Families

Of course no family line is alone in its history. Although a surname passes down from the father from generation to generation, through marriage there are many lineages woven together to form a unique ancestry. This section explores some of the many families of our particular branch of the Neilson family.

Many of the surname histories have been drawn from the Internet Surname Database and do not have the same level of research as the four main family names.

The coat of arms displayed here are only used to show the family relationships and are do not necessarily belong to a specific individual in our family. For interest, this image shows all of the known coat of arms for our branch of these families arranged in a tree of ancestry.

Fyfe

The Fyfe family married into the Neilson family through Harry Neilson and Catherine Fyfe in 1906.

The Fyfe family were house painters from Aberdeen in northern Scotland. Catherine's grandfather James Fyfe and her grand uncle Samuel Fyfe owned a painting business which was listed as "J&S Fyfe Painting, Master Painters Employing 10 Men & 6 Boys" and had many records with the city describing the various jobs they performed. They operated out of offices in downtown Aberdeen for at least 45 years and were one of the first in town to own a telephone in 1894. Catherine's own father, Samuel, would eventually take over the family business. and numerous Fyfe family members were involved over the years.

This Fyfe surname, with variant spellings Fife, Fyffe and Phyffe, is of Scottish regional origin from the former kingdom of Fife in East Scotland. The place is believed to be so called from an eponymous Fib, one of the seven sons of Cruithne, founding father of the Pictish race.

As such, the Fife family is also traditionally considered a sept of the Clan MacDuff, the old earls of the Kingdom of Fife in eastern Scotland. In north-east Fife near Newburgh there is the cross of MacDuff where, according to ancient tradition, sanctuary could be claimed by any kinsman of the MacDuffs. 

For more on the history of our branch of the Fyfe family see here.

 

Mutch

The Mutch family married into the Neilson family through William Henry Neilson and Margaret Elsie Mutch in 1879.

The Mutch's were a farming family from north of Aberdeen near Cruden and Peterhead. Margaret's father, John Mutch, inherited land off his father and by 1861 owned 90 acres and employed several men. Interestingly it seems that John also married the milk maid, Isabella Simpson, whom from census data, was employed by his father and who was the same age as John.

This name, with variant spelling Much and Muche, widespread today in Scotland and in the North of England, is of early medieval English origin, and derives from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "moche" or "muche" meaning "great", and was originally given as a nickname to a large, tall person.

The Concise Scots Dictionary notes "Between the 12th and 18th centuries, contact between Scotland and the countries of Europe increased and there were Flemish craftsmen settling in the Scottish towns and Scottish traders settling at ports in the Netherlands. One result of that period was many Scottish words of Dutch or Flemish origin, such as bucht, callan, croon, cuit, mutch, pinkie, golf and scone, and the name of measures such as mutchkin". It is possible that this is where the family came from as well.

There is also this wonderful website on Mutch family history.

 

Berwick

The Berwick family married into the Fyfe family through Samuel Fyfe and Georgina Berwick in 1880.

Georgina Berwick was born into a farming family in Newton, Perthshire. Sadly, her parents were barely married when her father George Berwick died at just age 30, leaving her and her mother alone. Isabella Matthew appears to have then moved back with her parents in Inchture for a few years before getting remarried a few years later to an Alexander Troup. He was a merchant, who moved the family to Aberdeen and with which she had several more children. Georgina never took her new family's name.

Recorded in various spellings including Berwick, Berwic, Beric, Berick, Barrick, Barwick and others, this is an Anglo and sometimes Scottish, surname. It is locational and can be from any of a variety of places such as Berwick on Tweed, on the Scottish border, partly in England and partly in Scotland, and fought over for many centuries, Berwick villages in the counties of Kent and Shropshire, Berrick in Oxfordshire, Barwick in Norfolk and the West Riding of Yorkshire, and others. These places are first recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 in such spellings as Berewic, Berewiche, Bereuuica and Bereuuith. All derive from the pre 7th Century word "bere" meaning barley, with the suffix of "wic," meaning an outlying settlement, and hence a probable meaning of "a granary away from the main village".

 

Brereton

The Brereton family married into the Neilson family through William Cunningham Neilson and Florence Brereton about 1852.

Florence's father, Henry Hickman Brereton was a chaplain with the British East India Company. Although born in Ireland, he and his family lived mostly around Bath in Somerset, England in later years. Henry himself spent many years in India.

The Breretons have a long and distinguished history in Ireland as early settlers during its English colonization of the 16th century. The line traces back to Sir William Brereton VII, Chief Justice and Lord High Marshall of Ireland.

This is an English locational name from the places in England so called 'Brereton' in Staffordshire and Cheshire, and 'Brearton' in West Yorkshire. The place name derivations are slightly different as can be seen from records in the Domesday Book of 1066. Brereton in Cheshire and Brearton in West Yorkshire are recorded as 'Bretone' and 'Brareton' respectively and derive from the Old English pre 7th Century elements 'braer' or 'brer', briar and 'tun', meaning enclosure or settlement. Brereton in Staffordshire is first recorded as 'breredon', the second element being 'dun' meaning hill. The two names would therefore denote one who lived at the settlement where briars grew, or at the briar hill.

A great website for Brereton family history can be found at brereton.org.

 

Simpson

The Simpson family married into the Mutch family through John Mutch and Isabella Simpson in 1852.

It appears that Isabella was the farm's milk maid originally employed by her husband's father.

Recorded in the spellings of Symson, Simson and Simpson, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname with two distinct possible origins. The first and most generally accepted being a patronymic form of the medieval male name 'Simme', claimed to be a variant of the Greek 'Simon'. This is probably correct, and as such would have been introduced into Britain by the 12th century Crusaders. However it is also possible that 'Simme' was a short form of the pre 7th century Olde English 'Sigmund'. 

