Buchanan Surname Genealogy

Buchanan is a Scottish surname
which has come from the place-name Buchanan near Loch Lomond, northwest
Drymen in Stirlingshire.  Buchanan here
derived from the Gaelic
buth chanain, meaning “house of the
canon” which may have had some connection with an ancient Celtic
church. This Buchanan
name was adopted in the early 13th century by
the head of a branch of the McAuslan clan.
The Buchanan pronunciation has tended to be
“Buck-annon” in the UK and “Beww-cannon” in America..

Buchanan Resources on

Buchanan Ancestry

to tradition, the Buchanan clan origins
were in Ireland.  They had, however,
come to Scotland and been
granted lands on the east side of Loch Lomond by King Malcolm II for
services in repelling Nordic invaders.  That
land was called Buchanan and they adopted that name as a surname around
year 1225.

The Buchanan chiefs fought in France against the English in the 15th
century and were involved in various neighboring clan clashes as well.  Their heyday was probably the 16th century
when John Buchanan, the so-called King of
, could dine off the
King’s venison.  George Buchanan was a scholar and
Protestant reformer who was tutor to the James VI of Scotland who
became James
I of England.

The Buchanan lands were to remain
in their possession until 1682 when the 22nd Laird of Buchanan died and
estates had to be sold to repay debts.

The Buchanans were no longer a clan in the 18th
century.  Individual Buchanans in the
Loch Lomond area found themselves on both sides of the Jacobite
uprising in

  • Francis Buchanan of Ampryor was
    arrested before the Battle of Culloden for stockpiling weapons and was
    subsequently executed by the English.  His two brothers were
    spared because of
    their youth.
  • however, Archibald Buchanan of Drummakill was said to
    have betrayed
    the fleeing Marquis of Tullibardine who had taken refuge in his house
    after the
    battle.  As a result Drummakill “was
    forever after ostracized in Scotland.”

Many Buchanans had become Covenanters.
They had fought on the Covenanter side at the
Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and at the Battle of Bothwell Brdge in 1679.  George Buchanan, raised on a small farm in
the Loch Lomond area, fought in the latter battle and became a whisky
and successful Glasgow merchant.  His
four sons were to prosper from the ensuing tobacco trade boom with the

1710 Glasgow became the focus of an economic boom which lasted nearly
years. This was the age of the tobacco lords, the nouveau
of the mid-18th century.  They
made such fortunes that they adopted the
style of aristocrats in
superior manner and in their lavish homes and churches. Their Calvinist background made sure,
however, that their
display was always of rich but sober materials.”

These Buchanans founded the
Buchanan Society
in 1725.  Andrew
Buchanan was Lord Provost of Glasgow
in 1740 and Buchanan Street in Glasgow – now one of the city’s most
shopping areas – was named after his nephew, also called Andrew.  However, the tobacco boom came to an end with
the American Revolutionary War.

Another Glasgow merchant,
this time in textiles, was James Buchanan of Dowanhill who died in 1844
at the
grand age of 89.  He had two eminent
grandsons – John, a noted chemist and Arctic explorer in the 1870’s,
Thomas, a Scottish Liberal MP and bibliophile.

David Buchanan, said to
have descended from the Buchanan chiefly line, was born in Montrose in
1746.  He and his son David were
scholarly printers and publishers there, the younger David becoming
editor of
the Edinburgh Courant.

Another son
George was a noted civil engineer in Edinburgh, working primarily on
and harbors.  His line led to a later
George Buchanan, first knighted for his engineering work and then
expelled from
the British Institution of Civil Engineers for “so-called”
conduct, and to Professor Colin Buchanan, the father of British town

  The Buchanan name in
Ireland was a Scottish
implant in Ulster.  An early arrival
there was George Buchanan who, having sold his Blairlusk estates in
Scotland to

his brother, arrived in Tyrone in 1674 and settled near Omagh.  From the sons of this patriarch came a number
of Buchanan lines in America:

  • John of Tyrone, from whom came James Buchanan, Omagh
    and New York merchant and Canadian trade advocate in the first half of
    the 19th
  • William of Tyrone, from whom
    the Buchanans of Meadville, Pennsylvania were said to have been
  • George
    of Munster, from whom the Buchanans of Louisville, Kentucky were said
    to have
    been descended  
  • and Thomas of Ramelton in
    Donegal, from whom James Buchanan, President of the United States,
    descended.  The President once declared:
    “My Ulster blood
    is my most priceless heritage.”

Thomas Buchanan had left Tyrone and moved to
Ramelton in 1700.   His grandson John
Buchanan married Jane Russell and the Russell grandparents raised their
grandson James from the age of seven when he became an orphan.  In 1783
 James Buchanan, then 22 years old, sailed from
Derry on the Providence to
Philadelphia where his uncle Joshua Russell met him at the port and
they rode horseback to Gettysburg,
 Pennsylvania to Russell’s
.  This James was the father of
US-born President James Buchanan.

  The first Buchanan in America
went by the
name of Bohannon (apparently an alternative spelling).
Duncan Bohannon of uncertain origins first
turned up in Barbados in the 1650’s before moving to Maryland and then
Gloucester county, Virginia.  His
descendants, continuing to call themselves Bohannon, moved to Kentucky
the Revolutionary War.

