The Scottish Clans


My on-going research concerns a Canadian branch of the Mackenzies. My parents Alan Moore Mackenzie and Elizabeth Vivian Willison often recounted vague family traditions and stories, which excited my curiosity. With much help from my extended family, I have collated this data to further my family’s appreciation and understanding. My research began as my private family project. I was named Kenneth but called Peter by my mother: my name alone required understanding of family naming traditions. The following data also give details of the Willison, Moore, Boulton, Dickson, Claus, and Johnson families - amongst others. To expand on family motivations I have included a few outline histories of selected events. These histories are provided to support analysis of family activities, but they also provide an insight into motivations.

Our family purpose is thus to further understanding of our own family history. My first discovery concerned the 1066 Norman Conquest and a Sir Other FitzOthoere whose heirs founded the FitzGerald family.[1] Sir Other FitzOthoere's grandson married a Welsh princess with an ancient pedigree, now traced back to pre-Roman Britain. Similarly, other wives descended from a variety of European aristocracies. It was these wives who led me to explore their historical worlds and uncover the Germanic origins and development of our English language. Later periods were alive with new ideas and challenges to traditional thinking and I have tried to follow specific family members and understand what and why they did things. The tremendous surge of mediaeval ideas must have had a significant effect in even the most remote Highland glens. The reader must interpret those influences.

My observations relate to the fatal Scots' clan distrust and tribalism, the significant Crusader impact on European culture, the growth of Tudor England and the later Highland clearances. John Prebble described this latter act in his book The Clearances. Between 1763 and 1775, 20,000 Scots left the Highlands and in one year alone 54 emigrant ships sailed from the western lochs. In 1832, 66,000 Britons immigrated to Canada. In 1846, after seasons of poor farming thousands of Scots were evicted and forced to leave the Highlands in conditions worse than those provided for convicts and prisoners. Infested with typhus, cholera and dysentery two ships arrived in Nova Scotia in 1836 with no water on board - apparently due to the greed of their owners! However, even for those who knew the risks, the thought of staying in Scotland, or Ireland, was worse. Scots made a major emotional adjustment and few returned to the Highlands, which still remain largely empty today.

During the famine of the 1840s, Scottish landowners are alleged to have sold food to the English and let their fellow Scots starve. Prebble accuses these owners of having evicted their clansmen and then burned their houses to make way for sturdy sheep, which provided both meat and wool. This was what Kenneth McKenzie left behind in Ullapool, Scotland. The Dicksons and Willisons left somewhat earlier, since as Lowland Scots English economic interests would have affected them sooner. As Prebble wrote ‘The Highlands itself became the property of the Lowlanders and the Great Cheviot sheep. The Lowlander inherited the hills, and the tartan is a shroud.’ The Willisons were Scots related to the Gunns and took their name from the Viking Wilson. The Willisons emigrated from Scotland to England. Stephan Willison emigrated to Canada, and then on to America. Although our family has many European ancestors, the majority were British.

The colonial American story of my mother's ancestor, William Johnson, is quite interesting and although we are related through his 'wife' Catherine (he never married in the Christian tradition), our interest focuses more on his relations, the Clauses and Dicksons, who made direct contributions to Canada. (Curiously, Sir John Johnson later collaborated politically with Walter Hamilton Dickson in Montréal during the 1837 Papineau era. Sir William's legacy to America was monumental and set the stage for a British North America.) Like him, Robert Dickson and John Claus played significant colonial roles, but in the later 1812 War. Robert Dickson's career finished with the settlement of Fort Garry, which was where Charles Arkoll Boulton played a significant role in the Riel Rebellion and then ended his colourful career as a Manitoba Senator. Many distant family members were with Wellington in the decisive 1815 Battle of Waterloo. William Henry Boulton was a powerful voice for British tradition in the 1840s fledgling Canadian Parliament in Montréal and helped lay the foundation for Confederation. Mary Jane Black and her family lived in a prairie log cabin and pioneered in Manitoba. Mary Jane later married Mervin Archdahl Armstrong, who had land in rural Oakville Ontario. Murray married Mildred Armstrong and they sold my father Alan some land). Elizabeth Boulton ordered Toronto society marriages and presided over colonial social behaviour. These men and women put significant effort into the development of Canada. Like Sir John Willison who established the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, they were builders. In this uncertain time in Canada, we would do well to copy their example.

