Innes Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Innes Surname Meaning

The Innes surname is Gaelic in origin. One source is Scottish – from the Gaelic word inis, meaning “island” or “a piece of land between two river” – which gave rise to the barony of Innes in Moray in NE Scotland. Innes could also derive from the Gaelic personal name Aonghus, in modern form Angus.

Aonghus was an 8th century king of Scotland who gave his name to the county of Angus. This Aonghus gave rise to the Scottish surname MacInnes and to the Irish names Ennis and McGuinness.

Innes Surname Resources on The Internet

Innes Surname Ancestry

  • from NE Scotland
  • to Caribs (Jamaica), America, South Africa and Australia

Scotland. Clan Innes (pronounced “Innez”) claims descent from a Berowald, a Flemish knight given the lands of Innes in Morayshire by the Scottish king in 1160. Berowald’s grandson, Sir Walter of Innes, was the first to use the Innes name.

Sir Robert Innes was an MP for Moray and made a baronet in 1625. He built Innes House in Morayshire, the family home until 1767 when Sir James Innes went bankrupt and sold the estate. A later Sir James was able to claim the vacant dukedom of Roxburghe in 1812.

The Innes name crops up in the fishing village of Lossiemouth nearby. Apparently an Elizabeth Innes was tried for witchcraft there in the 1600’s. Her small cottage is now derelict. It was said that they used to take witches to Boar’s Head Point nearby and drown them there!

Another Innes family had acquired the lands of Balnacraig in Aberdeenshire in the 1600’s. However, loyalty to the Stuarts a century later – Father Lewis Innes being the Jacobite Secretary of State – resulted in the loss of their estates. Later on, an Innes family was among the founding families of Port Gordon on the Moray Firth in Banffshire. Alexander Innes from Ruthven was appointed its first Harbor master in 1797. These Innes were shipowners, trawlermen and fishermen.

Meanwhile the Rev. Beroald Innes of Alves in Morayshire was the 17th century forebear of emigrants – the Rev Robert Innes who embarked for Virginia and Sir Hugh Innes who later headed to the West Indies and made a fortune as a planter. This Sir Hugh Innes became a wealthy MP and landowner who cleared out his lands in the NW Highlands for sheep in the early 19th century.

Gilbert Innes from Edinburgh became first cashier at the Royal Bank of Scotland and established the family home at Stow in Berwickshire in the 1750’s. His son Gilbert Innes inherited the estate and went on to be director of the bank for forty five years, from 1787 to 1832:

  • he became incredibly wealthy during that time, being described as “the richest commoner in Scotland.”
  • he had an amazing 67 illegitimate children from scores of different women.

He died unmarried in 1832 and his large fortune was eventually claimed by his cousin William Mitchell, a cashier at the bank. Mitchell’s descendants, the Mitchell-Innes, acquired their own estates and became well-known in the world of Scottish golf.

Today the Innes family at Drumduan in Invernessshire are Scotland’s biggest dairy farmers, with more than 1,400 milking cows. The herd has been built up by Callum Innes and his two sons over the past fifty years.

England. William Innes, the son of an Edinburgh banker, was a wealthy 18th century West Indian merchant who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica and lived in some splendor at Grotes Place in Blackheath.

A later Innes of this family, John Innes, was a London property developer often credited with the development of Merton Park as an attractive suburb during Victorian times. When he died in 1904 he bequeathed the John Innes Park to the people of Merton and his will created the John Innes Horticultural Institute.

Caribbean. The Innes name is associated with plantations in Jamaica in the late 18th century. William Innes, a London slave trader, owned a number of Jamaican plantations but probably never resided there. David Innes owned the Mount Grace plantation. And the family of Alexander Innes from Aberdeen was also recorded in Jamaica at that time.

America. Two early Inneses in America were:

  • Alexander Innes who had been brought over to America after the Scots’ defeat in 1650 at the Battle of Dunbar. He was released after a few years and moved to Block island on Rhode Island.
  • and the Rev. Robert Innes who came to Virginia with his brother Hugh in the 1750’s. Robert’s son Harry headed west and was the first federal judge of Kentucky in 1789. Their family history was narrated in Susan Innes Kitchen’s 1994 book Descendants of Rev. Beroald Innes.

Daniel Innes left the Highlands of Scotland for America in 1854 and came out west, first stopping off in Chicago, then in Kansas, before moving to Los Angeles where his shoe store prospered. The Daniel Innes House in Angelino Heights, built in 1887, has been designated an LA landmark site.

South Africa.  James Innes departed Scotland for the Cape Colony in 1822.  He became the colony’s first education administrator.  His grandson Sir James was Chief Justice of South Africa from 1914 to 1927. 

Australia.  Major Archibald Innes came to Sydney in 1822 as a soldier on a convict ship. He invested in land and was one of Australia’s richest colonists in the 1830’s. Glen Innes was named after him.  However, a credit squeeze bankrupted him in 1852.

