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

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

Scotland's western coastal mountains and the desolate Hebrides spawned the line of the McMillan family. The name McMillan was originally a nickname for a bald person; the name may refer to a member of a religious order. The Gaelic forms of the name are Mac Mhaolain or Mac Ghille Mhaoil, both of which mean son of the bald or tonsured one.
However, the origins of the Clan have been shrouded in uncertainty, largely as a result of historians of the Clan Buchanan, and their insistence that both Clans have a common ancestry. Buchanan of Auchmar says that the MacMillans are descended from Methlan, second son of Anselan, a Buchanan Chief of the thirteenth century. His theory supports the Buchanan claim that the MacMillans are but a sept (sub-Clan) of the Buchanan rather than a Clan in their own right. This theory is supported by the contention that both Clans have an ecclesiastical origin: MacMillan being Anglicized from Maolanach, meaning a 'priest.' However, tradition may more properly ascribe the origin from a particular tribe in Moray that has descended from the ancient Pictish tribe of Kanteai, thought to have existed in the first half of the second century AD.


Spelling and translation were not standardized practices until the last few centuries. Spelling variations are extremely common among early Scottish names. McMillan has been spelled MacMillan, MacMullan, MacMullen, McMullen, McMullin, McMullan, McMillan, MacMullin and many more.

First found in at Tayside, where in 1263 Cilleonan MacMolan appears on documents. They arrived in Strathtay from the lands in Loch Arkaig after King Malcolm IV transplanted many Clans, including the MacMillans, from that region about 1160 AD. Later, about 1350, the Camerons, who had changed their name to Chalmers, drove them from their Strathtay territories. In vacating the Strathtay, the Clan branched to many other areas, including Lochaber, Argyll and Galloway. The senior branch, however, were the MacMillans of Knapdale, and they held a grant from the Lord of the Isles inscribed in Latin on a rock at Knap: 'MacMillan's right to Knap shall be, as long as this rock withstands the sea.' Malcolm Mor MacMillan had received this rock by the 14th century. His grandson Lachlan MacMillan died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. Lachlan's son, Alan MacMillan of Knap, married the McNeill heiress and took over the Castle Sween. He erected a cross, which still stands to this day in Kilmory churchyard. The cross stands better than twelve feet high and is elaborately engraved, showing a Highland Chief hunting a deer on one side, and a claymore surmounted by certain Clan members on the other.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McMillan research. Another 466 words(33 lines of text) covering the years 1775, 1790, and 1897 are included under the topic Early McMillan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


Some of the McMillan family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 136 words(10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


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 McMillan were among those contributors:

McMillan Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • John McMillan was banished from the west country of England and arrived in New England in 1685
  • Duncan McMillan, who landed in New Jersey in 1685

McMillan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Henry McMillan, who arrived in Maryland in 1714
  • Malcolm McMillan, who arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1774
  • Margaret McMillan, aged 25, arrived in New York in 1774
  • Iver McMillan, aged 26, landed in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1774
  • Archibald McMillan, who landed in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1774

McMillan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Samuel McMillan, who arrived in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1805
  • Sarah McMillan, who landed in America in 1805
  • David McMillan, who landed in America in 1808
  • Hector McMillan, who landed in America in 1810
  • Malcom McMillan, aged 60, landed in North Carolina in 1812


  • James McMillan (1838-1902), Canadian-born, American politician, U.S. Senator from Michigan
  • Edwin Mattison McMillan (1907-1991), American chemist and Nobel Prize winner
  • Colin Riley McMillan (1935-2003), former Assistant United States Secretary of Defense
  • Herbert H. McMillan (b. 1958), American politician
  • Robert Sensman McMillan (1916-2001), American architect and one of the founders of The Architects Collaborative
  • David McMillan (1981-2013), American NFL and CFL football defensive end
  • Thomas Law "Tommy" McMillan (1888-1966), American Major League Baseball outfielder and shortstop who played from 1908 through 1912
  • William McMillan (1764-1804), American Delegate to the United States Congress from the Northwest Territory (1800-1801)
  • William McMillan (1777-1832), American academic, 4th President of Jefferson College (1817-1822), President of Franklin College (1825-1832)
  • William Willard McMillan (1929-2000), American seven-time gold and eight-time silver medalist sports shooter



  • Begats, a Chronicle of the McMillan, Preston, Wiggins, and Binford Families by Mabel E. Preston Wiggins.
  • MacGhillemhaoil: an Account of my Family W. Duncan MacMillan.
  • Record of McMillan and Allied Families by Robert H. McMillan.

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: Miseris succurrere disco
Motto Translation: I learn to succour the distressed.


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  1. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  2. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  3. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  4. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  5. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  6. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3).
  7. 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.
  8. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  9. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Bloxham, Ben. Key to Parochial Registers of Scotland From Earliest Times Through 1854 2nd edition. Provo, UT: Stevenson's Genealogical Center, 1979. Print.
  11. ...

The McMillan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McMillan 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 16 October 2014 at 10:09.

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