Canadians are neither particularly unmilitary, nor dull people. Although Canadians haven’t known a private war themselves, Lieutenant Alexander Dunn from Toronto gained a Victoria Cross (VC) in the 1854 Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea. William Hall, a black man from Nova Scotia gained another VC at the Relief of the Siege at Lucknow in India in 1857. Four Canadians died with Brigadier General George Custer in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Despite the Riel Rebellions, there was never a Canadian civil war, but 45,000 Canadians fought for their ideals in the American Civil War.[2] (No doubt President Lincoln's assured $500-$1,000 hard cash promise for substitutions on behalf of wealthy New Yorkers' sons was merely incidental! However motivated, the Canadians did serve - and President Lincoln won a landslide re-election in 1864.)

Our extended Mackenzie family was built upon successful emigration to the British colonies and after a few hundred years, most of the family still remains in America, Canada, and Australia - without doubt, there are more in India and Africa. Migration in the 100 years prior to World War I (WWI) was popular and 50 million people immigrated to America. In documenting this story I have tried to maintain accuracy; however independent conclusions should be researched further from first-hand sources. If this contribution inspires such further research it will have more than justified the effort.

My interest began with Coul. Coul is a Gaelic noun meaning: a narrowing place. Initially I suspected a river narrows.[3]  There are many Scottish locations known as Coul; however, it turns out that coul in this family has a different meaning and source. The real explanation is provided by a family genealogist, Alexander Mackenzie, in his History of the Mackenzies.[4]

The first Coul was fathered as a bastard child by Colin Cam Mackenzie and Marie Mackenzie of Davochmaluag, his natural mother, took the baby (named Alexander) to Colin Cam for care. Colin Cam evidently confessed his sin to his wife Barbara and asked her for advice on how to care for the illegitmate child. She apparently replied that Colin Cam should ...put him in the 'ash hole' (cuir 'sa chuil e in gaelic - hell hath no fury like a woman scorned). Colin Cam took the child away and when asked where young Alexander was explained that he was in 'Coul' (a Chuil - Coul became a place name near Contin), hidden out of sight - apparently sounding as if Colin Cam was following his furious wife's wishes![4] This Coul is therefore an insider family pun, with an incidental location added.

Queen Victoria at Coul House, c1850

Courtesy Coul House Hotel


Sir Robert Mackenzie, Baronet of Coul, c1925

Courtesy Coul House Hotel



This site includes both genealogical and historical data. The historical documentation is primarily based on secondary sources, with no claim to scholarship. To expand my genealogical sources I have exploited many reliable, digital, genealogical databases. I have uncovered pedigrees and incorporated subjective judgmental corrections where necessary. Our family database shows the sources for individuals and their data.

I have included Princess Nesta's (1073-1154) remarkable pedigree beyond Cassivelaunus (c85 BC-c30 BC), King of the Catuvellauni and Britons when Caesar landed in Britain. This reliable pedigree is well documented in both Welch and English sources. Nesta Tewdwr Mawr was the mistress of English King Henry I and bore him two children, before he commanded her to marry our ancestor, Gerald FitzWalter (AKA de Windsor, c1090-c1125). Nor was she the only link to the Norman kings: Lord Maurice FitzGerald (c1223-1286) married Emmeline Longspee whose great-grandfather was also King Henry I.