Frederick Innes, the son of an army officer, came out to Tasmania from Edinburgh in 1843. He rose to become Premier of Tasmania in 1872.  There was another early Innes family in Tasmania.  Charles Innes arrived from Invernessshire in 1853 and was a pioneer settler in NW Tasmania. –

Innes Surname Miscellany

Reader Feedback – Sir Robert Innes.  Can you tell me if Sir Robert Innes (1470-1551) and Elspeth Stuart (1474-1564) are the parents to Richard Haines Innes (1490-1550)? It would finally clear up the mystery in my ancestry. Once again thank you.

Mark Haines (

Innes House in Morayshire.  Innes House was built between 1640 and 1653 on the barony of Innes by Sir Robert Innes, the 20th chief of clan Innes.  The oldest part of the house dates to the 15th century when it appeared on early maps as Innes Castle.

Innes House has been called “the tall white house of Innes.” It is indeed a fine clean-cut stone mansion at the end of a mile-long driveway.  The house still stands, having recently been restored and renovated.

Father Lewis Innes’s Prayer Book.  Father Lewis Innes, a priest of the Catholic church, was one of three Innes of the family who held the office of Principal of the Scots College in Paris and were connected after James II’s downfall with the exiled House of Stuart at St. Germains.

Lewis was particularly close to James II and it is thought that he was the author of the life of James that was later compiled.  Lewis himself died in Paris in 1738.  Among his possessions then was an antique silver case given to him by James II and a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie as a young boy.

Lewis’s Prayer Book, dated 1685, has been preserved. Family deaths were recorded there by his family, including:

  • November 28, 1686 – James Innes, his grandfather
  • February 28, 1744 – Thomas Innes, his brother
  • April 29, 1752 – George Innes, his brother

and, by Mary Innes, a much later member of the family:

  • February 11, 1780 – James Innes, her grandfather
  • September 15, 1808 – Alexander Innes, her uncle
  • November 27, 1815 – Lewis Innes, her father

Alexander Innes was a man of great determination who stayed at his post at the Scots College at the height of the French Revolution. He was imprisoned and sentenced to be guillotined, but was saved because of the death of Robespierre on the day he was due to be executed.

Sir Hugh Innes at Lochalsh.  Wealthy Elgin sheep farmer Sir Hugh Innes bought Lochalsh in the NW Highlands in 1801 and, six years later, had the land mapped out. Tenant evictions started almost immediately. People were initially moved to coastal crofting settlements such as Ardnarff and Portachullin. Soon the population there started to decline as emigration proceeded in earnest.

Plockton is a former crofting village in the area, known today as the Jewel of the Highlands.  But the history of the village belies its quaint appearance today. It had been built by Sir Hugh Innes after he had cleared his estates of tenants. He had encouraged the displaced crofters to fish.  But the herring soon deserted the shores.  Plockton became known in Gaelic as Baile na Bochdainn – the village of the poor.

What Gilbert Innes Left.  Gilbert Innes never married, but was said to have had 67 illegitimate children from scores of different women.  There was a poem, apparently found in the trunk of a courtesan, which detailed his fathering of “67 bastards” and went on to state: “The acts of his whoredom are written in the parish chronicles of Scotland.”

One of these children, Robert Innes, wrote this missive to his purported father:

“You drove me out of your house like a dog and told me you were no earthly connection to me.  I know not for a certainty that you are my father, but God knows and recollect that you must die and then the certainty will be known. But recollect that without repentance there is no remission of sin. Get your soul pardoned and then you will be happy.”

Gilbert’s sister Jane did give Robert Innes some money to set up a boatyard in Leith.  He was so grateful that he named a boat and his youngest daughter after her.

When Gilbert died in 1832, Jane inherited his estate.  When she died seven years later, there were many claimants to the fortune. There was a brother Thomas, for instance, who had moved south to the Welsh borders.  When he married there, the registrar had a problem with his name and Thomas Innes became Thomas Hennis.  Many of his descendants ended up in the Forest of Dean.

However, the money eventually went to William Mitchell, a descendant of his eldest sister Isobel.

Reader Feedback – From Innes to Hennis.  I came across your website in my family history research and am very interested in the story concerning Thomas Innes who moved to the Welsh borders and ended up changing his name from Innes to Hennis because the registrar had a problem with his name.

One branch of my family originates from the Forest of Dean and I have been able to trace this branch back to Thomas Hennis. I have found a record of a marriage between Thomas Hennis and Mary Jenkins in 1752 and I believe my four times great grandmother was Alice Hennis (Thomas and Mary’s daughter).

There has always been a story in the family that we were distantly related to the Innes family and an old relative who has since passed away told a tale of the ‘lost’ Innes fortune which ties in with the piece on your website.

