When and How the Flemish came to Scotland

This posting is the second in the blog series on themes that will be addressed at the June 2016 conference in St. Andrews.  One session, described below, will examine the movement to Scotland of the Flemish—the aristocratic Flemings as well as artisans and religiously persecuted—who arrived in the medieval and early modern periods 


This session will examine when and how various groups of Flemish people came to Scotland in the medieval and early modern periods.  It will provide an overview of the factors that led to the migration at various times.

One of the major issues surrounding the arrival of the aristocratic Flemish in Scotland in the 12th century is what brought them north and where they (or their ancestors) were before that.  It is possible that the Fleming family, for instance, may have been previously in Wales where there were people with names identical to those later found in Upper Clydesdale.  Then there are questions as to the movement to Scotland of some other major Scottish families with possible Flemish origins—for instance the Murrays, Sutherlands, and Lindsays.

There are also issues surrounding the later Flemish migrants.  These include the question of when the Flemish weavers and other artisans arrived, where they came from (England or directly from Flanders) and where they settled.

Finally, there is a question surrounding the religiously persecuted Flemish who may have come to Scotland in the mid 16th to early 17th centuries.  At issue here is why and when these migrations to Britain took place, how many of them likely came to Scotland, and what routings they may have taken. 

Main Participants 

Dr. Alex Fleming will chair the session and is a co-sponsor of, and researcher in the Scotland and the Flemish People Project.  He is also editor of the blog attached to the project. Now retired, he is an international economist by training.

Charles Rigg is a Trustee and member of the Interpretive Design Team of Biggar and Upper Clydesale Museum. A centrepiece of the new museum, which opened in 2015, is the impact of the ancient Fleming family on the local area.  Before retiring Charles was a secondary school history teacher.

Dr. David Dobson is currently a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews.  His research interests are focused mainly on the Scottish Diaspora as well as Scottish history in the Early Modern Period.

George English is a Director of the family history service Research Through People. He has undertaken extensive genealogical and historical research and published work in United Kingdom, United States and Europe. He has a special interest in the issue of religious persecution in the Low Countries.



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What is DNA telling us about our Flemish origins?

This posting is part of the blog series on themes that will be addressed at the June 2016 conference in St. Andrews. This posting looks at the content of the DNA session.


Genetic genealogical analysis has developed rapidly in recent years with new techniques being applied to an ever-increasing volume of data from samples of DNA taken from individuals, much of it pertaining to Y-DNA passed down through the male line. This session reports on the first results of the DNA component of The Scotland and the Flemish People Project that has been ongoing over the past three years. The goal of this work has been to help confirm through DNA analysis whether certain Scottish families have a Flemish ancestral root. A range of issues that have arisen in the course of the analysis will be broached during the session.

In comparing the DNA of Scottish families with that of a control group in Flanders a number of issues arise, not least the question of whether it is possible to define a Flanders DNA profile. This is the topic of the second part of the session.

The session ends with a panel session where representatives of some of the main Scottish families, thought to have Flemish roots, will talk briefly about the results of their family DNA analyses to date.

Biographical Information

Alasdair Macdonald is from the University of Strathclyde (Department of Genealogical Studies). He is a leading authority in Scotland on DNA issues.

Dr Maarten Larmuseau is a researcher at the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology at the University of Leuven, Belgium.

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Scotland and the Flemish People Conference, 16 and 17 June

Dear readers,

Over the coming weeks we will be using this blog to update you on the conference on Scotland and the Flemish People that will take place in St Andrews on 16th and 17th of June. 

If you wish to register for the conference please do so on our website.

If you have any questions or comments please contact Dr Claire Hawes at: scotflem2016@st-andrews.ac.uk


The project team

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Scottish Families with Possible Flemish Origins – A Summary

Over the past two years this blog has played host to a number of postings that have sought to provide evidence of a Flemish root for some specific Scottish families. This blog posting summarises the state of play so far. It also highlights a new addition to the list — the Wyles family — that some believe to have Flemish origins. As noted in previous blog postings, it is difficult in most cases to be definitive about assigning a Flemish root to a family. In due course it may be possible to draw on DNA analysis to provide supportive evidence of a Flemish origin for a family.

Families with Possible Flemish Roots

The list of names below has been developed over the last two years from various books pertaining to the Flemish in Scotland, from submissions by various families who believe their origins to be in Flanders, and from genealogists and other family history researchers.

Abernethy, Adie, Anstruther, Armstrong, Air(e), Ayres,
Bailey, Baird, Balliol, Bart, Barty, Beal, Beale, Beaton, Bell, Bels, Bennie, Beveridge, Binnie, Binning, Bishop, Blaw (or Blow), Bonar, Boswell, Bremner, Brodie, Browning, Bruce,
Cameron, Campbell, Cant, Clemmet, Clink, Clow, Comyn, Cornelius, Cousin, Cox, Crawfurd,
Danks, De War, Deurs, Dewar, Douglas, Dowie,
Emery (or Imrie), Enzell Erskine,
Flamang, Flamank, Flament, Flammang, Flanderensis, Flanders, Fleeming, Flement, Fleming, Flemish, Flemming, Flemyng, Flockhart, Flucker,
Frame, Frisken, Frizall, Furlong,
Gentleman, Graham, Grote,
Hally, Hamilton, Harrower, Hazeel, Hazel, Hazell, Henman, Holm, Houbron, Innes,
Junker, Justice, Kemp, Kessen, Kettle,
le Bel, Leith, Leslie, Lindsay, Lochore, Luke, Marriott, Montgomerie, Morran, Morrens, Mortimer, Murray, Mustard, Mutch,
Oliphant, Peacock, Petrie, Plender, Plenderleith, Prain, Prayne, Pren and Prenn, Preynne, Pundler,
Roche, Roy, Rutherford,
Seton, Smout, Spalding, Stein, Stewart, Stirling, Sturman, Sutherland, Swankie,
Vermont, Waddell, Weddell, Wingate, Woodall, Wyles, Younger

The most recent name to be added to the list of possible Flemish origin families is Wyles. This family is the subject of the box below.

The Wyles Family

There are varied opinions as to the ancient origins of the surname of Wyles. Some believe it to be Flemish but the name has also been associated with possible Germanic, Saxon, Pict, and Viking origins. The name may be both locational or occupational for a catcher, trapper, or hunter, derived from the word for a snare: the “Wyle” may be in reference to the willow wood used in the traps. Wyles may be from the characteristic of a person who is “being wiley” as in cunning. It was also used as a baptismal name for a son of a “William”. Lastly, the name may also mean someone who lived near a pagan temple.[1] There are also a variety of spellings for the name including Willas, Wiles, Willes, Wills, Willys, Williss, Wileson, and Wyles.

The first occurrence of the Wyles surname was Adam Wylis, who appeared in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire in 1379. Subsequently, census data for the second half of the 19th century show that there were a good number of people with the name Wyles to be found in the south of England (especially Kent). Scotland also had a significant number, especially in Fife, Lanarkshire, and Roxburghshire. More detailed census information and pertinent statistics can be located at Ancestry.com and the Forebears web sites.[2]

A branch of Wyles of Duddington, Northamptonshire are of Haplogroup E, which would not be a common Haplogroup in the Flemish community.[3] A Wyles DNA Project provides more detail.[4] As this is only one branch of the Wyles family, the unusual Haplogroup may be due to various reasons including a recent or remote “non-paternity event”. This event could have happened even before surnames were introduced.

In conclusion, many more DNA samples for the Wyles surname will be required to reveal additional information about the ancient origins of this surname. Multiple surname testing will, importantly, reveal if Haplogroup E is predominate or common to all others of the surname Wyles. 

Discovering the genetic origins of surnames is an ongoing process. If you are male and bear the surname Wyles or a variant of it — or indeed any other surname that might have a Flemish root —please consider taking a DNA test and joining the DNA component of the Scotland and the Flemish People project. See the following link:

Source Material on Surnames

The links below provide a good starting point for a study of surnames in general or Flemish origin surnames in particular.
The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1314
England’s Immigrants, 1330-1550
The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming, edited by Carole Hough
Flemings in the Fens
Flemish Influence In Britain, CD book, J. Arnold Fleming
http://www.unlockthepast.com.au/sites/default/files/samples/BRA001s.pdf (sample pages)
Searching for Flemish (Belgian) Ancestors
Online Etymonline Dictionary
http://www.etymonline.com/bio.php (search for Flemish, Fleming or Flanders, Vlaanders, etc.)
What’s in a Surname (scanned pages for Fleming Chap 3 The March)

Behind The Name – Flemish‬

Flemish Diversity, 2008 DNA study by Guido Deboeck

Flemish DNA & Ancestry by Guido Deboeck

Heraldry & Surname info. for Scotland

Janet Flandrensis and Alex Fleming
March 2016

Janet Flandrensis’ interest in genealogy dates back to 1980. She has been an administrator of a DNA Fleming project at Ancestry.com and more recently at FTDNA. Her email address is jayjaybird7@hotmail.com.
Alex Fleming is a co-sponsor of, and researcher in, the Scotland and the Flemish People project. He also edits this weekly blog. His email address is: af87@st-andrews.ac.uk.


[1] http://www.4crests.com/.
[2] http://www.ancestry.com; http://forebears.io/.
[3] http://wylesfamilyofduddington.weebly.com/etymology-wyles-family-name.html.
[4] http://wylesfamilyofduddington.weebly.com/wyles-family-paternal-dna.html.

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The Murray, Sutherland and Douglas families: were they related and were they Flemish?

Genetic genealogical analysis has developed rapidly in recent years with new techniques being applied to an ever increasing volume of data from samples of DNA taken from individuals, much of it pertaining to Y-DNA passed down through the male line. This posting reports on innovative work being undertaken by Alexandrina Murray on the Murray family and two other families – Douglas and Sutherland – that are believed to be closely related to it.

As discussed in an earlier blog posting: ([1]) heraldic, documentary and conveyancing land record evidence held within Scottish archives point to a familial relationship during the medieval period in Scotland between certain members of the Murray; Sutherland & Douglas families.([2]) This descent was assumed to be via a common descent from a Flemish warrior knight: Fresechinus ([3]), residing near Wiston in Pembroke Wales in the year 1130. ([4]) This progenitor was referred to later as Freskin or Freskyn of Moray- or de Moravia, son of Ollec. See the extract from the Great Roll of the Exchequer below .

