Cousin Janet and her husband Ian Harding visited Strathpeffer and the Clan Chief, the Earl of Cromartie, in 1993. My wife Pamela and I visited Castle Leod, Coul House Hotel, and the western Scottish coast in 1994. We had no opportunity to visit either Lochbroom or Castle Eilean Donan, which are both on the West Coast, but toured the area of Kintail. Kintail is now a Scottish national park and is very rough country. Sadly, Kintail is still largely empty with large vistas of magnificent views, including the area around Loch Alsh (see later photograph). Worse, emigration out of Scotland apparently continues at about 15,000 per year: still we did note about 20 pages of Mackenzies (with various spellings) in the Inverness telephone book.


In 1692 Campbells settled an old score massacring MacDonalds here in Glencoe



My Granny Mackenzie regaled me with stories of a family claim to both the Earldom of Seaforth and the Baronetcy of Coul. These are Scottish titles and so much of our story revolves around Scotland. Whatever was key to this inheritance either my Granny did not know, or I have forgotten. In any event, the story was that Kenneth McKenzie, her father-in-law, originated these claims. Upon his announcement Canadian Mackenzie relatives pooled money and traveled to Edinburgh to claim the Earldom: they lost! WW I began and everybody else lost interest. The title went to a Nova Scotian - Mackenzie-Stuart. She had no heirs and so that title then reverted to the Lord Lyon, on behalf of the Crown. The Earl of Cromartie is now the Mackenzie Clan Chief and the Seaforth title is extinct. The claim to Coul remains. Scottish independence is gone, despite a new British federation, but Scots have become a global family and there are many in Canada and the United States.

By my research, the Mackenzies all descend from the Italian Dukes of Tuscany via the Irish FitzGeralds, through Gerald FitzGerald, Baron of Kintail.[1] He was the third son of Sir Thomas FitzGerald, Baron Geashill, by his second wife, Eleanor Morris. Apparently he fought well in the battle of Callan in 1262, in honour of which he was called Callan, now softened to Colin. Gerald/Callan moved to Scotland with his men, and he died in 1278. As a proven warrior, he and his men came to the notice of King Alexander III, of Scots, and Gerald helped Alexander win the last battle against the Vikings led by King Haakon at Largs in 1263. Gerald/Callan married Lady Margaret Stewart in c1265. His stepbrother was John FitzGerald FitzThomas, Earl of Kildare, although Crawfurd says the earl was his father.[2]

"The original Charter of the Lands of Kintail, by King Alexander III. to this Colino Hybernio, is in the Hands of the Earl of Seaforth, and was kindly communicated to me by that noble Lord and excellent Antiquary the Earl of Cromarty, who wrote an Essay on his own Name and Family of the Mackenzies, which is in many Hands in M.S. The most exact Copy I have seen of these Memoirs, is in the Custody of Mr. John Mackenzie of Delvin, who very civilly gave me the Perusal of it, and allowed me to take Notes from it.] From Kenneth, the Son of the first Colin, his Descendants are call'd Mackenneths by the Highlanders, and English'd Mackenzie."[3]

Colin FitzGerald and his heirs built a power base at Eilean Donan, near the Isle of Skye, where it guards the seaward entrance to Kintail lands. The location was a necessary Scots' defence against the Vikings and English. Splinter Mackenzie sons and grandsons, not all legitimate, founded cadet clans. (There are 2,200 Mackenzies in the accompanying database.) By 1600, these families were reduced to five main cadet clans including that of Alexander, a bastard son of Colin 'Cam' Mackenzie of Kintail. Alexander founded the Coul line and gained a charter from King James VI for a 40,000-acre barony, which he assembled with help from Lord Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail as a reward for valour in battle and prudent advice. In his turn, Alexander fathered Kenneth who was created the first baronet of Coul.

In 1620, Alexander sired Kenneth Mackenzie of Coul in the parish of Contin.[4] Kenneth was "...in great favour with king Charles II. Charles created him baronet by his royal patent; to him and to the heirs-male of his body, 16 October, 1673."[5] The Scots inheritance is based on mediaeval primogeniture law. Thus, a first-born male will inherit in preference to any other. The title passed down via senior blood males.



