Which clan would the Neilson's from Dumfriesshire, Scotland belong to?

+5 votes
in Genealogy Help by Mary Cole G2G6 Pilot (102k points)

4 Answers

+3 votes
According to a book I have "Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia" it belongs to the Macneil Clan.
by Brett Rutherford G2G6 Pilot (121k points)
Thanx, Brett ~

In this case I wasn't sure if it would be determined by geography or surname origin.
The original Macneils (No capital "C") come from the Island of Barra.

Here is a good website that shows all of the Macneil septs.

My grandmother (on my mothers side) was a McNeil.  I have several McNeil profiles.  I've gotten as far back as 1790's with the birth of my 3rd gr-grandfather and I am still in Ontario, Canada.  But they are originally from Scotland.

Thank you!
+2 votes

My Neilson family search has in it oral history that they were of the clan McKay - I have found a resource in a Clan McKay group that will search back to confirm this if one pays a fee. I will do this, but just need to confirm the confusion about Frank and his origins before asking them to search. Will be happy to share whatever answers I receive, but it will definitely be after the holidays, if you can wait. I need to send five generations of info, in addition to the fee, and, as noted, am stuck on Frank and his antecedents.

Lynn Neilson
Lynn ~

I will try and see if I can find anything on your Frank Neilson.  Do you know what part of Canada or Scotland he may have come from?  I'll look to see if you already have a profile for him.  Will get back with you if I find anything.  Also, do you think that census you were directed to in your previous post was your Frank Neilson?

Thank you!

no to both questions, which is why I'm stumped. And I only have stuff on paper at the moment - i will do a tree on Ancestry because that's easier for me to use and let you know when I get it done. Frank is an enigma because of his different answers on different census data.

+3 votes

Hi Mary

Just noticed this question from a while back. Not sure you received an answer.  There are likely multiple sources of the name, possibly having a same or similar source.  I wrote a little about the relationship between Neilson/MacNeil and the MacKay on the Category page for Clan MacKay.  In short, there was a relationship between The MacNeil of Barra and the Mackay of Strathnaver just when the Mackay are starting to appear on the record of Strathnaver and Sutherland. This relationship becomes pronounced when, in 1430, Neil Neilson obtained from King James I., 20 Mar 1430, a charter of the lands of the Mackay lands of Creich, Gerloch, Daane, Moyzeblary, Croinzneorth, Tutumtarwauch, Langort and Amayde, in the Earldoms of Ross and Sutherland, escheated from his deceased brother, Thomas.  It may simply be the difference was in the location being discussed; Barra, part of the Isles was generally held to speak Gaelic where mac Neil would have been in common usage; while in north Scotland there was a stronger Scandinavian influence and Neilson common.  Don't know for sure.

On wikitree we would likely hold Neilson under MacNeil, by choice.  If there is a variation to this general rule please drop me a note with the details of the specific individual and I can have a look.

by Doug Straiton G2G6 Mach 2 (20.8k points)
edited by Doug Straiton
Doug ~

Thanx for your reply!

Ya know I'm still not sure which clan they were a part of.  I have the McNeil's in my direct line, the next branch over.  Most likely the MacNeil's of Barra.  But as I stated, I'm still in Ontario with them in late 1700's.

Then I have some Mckay's in another branch over.  Interesting link, by the way.  They're from Sutherland.  They married into my Morrison's.   

My Neilson's were from Annandale, Dumfriesshire.  And I've read about a connection to the Stewart Clan.  After I posted this, I believed they belonged to the MacNeil Clan.  But that may be incorrect.

Until about six months ago, I had no idea that I had so much Scottish heritage.  So I am just learning about the clan system.

Hi Mary.  If you are looking for the family to which a Neilson family, living in Annandale in the 18th Century owed their allegiance to it was likely the Johnstones.  I doubt a Stewart link, certainly not from that district.  I have attached two maps, broadly of the period.

1. Districts of Scotland c. 1732.  This shows Annandale (in the south of the map), alongside Nithsdale (to the west) and Lidesdale (to the east).  Annandale was, famously, Bruce lands but absorbed to the Crown during the period of the Bruce Kings but held by the Johnstones during the 18th century.

2. More detailed map of Annandale c. 1732.  This shows the district in more detail but it shows the towns and castles.

Here is a link to the history of the Johnstones of Annandale vol1 and vol 2.  Vol 1 has the Charters and discusses the land holdings. You can cross reference the map above with the text and see which family of Johnstone held which castle during the period.  I have done a quick check for you and could not find any family of Neilson holding land to the Johnstones.  This is a link to the Parishes of Dumfriesshire.

I did a quick search in the district for Neilson.  There was a family of Robert Neilson and Elizabeth Mein, married in Annan (the town - Parish 1 on the Parish map), early 18th C.  They seem to have had a family where more than a couple lived to childhood.  They may have been from the Neilson (noticed as Neilsoun) of Dumfries (they seem to have been merchants).  Here is a link to the Old Parish Records.

As far as a Clan is concerned.  At that time, to be historically accurate, they would not have been part of any "Clan".  These people pre-date the Uprising and the then later creation of the Lowland families into "Clans" in the 19th Century.  However for association, you could link the profiles to MacNeil.


+1 vote

Page here about Neilsons


It's a peculiar fact that the English variant Nelson is most common in Cumbria. 

It's not clear whether this reflects immigration of the surname from Scotland or Ireland, or whether it's because Nele was once a popular given name in that area, and so there were a lot of Neles to be sons of.

But it does raise the distinct possibility of Neilsons in Dumfriesshire being descendants of migrants from England - as indeed were the famous lords of Annandale, the Bruces, who had a lot of land in Cumbria.


by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
Yes it is possible that the Neilson of Dumfriesshire were originally English, although at a much later date than Bruce.  During the reading of the History of the Johnstones in Annandale there is evidence of an interaction with a person by the name of Neilson, stated to have been a merchant from Liverpool.  It is plausible that they, or elements, migrated north.  The region was famous for its wool trade in the 17th and 18th C and the Trade Fair at Sanquar set the trade price for wool for the entire southern part of Scotland.  It had pretty well died out during the 18th C with the industrialisation of the looms and resulted in migration to Ireland and US/Canada.

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