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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Scottish Donelson family come from? What is the Scottish Donelson family crest and coat of arms? When did the Donelson family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Donelson family history?

The ancestors of the Donelson family come from the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada. Their surname comes from a powerful ruler. The name Donald is derived from the Gaelic name Domhnull, or MacDhomhnuill, and the Celtic name Dubnovalos, all of which mean "world ruler" or "world-mighty". The name ranks second only to John in its popularity as a personal name in Scotland.

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Medieval spelling was at best an intuitive process, and translation between Gaelic and English was no more effective. These factors caused an enormous number of spelling variations in Dalriadan names. In fact, it was not uncommon to see a father and son who spelled their name differently. Over the years, Donelson has been spelled Donald, Donaldson, Doneld, Donnald, Donnaldson and others.

First found in Galloway (Gaelic: Gall-ghaidhealaibh), an area of southwestern Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Dumfries and Galloway, that formerly consisted of the counties of Wigtown (West Galloway) and Kirkcudbright (East Galloway), where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donelson research. Another 302 words(22 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Donelson History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Donelson Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Donelson family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 189 words(14 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Settlers from Scotland put down roots in communities all along the east coast of North America. Some moved north from the American colonies to Canada as United Empire Loyalists during the American War of Independence. As Clan societies and highland games started in North America in the 20th century many Scots rediscovered parts of their heritage. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Donelson were among those contributors: Alexander Donald who settled in Georgia in 1775; Cornelius Donald settled in Maryland in 1776; Mary Donald settled in Pennsylvania in 1773; along with David, and Nash.

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  • Andrew Jackson Donelson (1799-1871), American diplomat and candidate for Vice President in 1856
  • Daniel Smith Donelson (1801-1863), Tennessee politician and a Confederate general during the American Civil War
  • John Donelson (1718-1785), American explorer and adventurer and co-founder of Nashville


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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Per mare, per terras
Motto Translation: By sea, by land.

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  1. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  2. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  3. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  4. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  5. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Socts Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art of Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  6. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  7. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  8. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  9. Warner, Philip Warner. Famous Scottish Battles. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996. Print. (ISBN 0-76070-004-4).
  10. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  11. ...

The Donelson Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Donelson Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 22 November 2013 at 11:28.

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