Dr Jean Dunlop, The Clan Mackenzie,

Much Mackenzie history is ancient, but these were the personal heraldic arms of the Mackenzie Earls of Seaforth, the Clan Chiefs. Actually, as Alan Mackenzie pointed out, the Mackenzies of Kintail were the hereditary Clan Chiefs and then became the Earls of Seaforth. Colin, the First Earl of Seaforth, was also the Second Baron Mackenzie of Kintail and the Thirteenth Baron of Kintail. (This does get a little confusing!) Actually, the drawing incorporates the Seaforth arms within a whole achievement. The arms relate to the shield, but the remainder of the above device represents a form of status. King Alexander III granted the stag's head as arms as a reward to Gerald FitzGerald (whose grandson was the first Kenneth Mackenzie) for saving him from being gored by a wild stag in c1264. Gerald was granted a feudal barony for helping Alexander defeat the Vikings at the 1263 battle of Largs. Only peers, selected baronets, and a limited number of knights are allowed supporters (in this case, the naked Scots holding the shield).

Similarly the crown on top of the shield is actually called a coronet and shows five pearls, whereas the Queen's crown shows eighteen. The helmet (or helm) has a prescribed five visor guards and faces the left (or sinister) side. The draping on top of the helm is silk (to keep the sun off the Crusaders' necks), lined for peers with ermine. Each recorded knight's achievements included a crest, in this case a burning mountain, symbolic of the Mackenzie warning fires of the fourteenth century.


My great-grandfather Kenneth McKenzie was born in 1837 and told his children that he had emigrated to Canada (in the mid-1800s) as an heir to the Baronetcy of Coul and the Earldom of Seaforth.[6] He might well have been heir to the Coul baronetcy, because his father was a George, who might have been George, third son of Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, the VIIth baronet of Coul. Sir George died in 1848 and his two eldest sons followed each other through the title without children; and not finding an heir to the by then dead third son, George, the Baronetcy went to the fourth son, Robert Ramsay.

The children of the baronet's third son George should have succeeded to the title, despite George having died in Madeira in 1839. Although no marriage is recorded for the Baronet's third son, he might have married without family acknowledgement and had children, of whom, my great-grandfather Kenneth was the eldest surviving male. Because my great-grandfather, Kenneth, was insistent this is what I have accepted. George may have had family trouble, perhaps caused by his father's radical stand on the brutal Highland clearances. Sadly I just do not know the explanation.

If George had married and fathered Kenneth, and if Kenneth was alive in remote Upper Canada when Sir Robert Ramsay succeeded to the title on 21 December 1868, then the entitled heir was Kenneth and thus his line.[7] The Coul family seat was Contin (near Inverness) and the family mansion is now the Coul House Hotel, with the land sold off. Sir Robert, sold the family estates and moved to London in the 1930s. Sir Robert's wife died in 1953 and left him childless.[8] I have given notice of family interest in the Coul Baronetcy to the Scottish King of Arms, the Lord Lyon, who advised me to take council from Sir Crispin Agnew, the Rothsay Herald of Arms, which I have done.[9]

Tracing the large amounts of data, getting the facts straight and then correlating family and historical events is not easy. I suspect at least errors of etiquette concerning ancient feudal titles despite advice from the English College of Arms. Such errors are my own responsibility and a product of haste. I have created a model for historical family organisation, which others may find useful. I have begun with a chronology to orient the family and a series of history essays. There is a complete genealogical database here (with sources and notes). Necessarily I have focused on the larger issues and there are bound to be errors of detail here.

Since much of this research was conducted in Europe, current Canadian relatives are sparse while I have been able to find historical figures in various sources. As a result, I have taken all my first cousins and my own family pedigrees back as far as I have been able. There are undoubtedly other names that would profit by research, but I have had limited means. The early FitzGerald pedigree is of interest, because (with various marriages) we can trace both backwards and forwards about 1,000 years. Many of the sources quoted are unique documents from various families, including senior FitzGerald and Mackenzie chiefs.

We should note that ultimately we are all related somehow and I believe that that is all that this research proves. That the mediaeval Europeans intermarried amongst social classes is hardly surprising and thus the breadth of ancient kinship ties to noble figures is equally unsurprising. Still, linking this family story together has been interesting. How else would we have learned of our Welsh, Irish, Viking, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, and other ancestors? It's a long story. 


"Family history can and does make an important contribution to history generally."[11] This is a family story, recounting Scots' history and British emigration to the Canadian colonies and providing insight into the motivations behind our ancestors' actions. Although our Mackenzie history begins about 900 AD and my mother's Boulton history about 1000 AD, events in that era do not much concern us in Canada. Many such events have caused chain-reactions, however, which do continue to affect us today. The Mackenzies and the Willisons and Dicksons emigrated from one world and into another. Why and what were the consequences of their emigration to Canada? How did William Henry Boulton and Walter Dickson help shape Canadian Confederation (there is a Boulton Street near parliament in Ottawa)? What motivated Colonel Moore to raise a cavalry regiment at his own cost? Why was Sir William Johnson able to negotiate so effectively with the Indians and make such an enormous contribution to America? These events are linked to history, principally Scottish.

