.  Primogeniture would have had the line pass to the eldest male (then George) or his surviving male line, putatively Kenneth Mackenzie.  This appears to be the simplest explanation for Kenneth's claim - that George married and fathered Kenneth and then left his family for reasons and duration unknown and died in Madeira.

Robert Ramsay Mackenzie did not succeed until almost 1869, until Kenneth had already had his eldest child Annie (born about 1867 - a fine Canadian year). Since Kenneth had had to take the time to travel to Canada, find Margaret in Québec, marry and conceive Annie, then he must have left Scotland in 1865 at the latest. This year is long before his putative uncle William Mackenzie died in 1868. This seems a reason for Kenneth to remark he was entitled to the claim. He would have left after his father George Mackenzie had died, as he must otherwise have remarked that his father had a claim, although why he was born in western Ullapool is a mystery. He must also have known that he was the eldest. (Christian is a Clan Mackenzie girl's name and Alexander could have died in an age of poor health and high death rates.)  It would have been a long expensive trip to claim a title. Did some calamity fall on the family?  A family dispute might have explained ignorance of George's marriage by his family.

It seems possible that George McKenzie's break might have been caused by his father, who was himself a cause of the speed of the Scottish Highland's decline. Sir George Mackenzie was a significant advocate of Highland change and clearance of land for sheep. Sir George even sacrificed his mother's diamonds to his own pseudo-scientific investigations.[6] Here was a man who might inspire family discord and account for George changing his name to a Lowland spelling. Kenneth claimed he did not want the title, but he was in touch by mail with someone who knew his heritage. His uncle's death in 1868 seems the only event-trigger that would have challenged Kenneth to claim George's inheritance.

Lastly, the Canadian Kenneth McKenzie made a claim to the Earldom of Seaforth and although he lost, his claim implies that some people were convinced of Kenneth's entitlement to Scottish position. Kenneth had no significant money and the heraldic Lyon Court costs are significant. Despite the loss, since a claim was made the money had to come from the family and the investment of the implied large funds suggests a rational assessment by those concerned of a reasonable basis for some claim. This in turn encourages the basis of our Coul interest. The putative Seaforth claim seems unlikely even to have been made on the basis of Kenneth's overt, humble, Ullapool background.[7]


1               Dr Jean Dunlop, The Clan Mackenzie, p. 5, and Sir E Mackenzie Mackenzie, The Genealogy of the Stem of the Family of Mackenzie, Marquesses and Earls of Seaforth, pp. 2-3.

2               Ibid, pp.2-4.

3               Ibid, p 3.

4               Sir Walter Scott was close friends with several Mackenzies.

5               See The Burke's Peerage World Book of Mackenzies, pp. 2.3-2.4 for a discussion of Mackenzie patronymical origins.

6               John Prebble, The Highland Clearances, pp. 28-29.

7              This opinion is based on the status of Ullapool as a poor, emigrant-port, and not a wealthy residential area such as the eastern Cromarty area. Some family crisis must have precipitated George’s temporary move through Ullapool.
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