One hundred and twenty generations reach back into times when spelling and names were treated differently and naming rules are still unclear. To put it mildly, spelling seems to be a modern sport. The reader should take note of this and treat any search with some flexibility. Gerald FitzWalter takes his name from his father Walter, which seems to be a rule at that point in c1100. However, his father was a figure of note at Windsor and Norman French was then dominant. Gerald is thus also known as Gerald de Windsor. There are also examples of people changing their names on apparent whim. Gerald FitzWalter's sister is Delicia de Windsor (by the same parents), and her two children are called Milo de Cogan and Jane de Hastings: it gets confusing quickly. Undoubtedly there were good reasons for these various names at the time, but those reasons are not always understood today. I have tried to be sensitive to the evolving English language and names. I have confused myself by not recognising that while modern English-speaking researchers may translate Enrique to Henry for their own convenience, history may better know an individual by his nationally-recognised name and thus Henry might appear simultaneously as Enrique in other documentation. I have redressed this in our own database and again caution readers accordingly.

Early Sources

The Sumerian Kings List


I have found a parent source of the FitzGerald family (and their descendants the Mackenzies). My original source was Sir E Mackenzie Mackenzie, who noted that his earliest identified ancestor, Sir Other FitzOthoere was descended from the Geraldini dukes of Florence. Sir Other FitzOthoere (c1020-c1069) is also named Otho, Oto, or Otto, and I have found his parent, identified as Lord Otterus, son of Cosimo (970-c1015), The Great, Duke of Florence. Carr P Collins describes 'Otho Geraldino' as a "...friend and companion of William the Conqueror".[5]

An explanation is also perhaps required about ancient sources. The Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc are identified by their many king lists, clay records, monumental inscriptions, parchments, papyri, etc.[6] The Egyptian priest, Manetho, wrote the Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt) in the Ptolomaic era c250BC. This was Manetho's largest work, and certainly his most important. It was organised chronologically and divided into three volumes, and his division of rulers into dynasties was an innovation. While the original is lost copies and references provide a list of Egypt's kings and some details. His work is of great interest to Egyptologists, and is often used as evidence for the chronology of the reigns of pharaohs. Manetho is known to have had access to older king lists, some of which also survive.

Mesopotamian kings are also well documented. The Bible's Old Testament, augmented by Josephus, is also a useful reference, as many historical figures are verified from across the entire Middle East. The older Mesopotamian cultures recorded details in an early cuneiform script. Between half a million and two million cuneiform tablets are estimated to have been excavated in modern times. Of these, only approximately 100,000 have been published. The adjacent image is of a 4,000 year-old cuneiform tablet, found at ancient Nippur, Iraq. Incomplete lists of Assyrian kings have been found in Assyria's three capitals: Aššur, Dur-Šarukkin, and Nineveh.

Greek, Roman, Indian, Chinese and many Asian cultures are smilarly documented. Few of these ancient records are complete. To Plutarch we owe much of our understanding of the historical Roman emperors and senior figures. Similarly, Herodotus (c 484–425 BC) left us 'The Histories' a systematic, critical account of his known world of Greeks and Persians. It was Herodotus who first coined the word 'history'.

Although a large amount of data is collected here, most of the facts are readily available in libraries and on the internet. Readers should treat specific details (such as birth dates for ancient relatives, or the year a Spanish fort was built) with some caution. Be assured that I have tried to maintain the highest standards of accuracy in an uncertain task.


1      This is further confirmed in an article by J Horace Round in "The Ancestor". Further genealogical evidence, gathered from primary sources, is also at www.jbending.demon.co.uk.

2      Jim Lotz, Canadians at War, p. 19. This curiosity resulted from President Abraham Lincoln's enabling draft-substitution to avoid military service at an individual cost of several hundred dollars to ease the conscription tension in the wealthy Northern states. This was bitterly contested by the Irish in New York, but the money attracted Canadians.

3      The Spanish term coulee derives from Latin and French and means small stream, dry streambed, or small ravine and thus a gully.  The Gaelic word seems to have the same sense of narrowing. Of course this coul and coulee had nothing in common, although there are other places named coul with that meaning.

4      See http://www.fullbooks.com/History-Of-The-Mackenzies11.html.

5      Carr P Collins, Royal Ancestors of Magna Charta Barons, p. 102.

6      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_ancient_kings; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manetho; http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-asia/sumerian-king-list-still-puzzles-historians-after-more-century-research-001287; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutarch;

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