To try to understand our history we must begin at the beginning. Sir Other FitzOthoere is described as having contributed 60 ships to the Conquest of Britain and founding our family - which I cannot validate.[12] The Scots were an Irish Celtic tribe that emigrated to Western 'Alba' in the fifth century and gave their name to Scotland. How the Vikings sailed their longboats into modern Strathpeffer and the Castle Leod estates is revealing. Eleventh century Scotland's sea level was 20-25 feet lower than today due to tectonic plate shifts. As a consequence, the Cromarty Firth then extended five miles further inland along Strathpeffer river.[13]

The Battle of Largs was fought in 1263, near Glasgow, with Gerald (Colin) FitzGerald's aid, to end Viking influence in Scotland. FitzGerald's grandson was the first Mackenzie who began to fill the Highland political vacuum. After the Vikings, all Scots acknowledged their own kings, beginning with the Norman Bruces. Robert I settled in the Lowlands in the twelfth century and Mackenzie power rose with the new sense of Scottish nationalism. Growing Scottish nationalism distracted both Edward II and Edward III from the Crusades. The Mackenzies were easily one of the more powerful Scots families of their time and eventually controlled three earldoms, seven baronetcies, as well as a controversial marquisate. However, their time ended with the Act of Union in 1707 and the subsequent 1715 and 1745 Scottish rebellions against that Scottish union with England.

Analysis here is dependent upon basic genealogical facts, which are now known in outline form. They are available as a digital reference in this web site to provide an orientation to the complex interrelationships. Large-scale maps, gazetteers and histories are probably necessary to extract value from this research. Many Mackenzie historical actions occurred in a very small area and are not understandable without a basic grasp of the scale of the locale. There is also a linkage between the Highland clearances and emigrations and English economic expansion, which together destroyed Scotland's economy. Similarly, without a grasp of the political background to the War of 1812 the reader cannot fully understand the reasons for American actions in Canada. Robert Dickson and his social status amongst the Indians are critical to understanding the success of his role in assisting Major General Brock. European revolutions, notably the French, and the industrial revolutions caused 16.8 million British and Irish to emigrate in the period 1821-1910, primarily to America and Canada.

I have translated mediaeval currencies, place names and surnames, which have changed considerably. I have converted historical currency figures into modern European currencies (primarily British £ Sterling), but I have not attempted to modernise the values. Similarly, I have updated most names to their accepted modern equivalents. I have sometimes provided etymological backgrounds where I felt that might be either of interest or as a clarification of the obscure.

Curiously, the four main Colonial families identified here all come together in Canadian national history. This is best expressed in the 1812 War and the later conflict surrounding the Upper Canadian Family Compact that involved three of the families in a violent conflict. I have also examined Field Marshal, the Duke of Wellington's officer list for the Battle of Waterloo and I made a cursory analysis of the 62 extended-family members who served with him. Furthermore, Sir John Johnson and Walter Dickson were allied in the 1837 Papineau Rebellion in Montréal, and Robert Dickson, Charles Arkoll Boulton and Mary Jane Black followed each other through Fort Garry. A Mackenzie-raised regiment fought for Sir Colin Campbell both at Balaclava and at the Relief of Lucknow. In Montréal, William Henry Boulton fought with Sir Robert Baldwin, the House leader, defining reform, bounding British rule and helping to create the conditions for the peaceful 1867 Confederation of British North American colonies into a Dominion of Canada.

These individuals all acted within the dynamics of their own times and there was much overlap between Canada and the United States. The Willison's onward migration from Canada to the United States is a case in point. Thus, changing loyalties influenced colonial motivations and may distort later interpretation. As time and resources allow, the following research will be updated to incorporate new information. The incidental Mackenzie of Coul pedigree may act as an engine for this change. Lord John, the Earl of Cromartie, is an active man, with a young family. He intends to bring in tourists and change the small village of Strathpeffer. He will focus on the Mackenzie Clan and his own home, Castle Leod. He visited both Australia and Toronto , Canada in 1994. One of my sons, Colin, took his family to the Strathpeffer Mackenzie Clan Reunion in 2005.


1             Sir E Mackenzie Mackenzie, The Genealogy of the Stem of the Family of Mackenzie, p 2.

2             George Crawfurd, Esq., The Peerage Of Scotland, pp. 435-436. Examination of facts shows that this couldn't be so, since Gerald/Callam would not then have been old enough to have fought at Callam. (See my examination of the facts at Specific Pedigrees.)

