Origins of the Surname Laird
in Scotland "Layurrd" or "Leyrrd"
Conventionally Lairds are first recorded in the south of
Scotland in the 13th Century when one Roger Lawird of Berwick
made an agreement with the Abbey of Kelso relating to his land
of Waldefgat in 1257.Thomas le Lanerd of Peebleshire rendered
homage in 1296. In 1552, Thomas Lairde was a witness in
Glasgow. As far as we know there are no connections between
them and our Norse ancestors.
has been some interesting correspondence in the Laird "rootsweb"
discussion pages, which points us back, at least in part, to
an origin which is common with the Sinclairs. So much so that
I am beginning to doubt the often quoted "southern"
origins. The first references are to the surname "Lanerd"
and "Lawird". Sinclair has not changed so much
throughout the last 1000 years, so I wonder why
"Laird" should have. The story one Laird family has
in the USA is that the "Lairds" were descended from
a warlord "Hlawford" from Saxony, in Germany, who
settled in Aberdour, Buchan, Aberdeenshire. It is contained in
by W T Laird written on 31st December 1888. This
story was supposed to have been found by a Heraldic
Commissioner in Chancery in London. The College of Arms in
London have investigated their records and confirm that there
is nothing to it. We were able to check the other elements in
the story which prove to be correct.
were Lairds at
in Buchan, Aberdeenshire. The modern town is New Aberdour, but
it is still a parish name. There was a castle and before that
a fort at
at Aberdour Bay of great antiquity. The area suffered in
the attempts to retain James VII as King against William of
Orange, and there had been fighting there during the Civil War
in Scotland some 50 years earlier.
There was a Henry Harnage in Shropshire, on the Severn. I have
checked further into his ancestry through the IGI. His father
was from Blackfriars in London and his father in turn was
possibly named Blackman, and was born in the West Indies. They
appear to have been rather "grand" but may have made
their money in the West Indies and had certainly created a
position for themselves. Perhaps they took the few facts that
W T Laird's brother knew and made something more of it to
achieve more status for a prospective son-in-law?
Perhaps he was aware of William Laird of Glenhuntly, who had a
grant of Arms from the Lord Lyon in 1777. William was
one of the
Shipbuilding Family, later to establish themselves
in Birkenhead. Glenhuntly was in the area of the Port of
Glagow, in Renfrewshire.
William Laird's Arms have the
Stag's Head of Rollo as the crest. Rollo was a real warlord.
He was a Viking with a large following, and raided in the
North Sea to the extent that the French King granted him the
land that became Normandy, and gave rise to the Norman people.
It was the Vikings who dominated the seas in the 900s and
1000s and their domination continued until the Battle of Largs.
For 600 years Scotland, down to Perth was part of the Kingdom
So perhaps the Arms he refers to are those of William Laird of
Glenhuntly. And the warlord is a memory of Rollo. So I believe
all still points back to Norway. This is what my family
remembers. And it is the Sinclairs who are the direct
descendants of Rollo. And I believe the Lairds, in Caithness
at least, have always been alongside the Sinclairs. Perhaps in
Aberdeenshire they were with that other great Norman Clan, the
On a visit to Caithness in 2002, we met one of the last Lairds
to be born there, now Calder, Ella. The tradition in her
family, as in ours, is that the Lairds are Norse in origin, as
are most of the Caithness families. There may still be a southern Scots origin of Laird, as in the
conventional references, but I still think many of us should
look to Norway for our origins.