McDuff History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The many centuries old Dalriadan-Scottish name McDuff comes from an old Gaelic personal name. The Gaelic form of the name is Mac Dhuibh. [1]

"This noble family is derived from Fife Mac-Duff, who was a man of considerable wealth and power in Scotland temp, king Kenneth II., and gave that prince great assistance in his wars with the Picts about the year 834. His descendants, from their great dignity, were sometimes called kings of Fife, and they were entitled to place the king of Scotland on the inaugural stone, to lead the van of the royal army, and to enjoy the privilege of a sanctuary for the Clan Mac-Duff, of which he was the founder. " [2]

Early Origins of the McDuff family

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

Some believe MacDuff, the Thane of Fife, portrayed by Shakespeare as the rival of Macbeth, was a myth created by medieval writers. [1]

However this passage proves otherwise: "When the revolution was accomplished, in which Macbeth was bethroned and slain, Malcolm, sensible of the high services of the Thane of Fife, is said to have promised to grant the first three requests he should make. Macduff accordingly demanded (an obtained), 1st that he and his successors, Lords of Fife, should place the crown on the King's head at the coronation; 2ndly, that they should lead the vanguard of the army whenever the royal banner was displayed; and lastly, this privilege of the Clan Macduff, whereby any person, being related to Macduff within the ninth degree, and having committed homicide in chaude melé (without premeditation ) should, upon flying Macduff's Cross, and paying a certain fine, obtain remission of their guilt." [3]

So as to further prove the point, the first Earl of the name, Gillemichel, did emerge by the time of King David I, and he and his descendants had privileges including the right to crown the King of Scotland and to lead the Scottish army.

Furthermore, the MacDuff family traditionally crowned each monarch. But, they were opposed to Robert the Bruce, who gained the throne in 1306. Duncan MacDuff, the Earl of Fife's sister was sent to perform the task. Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan (died c. 1314), sister of Duncan, Earl of Fife did crown Robert the Bruce in March 1306, much to her chagrin. Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and other female relatives but they were betrayed Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I ordered her to be sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed to be caged as a public spectacle. She was caged for four years and is presumed to have died in captivity.

Lord Macduff, the Thane of Fife, is a character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The character kills Macbeth in the final act. It is generally thought that Shakespeare drew the character from the Holinshed's Chronicles (1587.)

Early History of the McDuff family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McDuff research. Another 166 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1353, 1759, 1296, 1358, 1725 and 1889 are included under the topic Early McDuff History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McDuff Spelling Variations

Spelling and translation were not standardized practices until the last few centuries. Spelling variations are extremely common among early Scottish names. McDuff has been spelled MacDuff, McDuff, MacDhuibh (Gaelic) and others.

Early Notables of the McDuff family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Isobel Macduff (1296-1358), the Countess of Buchan, best known for when she left her husband, the Earl of Buchan and stole his warhorses; William Duff of Braco...
Another 35 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McDuff Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McDuff migration to the United States +

Many who arrived from Scotland settled along the east coast of North America in communities that would go on to become the backbones of the young nations of the United States and Canada. In the American War of Independence, many settlers who remained loyal to England went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Their descendants later began to recover the lost Scottish heritage through events such as the highland games that dot North America in the summer months. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the McDuff family emigrate to North America:

McDuff Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Andrew McDuff, aged 21, who landed in New York in 1812 [4]
  • Joseph McDuff, who landed in New York in 1827 [4]
  • Ada McDuff, aged 13, who arrived in New York in 1864 [4]
  • Ellen McDuff, aged 50, who arrived in New York in 1864 [4]
  • Jane McDuff, aged 7, who landed in New York in 1864 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada McDuff migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McDuff Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Archibald McDuff, who settled in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1799 [5]
McDuff Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Michael McDuff, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1840
  • Michael McDuff, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1843

New Zealand McDuff 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:

McDuff Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Helen McDuff, (b. 1855), aged 24, Scottish general servant, from Orkney travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 28th August 1879 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name McDuff (post 1700) +

  • John B. McDuff, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Texas, 1964
  • George W. McDuff, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Louisiana, 1908
  • Fred McDuff, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Oklahoma, 1944
  • Jack "Brother" McDuff (1926-2001), American jazz organist
  • Caleb McDuff, British go-kart racer; despite being 90% deaf, he currently races in the MSA Bambino Championship
  • David McDuff (b. 1945), British translator, editor and literary critic
  • Dusa McDuff (b. 1945), English mathematician, specializing in symplectic geometry, recipient of the Satter Prize, fellow in the Royal Society


The McDuff 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: Deus juvat
Motto Translation: God assists.


  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. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 2 of 3
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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