3             Ibid.

4             After much searching I found Coul. It is north of Inverness and a mile south east of the village of Contin. Both Coul and Coul House are marked on a British Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Inverness map. Sir George Mackenzie built Coul mansion in 1821, when the Coul estates contained 43,189 acres in Rossshire; and Sir Alexander Mackenzie built a 'Dower' house a mile Southwest. A surviving baroness was given a dower home for her retirement clearing the way for the succeeding baronet to 'take over'. My sister Penny's friend Rory Mackenzie in Calgary claims the Mackenzie of Scatwell Baronetcy. Scatwell is four miles West of Coul house. The Mackenzie Clan Chief is now the Earl of Cromartie who lives at Castle Leod, two miles NE of Coul House, at Strathpeffer. Lord Cromartie (the district is Cromarty) renovated his castle for tourists, and to encourage Mackenzie Clan activity. The Mackenzie Barons of Kintail were hereditary Clan Chiefs, elevated to become the Earls and Marquesses of Seaforth. They split their time between Eilean Donan Castle on the Scottish West Coast in Kintail and their estates in the East, near Coul. Seaforth is the name of a loch on the Island of Lewis, which was granted as a Barony by James IV and pacified by Lord Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. The Mackenzies were a powerful family in the 1500s and like the Vikings used galleys on western Scottish fjords (lochs) to provide them mobile forces. The last hereditary Earl of Seaforth died at Brahan Castle, two miles east of Coul House. Seaforth estates were gambled away and today only three Highland regiments now recall Seaforth power.

5            History of the Mackenzies, p. 448, notes Sir Kenneth was Sheriff-Principal of Ross and Inverness, also Burkes Baronage of Scotland, p.400. Most data concerning the Coul lineage are from Burkes Peerage and Baronetage, and Landed Gentry, The Scots Peerage, Creations 1665-1707, pp. 296-298. McNie Clan Mackenzie, p. 23, described an earlier Mackenzie of Coul incident c1590, in which Mackenzie of Coul gave his life for his Chief and the Clan.

6             The Burke's Peerage World Book of Mackenzies, pp. 5.1-5.9, provides a listing of immigrant Mackenzies to various New World ports from 1680-1896. It further estimates a current (1990's) Mackenzie population in Canada of 16,284, in the U.S. of 15,530 and in Britain of 33,845. There was an historic British court case contesting the then vacant Seaforth Earldom. Eventually this went to a daughter, Lady Hood, who re-married James Stewart, grandson of the Earl of Galloway. Their son was called Stewart-Mackenzie. That line has since died out also and the Earldom reverted to the Lord Lyon, King of Arms for Scotland.

7            George Mackenzie, third son of Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, VII Baronet of Coul, is specifically named as Kenneth's father by Kenneth's grandson, also called George. Kenneth's specific historical details derive from discussions and correspondence with Sir Crispin Agnew and Mrs Cory (an Edinburgh genealogist). For inheritance rules, see Moncreiffe & Pottinger, Simple Heraldry, p.17.

8           For background Mackenzie history, see Jean Dunlop, The Clan Mackenzie, or Alan McNie op. cit. Most Coul Baronets' personal histories are taken from Burke's, op. cit.

9            Sir Crispin has advised me to respect our family tradition (of a Coul linkage). He described a recent similar Campbell case, reversing the lineal claim in deference to a senior Canadian line. If George fails the simple test of having been in Madeira during Kenneth's birth period, he is not ours. In that event we will search senior Coul branches for other possibiities. Mrs Cory's successor is Mr Hodgson was unable to continue to identity Kenneth's parents however, there was a fire in Ullapool!

10          I have shown some direct blood relatives here. A more complete listing of all known blood relatives would be overwhelming. I have indicated a further lineage back to Cassivelaunus and there are many other historical figures in the database. They are all related, either by blood or marriage, and include much of the European royalty. I have incorporated both sources and historical notes to augment the bare database details.

11          Field, Step-by-Step Guide to Tracing Your Ancestors, p. 4. Mr Field notes the difference between the genealogical interest in establishing facts and relationships, and the family historian who wants to understand his subject.

12          The claim is made by Mackenzie-Mackenzie, The Genealogy of the Stem of the Family of Mackenzie, p. 3. I can find no trace of this and I suspect that it is untrue. Other was an historical figure, is recognised as a personal friend of Duke William and was created Baron of Windsor by King Edward the Confessor, in 1056. He was of some consequence. His peculiar last name has an echo in mediaeval Norwegian names as there is an Old English text called 'The Voyage of Ohthere' as a further example of this unusual name.

13             The current Lord Cromartie is a trained geologist and he provided Pam and me this explanation during our 1994 visit to Castle Leod.

home · introduction · genealogy · background · maps · bibliography · search · contact