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MacGREGOR Septs and Aliases*

Coat of Arms of the Chief of the Clan Gregor

* Alias, from the Latin term "alias dictus" literally meaning - in another time,  written as.

Are you a MacGregor in disguise -and don't know it?  Check out the following  lists and see if your name is there.  If it is, perhaps you should check your family tree for previous name changes.  If there is no doubt, you are  really a MacGregor -

Welcome to the Family!

It has been often said that the MacGregors had the redeeming merit of 'picturesque-ness', and for that reason they occupy a larger place in Scottish literature than any other Highland clan.  Due to racial struggles between Highlanders and Lowlanders, many highland clans were persecuted as a measure to annihilate them, none more so than the MacGregors.

As every history buff knows, the MacGregors suffered more than any other clan, and had to change their family name under four proscriptions upon threat of death.

The reason for this, was pure greed on the part of those in high positions.

 No other clan has as many 'aliases' as we do.

The vast majority of those who were forced to abandon their family name for another have no recollection today of who they really are and what their unfortunate circumstances were in those times when the name 'MacGregor' struck fear into Kings and commoners alike.

When English invaders, Germanic Lowlanders and Campbell assassins hunted them down as wild beasts of the forest by day, the MacGregors struck back at night.

Although they were at first set upon by Stuart Kings, and then the Campbells; when the English turned against Scotland's Royal family, the MacGregors were called upon to defend Scotland's own.  MacGregors never flinched;  They went down with Charles II, the old Pretender (James III), and finally Bonnie Prince Charlie, after which the entire Highland population of Scotland was afforded a few of the measures that the MacGregors had for so long endured..

The result was the forced removal of an entire population from the Scottish highlands, leaving a barren lifeless landscape, where once there had been a thriving culture of united Picts and Scots.

The last Pict King of Alba was known as 

clearly indicating our Pictic roots.

From that sprung the Gaelic family name of
  Mac Grioghair
(literally - son of Grioghair)

The modern correct spelling in English is  "MacGregor "

Some variations of its spelling are listed:
MacGreigor, MacGrigor,
McGregare, McGregur, McGreigor, McGrigor, Mcgreger, Grigor, mcGrigour, Makriggour, Grigorson.

In the Glens controlled by the Clan Gregor, there were many family names that were universally known as being MacGregors.  They are listed below:

In addition - 

The names my forebears were forced assume until reprieve day were of two types;
1/ those names of their landlords and/or  protectors-
2/ those names they fabricated.

Names of MacGregor (landlords) and/or protectors (in alphabetical order):  

Campbell, Cunningham, Dougall, Douglas, Drummond, Gordon, Grant, Leitch, MacAlster, MacEwan, MacPherson, Menzies, Murray, Ramsay, Stewart, Stuart..

Author's note: People with these above names are to be forgiven for not being aware of their actual heritage.  MacGregors therein are probably lost forever being assimilated into those other families.

Note: There is a well attested and documented tradition that the MacGregors of Ardinconnell adopted the surname "Stewart" and fled to Ireland, becoming in due course Marquesses of Londonderry.

The MacGegor clan lands, at their zenith, encompassed a large and irregular area encompassing many secluded and isolated Glens (Valleys).  It was a common practice for MacGregors in  separated areas to be known under various names.  Sometimes by a person's trade, (MacLeisters and Fletchers were arrow makers) other times by his appearance.  (Malloch means big-headed)  i.e. In an historical account it was written -

'The MacIvers, or MacLivers were of Glen Lyon; the MacGruders, and Fletchers inhabited Glen Orchy; the MacNishes or MacNeishes had their abode in Glen Dochart.  But they were all MacGregors not far under the skin.  After the name was banned, they took up another forty surnames, so they could obey the letter of the Act of the Privy Council in 1606, and again in 1693.  Once again they all knew one another for who they really were - and when they were threatened, they coalesced like beads of mercury to ravage their tormentors and send chills of fear throughout the southern Highlands..'

