MacBurnie History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The rugged west coast of Scotland in the kingdom of Dalriada is the setting from which came the MacBurnie name. The name derives from someone having lived in Brennath in Moray, where the name became Birnie. Birnie is a parish in the county of Elgin. "This place is said by some to have been the site of the first cathedral of the diocese of Moray; and it is probable that Simeon de Tonei, one of the bishops, was buried here, in 1184". [1]

The village of Birnie was originally called Brenuth, from brae-nut, which means "hazel trees". Natives of Birnie, using a local dialect, also called the village Burn-nigh, which means near the burn river. This local name, particularly in medieval times, is prefixed by "de", which means "from." [2]

During the Middle Ages, the Birney family became a part of the landed gentry and they wielded considerable prestige and influence in the region of the Scottish borderlands.

Early Origins of the MacBurnie family

The surname MacBurnie was first found in Elginshire a former county in northeastern Scotland, in the present day Scottish Council Area of Moray, where Birnie Kirk, a Church of Scotland church built c. 1140 is still found today. It was the first cathedral of the Bishop of Moray. The church is one of the oldest in Scotland to have been in continuous use through the centuries.

"James de Brennath (the early form of the place name), burgess of Elgin, was one of an inquest concerning the King's garden there in 1261. William de Brennath, dictus Tatenel, witnessed the gift by Hugh Herock, burgess of Elgin, to the church of Elgin in 1286, and Andrew de Bienach was clerk to Sir Dovenald, earl of Mar in 1291. Walter de Branach was the king's chaplain in Moray, 1360. William de Byrneth, canon of the church of Moray, appears as a witness in 1463, Nicholas Birne was a chaplain in 1514, and William Byrny was burgess of Edinburgh in 1558." [3]

Birnie Loch is a man-made loch located in North East Fife from a flooded gravel pit. Birnie Island is a small, uninhabited coral island, 20 hectares in area, part of the Phoenix Island group in central Pacific ocean named after the London firm Alexander Birnie & Co in 1823.

The MacBirnie (MacBurnie and MacBurney) variant was first found in 1466 when David M'Birny was a witness in Kirkcudbright. [3]

Early History of the MacBurnie family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacBurnie research. Another 115 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1261, 1500, 1520, 1591, 1680, 1563, 1619, 1563, 1584 and are included under the topic Early MacBurnie History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

MacBurnie Spelling Variations

In various documents MacBurnie has been spelled Since medieval scribes still spelled according to sound, records from that era contain an enormous number of spelling variations. Birnie, Birney, Birny, Birnye, Byrnye, Byrny, Berney, Birne, Byrne, McBirny, McBirnie, McBurny, McBurnie and many more.

Early Notables of the MacBurnie family (pre 1700)

Another 44 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early MacBurnie Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the MacBurnie family to Ireland

Some of the MacBurnie family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 84 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Australia MacBurnie migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

MacBurnie Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James MacBurnie, English convict who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "David Lyon" on 29th April 1830, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name MacBurnie (post 1700) +

  • Iam MacBurnie, American architect and author of The Periphery and the American Dream
  • John MacBurnie (1892-1956), American cinematographer from New York City, New York; he worked on more than 141 films, including the first Captain America (1944)


The MacBurnie 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: Sapere aude incipe
Motto Translation: Dare to be wise, begin at once


  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Arthur, William , An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. London: 1857. Print
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 3rd June 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/david-lyon


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