MacDonald History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the MacDonald family come from the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada. The family name comes from the Anglicized version of the Gaelic personal name Mac Dhomhnuill. MacDonald is a patronymic surname, which belongs to the category of hereditary surnames. The surname MacDonald arose from the vernacular naming tradition, whereby surnames were formed by adopting the given name of one's father, or another ancestor. This name was first found in Kintyre, where members of this family had resided for many years.

Most historians note the name claims descent through the High Kings of Ireland, namely Colla Uais and Conn of the Hundred Battles. Movement between Scotland and Ireland was very frequent over the centuries. [1]

Early Origins of the MacDonald family

The surname MacDonald was first found in Kintyre, and much of the Eastern islands and coast-lands where members of this Clan, descended through Somerled, Lord of the Isles and had resided for many years.

Early History of the MacDonald family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacDonald research. Another 300 words (21 lines of text) covering the years 1603, 1692, 1386, 1336, 1386, 1329, 1335, 1341, 1342, 1386, 1420, 1386, 1449, 1415, 1424, 1498, 1456 and are included under the topic Early MacDonald History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

MacDonald Spelling Variations

Historical recordings of the name MacDonald include many spelling variations. They are the result of repeated translations of the name from Gaelic to English and inconsistencies in spelling rules. They include MacDonald, Macdonald, McDonald, Donaldson, MacDonny and many more.

Early Notables of the MacDonald family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was John of Islay, or John MacDonald, (d. 1386), the first Lord of the Isles (1336-1386) and chief of Clan Donald. He was he was the son of Angus Og Macdonald, who died at Isla about 1329, and was buried at Icolmkill. The Macdonalds trace their descent from Donald, elder son of Refinald, second son of Sommerled of Argyll, king of the Isles. On account of a dispute with the regent regarding certain lands, John of Isla joined the party of Edward Baliol, to whom, in consideration of a grant of the lands of...
Another 354 words (25 lines of text) are included under the topic Early MacDonald Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

MacDonald World Ranking

In the United States, the name MacDonald is the 821st most popular surname with an estimated 37,305 people with that name. [2] However, in Canada, the name MacDonald is ranked the 10th most popular surname with an estimated 78,766 people with that name. [3] And in Australia, the name MacDonald is the 140th popular surname with an estimated 20,149 people with that name. [4] New Zealand ranks MacDonald as 52nd with 5,280 people. [5] The United Kingdom ranks MacDonald as 132nd with 38,244 people. [6]

Ireland Migration of the MacDonald family to Ireland

Some of the MacDonald family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 66 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States MacDonald migration to the United States +

Dalriadan families proliferated in North America. Their descendants still populate many communities in the eastern parts of both the United States and Canada. Some settled in Canada as United Empire Loyalists, in the wake of the American War of Independence. Families on both sides of the border have recovered much of their heritage in the 20th century through Clan societies and highland games. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name MacDonald or a variant listed above:

MacDonald Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Daniel MacDonald, who landed in Virginia in 1731 [7]
  • Norman and Elizabeth Macdonald, and their two children who settled in Georgia in 1741
  • Daniel Macdonald, who settled in New Jersey sometime between 1730 and 1749
  • Archibald MacDonald, who arrived in America in 1760-1763 [7]
  • James Macdonald, who landed in North Carolina in 1772 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
MacDonald Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Alastair Macdonald, who landed in Baltimore, Maryland in 1803 [7]
  • Moore MacDonald, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811 [7]
  • Robert MacDonald, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811 [7]
  • William MacDonald, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811 [7]
  • Thomas MacDonald, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
MacDonald Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • John J Macdonald, who landed in California in 1900 [7]
  • James Ernest Macdonald, who arrived in Colorado in 1903 [7]
  • Samuel MacDonald, who arrived in Colorado in 1903 [7]
  • Alexander MacDonald, who arrived in Mississippi in 1905 [7]
  • Carmen Claude MacDonald, who landed in Alabama in 1920 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada MacDonald migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

MacDonald Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Charles MacDonald, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia from Skye, in 1776
  • Ensign. Soirle MacDonald U.E., (Soril, Soirlee, Sorley, Samuel, Soyle) (b. 1730) born in Isle of Skye, Scotland from North Carolina, USA who settled in Port Roseway, [Shelbourne], Nova Scotia c. 1783, returned to the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1790 originally arriving in America in m1771, listed as serving in the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment, married to Flora Nicolson in Scotland in 1765 having 4 children he died in 1830 [8]
  • Private. Alexander MacDonald U.E. who settled in New Brunswick c. 1784 he served in the Queen's Loyal Rangers [8]
  • Mr. Alexander MacDonald Sr., U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [8]
  • Mr. Alan MacDonald U.E. born in Scotland from North Carolina, USA who settled in Douglas Township [Kennetcook], Hants County, Nova Scotia c. 1784, then moved to England before finally settling Isle of Skye in Scotland he served in the Royal Highlands Emigrants, and the 84th Regiment, married to Flora they had 6 children [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
MacDonald Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Donald Macdonald, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1801
  • Ronald Macdonald, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1801
  • Janet Macdonald, aged 3, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1801
  • John MacDonald, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1801
  • Jon Macdonald, aged 6, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1801
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia MacDonald migration to Australia +

