McKenzie Surname Genealogy
Highlands. In Gaelic the name is recorded as Maccoinnich or Macchoinnich, son of Cionneach or “son of the fair”
(suggesting possibly Norse origins). Coinneach is generally anglicized
died in 1278. Clan tradition (although there is no tangible
evidence to support it) is that Colin was awarded lands in Ross-shire
for his efforts in repelling an invasion from Norway.While the clan name is MacKenzie, it is the spelling McKenzie which is
more common around the world.
- Clan MacKenzie Society of Scotland.
Scottish clan MacKenzie website.
- History of the Mackenzies.
Alexander Mackenzie’s 1894 history.
- MacKenzie DNA Project
The Mackenzie clan is traditionally associated with Kintail and their
lands in Ross-shire. The Findon tables, produced by
James D. MacKenzie in 1879, recounted their lineage from earliest
times. Some old accounts have linked the Mackenzies with the Norman Fitzgeralds
in the 13th century. However, this connection seems
unlikely. There were apparently Mackenzies at Kintail at the time
of Robert the Bruce.
The first actual record of a Mackenzie
that of Alexander M’Kenzocht of Kintail in a document of 1471. This Alexander
Mackenzie died in 1488 at the grand old age of ninety.
By that time the clan had begun their feuds with the MacDonalds – then
Lords of the Isles – which were to continue into the next
century. Their biggest pitched battle, which the MacKenzies won,
was at Blar-na-Pairc in 1477.
The Mackenzies possibly reached the
peak of their powers in the early 1600’s. Kenneth, the 12th
created Lord MacKenzie of Kintail and his son Colin the “Red” became
the Earl of
It was said that all the lands from Ardnamurchan to Strathnover in the
Highlands were in the possession of the MacKenzies or their
vassals. They surveyed their possessions from their command at
However, it was said that the fall of their house – as was predicted by
one of their estate workers, the so-called Brahan Seer – began at this
time. The MacKenzies had backed the 1715 uprising and had fought
the Government at Glen Shiel (where they were defeated and the
wounded MacKenzie chief forced to flee to France as his estates were
being seized). Some MacKenzies also backed Bonnie Prince Charlie;
but, unlike the MacDonalds, they did not fight
at Culloden. Even so, their old way of life was ending as the
Government took reprisals on the clans. And the Seaforth
MacKenzie line itself died out in the 1820’s.
Many clansmen had joined their chief in the Seaforth Highlanders and
fought for the British in their
wars in America and against Napoleon. Others later emigrated,
with Canada being a favored destination. Still, large numbers of
remained in the Highlands, almost half of the McKenzies in Scotland
according to the 1891 census. The McKenzies did not incur the
Highland “clearances” in the 19th century to the same extent as did
Place-names associated with the McKenzies in Ross-shire are
Strathpeffer, Dingwall, Gairloch, Kilcoy, Balnain, and the remote
Applecross peninsula. The clan history was narrated by Alexander
Mackenzie in his 1894 book History
of the Mackenzies.
Canada. MacKenzies from
the Outer Hebrides in Scotland have stamped their mark on the Canadian
West. To start
with, there was the explorer Sir Alexander MacKenzie,
who became the first European to reach the Pacific coast overland,
announcing his arrival by painting the following words on a rock near
land, 22 July, 1793.”
His cousin Duncan was also a formidable fur trader and explorer and
other relatives were active in what was to become the Hudson Bay
Company. The Hudson Bay Company later acquired Vancouver island
and brought Kenneth MacKenzie from Scotland in 1853 to found a colony
there. His house Craigflower, now renovated,
These were prosperous MacKenzies or MacKenzies who
prospered. Later came poorer Highland migrants.
There were MacKenzies – one Donald MacKenzie and another Roderick
(“Rory Bahan”) MacKenzie – on board the first Highland ship, the Hector, which set sail for Nova
Scotia in 1773. William MacKenzie and his family came to Pictou,
Nova Scotia on the ill-fated Sarah in
1801. And later MacKenzies headed for Prince Edward Island on the
maritime coastline as well as Nova Scotia.
Among the middling sort of
immigrants were MacKenzie lawyers, businessmen, clergymen and
journalists; and Alexander MacKenzie who immigrated in 1842 and
initially plied his trade in Sarnia, Ontario as a stonemason. He
entered politics, rose through the ranks, and in 1873 became Canada’s
second Prime Miinister (following a MacDonald!).
America. Maryland seems to have been an early
outpost. One line starts with Colin Mckenzie in St. Mary county
in the late 1600’s. Then there were McKenzies who might have been
transported there after 1715. And McKenzies, such as Gabriel McKenzie
of Gabriel’s Choice, later featured among Baltimore county
One McKenzie family in Georgia traces itself to the Cromartie
MacKenzies in Scotland. Another 18th century line was to be found
in Marion county, South Carolina. Overall, however, there were
and are fewer McKenzies in America than in Canada.
Australia and New Zealand.
The MacKenzies, landowners from Kilcoy in Ross-shire, were at the
forefront of the opening up of the Brisbane valley in Queensland to
free settlers in 1841, taking over 43,000 acres there for sheep
grazing. These Mackenzies developed a reputation for mistreating
the Aborigines during their stay. They sold out in
Earlier McKenzies in Australia were soldiers, such as Alexander
MacKenzie who came with the 73rd Regiment in 1809..
Then came settlers, such as Neil and Christina McKenzie who
arrived on the crowded William Nicol
in 1837. These McKenzies were the subjects of Keith
Hodgson’s 1998 book, Those People
From Skye – the McKenzie Family.
New Zealand welcomed many McKenzies from Scotland (including
David McKenzie who came to Dunedin in 1853 and whose son Thomas became
Prime Minister) and at least one family from Canada (Alexander and Ann
McKenzie and their seven children from Breadalbane in Nova Scotia in
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select McKenzie Names
Alexander MacKenzie of Kintail was
the first redorded chief of the MacKenzie clan.
Kenneth MacKenzie was the 12th
chief of the Mackenzies, leading the clan at the peak of the powers in
the early 1600’s.
Alexander MacKenzie was the fur
trader and explorer who discovered the overland route to the Pacific in
1793. The Mackenzie river is named after him.
Alexander MacKenzie was in 1873
Canada’s second Prime Minister.
Thomas MacKenzie served as
Prime Minister of New Zealand in 1912.
Compton MacKenzie was the
Scottish author of works such as Whisky
Galore and Monarch of the
Julia McKenzie is a popular
- 51,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 24,000 in America (most numerous
- 56,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).
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