Donaldson

The Donaldson family married into the Fyfe family through James Fyfe and Isabella Brebner Donaldson in 1852.

There is some confusion still as to Isabella's true lineage based upon the records we have found. It is suggested that she was born Isabella Brebner to Alexander Brebner, but her mother remarried to William Donaldson when she was young and Isabella took the name.

This Donaldson surname, of Scottish and Irish origin, is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic patronymic name "MacDomhnall", meaning "son of Donald". The Gaelic personal name "Domhnall" is composed of the Celtic elements "dubro", meaning world, and "val", might, rule and is found in 13th Century Scotland as "Dofnald", "Douenald" and "Dufenald".

Clan Donald is one of the largest Scottish clans.

 

Matthew

The Matthew family married into the Berwick family through George Berwick and Isabella Matthew in 1854.

The Matthews were farmers from Perthshire.

This famous surname derived from Mattathiah is recorded in over two hundred and fifty different spellings ranging from Mathieu of France to Macieiczyk of Poland. From medieval times it has been recorded in every part of Christendom. Its popularity throughout Europe first as a baptismal name and then later as a surname dates from the 11th century when Crusaders, otherwise known as the "Knights Templar", returning from one of their many expeditions to the Holy Land, gave it to their sons in commemoration of the fathers (unsuccessful) attempt to free Palestine from the Muslims. The origination is from the Hebrew male given name "Mattathiah" meaning "gift of the Lord".

 

Ross

The Ross family married into the Neilson family through Alexander Ross and Agnes Neilson in 1806. Alexander was the schoolmaster and Reverend at Balmaghie. This Ross line was quite distinguished in the church and many became priests and educators. Alexander's son William became tutor to the Earl of Caithness, and some of his correspondence is kept in the National Archives. Harry Ross Neilson and his uncle Nathaniel Ross Neilson were named after this family.

Pictured here is the Reverend Duncan Mearns Ross from around the 1890s. He was the 2nd half cousin of William Henry Neilson.

Another branch of the Ross family also married into the Fyfe family through Samuel Fyfe and Catherine Ross in 1825. Catherine's father John Ross was a baker. Catherine herself was a flax dresser (person who breaks and swingles flax, or prepares it for the spinner).

The Ross family name continued to be used for several generations afterward by descendants. Granddaughter Catherine Ross Fyfe was the namesake of her paternal grandmother. Purely by coincidence, young Catherine would then also marry Harry Ross Neilson, grand nephew to Agnes Neilson. The shared Ross name was of some significance to them in their marriage. Todayl, the elder Catherine's great great great great grandson, and Harry Ross's great grandson Jeffrey Ross Bretz, would continue to carry on the name.

The surname Ross derives from the ancient Celtic word "Ros", meaning prominant hill, in this case the lands of Easter Ross in the far north of Scotland.

Clan Ross is a highland clan first named by King Malcolm IV of Scotland in 1160. The traditional progenitor of the clan was Fearchar Mac an t Sagairt which is translated as "son of the priest". Fearchar was created Earl of Ross in 1234, for services to Alexander II. The clan Ross is known to Highlanders as Clann Aindreas - the sons of Andrew.

 

Agnew

The Agnew family married into the Neilson family through Nathaniel Neilson and Barbara Agnew in 1812.

The family was from Wigtownshire where they held a seat of power for many centuries from Lochnaw Castle and were known as the Sheriffs of Galloway. Many Agnews also served as Members of Parliment, including Sir Patrick Agnew of Lochnaw (1578-1661).

This interesting surname has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it may be a habitational name from "Agneaux" in La Manche, the etymology of which is uncertain. One Robert de Ayneaus is recorded in the Curia Regis Rolls of Suffolk (1227). It could also have originated from the Old French "agnel", or "agneau" meaning a lamb, and would have been a descriptive nickname for a meek or pious person. Lastly, it may be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Gneeve". In Petty's 1659 "census" of all-Ireland, Agnew was one of the principal Irish names in the baronies of Glencarn and Belfast.

According to The Agnews of Lochnaw by Andrew Agnew, 1864, the family is of Norman descent. The name is likely heraldic in origin as the arms itself carried three Holy lambs. In the 11th century the family were the Lords of L'Isle and Auval in France.

Clan Agnew is thought to be from Normandy with its roots in the Barony d'Agneaux. The original settlers were found in England but migrated to Liddesdale, Scotland, towards the end of the 12th century. Agnew can be traced in the Wigtownshire and Galloway area of Scotland as early as the 14th century.  Agnew has also been traced through the Ulster sept of ‘O'Gnimh’ in Antrim. This descent links the clan name to Somerled, the powerful 12th century King of the Isles represented through the appearance of an eagle on the crest. This also links the clan to some of the most prominent families.

 

 

Rodger

The Rodger family married into the Matthew family through James Matthew and Margaret Rodger in 1835.

The Rodgers were farmers from Longforgan, Perthshire, but little else is known about them.

Recorded in over seventy different spellings ranging from Roger, Rodger, and Rodgier, to diminutives and patronymics such as Rogers, Ruggiero, Di Ruggero, Ruckhard and Roggeman, this ancient surname is of Old German pre 7th century origins. It derives from the personal name of the period "Hrodgari", translating as "Renowned-spear" from the elements "hrod" meaning renown and and "gari"- a spear. Unlike many popular baptismal names of the period which became later surnames, it has little or no association with Christianity nor for that matter with early royalty or nobility, King Roger's being by their absence! Nethertheless the name was very popular with the Norsemen, and it was they who "borrowed" it from the Gauls they conquered, as they swept through on their long march from Scandanavia to their final home in Normandy.