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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


The age-old Pictish-Scottish family name Gilfillan is derived from the Gaelic name Gille Fhaolain, which means servant of St. Fillan. Patronymic names often substituted the name of a saint or other revered religious figure in place of a devout bearer's actual father.

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The surname Gilfillan was first found in Fife, 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.

In medieval Scotland, names were more often spelled according to sound than any regular set of rules. An enormous number of spelling variations were the result. Over the years, the name Gilfillan has been spelled Gilfillan, Gilfilland, Gilfillen, Gilfillian, Gilfillin, Gilfillon, Gillfillan, Gillfilland, Gillfillen, Gillfillian and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gilfillan research. Another 152 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1215, 1275, 1296, 1477, and 1516 are included under the topic Early Gilfillan History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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

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In such difficult times, Ireland, Australia, and North America looked like better homes for many Scots. The trips were expensive and grueling, but also rewarding, as the colonies were havens for those unwelcome in the old country. That legacy did not die easily, though, and many were forced to fight for their freedom in the American War of Independence. The Scottish legacy has resurface in more recent times, though, through Clan societies, highland games, and other organizations. Immigration and passenger lists have shown many early immigrants bearing the old Scottish name of Gilfillan:

Gilfillan Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • John Gilfillan who settled in New Jersey in 1685
  • John Gilfillan, who landed in New Jersey in 1685

Gilfillan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Robert Gilfillan, who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1839

Gilfillan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • William Gilfillan, aged 19, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Lismoyne"

Gilfillan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Alexander Gilfillan, aged 48, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Mandarin" in 1841
  • Mary Gilfillan, aged 34, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Mandarin" in 1841
  • Georgia Gilfillan, aged 12, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Mandarin" in 1841
  • Elizabeth Gilfillan, aged 11, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Mandarin" in 1841
  • Mary Gilfillan, aged 10, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Mandarin" in 1841


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  • Merrill D. Gilfillan (b. 1945), American poet
  • Reverend Joseph Alexander Gilfillan (1838-1913), Irish-born, American missionary in northern Minnesota from 1873 until 1908
  • John Bachop "J.B." Gilfillan (1835-1924), American politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota
  • James Gilfillan (1836-1929), 13th Treasurer of the United States
  • Calvin Willard Gilfillan (1832-1901), American politician, Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania
  • Robert Gilfillan (1798-1850), Scottish songwriter and poet
  • Reverend George Gilfillan (1813-1878), Scottish poet and critic


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  1. 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).
  2. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  3. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  4. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  5. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. Print.
  6. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  7. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  8. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  9. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  10. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  11. ...

The Gilfillan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Gilfillan 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 19 January 2015 at 10:49.

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