Buchanan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Buchanan Meaning
Buchanan is a Scottish surname
which has come from the place-name Buchanan near Loch Lomond, northwest of
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 defense 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

Buchanan Clan Origins.  William Buchanan of Auchmar in his 1728 An
Historical and Genealogical Essay upon
the Family and Surname of Buchanan
gave the following account of
origins of the Buchanan clan.

“The Clan Buchanan, though located in the
Highlands of Scotland, derives its origin from the O’Kanes of county
Derry in
Ireland.  The story is briefly thus.

Asian Buidhe O’Kane was
one of the Irish youths who, dressed in the habit of ladies, had
attended the
celebrated banquet given by Turgesius, the Danish general, to his
officers; and
who, with concealed daggers under their dresses, dispatched their
enemies while they imagined they had in prospect only scenes of drunken

When the Danes recovered from the surprise into which
they had
been thrown by the slaughter of their leaders, they inflicted terrible
upon the native Irish.  Asian O’Kane with
a small band of attendants passed over to the north of Argyllshire near
Lennox where he settled.  Soon afterwards
they distinguished himself in the service of the Scottish monarch in
battles against the Danes of England.

Extensive lands were consequently
assigned to Asian and his followers, who during two centuries
afterwards were
called McAuslan,
this having been the
original designation of the clan Buchanan.
The name of Buchanan appears in the first instance to have been
territorial – buth chanain – and
it was not until the 13th century
that it was assumed as a surname.  A
portion of the clan, however, still retained their ancient family name
of McAuslan.”

How true the scenes described in Ireland is
unclear.  They may have been made
up.  However, it is believed that the
first McAuslan did cross from Ireland to Scotland in the year 1016.

John Buchanan, The King of Kippen.  John Buchanan, the second son of Walter Buchanan the
14th of Buchanan, became proprietor of Arnprior and afterwards the
“King of Kippen,” a phrase which
originated in a whimsical episode between himself and James V.  This story was recounted as
follows by Sir
Walter Scott:

“When James V travelled in disguise he used a name which
was known
only to some of his principal nobility and attendants.
He was called the Goodman (the tenant, that
is) of Ballengiech, a steep pass which leads down behind Stirling

Once upon a time when he was feasting in Stirling, the King sent for some
from the neighboring hills.  The deer
were killed and put on horse’s backs, to be transported to
Stirling.  Unluckily
they had to pass the castle gates of Arnpryor belonging to a chief of
Buchanans who had a considerable number of guests with him.  The chief, seeing so
much fat venison passing his very door, seized on it; and to the
of the keepers, who told him it belonged to King James, he answered
that if James was King in Scotland, he, Buchanan, was King in Kippen.

On hearing
what had happened, the King got on horseback and rode instantly from
to Buchanan’s house, where he found a strong fierce looking Highlander
with an
axe on his shoulder standing sentinel at the door. This grim warder
refused the
King admittance, saying that the Laird of Arnpryor was at dinner and
would not
be disturbed.  ‘Yet go up to the company
my good friend,’ said the King, ‘and tell him that the Goodman of
is come to feast with the King of Kippen.’

The porter went grumbling into the
house and told his master that there
was a fellow with a red beard who called himself the Goodman of
Ballengiech at
the gate.  He said he was come to dine
with the King of Kippen.

As soon as Buchanan heard these words, he knew that the
King was there in person and hastened down to kneel at James’s feet and
to ask
forgiveness for his insolent behaviour.  But the King, who only
meant to give him
a fright, forgave him freely and going into the castle feasted on his
venison which Buchanan had intercepted.  Buchanan of Arnpryor was
afterwards called the King of Kippen.” 

The Buchanan Society.  The Buchanan Society is a charitable organization
that was established in 1725 in Glasgow for the needy of the Buchanan
clan.The founders of the society
were the four sons of Glasgow
merchant and whisky distiller George Buchanan, each an important
merchant in
his own right:

  • George Buchanan of
    and Auchentoshan (maltman and Glasgow treasurer)
  • Andrew Buchanan of
    Dumpellier (tobacco lord
    and Glasgow provost)
  • Archibald Buchanan
    of Silverbanks and Auchentortie (tobacco lord)
  • and Neil Buchanan
    of Hillington (tobacco lord and Glasgow MP).

Later, from
all corners of the globe, contemporary clan folk and friends of the
clan of all
professions and occupations have supported this charity.