I would love to know the origins of this piece and whether or not there is any evidence to support the story that the Thomas Hennis mentioned was indeed originally Thomas Innes.

Laurie Brown (

Innes in Jamaica.  William Innes was a London merchant involved in the slave trade and had plantations in Jamaica.  He died in 1795 in London and left no Innes descendants. His plantations in Jamaica were left to George Mitchell, a son-in-law.

There were Innes in Jamaica at this time.  The Kingston parish churchyard in Jamaica contains the following stone and inscription:

“Beneath are deposited the remains of:

  • George Innes, who was killed in a duel on November 9, 1784, aged 22
  • William Innes, who died on July 11, 1791, aged 19
  • Peter Innes, who died on June 17 1801, aged 34
  • Hugh Innes, who died on October 6 1803, aged 40.

Gentlemen much respected, they were the sons of the late Alexander Innes Esq. of Aberdeen.  This stone is inscribed to their memory by their afflicted mother.”

Apparently Alexander Innes and his father had borrowed money to start up a new venture in Jamaica.  But the business fared badly and Alexander had died young.

Then there was a Daniel Innes, owner of the Mount Grace plantation in Hanover from 1798 to 1817. It was reported that Mrs. Mary Innes died at Mount Grace in 1830 at the great age of 110 years (some reports have it as 120).

Reader Feedback – Innes in Jamaica.  There was William Innes the elder and William Innes the younger.

William Innes the elder held lands at Williamsfield, Innes Bay, Manchioneal, and St. Thomas in the East.  He had been granted lands by 1750.  He and his wife Janet had the following issue:

  • Elizabeth who married Charles Bryan of Long Bay
  • Margaret who married James McViccar of Affleck and Edinghame
  • and William the younger (1757 – 1808/9) who married Selina Chambers.  They had two daughters – Selina and Lavinia.

Michael Harrison (

The Funeral of Major Innes.  Major Archibald Innes died in Newcastle, NSW in 1857, a much respected man despite the straightened circumstances of the latter years of his life.  It was said that his funeral was attended by almost every one of note in the district and by many from a distance.  The places of business were closed and the appearance of the town testified to the popular respect entertained towards the deceased.

As the deceased was a very old colonist and filled a high position in another sphere in times past, a short notice of his connection with the colony was given in the local reports:

“Major Innes arrived in this colony in the year 1821 with his regiment the 3rd Buffs. When that regiment subsequently proceeded to India he retired from the army, having about that period suffered from a tedious illness during which his life had more than once been despaired of.

He afterwards became police magistrate of Parramatta but resigned that appointment and settled down as a squatter at Port Macquarie.  For many years subsequently he was distinguished by the vastness of his operations in pastoral pursuits.  By him many of the most valuable squattages in the northern districts were first occupied.

During his residence at Lake Innes he was distinguished by the princely hospitality which is still widely remembered, all who came within its influence being entertained with a liberality and elegance of style not often equaled in the colony.

When that “nipping frost” came which then blighted so many fair prospects in this colony, Major Innes suffered in common with others. Most of his extensive property was made the sacrifice of a panic which spared no one.  For the last four years Major Innes has held the appointment of police magistrate at Newcastle, where his kind and obliging manners and painstaking discharge of his duties gained him the regard and respect of the citizens.  He has latterly suffered from a fatal disease under which he sank on Saturday last.”

The Innes House in Los Angeles.  The housing boom in the Angeleno Heights suburb of Los Angeles began in the mid-1880’s with the construction of a number of majestic new Victorian homes in this new neighborhood.  Among the Midwesterners who bought houses there were Daniel and Kate Innes from Kansas.  Daniel’s shoe store prospered downtown and his family had become one of the first Blue Book families of Los Angeles.

The Innes House was built on Carroll Avenue in 1887.  Daniel and his family occupied the house for over thirty years until Daniel’s death in 1918.  The house was designated an LA city landmark in 1971 and has been used as a backdrop in many TV series.

Reader Feedback – Another Early Innes Family in Tasmania.  There was another early Innes family in Tasmania. Charles Innes from Invernessshire was sent to Australia as part of the Highland Clearances in 1853 and settled in North-west Tasmania. He was an early pioneer of the area and the town Scotchtown is named after him.

Shelley Innes (

Innes Names

  • John de Innes was an early 15th century Scottish churchman from Moray credited with the rebuilding of Elgin Cathedral.
  • Gilbert Innes was a wealthy early 19th century Edinburgh banker who fathered 67 illegitimate children.
  • John Innes was a 19th century property developer and philanthropist who developed the London suburb of Merton Park.
  • Sir James Innes was Chief Justice of South Africa from 1914 to 1927.
  • Hammond Innes was a popular English thriller writer of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Innes Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Innes and Like Surnames 

These surnames originated from the northern part of Scotland, either the northeast of the country, the Scottish Highlands, or in one case (the surname Linklater) the Orkney isles north of Scotland.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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