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Lairds and Sinclairs?
I realise that conventional references (as quoted by Gary in a previous
exchange) have the "Lairds" as a family coming from the south of Scotland -
Berwick and Peebles, but there has been some interesting correspondence in
the Laird "rootsweb" discussion pages, which points us back, at least in
part, to an origin which is common with the Sinclairs. So much so that I am
beginning to doubt the often quoted "southern" origins. The first
references are to the surname "Lanerd" and "Lawird". Sinclair has not
changed so much throughout the last 1000 years, so I wonder why "Laird"
should have. The story one Laird family has in the USA is that the "Lairds"
were descended from a warlord "Hlawford" from Saxony, in Germany, who
settled in Aberdour, Buchan, Aberdeenshire. This story was supposed to have
been found by a Heraldic Commissioner in Chancery in London. The College of
Arms in London have investigated their records and confirm that there is
nothing too it. We were able to check the other elements in the story which
prove to be correct. I am keeping my own family's information about our
origins in my webpage "http://ourworld.cs.com/inslaird/". I posted the
following message to the Laird discussion group.
"Now that the "German" origin of Lairds would appear to have been dismissed
by the College of Arms (at least as far as the factual references to
Chancery, the "heraldic role" of H Harnage, genealogy and a grant of Arms in
England are concerned), it is worth remembering that there are many other
elements of the letter of W T Laird that are correct. I am sure he believed
the story he was told.
There were Lairds at Aberdour in Buchan, Aberdeenshire. The modern town is
New Aberdour, but it is still a parish name. There was a castle and before
that a fort at Dundargue at Aberdour Bay of great antiquity. The area
suffered in the attempts to retain James VII as King against William of
Orange, and there had been fighting there during the Civil War in Scotland
some 50 years earlier.
There was a Henry Harnage in Shropshire, on the Severn. I have checked
further into his ancestry through the IGI. His father was from Blackfriars
in London and his father in turn was possibly named Blackman, and was born in
the West Indies. They appear to have been rather "grand" but may have made
their money in the West Indies and had certainly created a position for
themselves. Perhaps they took the few facts that W T Laird's brother knew
and made something more of it to achieve more status for a prospective
Perhaps he was aware of William Laird of Glenhuntly - if it is the Glen or
Strath near modern Strathbogie and Huntly Castle, it was only 35 miles away.
William Laird's Arms have the Stag's Head of Rollo as the crest. Rollo was a
real warlord. He was a Viking with a large following, and raided in the
North Sea to the extent that the French King granted him the land that became
Normandy, and gave rise to the Norman people. It was the Vikings who
dominated the seas in the 900s and 1000s and their domination continued
until the Battle of Largs. For 600 years Scotland, down to Perth was part of
the Kingdom of Norway.
So perhaps the Arms he refers to are those of William Laird of Glenhuntly.
And the warlord is a memory of Rollo. So I believe all still points back to
Norway. This is what my family remembers. And it is the Sinclairs who are
the direct descendants of Rollo. And I believe the Lairds, in Caithness at
least, have always been alongside the Sinclairs. Perhaps in Aberdeenshire
they were with that other great Norman Clan, the Gordons. Both families
clung to catholicism and the Stuarts too long for their own good in a
protestant dominated Scotland, though my family has been Scots Presbyterian
(Church of Scotland) as long as we can remember. Politics and religion
rarely separate in Scots and Irish history and dominate the scene in Ireland
to this day.
There may still be a southern Scots origin of Laird, as in the conventional
references, but I still think most of us should look to Norway for our
Again I would point you to the Sinclair "Discussion" website at
"www.mids.org/sinclair/" which is a great store of information and history
from Norway in the 900s to Rosslyn near Edinburgh in the 14th Century , and
Caithness from the 900s.
But this is still speculation, so we keep looking!
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