Douglas Surname Genealogy
origin of the Douglas name. Linguistically, Douglas
comes from the Gaelic dubh,
meaning “dark” or black,” and glas,
and was probably at first a place-name.
are many such places with this name in Scotland. However,
it is thought that the Douglas in south
Lanarkshire was the origin of the Douglas surname as this was the early
of the Douglas clan in Scotland.Douglass is an alternative spelling.
Douglas Resources on
- The Douglas Archives
- Clan Douglas
North American Douglas site.
- Drumlanrig Castle
Douglases at Drumlanrig on the Scottish Borders.
- Stephen Arnold Douglas
Genealogy of Stephen A. Douglas, debater with Lincoln.
- The Douglas Family
Douglases at Cedar Rapids.
- Douglas DNA Project
forebear of the Douglas clan in Scotland is generally
recognized as William de Douglas. His name
appeared as a witness to charters between 1175 and 1211 around
including a charter by the Bishop of Glasgow to the monks of Kelso. The family rose to prominence during the Wars of
Scottish Independence when James Douglas, known as “the Good” or “the
Robert the Bruce’s closest ally, sharing in both his early misfortunes
and his later triumphs. The Douglases were a power in the land
from that time on.
They steadily grew in influence in Scottish affairs and by the 15th
century were even seen as a threat to the monarchy. The 6th Earl
Douglas and his
brother was invited to an infamous “Black Dinner” at Edinburgh
Castle where they were both
seized and beheaded. The 8th Earl suffered
a same fate in 1452. Three years later the 9th Earl and his
supporters were defeated at the Battle of Arkinholm, bringing an end to
the power of the “black” Douglases. The Earl of Angus was granted
the lordship of Douglas.
branches of the Douglases had emerged by that time:
- the “black” Douglases of Douglasdale in south Lanarkshire
- the “red” Douglases of Angus and Fife
- the Douglas earls of Morton in Dumfriesshire
- and a branch at Drumlanrig in Nithdale nearby.
The Angus and Morton Douglases were prominent in Scottish political
life in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1703 leadership passed to
of Drumlanrig on the Scottish borders. As supporters of the Royalist
cause in the Civil War they had been ennobled as the Marquesses of
were influential in making possible the union between England and
Scotland in 1707.
family began a slow decline in the 19th century.
It has been called the Queensberry curse.
Unhelpfully, the men of the family were plagued by mental illness and
by a tendency towards
suicide. In addition, they had a nasty
tendency to sue people for perceived slights and to be sued for libel,
very costly. The 19th century culminated with an affair
Alfred Douglas and the playwright Oscar
Wilde. Douglas’s father, the 9th Marquess
of Queensberry, did everything in his power to sever
relations. This led
to an infamous libel trial and Oscar Wilde’s subsequent
Douglas name in Ireland is primarily a Scottish
implant to be found in Ulster. Robert
had arrived in county Down in 1640 and his family established
Grace Hall. There were later Douglases
in Antrim and Derry. Some emigrated to
America in the 18th century.
Sweden. Robert Douglas of the Whittinghame Douglases
enlisted in the Swedish army during the Thirty Years War. Due to
his prowess he was made Field Marshal in 1643 and then created a baron
and a count in Sweden. His
descendant Count Ludwig Douglas was Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs
in the late 1800’s. Douglas lines from there continued in Sweden and
extended into Germany.
America. Family tradition has William Douglas, together
with his wife and two children, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts in
1640. William was later deacon in New London, Connecticut and his
family were to remain there for many generations. Stephen A.
Douglas, famous for his 1858 debates with Abraham Lincoln, was a
Colonel John Douglas was a tobacco farmer in Charles county, Maryland,
who had arrived from Glasgow around 1654. He owned the
Blythswood plantation on the Potomac river, the name of his family
estate back in Scotland. His descendants were there for about a
hundred years before starting a plantation in Fauquier county,
Virginia. The Douglas family was described in H.W. Newman’s 1967
book A Branch of the Douglas Family.
Other Douglases in the area were:
- the Douglass family from Antrim who
settled around 1760 in Augusta county, Virginia and later moved onto
- the Rev. Robert Douglas, a Presbyterian minister from Ireland who
purchased the Ferry Hill plantation in Maryland in 1848. His
eldest son Henry
Kyd Douglas fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War.
- and Frederick
Douglass, the escaped slave from Maryland who became a
powerful advocate for social reform in America before and after the
family was an important part of the development of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. George Douglas had come to America in 1848
and, working in the railroad construction business, migrated west to
Rapids. There in the early 1870’s he
started a family cereal business that combined with others in 1906 to
has been a long history of Douglases in the Caribbean, most noticeably
Jamaica and St. Kitts.
From a Douglas
family of Dornock near Dumfries came Major James Douglas who died in
the mid 1660’s. His descendants were
merchants and sugar planters on the island.
Samuel Douglas started the Windsor Castle plantation. From the Douglas Baads family in Midlothian
came merchants and planters in St. Kitts.
Walter Douglas was Governor General of the Leeward Islands, but
suspended from that office in 1716 for embezzlement; and Robert Douglas died in St.
Kitts in 1780 in most unfortunate circumstances.
were many mixed and black Douglases on these islands.
Denzil Douglas has been Prime Minister of St.
Kitts since 1995.
the son of a Scottish
planter in the Caribbean, has been called the father of British
Columbia. He arrived in Canada in 1819 and
1850’s began the process of making British Columbia a province out of
then a remote Hudson Bay outpost on Vancouver Island.
arrived from Scotland with his parents in 1910.
He rose to become Premier of Saskatchewan and is most remembered
for introducing universal health care into Canada.
Shirley is a well-known Canadian actress.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Sir James Douglas, known
as Good Sir James and the Black Douglas, was the Scottish soldier and
knight who fought beside Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of
James Douglas of Drumlanrig was
instrumental in drawing up the Act of Union between England and
Scotland in 1707.
Frederick Douglass escaped from
slavery in Maryland and was a powerful advocate for social reform
before and after Emancipation.
James Douglas has
been called the father
of British Columbia.
Count Ludwig Douglas was
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs in the late 1800’s.
Donald Douglas was an airplane
pioneer and founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company (of DC-3 fame) in
William O. Douglas served on
the US Supreme Court from 1939 to 1975, the longest term ever by
Kirk Douglas, born Issur
Danielovitch, is a famous American film actor; as is his son Michael Douglas.
Select Douglases Today
- 34,000 in the UK (most numerous
in East Lothian)
- 33,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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