MacMillan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The rugged western mountains of Scotland's coastline and the Hebrides islands were home to the ancestors of the MacMillan family. MacMillan was originally a name 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.

Early Origins of the MacMillan family

The surname MacMillan was first found in at Tayside, where in 1263 Cilleonan MacMolan appears on documents. [1] 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.

Early History of the MacMillan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacMillan research. Another 267 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1775, 1790, 1452, 1454, 1540, 1555, 1670, 1753, 1670, 1745 and 1745 are included under the topic Early MacMillan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

MacMillan Spelling Variations

Spelling variations are a very common occurrence in records of early Scottish names. They result from the repeated and inaccurate translations that many names went through in the course of various English occupations of Scotland. MacMillan has been spelled MacMillan, MacMullan, MacMullen, McMullen, McMullin, McMullan, McMillan, MacMullin and many more.

Early Notables of the MacMillan family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Sir Duncan Macmolane, a Pope's knight, chaplain of the collegiate church of Kilmone, 1452; John Macmulan (Makmilane, or Makmylan), bailie (baillie) of Glasgow in 1454; Sir Fingon Makmulane, who was presented in 1540 to the chaplainry of Tibbermore in the diocese of...
Another 49 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early MacMillan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the MacMillan family to Ireland

Some of the MacMillan family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 89 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States MacMillan migration to the United States +

The hardy Scots who made the crossing settled all along the east coast of North America and in the great west that was just then opening up. At the time of the American War of Independence, many United Empire Loyalists moved north from the American colonies to Canada. Scottish national heritage became better known in North America in the 20th century through highland games and other patriotic events. An examination of immigration records and passenger ship lists revealed that people bearing the name MacMillan arrived in North America very early:

MacMillan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William MacMillan, aged 25, who arrived in Maryland in 1812 [2]
  • Archie MacMillan, who landed in Colorado in 1884 [2]
  • Henry A MacMillan, who arrived in Colorado in 1885 [2]
MacMillan Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • John Macmillan, who landed in Arkansas in 1903 [2]

New Zealand MacMillan 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:

MacMillan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Archie M.K. Macmillan, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [3]
  • Captain Donald Macmillan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "May Queen" arriving in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand on 16th December 1881 [4]
  • Mrs. Marie Macmillan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "May Queen" arriving in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand on 16th December 1881 [4]
  • Mr. Robert J. Macmillan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "May Queen" arriving in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand on 16th December 1881 [4]
  • Mr. Charles E. Macmillan, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "May Queen" arriving in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand on 16th December 1881 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name MacMillan (post 1700) +

  • Whitney MacMillan (1929-2020), American heir, businessman, philanthropist and rancher, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of his family business, Cargill (1976-1995)
  • Duncan MacMillan, American mathematician, philanthropist, and businessman, one of the four founders of Bloomberg L.P
  • Shannon MacMillan (b. 1974), American gold and silver medalist soccer player, member of the United States National Team (1994-2006), awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy Award in 1995
  • Donald Baxter MacMillan (1874-1970), American Arctic explorer, sailor, researcher and lecturer who made over 30 expeditions to the Arctic
  • William Duncan MacMillan (1871-1948), American mathematician and astronomer. The crater MacMillan on the Moon is named in his honor
  • James Macmillan CBE (b. 1959), Scottish classical composer and conductor
  • Angus MacMillan (1810-1865), Scottish discoverer of Gippsland, Australia, born in Glenbrittle, Skye; he started at the age of nineteen for Australia to find work
  • Daniel Macmillan (1813-1857), Scottish publisher, co-founder of Macmillan Publishers Ltd in 1843, brother of Alewxander Macmillan
  • Malcolm Kenneth Macmillan (1913-1978), Scottish Labour Party politician and journalist, Member of Parliament for Western Isles (1935-1970)
  • Wing Commander Norman Macmillan OBE, MC, AFC, DL (1892-1976), Scottish pilot and author
  • ... (Another 28 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. John Macmillan, British Telegraphist, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking [5]
  • Mr. John Macmillan, British Wireless Operator, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking [5]


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


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  4. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  5. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html


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