Names some MacGregors used that were known as Septs or legal substitutes:

Alpin, Fletcher, Fisher, Greer, Gregg, Gregor, Gregorson, Gregory, Gregson, Greig, Grierson, Grigor, Gruer, (sometimes anglicized to Brewer), King, MacAdam, MacAlpine, MacAra, MacGruer, MacNie, Malloch, Neish, Patullo, Peter, Peters, Petrie, Skinner.

Names MacGregors fabricated that are documented aliases: 

Bain, Black,  Bower, Bowers, Callum, Coleman, Comrie, Dochart, Erskine, Gilmore, Lackey, Landless, Landels, Leckie, Lecky, MacAree, MacChoiter,   MacConachie, MacCrouther, McGee/Magee, MacGrewar, MacGrowther, MacGruder, MacGruther, MacIldoy, MacLaughlin, MacLeister, MacLiver, MacNee, MacNeish, MacNish, MacNey, MacNie,  MacNish,  MacPetrie,  MacMalloch,  MacStay, Neish,  Nish,  Orr, Peterkin,  Petrie, Roy, Royal, Shankland, Stirling, Stringer, White, Whyte, Willox.

Note:  Many of these names have several spelling deviations not listed here.

Names MacGregors fabricated that are traditional but with little documentation:

Argyl, Arrowsmith, Bennett, Bowmaker, Card, Cart, Carter, Caird, Callendar, Clark, Crerar, Dennison, Docharty, Docherty, Dowie, Fisher, Foxton, Gair, Goodsir, Grayson, Gudger,
Kirkwood, MacCanish, MacGrew, Moore, Mustard, Nucator, Peat, Peterson, Pyatt, Rees, Stalker, Tainsh, Walker, Wanamaker.

Author's note:  The full story of some  of these names and others, scroll down the page to "MacGregor Associated Names." Most of these above names are unique and perhaps should be reverted to the proper  "MacGregor."

And what about "McGregor"

"McGregor" is merely a misspelling of the proper form "MacGregor."  If you want further clarification, check with any "Clan Gregor" Society or with the Scottish Law Society. In the 1950s, a whisky distiller in Scotland was taken to court by the clan Gregor Society and legally forced to change the name of their brand from 'McGregor' to 'MacGregor.'    Check it out at any better liquor store in  the USA.

  Companies have been taken to court for this common misspelling and the proponents of spelling it correctly as "MacGregor"  have always won.  To prove this point, tell some stranger your name is MacGregor and watch how it is spelled when it is written down.  Government officials are not any exemption.   My own father's gravestone was
labeled 'McGregor' by the Canadian federal Department of Veterans' Affairs. (It was later replaced by me with the correct spelling).  There are usually twice as many 'McGregors' as 'MacGregors' in any city telephone book.


MacGregor Associated Names

Most associated names have a hazy history.    Sometimes they had more than one origin; also clouding the precise location  of a particular surname might be that name's proscription or of course a migrant  population.   Even the spelling of surnames was subject to great variations, shifting from Latin or Gaelic and heeding rarely to consistent spelling.  In early records, there could be several spellings of the same name.  Undoubtedly contributing to this inconsistency is the handwriting of official records, which was often open to more than one spelling interpretation.

With regard to the 'Mac' prefix, this was of course, from the Gaelic meaning "son of".  It wasn't long before it was abbreviated to 'Mc'-or-'M' until we have reached the point now where  there are  more 'Mc's than 'Mac's.

BENNETT    From Saint Benedict, a popular Saint throughout the middle ages.

BLACK   From Gaelic 'Dhu'. This nick-name was often placed on certain well-known MacGregors, not because of any "black" deeds but because of one's black hair, or sometimes a black spot (mole or birthmark) on an exposed area, such as a knee.  Sometimes this name stuck, especially when the proper "MacGregor" became unlawful.

COMRIE From a name place in Perthshire. At the time of one of the proscriptions of the MacGregors,   some of  the clan moved to Comrie on the opposite bank from the village, from which they assumed the name.

DOCHART   This is one of the more interesting of the MacGregor pseudonyms.   One day, a group of the clan, while being pursued as outlaws, escaped by swimming a river running out of Loch Dochart.  In gratitude for their deliverance they assumed the family name of 'Dochart.' 