Maryland did have some Buchanans:

  • Thomas
    Buchanan, Scots Irish, came to Charles county around
    1712.  His sons James and William were
    the forebears of many of the Buchanans who settled in the Toe river
    valley in
    the western part of North Carolina.
  • meanwhile
    George Buchanan from Edinburgh
    arrived in 1723 and was one of the founders of Baltimore.
    He built the family mansion just outside of
    town, known by the Scottish name of Auchentorlie.  Franklin Buchanan of this family was a
    Confederate naval officer during the Civil War, commanding the ironclad
    CSS Virginia.

And Pennsylvania
attracted three notable Scots Irish Buchanan lines:

  • Thomas Buchanan and his
    wife Jane who left Donegal for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sometime in the
    1720’s. Major John Buchanan, born there
    in 1759, was one of the founders of present-day Nashville, Tennessee.  He led the defence of the early settlement
    against Indian attacks in 1792.  His
    great grandson John P. Buchanan was Governor of Tennessee a hundred
  • John Buchanan who came to Pennsylvania from Derry in the
    1740’s and then
    moved onto the New river area of Virginia.  His
    son Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War and
    afterwards moved
    to Kentucky where he had received a land grant.  His
    descendants headed further west to Illinois and Indiana.
  • while US President
    James Buchanan
    , the son of
    immigrant James Buchanan, was born in a log cabin in Cove Point,
    county in 1791.  He never married.

One ancestry chart does
connect Pat Buchanan, the
commentator, to the early Bohannon line.
The Bohannon name did appear in Mississippi in the early 19th
century.  His more immediate point of
contact is with William Buchanan of Chickasaw county, Mississippi who
and was captured at Atlanta during the Civil War.

Caribbean.  George Buchanan
from the Glasgow merchant family was a sugar planter in Jamaica in the
1700’s and early 1800’s.  However, after
the death of his wife Jane in 1815, he brought his family back to
England.  His son Andrew, trained as a
doctor, moved to
Dunedin, New Zealand in 1857 and was active in the care of mental

“Andrew was tall and erect, but of slight
build.  His hair was black and inclined to be curly, his features
aquiline, grey eyes overshadowed by strong eyebrows – according to
relatives ‘a marked Buchanan face,'”

Canada.  The
merchant James Buchanan of Omagh in county Tyrone promoted trade and
immigration to Canada in the first half of the 19th century.  He died in Canada in 1851.
Not surprisingly, there were some Buchanan
immigrants to Canada from Tyrone:

  • Andrew
    Buchanan and his family
    came in 1847 and were pioneer settlers
    in Perth
    county, Ontario.  Some of their
    descendants later migrated west to Manitoba in the 1870’s.  
  • while William and Matilda Buchanan made the
    Atlantic passage in the same year.  They
    settled in Grey county, Ontario where they raised 13 children.  

These two families were probably
related.  Meanwhile Thomas Buchanan from
Donegal arrived with a large family retinue in Ontario in 1857.  He worked on the Canadian railways and later
made his home in Nova Scotia.

There were also Buchanans from Scotland.  Isaac
Buchanan, the son of a Glasgow
merchant, came to Toronto in 1832 to start up a merchant business there.  He prospered, later settling in
Hamilton.  John Buchanan was probably of
lesser account.  He had come to PEI from
Loch Lomond in Scotland in the early 1850’s.
Sadly, he did not live long there, being killed by a horse on
his farm
when he was around 29.  But he and his
wife had had six children by that time.
The male line continued through his son Anthony, a postmaster at

  As with
Canada, Buchanan arrivals were a mix of Scots and Scots Irish.

Andrew Buchanan, a yarn merchant from county
Tyrone, had two sons who came out to Australia – William in 1822 and
Charles in
1832.  They farmed on nearby land along
the Hunter river in NSW.  Charles’s two
sons William and Nathaniel were cattle ranchers there.

“In 1850 the brothers
went on the California Gold Rush, but returned to Australia after a
short stay
to find that their station had been mismanaged and lost in their

They migrated north to Queensland and were
pioneer ranchers in this northern part of Australia.
Both worked until the end of their lives,
William in 1911 and Nathaniel in 1901.

David Buchanan meanwhile came out to
Australia from Edinburgh in 1852.  He was
a lawyer who practiced in New South Wales and was a member of the NSW
Legislative Council.

Select Buchanan Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Buchanan Names

George Buchanan was a 16th century
Scottish writer, humanist scholar, and Protestant reformer.  He was the tutor to James VI of Scotland who
later became James I of England.
was a Glasgow tobacco lord and its Provost in 1740. 
John Buchanan
was an American frontiersman, one of the
founders of present-day Nashville, Tennessee.

was the 15th President of the United States,
preceding Abraham Lincoln.  His attempts
to maintain peace between North and South seemed to alienate both sides
and helped precipitate the Civil War.
Professor Colin Buchanan
became Britain’s most famous town planner,
following the publication of his Traffic
in Towns
in 1963.
Ken Buchanan

from Scotland is considered the greatest British lightweight boxer in
following his winning of the world title in 1970

Select Buchanans Today

  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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