Walt filius Witson & Freskin ‘son of’ |Ollec |resident in Pembroke 1130 ([5])([6])

Murray Blog 1

Murray Blog 2

Whether this shared genetic relationship was via paternal vs maternal lines is a matter for further research. Heraldic evidence alone is generally not deemed sufficient to establish a basis for arguing direct paternal line relationships between members of families granted the same or similar heraldic ordinaries. Historically, armorial bearings and titles were sometimes evidenced to have been granted within non paternally  descending land owning families.([7])  (ie: land that was not passed down from father to son).

It is thought that Freskin was resident in Pembroke, Wales in 1130 ([8])([9])at the time Saint David’s Cathedral Pembroke (see below) was built and consecrated.

Murray Blog 3

Saint David’s Cathedral Pembroke. Consecrated 1130c ([10])

The Douglas & Sutherland relationship.

In order to test whether the Douglas and Sutherland families had a common ancestor, a potential genetic link between Morton Earls Douglas ([11] & [12])  & Sutherland of Moray Firth ([13]) members within their respective Y-DNA surname projects at Family Tree DNA were investigated by this writer during May of 2013. In facilitating this investigation, respective Y-DNA Allele STR marker values were organized on spread-sheets then sorted according to similarity of their values within apparently similar haplotype groupings. At that stage not many of these men had undertaken advanced SNP nor Big Y testing.([14]) (Those that have now done so have been included in the analysis below.) These results were further sorted into modal values and compared to each other.

The analysis of the data pointed to an apparently close genetic relationship between all of the Moray Firth Sutherland men & the Douglas Earls of Morton membership cohort. These findings were reported to the respective Project group administrators Messrs Mark Sutherland-Fisher of Ross Shire & his Douglas Project colleagues- Francis Douglas QC and Belinda Dettman.([15]) The general consensus was that this group of Douglas and Sutherland members ‘may’  represent the Y-DNA profile of the potentially Flemish Ollec and his son Freskin Moray (or: de Moravia ([16]) progenitors of the Douglas, Sutherland and Murray Clans.

The Murray relationship with Sutherland & Douglas

As at February 2016 , almost 3 years after initial analysis, no substantial genetic link has been found between relevant groups of Murray project members and the Sutherland-Douglas matching Haplotype: sub group SNP = DF27 R- FGC23066]. ([17]) There is however finally, one sole Murray member of our project whose lineage has tested positive for the same relatively common([18]) upstream sub-clade of R1b-DF27 and is tightly related via STR ([19]) analysis to the Sutherland-Douglas men. Further advanced SNP ([20]) testing should determine if this inter-relatedness will remain common through to the time-frame under discussion: approx 1200c.

This individual Murray member’s STR values though, do definitely result in a very promising genetic distance of approx 2 mutations over 67 markers = 67/2  to the  Sutherland-Douglas modal, which in general terms would usually indicate a very close familial relationship.

One would expect to find many more STR mutations than this over an 820+ year time-frame relating to their common ancestor. The Murray member will examine his family tree to determine whether it contains previously unknown connections with the Douglas or Sutherland families in recent times (this would distort the findings). The Sutherland-Douglas group also correlate extremely closely to each other and again we see surprisingly few mutations within the modal which would generally be considered unusual if the shared common ancestor were living around the year 1200. On rare occasions, the genetic distance between some father and son participants, and first cousins within Y-DNA projects, has been from 1 to 5 STR mutations over 37 or 67 markers. (

GENETIC Y-DNA MUTATION RATES – Father-Son Transmission.

For evidence pertaining to potential mutation rates between some Father/Son pairs please see Kit Numbers 214235 (son) & 289366 (father) members of Murray Project located within Group 1:01 (Teal Blue Header) Y-DNA RESULTS PAGE

ŸGenetic Distance of 2 over 37 markers between father and son within the Falahill – Cockpool Murray ; Morrow ; Waldron related group 1:01 of the Murray Clan DNA Research Project at Family Tree DNA. ([22])

ŸNote: Genetic distances of 4 or even 5 over 67 STR Markers have been reported on occasion between fathers & sons. This is very rare however. The usual pattern is zero mutations between father-son pairs over 12 ; 25; 37; 67 and 111 STR markers.

ŸSee FTDNA Forum. ([23]) (Links in end-notes below)

After a decade of Y-DNA testing analysis; if this Murray match to Sutherland Douglas is an outlier then possibly one lineage within these three families of Douglas, Murray and Sutherland, was related through intermarriage rather than via direct patrilineal descent, and research into this possibility is ongoing. On the other hand we have not yet knowingly analysed any Y-DNA results from our senior Murray line of Tullibardine.

However, the Y-DNA evidence to date is relatively clear. The Sutherland and Douglas members referred to previously are certainly descended from the same progenitor and the question is whether or not this progenitor was common to both groups  approx-imately 820 years ago, versus during a later time-frame.  To date though, as previously mentioned, only the one Murray member has also tested as DF27 positive and has a similar Y-DNA profile to the above Douglas-Sutherland men.

This is important because the Murray Clan DNA Research Project ([24]) is now entering the 10th year since inception, whereby a small group of Murray families initially tested the waters of the then unique Y-DNA Test offerings by Family Tree DNA  facilitated by scientists from the University of Arizona. Since that exploratory time our project has blossomed into one of the larger surname projects at FTDNA, with approximately 600 members plus another 200 within the Morrow surname project. ([25]) These members represent many thousands of Murray- Morrow – MacMurray & related lineages today.

The Murray & Morrow surname conundrum.

Although some Morrows are descended from men named Murray, not all are, hence the dual Y-DNA projects, and some of these Murray-Morrows are members of both projects at Family Tree DNA accordingly.

There are many derivations of surnames that have been shown after Y-DNA analysis to have been written incorrectly after mispronunciation or clerical misunderstandings, and these newly acquired surnames have just ‘stuck’ with the families concerned.  In other cases, avoidance of usage of the original surname was deliberately adopted in order to differentiate the family from others using the same name whilst  residing within close locational proximity.

Morrow is written as pronounced, especially in the ‘Border Lowlands’ whereby Murray often sounded more like Moroh-and was often then written as Morrow accordingly.([26])

The Irish Murray & Morrow families

Murray is generally speaking, a surname acquired by residents originally dwelling within the northerly lands of Morayshire. However there is a very large cohort of related Irish Murrays and Morrows within the DNA project that appear to descend from the Uí Néill  (Nine Hostage fame) lineage ([27]) ([28])  The ancestors of the members of this cohort resided in Ireland and not Scotland. By far the greatest number of individual Murray lineages within our surname project to date belong to their Haplogroup, designated as M222 and are accordingly of earlier Irish descent with shared progenitor dating back to the year 378 and arguably not of more recent Flemish-Scottish descent.

As this Irish cohort may not have decended from the Flemish immigrants to Scotland, they may not be relevant to the current topic under discussion here. It is interesting however that the arms of the O’Neil bear three mullets in chief ([29]) which coincides in part with those of Murray, Sutherland & Douglas who use three stars. ([30])



These linguistic splits in the written form of the surname then appear to divide the related families of later generations, whereby those living in close proximity often considered their individual families to be non related. The same can be said for the surname MacMurray in all of the written forms, as this Mac prefix (son of) has also been shown via Y-DNA evidence to often derive from Murray (Moray), as has Morrey, Morah and a variety of other similar sounding surnames.([31]) To date there are a large number of totally unrelated family groups of Murrays & Morrows within our surname project, giving credence to the locational provenance of the Murray surname.

Was Freskin Flemish?

Freskin, as noted above, was resident in Pembroke prior to the David I incursions into Moray. He appears to have been an adult paying an exchequer debt by 1130, so possibly born in Pembroke to Ollec by 1100 circa.([32]) Arguably his grand-father may have arrived with Ollec as a teenager in 1066 with the Norman invasion.

Who are the descendants of Freskin of Moray then? ; he died before 1166, (some argue 1171 c), [33]) and was granted large tracts of land by David I. These lands were subsequently bequethed to William de Moravia and Hugo of Sutherland .([34]) Another issue is whether Y-DNA studies today can shed any light on the genetic background of these men during the middle ages.  Although this is possible, it is also important to understand that such studies have limitations. To date there is no solid proof that Ollec and Freskin were actually Flemish, merely circumstantial evidence.([35]) Then there is the difficult question of which DNA Haplogroup/s designate Flemish Y-DNA.

Arguably, he should be referred to as Freskin of Pembroc rather than Freskin of Moray as he was resident there, perhaps since childhood, if not born there. The debt referred to above was a 20 shilling amount Fresechinus owed to the Exchequer which was– “Et Quietus est”–and fully paid by September 1130. Freskin was resident in Pembroke with other notable Flemish families and their descendants previously removed to the unruly Southern Welsh plantations by Henry I during the 1100-1104 period.

Only a handful of men appeared to have had dealings with the Exchequer at that time in Pembroke and all were seemingly Flemish. Witso ([36]) has been referred to as Flemish in the literature and conveyancing documents support this designation.

By further researching the same Exchequer Roll, this time for London, Witso (Wyzo) son of Leuestani was found residing there in 1130.([37])Afterwhich more in depth specific research pertaining to the descendants of Leuestani (Leofstan) resulted in determining his occupation as being a goldsmith (aurifaber): Witso was also a craftsman goldsmith. He, along with possible father Leuestani, son Walter, and also Fresechin(us), are not referred to as being Flemish at all within the 1129-1130 Exchequer pipe rolls. This may indicate that they were all born locally and were perhaps sons and/or grandsons of the original Flemish immigrants 1066 or a short while later.