FLETCHER   Originating  from French, "fleche" (arrow), "flechier", (arrow-maker), with Fletcher a  later corruption.   This family was one of the earliest MacGregor Septs and were traditional arrow makers to the MacGregors.  These 'Fletcher' MacGregors  originally inhabited the most difficult parts of Glenorchy, Achallader and  Baravurich.  Their stronghold was Achalladar Castle, on the shores of Loch  Tulla.  Ewin Flegicare granted remission for holding Dumbarton Castle against the  king in 1489.   In 1631, a Fletcher of Innerpeffray, was listed as Flesher, then in 1647 as Flescheur.

GAIR    From Gaelic "gearr" (short) Ewin McVean Gair of Urquhart was fined for reset (giving assistance) to Clan Gregor.  John Dow Gair, of Clan MacGregor, was killed at Enzie, Kieth, Aberdeenshire.

GRANT   Close relatives of the MacGregors, descended from a "Gregor Mhor MacGregor", who lived in the 12th century.   They helped the Clan Gregor capture Castle Freuchie from the Comyns.  They were later routinely afforded protection by MacGregor chiefs, including Rob Roy, who attached two MacGregor runners to the Grants at Strathsprey in case help was ever needed.    

GREGOR, GREGORSON, GREGORY are Variants of the early clan name.  Under the name Gregory, many MacGregors fled to the lowlands where they excelled as scholars and professionals.  In his lifetime, Rob Roy was a guest of his Gregory cousin who was a professor of medicine at the University of Aberdeen.

GREIG First appeared  commonly in Fife and the north-east.   Patrick Grige, burgess of Aberdeen, 1488.     Johannes Greg, Aberdeen common councilor, 1502.  David Greg, Stirling councilor,  1522.   The Norwegian composer's Scottish ancestry from John Greig of Fraserburgh.    

GRIER Often thought abbreviation of MacGregor.  Also later diminutive of Grierson..  (See next paragraph).

Comes from Dumfriesshire [a place called Lag].  The earliest MacGregors there arrived in the 14th century and used " Grierson" though sometimes, it was later shortened to Grier.  The Grierson family is descended from Gilbert, 2nd son of Malcolm, 11th (The Lame) Lord of MacGregor (died 1374), and ally of Robert the Bruce.  This Gilbert MacGregor took the name of Grierson, in accordance with charters granted in 1400, by George de Dunbar, Earl of March, conveying the Lands of Airde, Tyrcrome, Overholm, Netherholm, and Dalgarnock, in the Barony of Tybris, to him and his male heirs using the name of  Grierson.  

John Greyson or Grierson, about 1526-59 was a provincial friar at Perth.  At Kincardine, many names were Grierson, formerly M'Gregor.

GRIGOR   Variant of Gregor.   The northern Grigors are mostly descended from 300 MacGregors, whom the Earl  of Moray moved in 1624 to the north from his Monteith estate, to protect against the similarly fierce MacIntoshes.

GRUER See MacGruer.

KING   Spread throughout  Scotland at an early time, including shires of
Berwick, Fife and Aberdeen.   Some proscribed MacGregors are known to have assumed the name.

LANDELS   A corruption of "Landless" that was assumed by a family of MacGregors who lost land in the Grampians area and were recorded, through baptisms, in Edinburgh about 1607.  The "S" was added later. 

MACADAM From Gaelic, MacAdaim, son of Adam. The famous road builder, John MacAdam, who fled to Ayrshire in the first half of the 16th century was a descendant of a MacGregor.

MACARA From Gaelic for, (Charioteer. Still current in Perthshire the Macaras are a MacGregor sept, originally around Balquhidder and Crieff.

MACCONACHIE   From Gaelic "MacDhornchaidh",( son of Duncan).  According to clan authority Frank Adam, MacConachie is derived from Duncan, 17th Chief of Clan MacGregor, who had three sons by  his second wife.

MCGEE, MCGEHEE   One of the simplest aliases to explain;   What could be simpler than to merely take the first letter of "GREGOR" as a surname and simultaneously thumb your nose at the authorities?

