The Ancient Historyof the Distinguished Surname Williamson
Few areas in Britain haveproduced as many notable families in world history such as the names Armstrong,Nixon, Graham, Bell, Carson, Hume, Irving, Lock, Rutherford, as the Borderregion of England and Scotland. The family name of Williamson is included inthis group.
Researchers have confirmed thefirst documented history of this name in lowland Scotland and northern England,tracing it through many ancient manuscripts, including private collections ofhistorical and genealogical records, the Inquisitio, the Exchequer Rolls ofScotland, the Ragman Rolls, the Hearth Rolls, the Domesday Book, parishcartularies, baptismals, and tax rolls. The first record of the name Williamsonwas found in Peebles where this predominantly Scottish clan were seatedanciently, although their interests straddled the English Scottish border andthey held territories as far south as Keswick in Cumberland.
Different spellings of the namewere found in the archives researched, typically linking each alternate to theroot source of the surname. The surname Williamson, occurred in manyreferences, from time to time the surname was spelt Wiliamson, Williamsone, andthese changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son.Scribes and church officials recorded the name from its sound.
The family name Williamson is believed to be descendedoriginally from the Strathclyde Britons. This ancient founding race of thenorth were a mixture of Gaelic/Celts whose original territories ranged fromLancashire in the south, northward to the south bank of the River Clyde inScotland.
Tracing its ancient development,the name Williamson was found in Peebles. This family was a recognized borderclan with its own chief and acknowledged by Scottish Parliament. In the 12thand 13th centuries their influence on border life was great, andthey held territories at Hutchinfield, and Balgray, moving north to Banniskirk in Caithness. Meanwhile, theybranched south to Melbeck Hall in Cumberland, New Hall in that same county, toKeswick, Durham, Yorkshire, and Northumberland. Sir William Williamson ofMarkham in Nottingham was the scion of the family in northern England. SirHedworth Williamson was the 5th Baronet of Markham. By the 16thand 17th century many had become immersed in English life and seatswere found at Burton in Nottingham, Gainsborough in Lincoln, and Maresashby inNorthampton. Their present seats are at Waggon Hill, Kumra Lodge, Wickham,Cardrona, and Ashton. Notable amongst the family at this time was Dainty Davieor David Williamson, the ebullient Ediburgh preacher who buried six wives andthe seventh buried him.
By the year 1000 A.D., borderlife was in turmoil. In 1246, 6 Chiefs from the Scottish side and 6 from theEnglish side met at Carlisle and produced a set of laws governing all theborder Clans. These were unlike any laws prevailing in England or Scotland or,for that matter, anywhere else in the world. For example, it was a far greateroffence to refuse to help a neighbour recover his property, wife, sheep,cattle, or horses than it was to steal them in the first place. Hence theexpression “Hot Trod”, or, a hot pursuit, from which we get the modern “Hot totrot”. For refusal of assistance during a “Hot Trod”, a person could be hangedon the instant, without trial. Frequently, the descendants of these clans orfamilies apologetically refer to themselves as being descended from “Cattle orhorse thieves” when, in fact, it was an accepted code of life on the border.
In 1603, the unified English andScottish crowns under James 1st dispersed these “unruly borderclans”, clans which had served loyally in the defence of each side. Theunification of the governments was threatened and it was imperative that the old“border code” should be broken up. Hence, the Border Clans were banished toEngland, northern Scotland and to Ireland. Some were outlawed directly toIreland, the Colonies and the New World.
Many Border Clans settled inNorthern Ireland, transferred between 1650 and 1700 with grants of landprovided they “undertook” to remain Protestant. Hence, they became known as the“Undertakers”. Many became proudly Irish. In Ireland the family name Williamsonsettled in the counties Armagh, Antrim, and Down.
But life in Ireland was littlemore rewarding and they sought a more challenging life. They looked to the NewWorld and sailed aboard the “White Sails” an armada of sailing ships such asthe Hector, the Rambler, and the Dove which struggled across the stormy Atlantic.Some ships lost 30 or 40% of their passenger list, migrants who were buried atsea having died from dysentery, cholera, small pox, and typhoid.
In North America, some of thefirst migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name Williamsonand their spelling variants were Micheal Williamson settled in Massachusetts in1631; James Williamson settled in Virginia in 1654 along with Isaac, Richard,Alice, and Ann; Maxwell Williamson settled in Virginia in 1638; Thomas in 1649;David in 1638, and many more. The migrants formed wagon trains westward,rolling west to the praries, or the west coast. During the American War ofIndependence those that remained loyal to the Crown moved north into Canada andbecame known as the United Empire Loyalists.
There were many notablecontemporaries of this name Williamson, Sir Hedworth Williamson; Dame MargeryWilliamson; Baron Williamson; Baron Forres; Air Commandt. Dame AliceWilliamson; David Williamson, Chief Constable; Air Marshall Keith Williamson;Air Marshall Peter Williamson.
The most ancient grant of coatof arms found was:
Gold,a chevron between three black, three-leafed clovers.
The ancient family motto forthis distinguished name was:
“Et Patribus Et Posteritati”
Motto 'ET PATRIBUS ET POSTERITATI'; Both for our ancestorsand our prosperity.
Granted 25th November 1936
ARMS: Gules on a Fesse arched and embattled Argentbetween in chief a Lion passant guardant and in base a Sheaf of Barley Or aFleshing Knife fesseswise proper.
CREST: On a Wreath of the Colours two Shepherds' Crooks in saltirependent therefrom at the point of intersection by the ring a Fleece all proper