Murray Blog 4
Murray Blog 5

Great Roll of the Exchequer: 1129-30. r.Henry I- London.([38])

Both Witso (referred to also as Wizo and Withsonis & Withsone)([39]) along with goldsmith father Leuestani (Leuestanus) ([40]) were members of the Cnihtengild (Guild of Knights) in London in 1125 ([41]) This Guild held extensive lands around Aldgate, ([42]) indicating they were men of some importance there during that era.([43]) Freskin (or his son William) was, as some commentators believe, rewarded with Scottish lands for Knights’ service. If therefore, Freskin accompanied David I to Scotland to quell Morayshire disturbances during the same era recorded in the Pipe Roll (1129-1130), this must have been immediately prior or subsequent to Michaelmas in September 1130 when these Rolls had been completed.([44]) Both Witso and his father were referred to as goldsmith, and that would have been a comparatively lucrative profession during this era. This profession may certainly be in keeping with those of other Flemish Knight-Craftsmen in England during the period under discussion.  Based upon the above analysis of his residence in Pembroke, along with other Flemish in close proximity, (notably Wiston Castle)—it would appear that Freskin was of Flemish stock, albeit born in Wales or England around the year 1100c.

Murrays descending from Flemish stock

There are many potential candidates in our Y-DNA project whose Haplotypes concur with those known to arise in Flanders and surrounding regions. In fact most, (excluding the Irish Uí Néill group previously discussed, and perhaps some R1a1 and other members) would fall into this category . Genealogical charts and family trees of YDNA project member participants are helpful, however the question needs to be asked- are their submitted trees genuine?([45]) Even if lineages are precise, accurate and detailed that is no guarantee that the male contributing his YDNA to a project is definitely lineally descended from his listed progenitor .

He might be related in other ways, for instance maternally descended from a Murray female whose son adopted the surname of Murray in order to acquire lands and/or titles. A husband having adopted the surname of Murray in order to continue family traditions and acquire inheritances after a line has ‘daughtered out’ has been proven in quite a number of Murray lineages, even some very elite ones.([46]) This circuitous route to acquiring ones’ surname, including that of Murray has come to light within many a lineage, even very noble ones, ([47])([48]) ([49]) underlying the vitally important need to test living descendants of these lineages prior to making assumptions based upon heraldry, the peerage, rumour, online ancestral services, or the paper trail alone.([50])

Flemish -Possibly?

Group 7 in our Project are Haplogoup I2a3 (I-L233) West and Western Isles Group.Germanic-Saxon Dutch-Flemish? ([51])

Group 2:D  Murray lineages belonging to Haplogroup R-U106 >Z381 which they share with the Royal Houses of Bourbon & Wettin. ([52] ) ([53]) ([54])

Group 1:01 descend from Archibald de Moravia alive 1290, who signed the Ragman roll and was the progenitor of the Falahill Murrays along with William de Moravia alive during the same era who was the progenitor of the Murrays of Cockpool. Both of these men were believed to have been Flemish. ([55])

Other factors may interrupt the genetic lineage of a surname apart from formal or informal adoption of the Murray surname: For instance orphan children, stepchildren, natural children, adopted or fostered children all have the potential to descend from a progenitor who was not of any Murray paternal lineage. These issues can occur no matter how elite or famous the lineage under consideration might appear. ([56]) This is another obstacle to identifying the chief line of Ollec and Freskin.

Finally, there can be distortions to the typical father to son or grandson inheritance pattern. In some cases the Latin term ‘filius’ (son of) is used in documentation, other times not , yet sons of ones’ daughter/s may also be argued to be entitled to use the same locational surname —of Moray—if they were also resident in that area, in this case the area around Duffus Morayshire. Lands could easily have been conveyed in this way during earlier periods with latter day antiquarians none the wiser unless historical records to the contrary remained extant.

Do Murray, Douglas & Sutherland men all descend from Freskin?

The Bothwell Murray line, and the Earls’ Sutherland line descended from the same family are both now extinct in the senior lines. So why is there such a strong genetic link between the Earls’ Morton Douglas lineage and Moray Firth Sutherland lineage? And why, in juxtaposition, is there not the same strong evidence regarding a matching Murray lineage to date if these three families do all arise from the same progenitor around 1200? Is there evidence that the Douglas & Sutherland Earls descend from Freskin de Moravia while Murrays of Morayshire do not? Or is it the other way around?

Do the Murrays descend from Freskin, and the Douglas Sutherland members from a daughter line? Perhaps none of the members descend from the elusive Freskin because the direct male lines of all three lineages ceased to exist! Arguably, it is more likely however that Scottish and/or other immigrant Murray males from this noble lineage have not yet undertaken DNA testing for genetic purposes.([57]) If the Y-DNA Moray Firth Sutherland group descend from Freskin paternally then of course so do their Earl of Morton Douglas Y-DNA cousins according to the DNA evidence to date. The Earls of Queensberry Douglas lineage on the other hand, is not a Y-DNA match to the above mentioned Douglas or Sutherland cohort.([58]) This finding needs further thorough investigation.

The one Murray member matching the Morton Earls of Douglas/ Moray Firth Sutherland lineage is undertaking further testing during February 2016. If his deeper haplogroup sub clade result continues to match the Sutherland & Douglas lines under discussion then we will be one step closer to possibly proving a more recently shared paternal descent. Moreover, without results from a larger lineally diverse but related cohort of Murrays along this member’s deeper lineage, it could be argued that one Murray lineage match alone will not provide researchers with enough solid evidence yet, to point to a strong, indisputable genetic link between these three chief lineages.

Given that two of these families — Earls’ Sutherland and Bothwell Murray—were believed to have become potentially extinct in the male chief lines, genetic evidence relies upon Y-DNA from their probable descendants. These comprise unrecorded sons of earlier Earls Sutherland within Moray Firth Sutherland cohort, and well documented Earls of Morton Douglas lineages. If any Murray member with a proven lineal provenance to noble Murray lineages were to match the Douglas-Sutherland cohort and their singular Murray match, this would be quite an historic finding.

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Douglas Castle 1900 circa- demolished 1938. ([59] )

Although the Bothwell Murray chief line led to extinction along the male line according to existing documentation, other probable descendants of this line are believed to be represented within the Murray of Tullibardine ranks. These ranks include the Dukes of Atholl and Earls of Dunmore, along with Viscounts Stormont (Earls’ Mansfield) and other elite Murray lineages. In order to ascertain if our Y-DNA Sutherland-Douglas cohort are in fact descended from the same paternal lineage as the potential Murray of Bothwell line of Atholl ( Dunmore, Stormont et al and cadets, Touchadam-Polmaise along with Abercairney Murrays),various Murray men known to be descended from the senior lines have been approached to undertake Y- DNA paternal line testing, but without success. Some members of this family are however within our Family Finder autosomal DNA project.

The Abercairney Murrays’ in our Murray Y-DNA project descend paternally from Home-Drummond relatively recently and as such are senior clan maternal line descendants of Freskin, not paternal.


The Murray Clan worldwide encompasses all of those bearing the surname Murray and derivatives and Septs, as well as their descendants. Our Murray DNA Project has proven a genetic link between many surname holders including Morrow, who did not realise previously that they were descended from a common Murray ancestor within their specific lines. However only one lineage can be directly patrilinially descended from Freskin if his paternal line did not become extinct.

To date due to lack of access to proven in depth lineage analysis of members and sparsity of members from proven Tullibardine Murray lineages it is not possible ascertain if that line relates in any way to the matching Douglas-Sutherland Y-DNA project members discussed above.

Fresechinus of Wiston (Whitson) in Pembroke and later of Duffus Moray with extensive lands conveyed to son William de Moravia, certainly appears to have descended from Flemish ancestral lines. However so have other founding ancestors within our project not known to be descended from him : Murrays of Cockpool and Murrays of Falahill & Blackbarony and cadets are merely three such Y-DNA cousin lines which have been argued to be descended from Flemish progenitors. These Murrays do not relate paternally to the Douglas Sutherland men under discussion, nor were they ever believed to descend in any way from Murray of Tullibardine.([60]) ([61])

If we were to recruit a number of Murray men descended from proven Tullibardine Touchadam -Polmaise and cadet Murray progenitors then, and only then would we be able to potentially answer the question as to whether a Murray-Sutherland-Douglas shared genetic Y-DNA paternal line inheritance from Freskin de Moravia is feasible. Until then though, this question remains moot.


Murray Blog 7

Nearby to Freskin’s abode in 1130.

For a PDF version of this blog post, see the following link: Blog Final PDF

Alexandrina Murray
February 2016

Alexandrina Murray is an Australian & British citizen. Her parentsboth Scottish, met during WW2 after they both volunteered for service within the Royal Australian Airforce. She is the Administrator for the Murray Clan DNA research Project at Family Tree DNA, and also the Administrator for the Noble Surname DNA Project. Her qualifications are B.A. & M.A., in Modern History. Alexandrina is retired as Manager; Distance Education Student Services at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. Married to Paul Starling from a Stirling of Stirling family; they have one daughter -Alexandra.