MACGROWTHER, MACGRUDER, MACGRUER       From Gaelic Macgrudaire, (brewer.) This professional name sometimes became  Brewer but 'Mac' prefix followed by grudaire variants were common, particularly in South Perthshire.   Many of this name and its variants were followers of MacGregor and Drummond.  

MACIVER   Many MacGregor clansmen travelled westward with Alexander II's army to quell a rebellion by the MacDonalds in Argyleshire in 1221.  The MacDonalds and the MacLeods were at that time loyal only to the Kings of  Norway, and the Scottish kings were anxious to bring them into line.  To ensure this area remained loyal to the Scottish throne, these soldiers were awarded lands in Lergachonzie and Askonish.  In 1688, the "MacIvers" were forced to take the name of Campbell, as punishment for  Iver of Asknish's part in a rebellion.    The MacIver sept had their own tartan which closely replicated that of the MacGregors. 

MACNEE, MACNIE  From Irish  Mac niadh, which is a variant of Macneidhe, son of Nia, the champion.  Macnia was a district king in county Down, 702AD.  Donald McNie and Gillemoire  McNie were fined in Balquhidder, 1613, for receiving stolen property from Clan Gregor.   (MacGregors under the skin, eh?)

MACSTAY, MCSTAY  One day, a group of MacGregors swore an oath they would never change their name from MacGregor, that they would stay with "MacGregor" forever, come what may.  Later, when they were forced upon pain of death to change their name, in a show of defiance, they chose "MacStay" for a reason only they were cognizant of.

MALLOCH  Two possible  origins for name.  Mallochs were MacGregors who changed their names at the time of the proscription and/or they were named because of an ancestor with  heavy eyebrows.   Duncan Malloche , an officer in Urquhart was fined for receiving stolen property from Clan MacGregor, 1613.

ORR,  Three possible origins for this name: a common name early in Renfrewshire, likely after an old family there, or from the Gaelic 'odhar', (sallow complexion, colourless).  Those in these groups  were originally MacGregor followers (septs).  Also, some took the last syllable of Greg, which actually is the strongest emphasized part of the name, (so as not to be confused with 'Greger', which is incorrect.)

PETER, PETERS, PETRIE   From personal name, a rock, in Latin and Greek, and possibly former MacGregors  assumed name at time of clan's proscription.  Probably from an old Gaelic saying (in English),  'MacDonalds are the heather and MacGregors are the rock.'   A certain  'John Peter' was charged in 1636 with  resetting MacGregors.

ROYAL,  A name taken from the MacGregor clan motto, and used extensively in England by MacGregors there.    

Occupational derivation for name, flayer of hides, Latin (pelliparius).

SHANKLAND, A subsect of the MacGregors.  Created before 1500 in the Drumfries area.  Descended from the Grierson (MacGregor) family.  The Register of the Great Seal extant had a record of "John Shankland" with surname variations of Shankieland, Shankilaw, Schankland, Shankill and Shanklin with references to property at Leamingtom, Lanarkshire, Scotland and a seized estate in Ireland, (as a result of fighting on the losing side in the Battle of the Boyne).

STIRLING & SKIRLING,  Recent Y-DNA tests have proven  these two families and their derivatives are more tightly related to the main MacGregor line than many who have the surname MacGregor!   Statistical analysis suggests their separation from the main MacGregor line happened anywhere from 450-800 years ago, and further analysis seems to suggest that the Skirlings may have had their origins in the original MacGregor homeland of GlenOrchy

WHITE, WHYTE    From old Gaelic, 'ban'.  White, as personal name and nickname. Whyte is also Anglicized from Gaelic 'M'Illebhain.'  It is also believed these two names were assumed by Clan Gregor members at the times of the clan's several proscriptions.
It must be remembered that the ancient Picts were named "Albiones" (white skinned ones) by the Greek merchant/seamen who first met them.

