Cairney History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The current generations of the Cairney family have inherited a surname that was first used hundreds of years ago by descendants of the ancient Scottish tribe called the Picts. The Cairney family lived on the lands of Cardney in Perthshire.

Early Origins of the Cairney family

The surname Cairney was first found in Perthshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Pheairt) former county in the present day Council Area of Perth and Kinross, located in central Scotland.

Cairnie is a parish in Aberdeenshire. "This place once formed part of the lordship of Strathbogie, which was granted to Sir Adam Gordon, by King Robert Bruce, after the defeat and attainder of Cumin, Earl of Badenoch, and was the original estate of the family of Gordon, whose property, since that period, has become very greatly extended." [1]

Early History of the Cairney family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cairney research. Another 94 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1320 and 1546 are included under the topic Early Cairney History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cairney Spelling Variations

Scribes in the Middle Ages did not have access to a set of spelling rules. They spelled according to sound, the result was a great number of spelling variations. In various documents, Cairney has been spelled Cairney, Cairnie, Cardney, Cairnie and others.

Early Notables of the Cairney family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Cairney Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Cairney migration to the United States +

The cruelties suffered under the new government forced many to leave their ancient homeland for the freedom of the North American colonies. Those who arrived safely found land, freedom, and opportunity for the taking. These hardy settlers gave their strength and perseverance to the young nations that would become the United States and Canada. Immigration and passenger lists have shown many early immigrants bearing the name Cairney:

Cairney Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Cairney, who arrived in New York in 1836

New Zealand Cairney migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Cairney Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Mary Cairney, (b. 1807), aged 55, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [2]
  • Miss Margaret Cairney, (b. 1837), aged 25, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [2]
  • Miss Louisa Cairney, (b. 1840), aged 22, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [2]
  • Mr. Robert Cairney, (b. 1845), aged 29, Scottish boiler maker, from Lanark travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Oamaru" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 17th February 1875 [3]
  • Mrs. Georgina Cairney, (b. 1845), aged 29, Scottish settler, from Lanark travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Oamaru" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 17th February 1875 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Cairney (post 1700) +

  • James " Jim" Cairney (b. 1931), Scottish former footballer who played from 1949 to 1958
  • Tom Cairney (b. 1991), Scottish footballer
  • Paul Cairney (b. 1987), Scottish footballer
  • John Cairney (b. 1930), Scottish actor, best known for his one man shows on Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Service, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William McGonagall
  • Joe Cairney (1956-2009), Scottish footballer who played from 1976 to 1981
  • Henry "Harry" Cairney (b. 1961), Scottish former footballer and manager who played from 1980 to 2003 and managed from 2003 to 2012
  • John Cairney (1898-1966), New Zealand anatomist, medical superintendent and writer
  • Gemma Cairney (b. 1985), English radio presenter for BBC Radio 1


The Cairney Motto +

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: Ad alta
Motto Translation: To high things.


  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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