References and Notes

[1]     M. Sutherland Fisher., J.B. Sutherland : See Blog Posting November 2014 Refer to discussion The Flemish in Scotland: Exploring the Relationships Between Some Key Flemish Families University of St Andrews. http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2014/11/21/exploring-the-relationships-among-some-key-flemish-families/#_edn2  Viewed November 2014.
[2] Ibid.
[3] G. W. S. Barrow., The Kingdom of the Scots Government, church and society from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. (London, 1973) p.p. 52-53 . Barrow determines that Freskin’s extensive lands were granted  in recognition of Knight service.
[4] Great Roll of the Exchequer., 1129-1130 E 372/1 31 Hen I. 1129 Mich-1130 Mich (printed by Rec Comm, 1833; reprinted by PRS, 1929) p.136. See Barrow- . Image courtesy of National Archives Kew, per Dr J. Nelson to James Brown Sutherland of Council: Clan Sutherland Society. 18 Sept 2014- via email. (Hereafter: Pipe Rolls Exchequer) Online version available: http://archive.org/stream/magnumrotulumsc01huntgoog#page/n174/mode/2up[5] Pipe Rolls Exchequer., Ibid.
[6] Note the presence of Walter son of Witz-Witson (Flandrensis) in the entry directly above Fresechin -Freskin yr 1130, Pembroke. as discussed by Sutherland & Fisher, (2014) op. cit., lending weight to their discussion regarding Witzo’s Flemish community comradeships and conveyancing trends later in Scotland. Identification of Witzo  as Witson (Wiston) with son Walt(s) is central to linking Freskin with  Wizo, the leader of the Flemish community in Pembrokeshire. Wizo Flandrensis de Castellum Witz. Walterus filius Witz was in possession of his father’s lands and ‘Castle Wiston-Witz in 1130, and Freskin (Fresechin) is listed directly under this entry seemingly living within the Flemish community at this time. This Castle passed from Walter Fitz Wizo to William Fitz Gerald in 1147. Walter & Freskin arguably of the same generation, possibly related with fathers’ also of the same generation. A Wizo  of Wiston was also prominent in Clydesdale and Kelso during the reign of Malcolm iv. Wizo in circa 1112 Wizo held the lordship of Daugleddau in Pembroke, which appears to be a name similar phoenetically to Douglas Dale.
[7] Earls of Annandale line is just one such example whereby the Crichton inheritor assumed the surname Murray. See: W.M. Morison., Ed: Decisions of the Court of Session, Vol. 6. Forum Competins Sir Robert Murray vs Murray of Bruchton (Broughton, ed. ) Feb 12th 1679 p.4803.
[8] Pipe Rolls Exchequer 1129-1130 Pembroke Wales. Op. Cit.,
[9] Also see: Lauran Toorians ., Revue belge de philologie de histoire, Annee (1996) Vol 74 No.3. pp.659-   693 Flemish Settlements in Twelfth-Century Scotland. p.663. PDF
[10] St David’s Cathedral was under construction and consecrated 1130c when Freskyn was in residence at Pembroke. Photographer Nigel Swales: Wiki Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
[11] Douglas Surname DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. Accessed 27 Jan 2017  at : http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Douglas/default.aspx?section=yresults
[12] Ibid.,  Members state progenitor is Willem  de Douglas 1174c.
[13] Sutherland  DNA Research Project at Family Tree Dna. Accessed 27 Jan 2016  at: http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Sutherland/default.aspx?section=yresults
[14] Advanced Single Nucleotide Polymorphism analysis via Family Tree DNA, Houston Texas USA.
[15] Alexandrina Murray : to Mark Sutherland Fisher., Belinda Dettman., Francis Douglas., by Email 18 May 2013. DOUGLAS MATCHES SUTHERLAND GROUP 0.3
[16] Also de Murreff.
[17] There is however one Murray project member who appears to belong to the same upstream clade of DF27 . Further SNP testing to be undertaken February-March should provide verification that his terminal sub clade will match that of the Douglas Sutherland group under discussion.
[18] Within European populations, however uncommon within the Murray Clan DNA Research Project.
[19] STR: Short Tandem Repeat DYS analysis.
[20] Single Neucleotide Polymorphism analysis.
[21] FTDNA Forum: Customer :Prarielad. Differs 4 mutations to 1st cousin.  67/4 reported 18 Sept 2015. http://forums.familytreedna.com/showthread.php?t=38515  Customer: Chills reports differs 2 markers from his father. 67/2 Reported: 6 Feb 2015.  http://forums.familytreedna.com/showthread.php?t=36922  Customer Stevo: reports 2 mutations to his son. 67/2 http://forums.familytreedna.com/showthread.php?t=35648  reported 13/8/2014.
Murray DNA Project Group 1:01 Cockpool Murray Philiphaugh Murray group report father son 2 mutations over 37 markers: 37/2 . See Family Tree DNA Father-Son-Brother Project. http://www.familytreedna.com/groups/father-son-brother/about/background
Results here. Ignore 1st group AAA. http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Father-Son-Brother?iframe=ycolorized
[22] Murray Clan DNA Research Project  at Family Tree DNA: Accessed 27 Jan 2016 at : http://www.familytreedna.com/public/murray/default.aspx?section=yresults
[23] FTDNA Forum: Op. Cit., http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Father-Son-Brother?iframe=ycolorized
[24] Murray DNA FTDNA Op. Cit
[25] Morrow DNA Project at Family Tree DNA . Accessed 27 Jan 2016 at: http://www.familytreedna.com/public/morrowdna/default.aspx?section=yresults
[26] William Murray of Murraythwaite.,  cited in Scots Lore, Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 166. . 1856.
[27] Matching Niall of the Nine Hostages Project at Family Tree DNA. Accessed  27 Jan 2017 at: http://www.familytreedna.com/landing/matching-niall.aspx
[28] Michael Maglio., Identifying Y-Chromosome Dynastic Haplotypes: The High Kings of Ireland Revisited (2015) LINK http://originhunters.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/ghosts-of-dna-past-irish-kings.html  PDF
[29] http://www.heraldry.ws/html/oneill-sept-arms.html
[30] Mullets are pierced however stars are not.
[31] Murraythwaite, Op. Cit., In many parts of Scotland — in Roxburghshire, in Perthshire, and else- where — Morow is still the local pronunciation for Murray or Moray. Many ways of spelling the name are preserved in old documents. It appears as Mwrray, Murrai, Murra, Murry, Mwry, Murrave, Murref, Muref, MurreflF, Murrefe, Morye,* Mowrrey,’ or Murrafe
[32] Arguably it was Father of Ollec who arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066 and Freskin was not referred to as ‘Flandrensis’ because he was actually native born 1100 circa. Flemish residents in Welsh areas and Pembroke by 1127 are discussed in depth  in: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and.Monmouthshire: VII – County of Pembroke.(1925) . See online version:  http://tiny.cc/sz588x By Royal Warrant.
[33] Sir James Paul., (1909). The Scots Peerage 2. Edinburgh: David Douglas. p. 121.
[34] A.A.M. Duncan (1975 ) Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom. p.189.
[35] Ibid., See Note 6 above.
[36] This unusual fore-name may have been unique to this Flemish family.
[37] Pipe Roll Exchequer , Op. Cit., p145.
[38] Ibid.,
[39] All forms  of this name have may have been unique to this Flemish family in both Scotland and Wales.
[40] Round., The Antiquary. See in depth discussion  pp.109-111. Op. Cit.,
[41] Ibid.,
[42] C, Nugent; L, Brooke; G, Keir: London, 800-1216 : The Shaping of a City. pp. 98-99
[43] Round, Op. Cit., The Antiquary argues that there were at least 4 men with the forename Leuestani (Leofstan) in London during this era and warns readers not to confuse these four families.
[44] Michaelmas: Feast of Saint Michael. 29 September.
[45] In consideration of the proliferation of ancestry dot com trees whereby some member there attach their ancestors to those of others via “shaky green leaf hints” without due diligence and research. This has disseminated enormous numbers of false ancestral trees worldwide. I argue, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
[46] Murray of Abercairney is merely one elite line of Murray (Moray) with solid descent from Freskin who are recently descended as Moray from their maternal Moray line , after Son In Law- male Home-Drummond descendant assumption of the surname of Moray  to become Home-Drummond Moray. See Charles Stirling- Home- Drummond born 1814 married Christian Moray 18th of Abercairney. Charles then assumed the surname of Moray. See: The Peerage online http://www.thepeerage.com/p5240.htm#i52398
[47] An example of this is currently found within the Pringill of Stitchill Baronetcy succession dispute . Whereby the Queen has intervened in order to determine if Y-DNA test results should be provided to a judicial enquiry as evidence in this case after FTDNA Pringle project members of the Stitchill family did not match re: Y-DNA STR results. See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3267859/Queen-demands-DNA-test-court-settle-dispute-330-year-old-baronet-title-ruling-mean-Utah-Mormon-king.html Accessed February 2016.
[48] Identification of the Remains of King Richard III (2014) in Nature Communications . PDF http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/141202/ncomms6631/full/ncomms6631.html Viewed Jan 2016.
[49] Also see evidence regarding skeletal remains of King Richard  III whose Y-DNA does not match his apparent paternal descendant line relations of the Dukes of Beaufort-|Somerset lineage. Leicester University: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science/resultsofdna.html Viewed January 2016.
[50] J.J. Cassiman (Prof) 2013. New research robs French King Henry IV of his head. At Kueleven.com http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/2013/new-research-robs-henry-iv-of-head Viewed February 2016.
[51] See Group 7. Murray Clan DNA Results Family Tree DNA Op. Cit., http://www.familytreedna.com/public/murray/default.aspx?section=yresults[52] Ibid.,  Maarten H.D. Larmuseau et al., 2013 House of Bourbon belonged to Y-haplogroup R1b1b2a1a1b* (R-Z381*). European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication 9 October 2013; doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2013.211 Viewed at Dienekes BlogSpot: http://dienekes.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/house-of-bourbon-belonged-to-y.html
[53] Eupedia.com Genetics. Viewed at : http://www.eupedia.com/genetics/famous_y-dna_by_haplogroup.shtml#R1b-U106 . Accessed 28 Jan 2016. See: http://yhrd.org/tools/branch/R1b1a-Z381 for Haplo-Map
[54] See Group 2:D. Murray Clan DNA Results Family Tree DNA Op. Cit., http://www.familytreedna.com/public/murray/default.aspx?section=yresults
[55] See Group 1:01. Murray Clan DNA Results Family Tree DNA Op. Cit., http://www.familytreedna.com/public/murray/default.aspx?section=yresults
[56] Ibid., All three projects: Murray: Douglas and Sutherland have enlisted members whose paper trail and published lineages place them as members within senior or well known clan lineages, yet who do not match any other members Y-DNA from within those projects. Relationship to their ancestral progenitor cannot be discounted however based solely on DNA Project membership numbers alone. Dozens of members of one family line may in fact be the outliers, having joined the project en-mass, and the lone member who does not match the others could theoretically be the genuine paternal line descendant.
[57] If they have done so, and are not aware of their distant provenance and the relationship to Tullibardine Murray, they are NOT be matching the Douglas-Sutherland group.
[58] Douglas Earls Queensberry belong to Haplogroup R1a1 see: Surname DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. Op.Cit., http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Douglas/default.aspx?section=yresults[59] Douglas Castle from Old Postcard. 1900 circa. Demolished 1938. Photo in public domain.
[60] Sir Walter Scott , a descendant of the Murrays of Falahill argued that his Murray of Philiphaugh relative and neighbour, was adamant that their line was unique and not related to any other Murrays. He especially referred to Murray of Atholl. This does not determine though that they did not also descend from the Bothwell-Tullibardine lineage during the medieval period.
[61] Group 1:01 within the Murray DNA Project are to date: the only group apart from the Sutherland-Douglas men, to have a well defined line to medieval ancestors. The related Murrays of Falahill & Murrays of Cockpool and cadets are believed to have descended from Archibald & William de Moravia. Recently, a member related to Sir James Augustus Henry Murray , (Lexicographer of Oxford dictionary fame) and believed to descend from Murray of Blackbarony, matched the Falahill & Cockpool Murray group. Their haplogroup is U152> L20. La Tene Celt. Other members of various groups unrelated to each other believe they are descended from the Tullibardine line. Most of these members descend from immigrants to U.S.A & Canada. These include men in Groups: 1:03:A; / 1:A5:2  /& 1:A5:3 ; / 1:A8:1 ;/ 2:D ; /4:0 & 7:0  /. See: http://www.familytreedna.com/public/murray/default.aspx?section=yresults
[62] Wiston Castle ruin Pembrokeshire Wales. Est date of initial construction 1110 circa. Situated in the vicinity of a dwelling inhabited by Fresechin (Freskin) during 1130, afterwards of Moray Scotland. Photo copyright by Deborah Tilley  November 2015. Available for publication under Creative Commons Licence :© Copyright:    Deborah Tilley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Additional Scottish Families with Possible Flemish Roots

