Select Chisholm Surname Genealogy

The Chisholm name is said to have been derived from a Norman French word "chese" meaning "to choose" and the Saxon word "holm" meaning "meadow.  The family became established initially at Roxburgh near Kelso, once an important wool town in the Scottish borders.

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Scotland.  Through marriage, a Robert Chisholm inherited Erchless Castle near Inverness in the early 15th century. This was to be the Chisholm clan seat for the next five hundred years.  The lands in their possession at this time were Strathglass and Ard and they later came into the estate of Comar, making them proprietors of a large part of Ross-shire.  There was frequent clan fighting with neighboring clans such as the Macraes.

These Chisholms were staunch Catholics and it might come as no surprise that Roderick Chisholm led his clan in support of the Catholic "Old Pretender" in 1715 and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.  In this they were defeated and, although the Chisholms did continue as a landed family in their heartland until the end of the 19th century, it was the beginning of the end of the clan as a social force in Scotland.  Waves of emigration followed, starting with these defeats and continuing with the Strathglass clearances in which the clan chiefs actively participated.

The Chisholms were not only to be found in the Highlands.  A Lowland name continued from the early family roots in Roxburgh - often as Chisholme rather than Chisholm - in the Scottish border country.  However, border life could be hard and, by the 18th century, many of these Chisholms had migrated north to Edinburgh and its environs. 

Ireland.  Some Lowland Chisholms settled in Ireland.  Their name here became Chism.  Most of these Chisms were to be found in county Antrim.

The Chisholm migration to Canada in fact predated the clearances.  George Chisholm had left Croy for America in 1773 and settled in Burlington Bay on the SW corner of Lake Ontario.  He died there in 1840, a Chisholm loyalist to the last, at the ripe old age of ninety.  His son was William Chisholm, the founder of the town of Oakville, and his great great grandson, Brock Chisholm, the first director of the World Health Organization.

Most of the Chisholms evicted from their Highland tenancies ended up in Antigonish county in Nova Scotia. The first vessel with emigrants was the Nova which arrived at Pictou in 1801.
  Donald Og Chisholm came in 1803 and lived there until 1869.  He compiled a record of all the Chisholms who had emigrated to Nova Scotia during his time.

.  Early Chisolm arrivals in America were, by contrast, of the merchant/planter class, forming a network with other Scottish-born planters based in Charleston in the South.  Their plantations on the Sea Islands flourished until the time of the Civil War.  But other Chisholms in America, such as Jesse Chisholm of the famed Chisholm Trail, were backwoodsmen and early frontiersmen.

.  James Chisholm had come to the colony in 1790 as a member of the NSW Corps to keep the peace.  He decided to stay and ended up, by the 1830s, with vast sheep-rearing lands in the Goulburn district some 200 kilometers south of Sydney.  The home that he and his son James had built there, Gledswood, stayed with the family over the next hundred years.

Select Chisholm Miscellany

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

Select Chisholm Names

Alexander de Cheschelme was the earliest recorded Chisholm (from 1249).
Roderick Chisholm was the Chisholm clan chief who led his men in the doomed rebellions of 1715 and 1745, but survived with his life and his estates.
Caroline Chisholm, who had married Capt. Archibald Chisholm in 1838 and moved to Australia, sought housing and jobs for the young immigrant women who arrived there.   
Jesse Chisholm, who was born in Tennessee and built trading posts in western Oklahoma in the 1850s, gave his name to the Chisholm Trail, a cattle trail which stretched from southern Texas to Abilene in Kansas.
Brock Chisholm, from Oakville in Ontario, was the first Director of the World Health Organization in 1948. 
Shirley Chisholm from Brooklyn (of Jamaican origin) was the first black woman to sit in the US House of Representatives. 

Select Chisholms Today
  • 6,500 in the UK (most numerous in Durham)
  • 3,500 in America (most numerous in Florida).
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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