And what about Ireland?  Many MacGregor pseudonyms appear to have originated from Ireland, as that is where many of our families emigrated from.  The answer is simple:  When things got too hot in Scotland, many MacGregors fled to Ireland, where their new neighbours didn't necessarily know or care about their family background.    After a considerable influx of outlawed Highlanders into Ireland, that place took on a special attraction to persecuted Highlanders,- before Ireland became over-populated and the overseas colonies became available to them.
There was also an ongoing program of replacing disenfranchised Irish rebels with loyal Scottish Protestants, especially in the "Ulster" area.  Many of these emigrants were MacGregors under assumed names. So many Scots emigrated to northern Ireland, that they  formed a majority of the population in Ulster, and still do today.

Did you know that Ireland was known to the Romans and to their world as "Scotia" for hundreds of years?  The sea raiders from Ireland who harassed the Romans in England were known as "Scotti".

An alphabetical listing of MacGregor pseudonyms

Alpin, Argyl, Arrowsmith, Bain, Balfour, Beachley, Begland, Bennett, Black, Bower, Bowers, Bowmaker, Brewer, Brimer, Buchanan, Caird, Card, Cart, Carter, Callander, Callum, Campbell, Clark, Coleman, Comrie, Craigdallie, Crerar, Crowther, Cunningham, Dennison, Denson, Dochart, Docharty, Docherty, Dougalson, Douglas, Dowie, Drummond, Erskine, Fergusson, Fisher, Fletcher, Gair, Geuer, Goodlad, Goodsir, Gordon, Gragg, Graham, Grant, Grear, Greear, Greer, Greig, Gregg, Greir, Gregor, Gregorson, Gregory, Gregson, Grewar, Grey, Greyson, Grier, Greason, Greerson, Greirson, Grierson, Griesck, Grigg, Grigor, Gruer, Gudger, Guiness, Johnson, Johnston, Johnstone, King, Kirkpatrick, Kirkwood, Lackey, Laikie, Landless, Leckie, Lecky, Livingston, Livingstone, MacAlastair, MacAdam, MacAdams, MacAinsh, MacAlaster, MacAldowie, MacAldowie, MacAlester, MacAlpin, MacAlpine, MacAndrew, MacAngus, MacAnish, MacAra, MacAree, MacAulay, MacCainsh, MacCance, MacCansh, MacChoiter, MacConachie, MacCondach, MacCondochie, MacConnochi, MacCruiter, MacCrouther, MacCrowther, MacDougal, MacDougall, MacEan, MacEwen, MacGeach, MacGehee, MacGrew, MacGrewar, MacGrigor, MacGrory, MacGrouther, MacGrowther, MacGruder, MacGruer, MacGrumen, MacGruther, MacIldowie, Macildny, MacIlduff, MacIlduy, MacInnes, MacInstalker, MacIntyre, MacIver, MacIvor, MacKinnon, MacLeister, MacLiver, MacNab,  MacNay, MacNea, MacNee, MacNeice, MacNeish, MacNess, MacNey, MacNie, MacNiesh, MacNish, MacNocaird, MacNucator, MacPeter, MacPetrie, MacStay, MacVie, MacWilliam, Magian, MaGrew, McAlpine, McDonald, McDougal, McEwan, McGee, McGehee, McGreer, McGrier, MaGruder, McIan, McIain,  McLaren, McNeil, McNicol, McWilliam, Malloch, Menzies, Murray, Neilson, Neish, Nelson, Nice, Nish, Nucator, O'Greer, Orr, Paterson, Patterson, Pattullo, Peat, Peter, Peterkin, Peters, Peterson, Petrie, Ramsay, Robertson, Roy, Royal, Shankland, Sinclair, Skinner, Stalker, Stewart, Stirling, Stringer, Stuart, Tainsh, Tossack, Walker, Weliver, White, Whyte, Wilcox, Willox, Wilson.

Code:  Names in Purple are surnames that were assumed from within branches of  the Siol Alpin Confederacy, of which the Clan Gregor was the senior member.   Names  in Blue  are surnames of non-MacGregor families assumed to gain the protection of  certain sympathetic branches of those families.  The surnames in black are invented names to afford instant protection from the authorities who considered the use of MacGregor as a capital offence. (Many families adopted the Christian name of the father as their surname.)  It should be noted that the use of all of these above listed assumed names were at the time deemed to be merely temporary.