Two weeks ago a blog posting examined a number of families that may, with varying degrees of probability, have Flemish roots. This blog posting examines a further two families – Bishop and Spalding – that may have had their origins in Flanders.

The Bishop Family

The Bishop family has a long and distinguished history in the British Isles.[1] Family records indicate a presence in England from the time of the Norman Conquest and in Scotland from the arrival of David I.

The Scottish Bishop line is believed by some family historians to have come from Flanders. The Bishops were clearly of aristocratic stock and over time members of this family were recorded as being sheriffs and burgesses in the royal burghs in the Lothians and on the east coast. Some were also merchants.

Family research to date suggests that there were strong connections in the medieval period between the Bishop family and many of the Norman-Flemish families of the day, for instance Stirling, Ramsay, Stuart, Bruce, and Sinclair. The armorial bearings of Sir William Bischop, the elder sheriff and burgess of Edinburgh displayed two rampant lions that appear to connect them to other Norman-Flemish families. Moreover, William de Bishop, Count of Rokesburgh (Roxburgh), signed the Ragman Roll in 1296 in the company of a number of other men who were believed to be of Flemish origin.[2]

If you are interested in making contact with the Bishop family, please send an email to William Bishop at houseofbishop@gmail.com.

The Spalding Family

The Spalding family probably took its name from the town of Spalding in Lincolnshire, England. It is not clear whether the towns name was Anglo-Saxon in origin or brought over by Flemish settlers.

The family name Spalding has remained largely unchanged over time, with the main variant being Spaulding, found in the USA. The name was probably introduced quite early in the medieval period and was used extensively in England and Scotland. It is not known whether the Spaldings descended from one common ancestor as at least three different Spalding surname Y chromosome lines have been identified.

The Spaldings appear from time to time in historical accounts of Scotland. For instance, there was a Spalding who was a burgess in the fortified town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Being on the border between Scotland and England it often changed hands over the course of history.

According to Haile’s Annals of Scotland, “one Spalding, a citizen of Berwick, having been harshly treated by the governor (probably Robert Horsely), resolved to revenge himself. He wrote to a Scottish lord (probably Patrick, earl of March) whose relation he had married, and offered, on a certain night, to betray the post where he kept guard.”[3]

This intelligence was communicated to the king (Robert Bruce) who wished to take the town back from the English. “Troops were assembled under Randolph and Douglas, cautiously marched to Berwick, and assisted by Spalding, scaled the walls and in a few hours were masters of the town”.

Spalding was rewarded with a grant of lands in Angus, and later the family acquired lands in Ashintully, Glenshee in Perthshire, Scotland. Glenshee itself is an area where there was evidence of other Flemish settlement in a later period.[4]

If you are interested in making contact with a representative of the Scottish Spalding family in America, please send an email to Timothy Spaulding at tspaulding@bluegrass.net.

Alex Fleming
February 2016

Alex Fleming is a co-sponsor of, and researcher in, the Scotland and the Flemish People project. He also edits this weekly blog. His email address is: af87@st-andrews.ac.uk.


[1] There are a number of variants on the name Bishop, including Bisshop, Byshop, and Bischop.

[2] Annette Hardie-Stoffelen, ‘The rise of the Flemish families in Scotland’, in The Flemish Scottish Connections, pp. 21-2.

[3] Haile’s Annals of Scotland, vol. II, p. 97.

[4] http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2014/04/25/the-flemish-of-glenshee-part-one/ and http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2014/05/02/the-flemish-of-glenshee-part-2-the-easter-bleaton-settlement/.

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The Flemish and the game of ‘curling’

Basically curling is a team game in which contestants slide heavy stones over a flat ice surface towards a specific target. The team that gets closest to the target is the winner.  As with golf (blog posting dated November 20, 2015) there is considerable controversy over whether the game originated in Scotland or was introduced into the country by Flemish migrants. In this posting Geert and Sara Nijs examine the evidence, much of which revolves around the content of paintings dated from the late medieval and early modern periods.

The Little Ice Age

Between 1500 and 1800 temperatures in the northern hemisphere were noticeably lower than in the previous 500 years. The most severe phase, the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ was between 1550 and 1700. Scotland and the Low Countries were among the places that experienced these lower temperatures.

Temperature Graph

During much of the Middle Ages temperatures were warmer than ‘average’. This period was followed c.1500 by a colder period with lower temperatures than average: the Little Ice Age. – Source: ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Report 1990’

During this Little Ice Age many people in the Low Countries took to the frozen waters in winter to enjoy pastimes such as skating, sledging, ice dancing, walking, playing colf, etc. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that in this period the first references to the game of curling or ‘stone throwing’ occurred. The same happened in Scotland where the regular frozen ponds, lochs and rivers in winter attracted many people to the ice.1

Flanders and the game of curling

Hardly anything has been written about the Flemish and their ‘stone throwing’ game. The only early reference to a game called ‘kayuten’ or ‘kallityten’ mentioned by Cornelis Kiliaan dates from 1599.2  However the so-called Golden Age—a period of significant economic and cultural change in Flanders and the Northern Netherlands (1500-1700)—produced many paintings of life in this period showing people enjoying winter pastimes. In several of these paintings, by famous Flemish artists, people are depicted playing a Flemish game not unlike Scottish curling.1

It should be noted that no Flemish documents have been found to support the claim that people from Flanders introduced this game into Scotland.

Scotland and the game of curling

Much research has been undertaken on the early history of curling in Scotland. Curling—Scotland’s ain (own) game, as it is called—is a team game in which players slide heavy stones towards a target. ‘Brooms’ are used to manipulate the direction and the speed of the stone. The game developed at the beginning of the 17th century during the Little Ice Age. In the introduction of his book3 David B. Smith states that for centuries in Lowland Scotland the game of curling was played on loch, river and pond around Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, etc., whenever there was ice.

Historians of curling often refer to a stone that has all the marks of a curling stone. In the stone was scratched, amongst things, the date ‘1511’. Some historians see this stone as the oldest reference to the curling game, older than any Flemish claim.4

Another old reference to the game is a document written in Latin by John McQuhin, notary in Paisley with a date of 16th February 1540/1, in which he recorded a curling challenge between John Sclater, a monk in Paisley Abbey, and Gavin Hamilton, a relative of the abbot. This involved throwing a stone along the ice three times.3

It was many years, however, until the actual word ‘curling’ was mentioned in writing. The word appeared in 1638 in a poem called ‘Muses Threnodie, or Mirthfull Mourning, on the death of Master Gall’.  It takes the form of an obituary in which different objects that had belonged to the deceased are described. In this inventory curling stones were included:

‘His alley bowles; his curling stones;’
‘And ye my loadstones of Lednochian lakes’5

The oldest depiction found so far is the so-called ‘Traquair’ painting dating from around the early 18th century. It shows several well-dressed men playing the game of curling.3

Assessing the evidence

The history of curling—like that of golf—is the subject of a continuing discussion among mainly Scottish historians about the origins and development of the game. In Flanders neither the game of curling, nor its history, have been subject of much research. So what have Scottish historians found out about the history of their ‘ain’ game and the possible involvement of Flanders and the Flemish in the game?

The Stirling stone: The ‘Stirling stone’ bearing the inscription ‘St Js B. Stirling. 1511’ is, as noted above, reason enough for some historians to believe that Scottish curling is older than the Flemish game.  However some experts in inscriptions assign the writing of the date and the rest of the inscription to a considerable later date. Indeed for several historians this stone is a fake.4

The rock source: On its web site the Royal Caledonian Curling Club denies any claim of Flemish involvement in the game: “It is fruitless to speculate about whether the game is Scottish in origin. Suffice it to say that the only other part of the world for which any claim has been made, the Low Countries, is spectacularly deficient in that necessary raw material, hard igneous rock, from which alone the peculiar implement of the game, the curling stone, is made.”6

The Ailsa Craig, an island in the outer Firth of Clyde, is cited as being the source of rock for producing curling stones that make the game genuinely Scottish. It is interesting to speculate whether all curling stones from the 16th century were made of this Ailsa Craig rock.

Evidence from paintings: From the beginning of the economic and cultural ‘Golden Age’ of Flanders and the North Netherlands (1500-1700) onwards, there are many paintings showing colf players on the ice. On some of these people are seen playing a game that looks like curling.

The most famous painting of a winter scene was created in Flanders in 1565 and is by the renowned Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder who lived from 1525 to 1569. See the link below. In this painting, ‘Hunters in the snow’, there is a frozen pond in the background. On the lower part of the pond there appear to be several people who are playing a game that looks similar to Scottish curling pictures from some 150 years later.


