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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the Scottish McNair family come from? What is the Scottish McNair family crest and coat of arms? When did the McNair family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the McNair family history?

The history of the ancestors of the McNair family begins among the Pictish clans ancient Scotland. The name McNair comes from the personal name John. The Gaelic form of their name was originally Mac-Iain-uidhir, which means son of dun John. However, the McNair family of Perth traditionally derive their name from M'an-oighre, which means son of the heir. Experts have also theorized that the surname McNair may be derived from Mac-an-fhuibir, which means son of the smith, or Mac-an-huidhir, which means son of the stranger.

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Prior to the invention of the printing press in the last hundred years, documents were basically unique. Names were written according to sound, and often appeared differently each time they were recorded. Spelling variations of the name McNair include MacNair, MacNaire, MacNayer, MacNeir, MacNuir, Menair and many more.

First found in Perth, where they held a family seat from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNair research. Another 155 words(11 lines of text) covering the years 1392, 1526, 1546, and 1776 are included under the topic Early McNair History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 28 words(2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNair Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the McNair family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 122 words(9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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The freedom of the North American colonies was enticing, and many Scots left to make the great crossing. It was a long and hard journey, but its reward was a place where there was more land than people and tolerance was far easier to come by. Many of these people came together to fight for a new nation in the American War of Independence, while others remained loyal to the old order as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of Scots in North America have recovered much of this heritage in the 20th century through Clan societies and other such organizations. A search of immigration and passenger lists revealed many important and early immigrants to North America bearing the name of McNair:

McNair Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • John McNair, a Highland Scott, from Kilkenny, Argyll, came to America in 1770 with his 2 surviving children and settled in Robeson County, North Carolina
  • John McNair, who arrived in Virginia in 1785

McNair Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • James McNair, aged 61, landed in New York in 1812-1813
  • Barnard McNair, aged 67, landed in North Carolina in 1813
  • Janet McNair, her husband and four children, who settled in Charleston in 1821
  • Catherine McNair, who arrived in Nevada in 1855
  • William L McNair, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1866

McNair Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Ann McNair, aged 18, arrived in Saint John aboard the ship "Ranger" in 1834
  • Sarah McNair, aged 20, arrived in Saint John aboard the ship "Ranger" in 1834

McNair Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • John McNair, English Convict from Northumberland, who was transported aboard the "Aboukir" on December 24, 1851, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • Robert McNair, aged 33, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "James Fernie"
  • Rachel McNair, aged 27, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Taymouth Castle"
  • Neil McNair, aged 22, a carpenter, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Admiral Boxer"
  • Elizabeth McNair, aged 20, a domestic servant, arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Bee"


McNair Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Peter McNair, aged 27, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Jane McNair, aged 28, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Archibald McNair, aged 4, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • James McNair, aged 33, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jane Gifford" in 1842
  • Martha McNair, aged 28, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jane Gifford" in 1842


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  • Frederick V McNair (1882-1962), American Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, veteran of the American Civil War
  • Ronald Erwin McNair (1950-1986), NASA mission specialist, one of the astronauts killed during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger
  • Barbara Jean McNair (1935-2007), African American singer and actress, known for her many appearances in film and stage including Sidney Poitier's wife in They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), The Pajama Game (1973) and many more
  • Evander McNair (1820-1902), Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War
  • Steve LaTreal McNair (1973-2009), American NFL football quarterback
  • General Lesley James McNair (1883-1944), American Commander in Chief Army Ground Force (1942-1944)
  • Robert C. "Bob" McNair (b. 1937), American businessman, philanthropist, and the owner of the NFL Houston Texans
  • John Babbitt McNair CC (1889-1968), New Brunswick lawyer, politician and judge, 23rd Premier of New Brunswick (1940-1952)
  • Arnold Duncan McNair (1885-1975), English legal scholar and judge
  • Benjamin John McNair (b. 1974), Australian actor, best known for his role as Malcolm Kennedy in the soap opera Neighbours

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  • A Research Report on John Martin McNair and his Wife Mary Ann Hamill by Myrtle Mitchell McNair.
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  1. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  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. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  5. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  6. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  7. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  8. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  9. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  10. Scots Kith and Kin And Illustrated Map Revised 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Clan House/Albyn. Print.
  11. ...

The McNair Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McNair 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 10 April 2015 at 01:36.

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