Cameron Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cameron Meaning
The 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.

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Cameron Ancestry

Scotland.  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 chief 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 Prime Minister David Cameron.

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 typhoid
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

How The Camerons Came to Lochaber.  The following account of how the Camerons came to Lochaber was written
by Dr. Archibald Cameron sometime around 1740.

“The first man who was called by the
name of Cameron was much renowned for his feats in arms and his
prodigious strength, a monument of which is still remaining near
Achnacarry, the seat of Lochiel – namely a large stone of upwards of
500 pounds weight which he could hoist from the ground with a straight
arm and toss it with as much ease as a man does a cricket-bat; a
plough-share which he could bend round his leg like a garter; and the
strongest ropes which were no more in his hands than
twine-thread.  In short, he seems to have been a second Samson.

This man of might was so conscious of his strength and prowess that he
thought no man upon earth was a match for him and accordingly he
entered the lists with the most famous champions of that age.  In
one of their combats, it seems that his antagonist handled him very
roughly and with a violent blow of his fist set his nose awry.
From this accident he was always called Cameron, the knight of the

The baron of Straborgig was willing to marry his daughter to our
knight, because by this alliance he should get a brave bold man to head
his people against the clan of MacDonalds of Glengarry who bordered on
the Lochiel estate.

Our knight, whose courage never flinched in the greatest dangers, led
on his men boldly and fought many bloody encounters with the
MacDonalds,  The MacDonald then agreed that they would renounce
all claim and pretense of right to such a certain district, containing
about 500 acres of land, which shall be made over to the knight of the
wry-nose and his heirs forever.”

March of the Cameron Men

“There’s many a man of the Cameron clan
That has followed his chief to the field.
He has sworn to support him or die by his side
For a Cameron never can yield.

I hear the pibroch sounding
sounding deep o’er the mountain and

While light springing footsteps are
trampling the heath.

‘Tis the march of the Cameron men.
‘Tis the march, ’tis the march,
‘Tis the march of the Cameron men.

Oh proudly they walk, but each Cameron knows
He may tread on the heather no more
But boldly he follows his chief to the field
Where his laurels were gathered before.

The moon has arisen, it shines on the path
Now trod by the gallant and true
High, high are the hopes, for their chieftain has said
That whatever men dare, they can do.” 

The Grave Site of Gentle Lochiel in France.  In 1998 the grave site of Donald Cameron, the 19th chief of
Lochiel, was found by Julian Hutchings, a Scottish businessman based in
France.  The
evidence had been obtained from a slip signed by Gentle Lochiel days
before he died, giving permission for one of his soldiers to
marry.  It is believed that Gentle Lochiel died of meningitis in a
military hospital just days later.

The area that contains the grave is now a school playground
and a memorial plaque has been mounted on the brick playground
wall.  The memorial was put in place by Clan Cameron Association
during a ceremony at which many Camerons attended.  As to whether
Lochiel’s actual grave could be identified, it would depend on how many
Protestants were buried in this separate section of what must have been
the hospital graveyard in 1748.

Reader Feedback: Gentle Lochiel.  Can you
please correct the spelling of Cameron of Lochiel’s town name in which
he died in
October 1748 as Bergues and not Bourges.  Bourges
is to be found in the central Cher
region of France and is nowhere near the northern Belgian border town
of Bergues.

I spent a lot of time and
money investigating where our Gentle Lochiel died and was buried, I had
in fact
handed over the mission to someone who has become a fine friend of
mine, Monsieur
Jean Bonduelle from Armbouts-Cappel (a wee town next to Bergues).  He carried on the research work, reporting
back to me his findings and in fact it was Jean who salvaged all of the
archives attesting to the authenticity of Bergues as being Gentle
last resting place.  It was a team effort if you like.

Julian Hutchings (

Verney Cameron and Dr. Livingstone.  By dogged determination, Verney Cameron had persuaded the
Royal Geographic Society to use its surplus funds to form an expedition
for him to find Dr. Livingstone and to put himself under his orders and
to assist him wherever possible.