In the same year Bruegel created another painting with people playing on the ice of a river near a village. See link below. This painting called ‘Winter landscape with skaters and bird trap’ again shows several people playing the Flemish curling game.


Another less-known Flemish painter Jacob Grimmer (1525-1590), painted several winter landscapes with, in the background, a group of people playing a Flemish game that looks very much like curling.  See link below.


From the Northern Netherlands only one drawing has been discovered so far that depicts a game of curling. It is a print from Robert de Baudous based upon a painting from Cornelisz Claesz van Wieringen made in 1615. On the right of the picture a curling match is taking place. In the foreground a broom can be seen. The players themselves are not handling brooms. It appears that the court is wiped whenever necessary. The impression is that the broom is not an integral part of the match.


During the Little Ice Age the Netherlanders also loved to play on the ice as can be seen in this drawing. It is one of the few drawings in which both colf and curling are depicted.
Winter’, Robert de Boudous after Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, 1591-1618 – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The first and only painted evidence of early Scottish curling dates from the beginning of the 18th century. The painting, called officially ‘Curling’, is a winter scene and shows a frozen river in the foreground. Several people are playing the game of curling on it. Players appear to be using a broom to smooth the surface.

The background of the painting and the attire of the people are clearly Scottish but the exact location and the artist himself are not known. ‘BBC Your paintings’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/) attributes it to the ‘Dutch School’. This is quite feasible as several Flemish and Netherlandish painters did go to Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The painting is on display at Traquair House in Innerleithen, Peeblesshire.

curling 2

A unique painting of a Scottish winter scene, called ‘Curling’. The unknown painter is probably Netherlandish. – Anonymous, c.1700 – Traquair Charitable Trust

curling 3

Detail of the ‘Curling’ painting; it is the first-known painting ex­clusively dedicated to the game of curling. The background of the painting and the attire of the players is not Nether­landish but Scottish. – Anonymous, c.1700 – Traquair Charitable Trust

Views expressed in various publications about the origins of curling

John Ramsay of Gladsmuir was one of the first historians to raise the question of the origin of curling. In his opinion the terminology used in the game is ‘Dutch or German’. Therefore there is a strong probability that the game was brought into Scotland in the late 15th or early 16th century.7

The ‘Encyclopæedia Metropolitana’ suggests that: ‘Curling is a comparatively modern amusement in Scotland, and does not appear to have been introduced till the beginning of the XVIth century, when it probably was brought over by the emigrant Flemings.’8

According to the Scot, H. Crawford, ‘Powerful etymological evidence supports its foreign origin. The terms, being all Dutch or German, point to the Low Countries as the place whence we, at least, derived our knowledge of it. … it is supposed that the Flemings were the people who, in the fifteenth or about the beginning of the sixteenth century, introduced curling into this country.’9

When judging the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, the curling historian David B. Smith concludes that the objects used by the players certainly resemble curling stones. However the brooms, an essential part of curling, are missing.3 No information has been found about the introduction of brooms in the game of curling. The earliest written history of curling in 1541 does not mention the use of brooms. The first occurrence of brooms in the game can be seen on the Traquair House painting (“Curling”), although the ‘sweepers’ do not seem to be active in the game it depicts.

The drawing from Cornelis van Wieringen (noted above) also shows two brooms. While one of the contestants is throwing the curling stone the ‘broomers’ are passive. It is possible that brooms were only used for cleaning the court regularly and that ‘brooming’ was not yet an integral part of the game.

East Lothian minister, reverend John Kerr, concluded after examining the ‘origin’ that there is no proof of any Flemish involvement in the origin of Scottish curling. If Flemings had brought the game to Scotland in the 1500’s, he argued, why did Scottish poets and historians make no special mention of its introduction before 1600?4


The famous Flemish paintings from the 16th century show people playing a game not unlike the Scottish game of curling that was written about in the 17th century. Therefore it cannot be denied that in Flanders curling–or at least an early form of the game–was clearly played there. The well-documented migration of Flemish into Scotland in the 16th century could well have led to the introduction of their winter game into Scotland, but this cannot be supported by documents from that time.  A remaining mystery is why Scottish artists didn’t attempt to capture in paint the players of Scotland’s ‘ain’ game, until almost hundred years after the Flemish did so.

Geert and Sara Nijs
February 2016

Geert and Sara Nijs are amateur historians who have specialised in the ancient history of the games of Flemish/Netherlandish colf/kolf, the Franco/Belgian crosse/choule, the Italian/French game of pallamaglio/mail/pall mall and Scottish golf. They are members of the European Association of Historians and Collectors (EAGHC), the British Golf Collectors Society (BGCS), the American Golf Collectors Society (GCS), and the Association Patrimoniale du Golf Français (APGF). Their publications include: ‘CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse’ (2008) and its revised French edition ‘Jeu de Crosse – Crossage A travers les âges’ (2012), ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ (2011), ‘Games for Kings & Commoners Part Two’ (2014) and ‘Games for Kings & Commoners Part Three’ (2015), the final part of the trilogy.

For more detailed information about the history of the continental golf-like games and Scottish golf see their website www.ancientgolf.dse.nl where you also find their email address.


(1) Geert & Sara Nijs, Games for Kings & Commoners Part III; Saint Bonnet en Bresse, Editions Choulla et Clava, 2015
(2) Cornelis Kiliaan, Etymoligicon Teutonicæ Linguæ; Antwerpen, Ioannem Moretum, 1599
(3) David B. Smith, Curling: an illustrated history, 1981
(4) John Kerr, History of Curling, Scotland’s Ain Game and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, 1890
(5) Henry Adamson, Muses Threnodie: or Mirthful Mourning, on the death of Mr Gall. Containing Variety of Pleasant Poetical Descriptions, Moral Instructions, Historical Narrations, and Divine Observations, with the Most Remarkable Antiquities of Scotland, Especially of Perth, 1938; reprinted in Perth by George Johnston, 1774
(6) www.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org
(7) An account of the game of curling. By a member [John Ramsey, Preacher of the Gospel] of the Duddingston Curling Society, 1811
(8) Encyclopædia Metropolitana; or, universal dictionary of knowledge, Vol XVII; London, William Clowes and Sons, 1817-1845
(9) H. Crawford, A Descriptive and Historical Sketch of Curling: Also, Rules, Practical Directions, Songs, Toasts, and a Glossary; 1828

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More Scottish Families with Possible Flemish Roots

Over the last two years this blog has featured postings written by authors who have extensively researched their families and have concluded that they have Flemish roots. In this posting we draw your attention to a number of other names that have been communicated to us and, with varying degrees of probability, are believed to have Flemish roots.

The Rutherford family is thought to have Flemish roots and its origins are discussed at length on an excellent website.[1] The family is believed to have come to Scotland under the programme to settle Flemish immigrants in Scotland during the reigns of David I (1124-53) and Malcolm IV (1153-65). One piece of evidence to support this belief is that a Robertus dominus de Rodyrforde witnessed a royal charter in 1140 granted by King David I of Scotland to Gervasius de Rydel. The family’s settlement in Scotland is further evidenced by the existence of the hamlet of Rutherford that is found in the Scottish record during the reign of William the Lion, shortly after 1165. A Rutherford Castle was also built on the Hunthill estate near West Linton and Carlops in Peebleshire.

A family that has been the subject of extensive research is Bell.[2] The name is noteworthy for having over sixty spelling variants including Beal, Beale, Bels, le Bel, Balliol, and Bailey. The earliest lineage is that of the Bels of Flanders who can be traced back to the 9th century. The various Bell families that came to Scotland had both Norman and Flemish origins and had initially secured a foothold in England. The authors of the research referenced above concluded that the Bells of the Scottish borders and most of the eastern coast of Scotland (as well as the area encompassing Northumbria and Cumbria) originated from the le Bel strain who descended from the Flemish/Anglo-Normans of the south of England. Like the Rutherfords described above, the Bells were reportedly brought to Scotland as part of an attempt to pacify the country and bring new skills to it.

A number of other family names have been thought to have Flemish roots. A. W. Cornelius Hallen for instance, writing towards the end of the 19th century, states that: “Just to show that the materials exist for proving the prevalence of Flemish blood in in Scotland at the present day, I will mention but a few of the many names common to England, Flanders and Scotland: Clink, Cant, Mustard, Wingate, Younger, Justice, Furlong, Harrower, Cornelius, Adie, Frame, Cousin, Gentleman, Beveridge, Grote, Emery (or Imrie), Peacock, Enzell, Marriott, Danks, Kemp, Barty, Blaw (or Blow), Bonar, Luke.”[3] The names Cant and Frame have already been the subject of earlier blog postings.[4]

If you are aware of other Scottish families that may have Flemish roots, and for which supportive evidence exists, please write to the author of this blog posting at the email address shown below.

Alex Fleming
February 2016

Alex Fleming is a co-sponsor of, and researcher in, the Scotland and the Flemish People project. He also edits this weekly blog. His email address is: af87@st-andrews.ac.uk.


[1] http://www.hunthill.4t.com/custom3.html.
[2] James Elton Bell and Frances Jean Bell, Bell Roots: Our Early History, 825 – 1800 (2012).
[3] A. W. Cornelius Hallen, The Scottish Antiquary, or Northern Notes and Queries, note 616, p. 77 (electricScotland.com).
[4] http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2015/04/17/the-cant-family-and-the-strathmartine-trust/; http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2015/04/02/the-frame-family-weavers-from-flanders/.

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“The Lightsome Lindsays” – Roots and Branches

Early Scottish Charters bear witness to the name “de Lindeseia” back as early as 1116; a name which evolved through common usage to become “Lindsay” under the convention of Scottish surnames.  Was Walter de Lindsay related to the Flemish Gilbert of Ghent and Lord Alost?  A combination of place names and heraldic devices has provided some convincing clues as to the identity of the pre-Conquest forebears of the Lindsay Family.  In this posting Diarmid Lindsay summarises research into the Family of Lindsay in Scotland.  The head of the family is the Clan Chief, The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Crawford.


