Cameron Surname Genealogy

Gaelic cam means “crooked”
and the surname Cameron comes either from cam plus shron (nose) meaning “crooked nose”
or from cam plus brun (hill) meaning “crooked hill.”Camshron has a pretty story
about how a
strong man with a bent nose came to Lochaber
, the
traditional lands of the Camerons, married the daughter of a local
chieftain and secured the lands after many a battle.  But Cambrun is seen as the more likely
origin, even though this name was more common in Fife on the Scottish
east coast.

Resources on

Cameron Ancestry

The Camerons have been the people of Lochaber in Invernessshire
– at the southwestern edge of the Great Glen, the rift that runs up
from Fort William to Inverness.  Nobody knows how long the clan
has existed.

Donald Dubh, who lived in the 15th century, is
considered to be their first authentic chief and, since 1528, the clan
of Lochaber has been called Lochiel.  He generally had the support
of Cameron sub-clans nearby, such as the Camerons of Letterfinlay,
Strone, Glen
Nevis, and later of Erracht.  These various Camerons were often
described as “fiercer than fierceness itself.”

Two notable books have been produced about the Cameron clan:

  • Memoirs
    of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel
    by John Drummond.  These
    memoirs were written in 1733 but not published until 1842.
  • The
    Camerons: A History of Clan Cameron
    by John Stewart.  This
    1974 book was published by the Clan Cameron Association.

Their most prominent chief, called “Ulysses of the Highlands” by
Macaulay, was Sir Ewen Cameron, the 17th chief, a strong supporter of
Charles II in Scotland.  It was he who built the family seat at
Achnacarry in 1655.  His successors backed the 1715 and 1745
Jacobite uprisings.

Donald Campbell, known as Gentle Lochiel, was planting a long line of
beech trees at Achnacarry when he heard news of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s
landing in Scotland.  Gentle Lochiel was wounded at
Culloden, escaped to France, but died soon after.  His brother
Archie was executed later in London.  After the
Culloden defeat, the Cameron estates were forfeited and Achnacarry
burned down (although they were both later restored).

Other Camerons opposed the Stuarts.  Richard Cameron from
Fife was a leading Covenanter at that time.  His supporters took
up the name of Cameronians and formed a regiment which fought against
the Jacobites.

Later Highland chiefs preserved their clan fighting spirit by
forming the Cameron Highlanders, army battalions which fought in the
Napoleonic Wars and through to World War Two (the explorer Verney Cameron
came from this soldierly background).

However, the depopulation
of the Highlands was beginning and many Camerons left the region in
search of work.  A number migrated to large towns like
Glasgow.  Others emigrated, first heading to North America and
then to
Australia and New Zealand.

England.  Some Camerons
came into northern England in search of work.  Other Camerons
were to be found in London.  Sir Ewen Cameron, born
in Inverness in 1841, was an accountant by training who rose to become
the head
of the HSBC bank in London.  A descendant is the former British
Minister David

America.  Donald Cameron
made it to America as an old man in 1775.  His son Simon took
up arms for America in the Revolutionary War and a later Simon Cameron,
orphaned at a young age, grew up to be Senator for
Pennsylvania and briefly Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary for War.

On the Confederate side was Paul Cameron, said to be the richest man in
North Carolina at that time.  His Cameron family were large plantation
and slave owners in North Carolina
and elsewhere in the
South.  He was the descendant of the Rev. John Cameron who had
come to
Virginia from Scotland in 1770.  Paul survived the Civil War and
he and his family remained prosperous from cotton and railroad holdings
through Reconstruction and into the 20th century.

A Scots Highlander, Ewen Cameron, was prominent in the Texas Revolution
of 1836 and a member of the ill-fated Mier expedition against the
Mexicans (where he was shot while trying io escape).  Cameron
county in Texas is named in his honor.

There are more Camerons in Canada.  An early
arrival was Duncan Cameron, who later became a fur trader in the
Canadian West and then a politician in Ontario.  He had come with
Loyalist parents to Canada in the 1780s.

Donald and Margaret
Cameron were Loyalists as well and they moved to Glengarry county in
the Ottawa valley.  Camerons from the 84th Regiment also settled
in this Highland community at that
time.  And other Camerons arrived there in the 1820’s and
One Cameron account describes a family rift in the early 1830’s
and a branch of the family decamping to Whitby, Ontario.