The Livingstone East Coast Africa Expedition thus
began.  After much trouble in obtaining stores and hiring porters,
the expedition set off for the interior on February 2, 1873.
Sadly, on October 20, a letter was received, written by Jacob
Wainwright (one of Livingstone’s African colleagues), stating that
Livingstone had died and that his body was being taken to the
coast.  A few days later, the body arrived at Unyanyembe and was
received by Cameron with all the respect and honor he could
muster.  It was Cameron who immediately sent word to Zanzibar of
Livingstone’s death for the world to know.

Cameron then made the decision to continue with his
expedition and to explore Africa.  For the next two years and
more, he trekked west through Tanganyika, the Belgian Congo, and
Angola.  He was the first European to cross Africa from East to
West and he discovered the source of the Congo among his various other
achievements.  In April 1876, he returned to England after three
years and four months to the sort of acclaim that had greeted
Livingstone twenty years earlier.

Reader Feedback: Simon Cameron’s Ancestry.  Ship records show that Donald Cameron, aged 65, came to
Philadelphia in Jully 1775 aboard the Clementia
from Stornoway in Scotland.  His place of residence was given as
Beauly.  With him came his two sons, John and Simon, and three
grandchildren.  The story that this Donald had previously fought
at Culloden, gone to America and fought with Wolfe in Canada, and then
returned to Scotland seems unlikely.

Donald and his two
sons settled in Donegal township in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania and
farmed the church lands of the Donegal Presbyterian Church.  Simon
and his brother John did both take the oath of allegiance and both have
1777 court records of being fined for not marching when called.
Both fines were dropped when Simon said: “I have just come to this
country and speak only Gaelic and my wife recently died, leaving me
four small children to care for.”

Simon’s son Charles,
born in Scotland, grew and married Martha Pfoutz and had several
children, one of whom was to become Senator Simon Cameron and Lincoln’s
Secretary for War.  Charles was not very good in business and had
to have a sheriff’s sale.  Charles eventually put his children in
foster homes and Simon was placed with an affluent doctor who gave him
a good education.

Mordecai Cameron,
born in America, was another son of Simon’s by a different
wife.   For a time Mordecai stayed close to his half
brother Charles but then decided to move West, through Virginia to Ohio.

Virgil Cameron

Piedmont Plantation: The Bennehen-Cameron Family and Lands in North Carolina.  Jean Anderson’s 1993 book Piedmont Plantation: The Bennehen-Cameron Family and Lands in North Carolina
detailed the public and private lives of the family patriarchs Richard Bennehen and Duncan Cameron, both of whom settled separately in western
North Carolina in the late 18th century.

Bennehen came to North Carolina from Virginia in the 1770’s as a store
owner and in short order developed extensive land holdings.
Duncan Cameron also came to North Carolina from Virginia, but twenty
years later in the 1790’s.  Cameron settled in North Carolina as a
lawyer, but also became a planter.  In 1803 he married Richard
Bennehen’s daughter Rebecca.

Jean Anderson recorded the following Cameron graves at the cemetery in
Mangum township:
– Anne Owen Nash Cameron (1753-1825)
– Duncan Cameron (1777-1853)
– Rebecca Bennehen Cameron (1778-1843)
– William Ewen Cameron (1792-1827)

The Bennehen and Cameron family plantation ventures gradually merged
into one of the largest plantations in North Carolina, with accumulated
land holdings in excess of 30,000 acres and more than 1,000 slaves
living and working on the land.  Their main holding was the
Stagville plantation (still preserved) in Durham county.