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

MacDonald Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Abell Macdonald, British Convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life, transported aboard the "Earl Spencer" in May 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. George Macdonald, English convict who was convicted in Wiltshire, England for life, transported aboard the "Dromedary" on 11th September 1819, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [10]
  • Edward MacDonald, English convict from Warwick, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on September 3rd, 1820, settling in New South Wales, Australia [11]
  • William Macdonald, Scottish convict from Edinburgh, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on July 29th, 1823, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [12]
  • Mr. Charles MacDonald, Scottish convict who was convicted in Perth, Scotland for 14 years, transported aboard the "Claudine" on 19th August 1829, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand MacDonald 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:

MacDonald Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Macdonald, British settler arriving as Detachment of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles travelling aboard the ship "Sir Robert Sale" from Gravesend via Cork arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 11th October 1847 [14]
  • Mrs. Mary Macdonald, (b. 1811), aged 36, British settler with 6 children travelling aboard the ship "Sir Robert Sale" from Gravesend via Cork arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 11th October 1847 [14]
  • Miss Macdonald, (b. 1847), aged Infant, British settler born aboard the ship "Sir Robert Sale" from Gravesend via Cork arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 11th October 1847, she died on board [14]
  • Mr. MacDonald, British settler travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "John Wickliffe" arriving in Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand on 23rd March 1848 [15]
  • Mr. A. MacDonald, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Simlah" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand in 1851 [14]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies MacDonald migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [16]
MacDonald Settlers in West Indies in the 18th Century
  • John Macdonald, who arrived in Jamaica in 1792 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name MacDonald (post 1700) +

  • Sir John Alexander Macdonald (1815-1891), Scottish-born, Canadian statesman and twice Prime Minister of Canada (1867-1873 and 1878-1891) one of the Fathers of Confederation [17]
  • Ian Pirie MacDonald (1867-1942), American portrait photographer
  • Dwight MacDonald (1906-1982), American writer, editor, social critic, philosopher, and political radical [18]
  • Charles H. MacDonald, American fighter pilot and flying ace in the U.S. Army Air Forces, during World War II, credited with 27 aerial victories
  • Keith Roy Macdonald (1933-2021), Scottish rugby union player who played for the Barbarians and represented the national team
  • Maggie Macdonald (1952-2016), née Michie, a Scottish Gaelic singer and primary school teacher
  • Rory MacDonald (b. 1949), Scottish folk-rock musician and songwriter [19]
  • Thomas Logie MacDonald (1901-1973), Scottish astronomer and politician [20]
  • Alexander MacDonald (b. 1948), Scottish professional footballer and manager
  • Malcolm Macdonald (1901-1981), Scottish administrator
  • ... (Another 22 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Lawrence Kay MacDonald, British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and survived the sinking [21]
Halifax Explosion
  • Master Arthur  MacDonald (1911-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [22]
  • Mrs. Rosanna  MacDonald, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who survived the explosion but later died due to injuries [22]
  • Mrs. Margaret  MacDonald (1880-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [22]
  • Master Allan  MacDonald (1914-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [22]
  • Miss Ethel  MacDonald (1899-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [22]
  • ... (Another 3 entries are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. Frank Leslie MacDonald, English Gunner from North End, Portsmouth, England, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking [23]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Alastair D Macdonald (b. 1923), Scottish Boy 1st Class serving for the Royal Navy from Cupar, Fife, Scotland, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [24]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. George MacDonald, British Ordinary Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [25]


The MacDonald 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: Per mare per terras
Motto Translation: By sea and by land.


Suggested Readings for the name MacDonald +

  • Adam and Susan Fickas: their Descendants and Allied Families by Viva Fickas Freeman.
  • McDaniel/MacDonald Notes by Ellen Byrne.

  1. ^ O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
  2. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  5. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  6. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  7. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  8. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 8th September 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-spencer
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th July 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/dromedary
  11. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Asia 1 voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1820 with 192 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1820
  12. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Asia 1 voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1823 with 151 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1823
  13. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 18th February 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/claudine
  14. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  15. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  16. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  17. ^ John Macdonald. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) John Macdonald. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/primeministers/h4-3025-e.html
  18. ^ Dwight MacDonald. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Dwight MacDonald. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_Macdonald
  19. ^ Rory MacDonald. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Rory MacDonald. Retrieved from http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_features.php?id=5425
  20. ^ Thomas MacDonald. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Thomas MacDonald. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Logie_MacDonald
  21. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  22. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance
  23. ^ HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from http://www.findingsydney.com/roll.asp
  24. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/roh_24may41.htm
  25. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html


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