Breckenridge Name Study

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Surnames/tags: Breckenridge Brackenridge
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This is a page to collect together in one place, variants of its spelling, and pieces of information about the Breckenridge surname and its interesting history. The hope is other researchers like you will feel free to contribute additional information you might have come across too, INCLUDING YOUR SOURCE, under the appropriate sections. Much of a family's history is in its name, and I look forward to us building a useful resource for new and experienced researchers alike. If you have any questions specifically about this page or topic, please contact the project leader or add your questions to the G2G bulletin board.

NOTE: To keep things more visually divided and so easier to research, when switching to information from another source, say a few introductory words about it in the first line and italicize it. And to better help identify locations, bold their names. If you find one that's been missed, feel free to bold it.


Name Variants

Variations include Brackenridge, Brahenridge, Brakenbury, Brackenrige, Brachenrig,e Brecenrigg, Brecenrig, Breckinridge, Breckenridge, Breckinrige, Breckinrigg, Breconrig, Breconrigg, Breckenrig, Breckenrigg, Braikenridge, Braikinrigg, Braikinrig, Braikinridge, Braikinrige.[1]

Clan Affiliation

Clan affiliation is not clear. According to Researcher Jim McClenahan, even the experts seem unable to agree on a specific Clan affiliation for the Breckenridges, as I've discovered from my own research. Depending on the source, it is generally concluded that their affiliation is with one of these three Clans: McDonald, Campbell or Douglas. However, after 1995, The Clan Douglas Society of North America identified the Breckinridges as a "Sept" (families that followed another family's chief) to their Clan.[1]

But for the sake of thoroughness, my plan is to over time list here, all statements and sources found through research pertaining to clan identity.

Name History

Dr. George F. Black, in his "The Surnames of Scotland", 1946, writes, "The names Breckenridge and Brackenridge are confined mainly to Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. The surname is derived from the lands of Brackenrig in the old Barony of Avondale in Lanarkshire." Dr. Black mentioned the name as having been in use as "John of Bracaniyggis in Glascow in 1454 and Brackanrig in 1505."[2]

Brackenridge Surname History states, "The Brackenridge surname can be traced back to the fifteenth century in lowland Scotland and northern England where it appears in a variety of private papers and public records. Most frequently, however, it is associated with Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and the environs of Glasgow. Variant spellings are common: Brackenridge, Breakenridge, Breakinridge, Breckenridge, Breccinridge, or Breckenridge. The earliest spellings, however, end with “rig” rather than “ridge,” suggesting an agricultural context: Brecenrigg, Brecenrig, Breckinrigg, Breconrig, Breconnrigg, etc. (A rig is the space between the furrows in a plowed field and by extension refers to the field itself.) Bracken is an undesirable wide-leafed fern that flourishes in the moist Scottish soil and is eaten by animals only as a last resort. Before Scots adopted modern agricultural practices, fields were broken up in medieval fashion into small plots separated by built-up rigs or mounds (ridges)on which weeds such as bracken proliferated. “Bracken rigs” possibly described the fields in which our ancestors labored and eventually became a family name.

"Other etymologies are more exotic but less verifiable historically. Some family historians propose Highland origins, most frequently Argyllshire and surrounding environs. Taking their name from bracken-covered hills, these highlanders supposedly moved south in search of better farmland and more promising economic conditions. One writer claims that the family name sprung up spontaneously during “one of the religious wars in Scotland” when Protestants and Catholics met on a battlefield. A family named McIlvain, so the story goes, fought with the Protestants who were defeated and routed. The McIlvains, however, saved their lives by taking refuge in a ridge overgrown with tall bracken. Because of their near miraculous escape from death, in gratitude they adopted the new name of Brackenridge.

"Although this story makes interesting reading, we know that the name Brackenridge existed long before any Protestant-Catholic engagements. The surname apparently is derived from the lands of Brackenrig in the old Barony of Avondale in Lanarkshire. Early references include “the yard of John Bracanrygg in Glasgow” (1454) and the mention of Robert Brakinrig as a witness to a letter of reversion (1504). In 1629 a William Brackinrig in Clevens complained of having been assaulted and in 1654 John Breckenrig is noted as having been a servitor in Lanarkshire in 1654. As far back as 1600, the name appears in the Edinburgh Marriage Register in the forms Brakinrig, Brackenrig, Braikinrig, and Brackenrigg. An entry from the Eastwood [near Glasgow] Parish Kirk Session Records, 20 November 1708 reads: “John Breakenridge was brought before the Session for cursing, swearing, and profanation of the Sabbath Day and fined 30 shillings Scots.”