Two male offspring, Thomas Bennehen and Paul Cameron, also figured
prominently in Anderson’s book.  Paul Cameron was reputedly the
richest man in North Carolina by the time of the outbreak of the Civil

Camerons on the Blenheim to New Zealand

Head of Family Occupation Family
Alexander carpenter wife and two children
Allan engineer’s assistant wife and three children
Angus laborer single
Catherine widow
Catherine housemaid single
Donald weaver wife and six children
Donald laborer wife and ten children
Dugald laborer wife and three children
Ewen tailor wife and eleven children
Ewen single
John laborer wife and seven children
John single
Mary housemaid single

The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.  As early as 1905 the local Scottish community in Winnipeg began
lobbying the Government to raise a Highland regiment.  Four years
later, prospective officers met and committees dealing with finances,
uniforms and the band were formed.  As the Government grant did
not cover the entire cost of uniforms and equipment, the Scottish
societies and the officers undertook to raise the money
themselves.  Almost all of the original accoutrements, including
their kilts, were
manufactured in Scotland.

In 1910 the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada (or, for short,
Camerons) were officially gazetted and received its first stand of
Colours, presented by Mrs D. C. Cameron, the wife of the Honorary
Lieutenant Colonel.

The Camerons saw action in both World Wars and remains a fighting force
today.  The regiment parades at Minto Armoury in Winnipeg on
Tuesday nights from the last week of August to the second week of June.

Clyde Cameron’s Upbringing.  Clyde Cameron was born not long after the birth of the
Australian Labor Party (ALP) and, in a fundamental sense by the time of
his death in 2008, he had outlived it by some years.

He not only died a socialist, he was virtually born a
socialist.  He was the eldest of four sons of a remarkable woman
who taught her boys from their earliest days that the working class
deserved a better deal from society.  Not the least remarkable
thing about Adelaide Cameron was that she crossed the social boundaries
to champion the working-class cause.  She had lived her first two
decades as a privileged daughter of a grazier near Quorn in South
Australia.  When she married Robert Cameron, a shearer who worked
from time to time at her family’s property, her father saw this as a
betrayal of her class and for many years dismissed her from his life.

Adelaide Cameron was a woman of redoubtable energy and high
intelligence.  She did most of the work around the farm as well as
in the house and in the evenings she would read to her children; not
fairytales or adventure stories but extracts from her favourite
authors: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill or Bertrand
Russell.  Meal times were for nourishing the mind as well as the
body.  The table talk was usually about politics or
economics.  Of the four brothers, Clyde was the most ardent
debater.  His path in life was already being marked out.

Clyde left school at 14 on the eve of the Great Depression,
a social disaster that was to reinforce all his mother had taught him
about the deficiencies of capitalism.

David Cameron’s Pedigree.  David Cameron the Tory leader, sometimes thought of as a toff from Eton, has in fact a family ancestry from the Scottish Highlands.

James Cameron (1776-1865) and Margaret of Croy and Dalcross,

– William Cameron (born 1806) and Catherine of Croy and Dalcross, Invernessshire.

– Sir Ewen Cameron (1841-1908).  He married Josephine Houchen in 1878.  He was an accountant by training and rose to become the head of the HSBC bank in London.

– Ewen Allan Cameron (1880-1937).  He married Rachel Geddes in 1905.  He was a senior partner in the stockbroker firm of Panmure Gordon and also an important international financier.

– Donald Cameron (died in 1958), who married Enid Levita, and Ian Donald Cameron (born in 1932), who married Mary Mount, were his grandfather and father.  Both worked for the stockbroker firm of Panmure Gordon.

– David Cameron, born in London in 1966.

Through other lines David Cameron is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria’s uncle William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan and he is also related through his grandmother to the statesman and author Duff Cooper, the TV presenter Adam Hart-Davis, and the journalist and writer Duff Hart-Davis.  David’s wife Samantha is a direct descendant of Nell Gwynn, mistress to Charles II.


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 Canada.
  • 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 the
    Conservative Party who became the British Prime Minister in May 2010.

Select Cameron Numbers Today

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

Select Cameron 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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