The Lindsay family has played a significant role in Scotland’s history back as far as the reign of David I.  Their exploits, contributions and achievements have been well documented in historical accounts and in public records; not only in respect of martial conflicts, but in connection with public life, government, law, the church, literature, the arts and scientific innovation.  There has been much effort put into tracing the family’s ancestral roots by such authors as Lord Lindsay (1812 – 1880) and more recently, in the 1980s, by Beryl Platts who has put forward the argument that the family’s origins are in Flanders.  Her books give specific emphasis on the Lindsay family in which she had a particular interest.

Previously, around 1850, Lord Lindsay in his comprehensive three volume history of “The Lives of the Lindsays” [1 & 2] carried out considerable research into the roots of our early ancestors who arrived here in the wake of the 1066 Norman invasion, but his findings in this respect were never altogether conclusive.  Beryl Platts in her “Origins of Heraldry” [3] presented evidence to suggest that these ancient ancestors were descended, not from the Normans as previously thought, but from Lord Alost of Flanders, with even more distant links back to Charlemagne and the Roman Empire.

Gilbert de Ghent accompanied Duke William in his conquest of England and for his services rendered was given extensive lands near Lincoln and in the surrounding Lindsey area.  He also became known as Gilbert de Lindsey by virtue of the land he obtained and this was the name carried by his offspring, Walter and William, when they settled in the Borders of Scotland.  In accordance with the convention of Scottish surnames this “de Lindsey” generally evolved into the surname “Lindsay”, in its most common form, despite the existence of numerous alternative versions of the spelling in common use, and will be used as the default form throughout the rest of this text.

How the Lindsays came to Scotland

The early arrival of “de Lindsays” to Scotland is shrouded in an enthralling mist of speculation which is slowly clearing through time as more and more evidence is revealed.  When the “de Lindsays” first came to Scotland they took lands at Ercildon in Roxburghshire, now known as Earlston, on the banks of the Leader Water.

A good interpretation of their genealogical progression is contained in the information recorded on “The Peerage” website.      http://www.thepeerage.com/p23116.htm     (last edited 23 Mar 2015).  This information, which is summarised in the box below,  closely relates to the findings of Beryl Platts in her two publications “Scottish Hazzard”, Volumes 1 and 2  [4 & 5] which do, however, provide much more detailed research into the genealogical history of Gilbert de Ghent’s Flemish family tree.

This account starts with Gilbert de Ghent who was born about 1048.  Gilbert took part in the Norman invasion of 1066 along with the strong contingent of Flemish supporters of William the Conqueror.  He had a son Walter, born about 1080, who came to be known as Sir Walter de Lindsay.   Sir Walter is thought to have accompanied David, Earl of Huntingdon (later King David I) when he came north to the Lowlands in the early 1100s.  In 1116 he witnessed an inquisition for the see of Glasgow.  He had a son, William de Lindsay, born about 1096.  William, in turn, had a son Walter de Lindsay born about 1122.  This Walter held the office of Justiciar [Scotland] and sat in Parliament [Scotland] in 1145.  He had a son William de Lindsay born about 1148 who married, firstly, Aleanora  de Limesay (daughter of Gerard, Lord of Limesay and Amicia de Bidun) about 1174 by whom he had three sons.  He married, secondly, Margaret of Huntingdon (daughter of Henry of Huntington, Earl of Huntington and Ada de Warenne).  Margaret was the granddaughter of David I and sister to Malcolm IV and William I.  He was heir of Randolph de Lindesay, feudal lord of Northumbria.  In 1164 he sat in Parliament [Scotland].  In 1174 he was a hostage for King William, his brother in law.  He held the office of Justiciar [Scotland] after 1174.  He was feudal Lord of Crawford, but styled Baron of Luffness in Parliament.  He died about 1200.  His three sons were: Sir David Lindsay, of Crawford, Sir William Lindsay of Luffness and Sir Walter Lindsay of Lamberton.

Source:  The Peerage website

The foregoing account is not identical to Beryl Platts’ investigations and differs quite considerably from Lord Lindsay’s conclusions in the 1850s.  Speculation still prevails into how many Walters and Williams there were in the direct line.  However, it is regarded as being a very convincing interpretation of evidence available and, in the absence of more revealing information, the Lindsay family are generally agreed in accepting this as being the most laudable explanation of their origins.  Clearly between Gilbert de Ghent and the three brothers David, William and Walter, a period of over 100 years, there were many offspring who spread to the rest of Britain and may well have been styled “de Lindsay” but, for the present, I am concerned only with the Lindsay family who established themselves in Scotland around the early 1100s.

A geographical representation of the migration north is shown in the map below from the Norman invasion of 1066 up until the point where the main branch of the family established themselves in Glenesk, Angus around 1358 following the marriage of Sir Alexander Lindsay to Catherine Stirling.  Catherine Stirling was the daughter of Sir John Stirling of Edzell.

Map showing approximate boundary of 12th century Flanders and the Flemish-Lindsay route to Scotland

Map showing approximate boundary of 12th century Flanders and the Flemish-Lindsay route to Scotland

Clearly this short precis of the Lindsay Family in Scotland can only offer a brief glimpse into the aforementioned writings of Lord Lindsay.  More information has become available since his publications and in particular the work of Beryl Platts which relates directly to his findings.  The detailed Appendices to her books deal specifically with the Lindsay links to Flanders, Alost and Ghent. [4 & 5]  A large part of her research was based on the heraldic devices carried by the early Lindsays in Scotland. She was in contact with the current Chief of the Clan while carrying out her more recent work and, in 1998, published her paper “Origins of the Lindsays” in the Clan Lindsay Society’s Publications. [6]

Branches of the Family

As outlined above, the three sons of William de Lindsay of Earlston established three main family branches of Luffness, Crawford and Lamberton around 1200.

The diagrammatic family tree below gives a schematic representation of the development of the Lindsay family branches from Charlemagne to Balcarres, the seat of the current clan chief.

Roots and Branches of the Flemish-Lindsay Family

Roots and Branches of the Flemish-Lindsay Family


The Lamberton branch of Lindsays ceased as such when Sir William de Lindsay died in 1283 leaving the estate to his daughter Christina, the “Lady of Lamberton” (and that is another story).  The Crawford branch terminated when Sir Gerard de Lindsay died in 1249 leaving the estate to his sister Alice de Lindsay, wife of Sir Henry Pinkeney (and again another interesting story line).  However, the title of Crawford was retrieved by the Scottish authorities and subsequently bestowed on Bruce’s staunch supporter, Sir Alexander Lindsay of Luffness, the heir male of the Scottish Lindsays. [7]

Many cadet branches of the family existed; such as Craigie, Wauchopedale, Covington, Kilbirnie, Byres and Dowhill and indeed Lord Crawford in his family history estimated that “within three or four centuries after their settlement in the North, above one hundred different minor Houses or families of Lindsays were flourishing in Scotland”. [8] However, the mainstay family line was the Lindsays of Luffness and Crawford.  They built a substantial stone castle at Luffness of the motte-and-bailey style, typical of the Flemish castles of that time.

Unfortunately, the castle proved a serious threat to English invading forces utilising the east coast route (now the A1).  It was not far from Haddington and commanded a strategic position controlling the sea access to Aberlady Bay.  This was too much for the English garrisoned at Haddington during the time of the “Rough Wooing” (1543 – 1551) and the Castle, along with the neighbouring Byres Castle, was totally destroyed thus allowing supplies to reach the garrisoned English forces in Haddington from the coast.  Only the extensive foundations of Luffness Castle and moat remain today in the grounds of Luffness House alongside the old doocot.

The Lindsays of Crawford originally built a fortified tower close to the village of Crawford, near Abington, named Tower Lindsay but latterly the more substantial fortification, Crawford Castle, was established.  It again commanded a strategic position built on a hill overlooking the west coast route to Scotland (now the M74) near to the river crossing of the Clyde.  The ruins of the castle can still be seen today, standing on the knoll surrounded by a thicket of trees.

Unlike the Wauchopedale Lindsays, the Lindsays of Crawford were strong supporters of Scottish independence.  Sir Alexander Lindsay, who was very close to Bruce and Wallace, was a marked man on Edward I’s wanted list and took part in many of the conflicts during the Wars of Independence.  He served in the Scottish Parliament until at least 1309.

His son, Sir David Lindsay, was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.  His great grandson, another Sir David Lindsay, represented Scotland at the jousting tournament on London Bridge attended by Richard II in 1390 defeating John de Wells, the English champion.  After the first charge the crowd insisted that Sir David was locked into his saddle, whereupon he leapt from his horse and jumped back on again, despite the weight of his armour, to the amazement of the onlookers. [9] Sir David was married to Robert the Bruce’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Stewart (daughter of Robert II).  He came close to losing his life at the Battle of Glasclune in 1392 engaging the Wolf of Badenoch’s son, Sir Duncan Stewart, and his supporters on their raid of Angus.  He was granted the title of the 1st Earl of Crawford in 1398.

The 1st Earl of Crawford’s father, another Sir Alexander Lindsay, acquired lands at Edzell and Glenesk through marriage to Catherine Stirling in 1358 and Sir Alexander’s brother, Sir William, gained the title of Lindsay of the Byres in 1365.  Thus began the two main Houses of Glenesk and Byres which were each to hold the title of Earl of Crawford periodically until it was eventually passed on to the Lindsays of Balcarres, a branch of the Lindsays of Edzell, in 1848 and where it has remained until the present day.

Lindsay Contributions

It would be impossible to list all the achievements attributed to the Lindsay family in Scotland, over the past 900 years, in this short text.  It must suffice to say that they have been deeply embroiled in the evolving history of Scotland since their Flemish ancestors came north accompanying David I and their queen Maud in the twelfth century.  Their activities have been diverse.  They have been prominent in many battles such as Sauchieburn, Brechin, Arbroath, Flodden and of course The Battle of Otterburn (1388) where the famous ballad refers to the “Lindsays licht and gay”.  I wonder if the “lightsome Lindsays” have their Flemish genes to thank for this attribute and subsequent success on the battlefield. [10]  While one Lindsay signed the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, another signed Scotland into the Act of Union in 1707;  while one compelled Mary, Queen of Scots, to relinquish her crown, another helped her to escape from Lochleven Castle;  while one fought for the Jacobite cause, another was the founder and first colonel of the Black Watch.  There have been church leaders and Bishops;  Lord Lyon King of Arms, poet and playwright;  members of both Scottish and UK Parliaments; and, the inventor, James Bowman Lindsay, who was a pioneer in electricity and wireless telegraphy in 1854, to mention just a few.