"Our extended Brackenridge family connections can be traced back to a cluster of Lanarkshire parishes in the vicinity of Glasgow: The Barony (Glasgow), Old and New Monkland, and Bothwell. Among towns of note in the latter three parishes, were Airdrie, Bothwell, Bellshill, Coatbridge, Holyton, and Uddingston, as well as many small mining and farm villages such as Bargaddie, Rosewell, Langloan, and Whifflet. Our immediate family ties, however, are located in Old or West Monkland Parish, an area about ten miles in length and three and a half miles wide situated along the eastern bank of the river Clyde on the outskirts of Glasgow. The name Monkland derives from a Cistercian Monastery that occupied the territory as far back as the fourteenth century.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 [Douglas Society of North America], Page: "Breckinridge", info as of 6-22-2017
  2. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1993. Print.
  3. Website: Brackenridge, Page: Brackenridge Surname History [1], info as of 6-22-2017

Comments: 7

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Thank you for establishing this page. I have been researching the Australian branch of the Brackenreg and Breckenridge families in some detail and will be adding them and their descendents to Wikitree over time. One comment regarding the crest: if - as is generally accepted - the Breckenridge/Brackenreg clan were farmers without a clear clan association, then they almost certainly did not have a family crest, at least not an ancient one. Most of the crests out there are fanciful creations of companies satisfying people's needs to "have a family crest", rather than reflections of genuine armorials granted by the relevant authority. So I'd sugggest that either the crest be validated or that a note be attached to the Crest that it's likely to be fanciful, rather than representing a genuine family crest.
posted by M. Lohmeyer
You're welcome! Glad you found it helpful. As for the crest... feel free to research it and let us know what you find, and add it to this page. As I said in the beginning of the writeup, "feel free to contribute additional information you might have come across too, INCLUDING YOUR SOURCE, under the appropriate sections." From my research, if I remember correctly, the Douglas Clan, which considered the family as part of their clan, as a sept, at a time were considered more influential/powerful than the monarchy. That might be a place to start, to see if the Brackenridge family then were considered eligible to have their own crest. Just a thought anyway. I wish you well if you decide to tackle that bit of research.
Hi Evelyn, my point was simply that attaching a crest without a legitimate source is - well - not well sourced. My experience with German and English armorials is that quite a few of the crests associated with Name Histories offered 'for sale' are incorrect, mis-allocated or plain invented. To my point, a quick google search will find a range of different crests for sale for the Brackenridge/Brackenreg family

Where did you find the one here, which again is different from all of the above? Which - if any - is correct?

Given that the Brackenrigs were peasant farmers not clearly associated with any one clan, I strongly suspect that none of our ultimate forebears bore arms. Maybe one branch of the family ascended to the dizzying heights of being granted arms, but even in that event, that would not entitle the entire family to bear those arms. The inclusion of a Tudor Rose is also at odds with what we know about the origin of the family.

As I live in Australia, I'm not in a great position to do some research with the The Court of Lord Lyon which maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies. Perhaps someone more local who is actually a Brackenreg might want to see which noble family the above arms belong to.

posted by M. Lohmeyer
edited by M. Lohmeyer
Thank you for your reply. Lack of time and financial resources is the problem most of us face while doing genealogical research. Almost all of us do this in our spare time if we have any... and as life allows. At this point I believe your comments of concern attached to this page will suffice for those doing research.

About your claim that the Brackenridges were only "peasant farmers", my research tells us otherwise. One link I found to a long document reflects well a lot of what I found out about them. I'll provide the link at the end if you're interested. But for now... take a look at this paragraph from the document:

"Alexander Breckenridge obviously had sufficient funds to pay the cost of his family’s travel to Pennsylvania. Had this not been so there would have been some indentured service agreement, as was the practice of the time, to repay the costs underwritten by the person financing the travel. The travel was not inexpensive, as the family consisted of Alexander, his wife, and seven children. And there apparently was some reserve cash, used in entering into the society of Pennsylvania, where land was more costly than later would be found to be the case to the south. One can wonder where refugees could have acquired sufficient funds to meet these costs. Could there have been some property settlement in Scotland?"

I believe you will find this analysis of "Clan Breckenridge" (which I understand was a small one) to be helpful in your research, and it lists many sources at the end of the sections.

Here is the document. You will need to scroll down to reach the subsection on the Breckinridges. I wish you well on your research.

M. Lohmeyer, I came across this Douglas Clan website again, that lists the Breckenridges as a Sept of their clan. If you have not already seen it, I thought it might give you a better background study of the family which you might be looking for. Here is one excerpt that indicates they were not simply farmers as you originally speculated. I found this page quite helpful and thought you might find it so too.

Excerpt: "Brakenridge was found in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at the manor and lands of Brackenrig in the old barony of Avondale in Lanarkshire. The earliest reference was in 1332 of a Nicholas de Bracanrig, then in 1454 when John of Bracanryggis was mentioned in the charters of that date. John Brakanryg was the Sergeant of the Upper Barony of Renfrew in 1454. The family seat evolved as Ashfield Park.

I have a lot of Breckenridge family from Kintyre and who were early members of a Scotch settlement in Argyle, Illinois. I have a free Space Scottish Settlement at Argyle and a lot of Breckenridges in this category: I could set up a Breckenridge name study category for Argyle and even Kintrye if that would be helpful.
Hello, I just posted a link to M. Lohmeyer I thought you might be interested in as well, if you're not already aware of it. The Douglas Clan accepted the smaller Breckenridge clan into their's as a Sept. And here is their page on the Breckenridge name and its origins.

I hope you find it helpful like I did.