ORIGIN OF CLAN SEPT NAMES

by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot

On one of my first trips to Scotland back in the mid-1980s, I visited Hamilton and Inches, a famous jewelry store in Edinburgh. My purpose was to purchase a gold signet ring with a Robertson crest. They showed me several old books filled with Robertson crests but would not sell me a crest ring without my having knowledge of which Robertson family I descended. At the time I was surprised to learn that there were more than 200 different Robertson crests, plus over 50 Duncan and 50 Reid crests in addition to the Clan Donnachaidh crest we all are entitled to wear (when surrounded by the belt and buckle which identifies us as followers of our chief, Robertson of Struan).

Further research has not helped me find any specific crest for my personal Robertson line so there probably isn't one. This likely means that my Robertson ancestors were dependents/tenants on one of the many Robertson estates and took the laird's surname when surnames came into general usage in the 1500s. That got me to thinking about the origin of the sept names associated with our clan. Fortunately, we have several out of print informative clan histories that provide interesting information on the origins of several of our sept names. This article initiates a series to address them and will be added to our Branch website under a section on sept names.