Angus Cameron came to Canada in 1806 as the hospital sergeant of a
Highland regiment and ended up keeping a bar in the Ottawa
area.   His son Malcolm distinguished himself in politics,
but not in business and he died a poor man.  An adopted son
Malcolm also became a politician.

Winnipeg.  The
Highland Cameron connection in Canada has continued with the
Camerons (or the
Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
to give them their
lengthier title), which was formed as a fighting regiment in Winnipeg
in 1910 and still
functions today.

John Cameron was in
Winnipeg by the early 1870’s and founded the town’s first newspaper,
the Winnipeg Free Press.
He married his second wife Rebecca McIvor there. According to family
folklore, she was the only unmarried white girl in the community and
their daughter May the first white child born there.

British Columbia.
Meanwhile Cariboo Cameron, who had grown up in Glengarry county, went
west in the early 1860’s in search of gold.  He struck lucky in
1862 in Cariboo, British Columbia.

“His wife Sophia had died of typhioid
fever just prior to the find and Cameron, fulfilling a pledge to her,
hauled her body some 600 miles on snowshoes, by horse, and by steamer
to Victoria.  When he finally arrived there after a harrowing
journey of two months, he had the coffin filled with alcohol in order
to preserve her body.”

Cariboo Cameron, sadly, frittered his wealth away and died penniless.

Australia.  By the mid
1830’s Australia was beginning to receive a steady flow of Scottish
immigrants from the Highlands under the bounty system.  The Boyne, Blonde, and Brilliant brought settlers from
Lochaber and Argyll, including some 300 Camerons.  Indeed, there
were 200 Camerons on the Boyne

Among other early Cameron settlers were:

  • Duncan Cameron, a ship’s
    surgeon who received a land grant in Tasmania and moved there in
    1822.  His family prospered as farmers and landowners and later
    ventured into local politics.
  • Hugh Cameron, an early settler in Hunter valley, NSW.  He
    was granted 1,290 acres of land there in 1828.
  • Alexander Cameron, who came to Australia in 1839.  Ten years
    later, he had acquired land in Penola, South Australia for
    sheep-farming.  He also was the original licensee of the Royal Oak
    Hotel there.
  • Thomas
    Cameron a shepherd from Inverness, who came in 1848.  He settled
    in Geelong where he ran the Royal Highlander Hotel.
  • Donald Cameron from Perth, who came to Ballarat and the Victoria
    goldfields in the 1850’s.

Later Camerons numbered many in the professions and also trade union
activists – such as Donald Cameron (the son of a Scottish slater) and Clyde Cameron
(the son of a first generation sheep shearer).

Dr. Robert Cameron’s three volume edition of Cameron Genealogies, published in 2000, is a huge
reference souce for Cameron settlers in Australia and their descendants.

New Zealand.  The most
notable Cameron name in New Zealand history has been Sir Duncan
Cameron, a Highland officer who commanded the British troops in the
land wars against the Maoris in the 1860’s.

A number of Camerons had arrived earlier, among the Highlanders who
came out to Wellington with Laird Donald McDonald on the Blenheim in
1840 – including Donald Cameron and his wife Christina (the subject of
Marc Ulyatt’s book The Kiawarra

Many Camerons settled in South Island.  Hugh Cameron came from the
Highlands to Dunedin in 1860.  His descendants still run his sheep
station at Ben-Ohau.  Andrew Cameron arrived in 1863,
studied in Scotland and Dunedin to become a Presbyterian minister, and
later founded
Knox College in Otago.   Some Camerons continued to uphold
their Highland traditions, such as the Camerons of Mataura who started
the first civilian pipe band in New Zealand in Invercargill in 1896.

Cameron Miscellany

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

Select Cameron Names

Sir Ewen Cameron, the 17th chief of
the Cameron clan,
was a prominent supporter of Charles II in Scotland during the
Restoration period.
Richard Cameron was a leading
Scottish Covenanter of the late 17th century.  His followers were
called Cameronians.
Duncan Cameron was a
prosperous Canadian fur trader and an early political figure in Upper
Julia Cameron was a pioneering
British photographer of the mid 19th century.
Verney Cameron was the African
explorer acclaimed by the Victorian public after Livingstone.
James Cameron is the Canadian
film-maker who made Titanic
in 1997 and Avator in 2009.
David Cameron was the leader of
Conservative Party who became the British Prime Minister in May 2010.

Select Camerons

  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Renfrewshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 54,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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