Since the early Flemish connection there has been very little subsequent genetic interaction between the Lindsays and the Flemish people.  However, intermarriage with other Flemish based families must certainly have taken place.  If Beryl Platts is correct in her assumption that the Bruce, Stewart and the Beaton (Bethune) families are of Flemish origin then there are notable connections.  Firstly, with the marriage of Princess Elizabeth Stewart and Sir David Lindsay (circa. 1380) who are ancestors of the current Earl of Crawford (29th); and secondly, when George Lindsay married Margaret Bethune in 1721.  Margaret was a direct descendent of Cardinal Beaton and ancestor of the current Earl of Lindsay (16th) who is also the 25th Lord Lindsay of the Byres.  There must be many more similar relationships.  Indeed, only recently, the Chief’s second son, Alexander married a lady from Belgium who ties him back to his ancient Flemish roots.

I must apologise to all the Lindsays I have not mentioned, but if this text has aroused interest in the “lives of the Lindsays” then I must commend to you further reading of Lord Lindsay’s family history and Beryl Platts’ fascinating research into the Lindsay family, as detailed in the bibliography references below.


Lord Lindsay’s recorded history “The Lives of the Lindsays” is comprehensively robust and has often been cited as a model Family History document.  His 1850s research into genealogical links to Normandy and Flanders pre-1066, however, did not have the benefit of our current knowledge and he made some incorrect but inspired assumptions.  There was little to explain why Walter de Lindsay had such a close connection with David I and the Flemish Queen Maud.  Beryl Platts heraldic observations, however, showing his arms with the Imperial Eagle and the reverse colours of Boulogne began to cast new light on the situation.  Her findings appear logical and convincing in identifying his descent from Ralph, Lord of Alost.

A short time ago Robert Alexander Lindsay, the recognised head of the Lindsay family in Scotland, when asked his opinion on the theory of the Flemish origins was very positive and his position is as follows :- “The 29th Earl of Crawford, the current Chief of the Clan Lindsay, says that he has read Mrs Beryl Platts’ books on the origins of the Lindsays several times and with great care. He wishes to emphasise that he does not bring any greater historical knowledge than anybody else.  However, he feels that Mrs Platts’ genealogical explanations are totally convincing.  He says he has not seen any arguments overturning her genealogical conclusions and that in his opinion it is reasonable to accept them as correct and that if a person disagrees the onus is now on that person to argue their case.”

Consequently, until written evidence or DNA research can provide an alternative answer, then it is to be concluded that the bloodline of the House of Lindsay does indeed go back to the noble Lords of Flanders.

Diarmid F Lindsay
January 2016

Diarmid Fraser Lindsay, BSc MBA, is a life-long Member of the Clan Lindsay Society having served as Hon Treasurer, Webmaster and Editor; first elected to the Board of Management in 1976 and Clan Piper since 1975.  He is a Chartered Civil Engineer by profession and a retired Civil Servant who has always been intrigued by historical maps, ancient castles and tales from Scottish history.  He is also a Member of the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland and the Abertay Historical Society.


[1] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vols. 1 – 3 (John Murray, London, 1849).

[2] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vols. 1 – 3 (John Murray, London, Second Edition 1858).

[3] Beryl Platts, Origins of Heraldry (Procter Press, 1980).

[4] Beryl Platts, Scottish Hazard – The Flemish Nobility in Scotland, vol. 1 (Procter Press, 1985)

[5] Beryl Platts, Scottish Hazard – The Flemish Heritage, vol. 2 (Procter Press, 1990)

[6] Beryl Platts, Origins of the Lindsays, (Publications of The Clan Lindsay Society – Vol VI, No. 22, Xpress Print, 1998).

[7] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vol. 1 (John Murray, London, Second Edition 1858), p. 28.

[8] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vol. 1 (John Murray, London, Second Edition 1858), pp. 117-118.

[9] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vol. 1 (John Murray, London, Second Edition 1858), pp. 88-91.

[10] Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays: A Memoir of the Houses of Crawford and Balcarres, vol. 1 (John Murray, London, Second Edition 1858), pp. 76-80.


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In the Name of the French Father

This blog posting, prepared by Dr Maarten Larmuseau, describes how a study of surnames led to genetic proof for a 16th century migration of French Catholics to Flanders. The work demonstrates, among other things, the fluidity in movement of the population of Flanders in medieval times.

Migration from and to Flanders

Flanders suffered a serious population decline between 1570 and 1600 as a result of war, disease, and emigration to Holland, England, Scotland, Germany, and other countries. Religious and economic uncertainties were the main drivers for these migrations. Many Flemish families had turned to Protestantism and after the so-called Iconoclastic Fury — or the Beeldenstorm in the Dutch language (see figure 1) — and the Fall of Antwerp in 1585 they were forced by the governor of the Netherlands, Alexander Farnese, to leave Catholic Flanders. The Iconoclastic Fury describes a phase that involved the destruction of Catholic religious images.

Using archival documents, it is possible to estimate a population decline for Flanders of about 30 to 50% between 1570 and 1600, taking regional and local differences into account. In some regions, the estimations even point to a decline of two thirds. Once thriving towns, villages, and homesteads felt the impact of this depopulation. As a consequence, many northern French Catholic families left for Flanders to repopulate this region.

Archival documents dating back to this period have been found in which priests complain of their inability to communicate with large numbers of new parishioners who only spoke a French dialect. It is estimated that about 10% of the Flemish families at the start of the 17th century had French roots. After a few generations, these families seem to have been completely integrated.

Figure 1: Destruction of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp during the Iconoclastic Fury on 20 August 1566 (engraving by Frans Hogenberg).

Figure 1: Destruction of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp during the Iconoclastic Fury on 20 August 1566 (engraving by Frans Hogenberg).

During the Council of Trent (1545–1563) the Church decided to keep record of baptisms, marriages, and burials in parish registers, but it was not until the early 1600s that these registers were introduced in the Low Countries. As a result there is very limited genealogical data available for the period covering the migration. On the other hand, surnames transmitted from father to son have been in use since the 13th and 14th centuries in Flanders and northern France. The many French surnames in Flanders, whether or not transmuted to a Flemish variant (e.g., Ghesquires, Spincemaille, Carbonelle, and Seynaeve), are likely to be the only remnant of a northern French immigration at the end of the 16th century. Or can genetics provide additional proof?

Genetic Analysis of Flemish Men

Thanks to the genetic genealogical project organised by Familiekunde Vlaanderen (the Flemish Family History organisation) and the KU Leuven (University of Leuven), genealogical data and DNA of more than 1,500 Flemish men have so far been collected and analysed. This project is of great scientific importance in tracing the genetic roots of the Flemish population, in observing regional differences within Flanders, and in identifying the genetic history of the medieval migrations. The Y-chromosomal results are also of interest for genealogists in identifying relationships between participants and in providing data that can verify and complement family trees.

Extensive genealogical and archival research permitted an accurate selection of suitable candidates to support the genetic work on the northern French migration to Flanders at the end of the 16th century. The selection consisted of 549 Flemish men possessing an authentic Flemish surname and 50 with a French (Roman) surname. The oldest reported paternal ancestor in all the families with a French surname lived in present day Flanders, but the surname was not present in Flanders before 1575.

The Y chromosome for all 599 selected men was investigated. It is the human sex-determining chromosome and is transmitted from father to son – just like family names. After having been genotyped on the Y chromosome, the individuals were allocated to different evolutionary lineages (the so-called haplogroups). As a comparison, the haplogroup frequencies of approximately 160 Frenchmen with a French surname from two northern French regions (Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Île-de-France) have been included in the analysis.

Next, the haplogroup frequencies of the four different groups (Flemish surname, French surname, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and Île-de-France) have been compared. A statistically significant difference exists between the Flemish men with an authentic Flemish surname and the Flemish men with a French surname. Also, there was a difference between the Flemish men with an authentic Flemish surname and the two groups of Northern Frenchmen (Figure 2). However, no significant difference exists between the Flemish men with a French surname and the two groups of Northern Frenchmen. From this, we were able to conclude that a migration that occurred more than four hundred years ago from Northern France to Flanders left traceable genetic marks on the Y chromosome in the current Flemish population.

Figure 2: This figure shows a map of Western Europe with the frequencies (in percentage) of the three main Y-chromosome subhaplogroups R-U106, R-P312* and R-U152. It also shows all the other subhaplogroups in the datasets of Nord-pas-de-Calais, Île-de-France, and Flanders with the AFS (authentic Flemish surname sample) and FRS (French/Roman surname sample).

Figure 2: This figure shows a map of Western Europe with the frequencies (in percentage) of the three main Y-chromosome subhaplogroups R-U106, R-P312* and R-U152. It also shows all the other subhaplogroups in the datasets of Nord-pas-de-Calais, Île-de-France, and Flanders with the AFS (authentic Flemish surname sample) and FRS (French/Roman surname sample).


This study yielded several findings of scientific importance. First of all, it proves that genealogical research combined with Y chromosomal analysis can contribute to the reconstruction of historical events. The observed differences in Y chromosomal haplogroup frequencies between Flanders and the adjacent northern France shows the potential to detect genetic signals of historical events. Next, the study demonstrates that though non-paternity – namely adoption or a child born out of wedlock – occurs every generation in approximately 1 % of all live births, a link can still be found between the origin of the surname and the Y chromosome after four hundred years. Lastly, the research offers genetic proof that the surname can provide information on past migrations that a family participated in even when no genealogical information can be found for the time when the surname has come into existence.

Dr Maarten Larmuseau
January 2016

Dr Larmuseau is a researcher at the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology at the University of Leuven, Belgium.


The above blog posting is based upon the scientific publication, ‘In the name of the migrant father – Analysis of surname origins identifies genetic admixture events undetectable from genealogical records’, by Larmuseau et al. It is available from the website of the journal Heredity: http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v109/n2/full/hdy201217a.html.

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