The society is
funded by an entry fee paid by each member of the society, gifts and
from investments.  Its original charter
specified charity to those of the name Buchanan and recognised septs by
assisting boys to trades and those of promising genius at their studies
university.  Except that girls are now
eligible for assistance, the goals have remained largely unchanged.

The society
has held many clan heirlooms.  The society
also owns the Buchanan Monument in Killeam and the Loch Lomond island

The Andrew Buchanan Family Passage from Ireland to Canada.  It was the time of the Great Family in Ireland and
Andrew Buchanan decided to leave home with his family in county Tyrone for new
hopes in the New World.  Andrew and his
wife had seven sons – William, Charles, Andrew, Richard, James, John,
Samuel – and a daughter Jane.  They sold
their belongings in Ireland in 1847 and bought passage to Canada.

The ship had
been at sea for about ten days when it was so badly damaged in a storm
that it
had to return for repairs.  On the second
attempt the Atlantic was crossed successfully, but at a great cost.  An outbreak of immigrant fever (typhus) took
the lives of about 20 people on board and the ship was quarantined in
Ontario.  Some of the Buchanan family got
very ill when they disembarked.  The
father Andrew died there, and also William’s first child, a young
daughter.  They were buried in the
pioneer cemetery in Kingston.

The remainder of the family traveled to Esqueising
where they worked during the harvest season.
The men then went further, mainly on foot, first to Stratford
and then
to an area of crown land for new settlement.
There they started clearing land and building log shanties and
dugouts.  A descendant remarked:

“How they
ever grew enough to eat in the first few years has always puzzled me.  That part of the country was a dense forest
of huge trees.”

In 1851 their area was surveyed and named Elma township
in Perth county.

James Buchanan, The Gay US President.  While his biographers have maintained that Buchanan was asexual or celibate, more recent commentators have
put forward arguments that he was homosexual.

A source of this interest
has been Buchanan’s close and intimate relationship with William Rufus King,
the Alabama senator who became Vice President under Franklin Pierce.  The two men lived together in a Washington
boarding house for 10 years from 1834 until King’s departure for France
in 1844.

King referred to the relationship as a “communion” and the two attended social functions
together.  Contemporaries noted the
closeness.   Andrew Jackson called
“Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy,” the former being a
19th-century euphemism for an effeminate man.
Buchanan adopted King’s mannerisms and his romanticized view of

In 1844, after King had left for France, Buchanan wrote
to Cornelia

“I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in
the house
with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not
succeeded with
any one of them.  I feel that it is not
good for man to be alone, and I should not be astonished to find myself
to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners
for me
when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic

There is little
between the two men for historians to pour over, as the men’s nieces
destroyed it.

Pat Buchanan’s Ancestry.  Pat Buchanan had a great
grandfather who fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War.  This is why he is a member of the Sons of
Confederate Veterans and an admirer of Robert E. Lee.

Pat Buchanan was born in Pennsylvania, but
has southern roots.  Of his southern
ancestry, Buchanan has written:

“I have
family roots in the South, in Mississippi.
When the Civil War came, Cyrus Baldwin enlisted and did not
Vicksburg.  William Buchanan of Okolona,
who would marry Baldwin’s daughter, fought at Atlanta and was captured
General Sherman.  William Baldwin
Buchanan was the name given to my father and by him to my late brother.  As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
I have been to their gatherings.  I spoke
at their 2001 convention in Lafayette, Louisiana. The Military Order of
Stars and Bars presented me with a battle flag and a wooden canteen
like the
ones my ancestors carried.”


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. 
  • Andrew Buchanan was a Glasgow tobacco lord and its Provost in 1740. 
  • Major John Buchanan was an American frontiersman, one of the founders of present-day Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • James Buchanan
    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 Buchanan Numbers 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)


Select Buchanan and Like Surnames

The Scottish Highlands were Gaelic-speaking and their clan names appeared first in Gaelic and only later in an English version.  Each clan controlled its own local territory and frequently fought with neighbors.  Many, however, took the clan name in order to receive clan protection.

The clan downfall came following the 1715 and 1745 uprisings with the Battle of Culloden when the clan culture was broken up and clan tartans banned (although they came back into fashion with Queen Victoria a hundred years later).  The Highland clearances, supplanting people for sheep, was a further blow and many Highlanders were forced into emigration, still speaking their native Gaelic, to Canada and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Here are some of the clan surnames that you can check out.




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