Linklater Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Linklater Surname Meaning

Linklater as a surname originated from place-names in the Orkneys Islands that lie north of Scotland – either Linklater in North Sandwick and South Ronaldsay or Linklet in North Ronaldsay.

The Orkneys have a strong Norse heritage and the derivation of Linklater is from two Old Norse words – lyng meaning “heather” and klett meaning “rock.” Linkletter is a variant spelling.

Linklater Surname Resources on The Internet

Linklater and Linkletter Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Orkneys)
  • to Ireland, America and Canada

Scotland. There was an early reference in the Orkneys to Christe Linklater as a landowner, probably at Linklater in Sandwick, in 1424.

His grandson Andro was to marry twice, thereby creating two separate branches of the family. The Linklater line by his first wife remained at Linklater for the next six generations until the land there was sold in the 1660’s; while the Linklater line by his second wife owned Quoy Crystie at Newgar in Sandwick and were later to be found at Birsay.

Linklater emerged as the preferred surname spelling. However, in the poll tax records for Sandwick in 1690, it was the Linkletter spelling which featured.

In the next two centuries the Linklater name spread as emigration from the Orkneys began:

  • some Linklaters were to be found further north in the Shetland Islands. Linklaters were in Tingwall parish there by the early 1700’s.
  • some went away as seamen, such as Peter Linklater on the ill-fated Bounty.
  • others moved to mainland Scotland, in many cases to Aberdeen or Edinburgh. Magnus Linklater for instance migrated from Orkney to Edinburgh in the 1820’s. His son Magnus was a sea captain on China clippers.
  • and many left for Canada after the Hudson Bay Company began recruiting in Orkney.

Eric Linklater’s roots from his sea captain father were in Orkney, although he himself was born in Wales in 1899 and educated at a grammar school in Aberdeen. His first novel, White Maa’s Saga written in 1929, was informed by his family’s background in Orkney and this was followed by a succession of other popular novels. He moved to the Orkneys in 1934 and died there forty years later.

He and his wife Marjorie were the scions of a Linklater media family. There was Magnus Linklater, a leading journalist of his day; Andro, a writer and historian; and their sisters Alison, a painter; and Kristin American-based actor Hamish Linklater.

England. Linklaters, based in London, is a large multinational law firm that is among the elite of British law firms. It was founded in 1838 when John Linklater, then aged just twenty-one, entered into a partnership with Julian Dods, initially known as Dods & Linklater, which later became Linklaters.

John Linklater was born in London, but had Orkney/Shetland roots traced back to the early 1700’s. His father Robert, a merchant, had moved from the Shetlands to London in the early 1800’s.

America. One Linklater line here began with James Linklater who came to Michigan sometime in the 1860’s, settling in St. Clair county. His grandson Charles migrated to Texas which was where, two generations later, the film maker Richard Linklater was born in 1960. 

Canada.  There have been Linklaters and Linkletters in Canada, Linklaters mainly in western Canada and Linkletters in eastern Canada.

Linklater.  Early Linklaters in Canada were fur traders and employees of the Hudson Bay Company. They were to be found at the first HBC settlement at Moose Factory on James Bay in northern Ontario and, more noticeably, at its Red River colony in Manitoba.

William Linklater built a trading post there at Sandy Point in 1799 and was its first factor. The HBC community soon clustered around Lac de la Crosse nearby. Descendants of William were recorded as working there until 1882. Another Linklater line at the Red River colony began with Hugh Linklater who arrived in the 1820’s and continued with his son Peter who worked at HBC until 1880.

Some Linklaters there married native women. Their offspring were known at Metis which over time constituted a very distinct local community.

Linkletter. The Linkletter name has been a name found mainly in the Maritime Provinces.

In the mid-1700’s John and Isobel Linkletter left their home in the Orkneys to settle in Connecticut. After the Revolutionary War in 1783 their Loyalist son George and his family departed for Prince Edward Island where they were given land by the Government near Summerside. The Linkletters continue to farm there. Lester Linkletter’s 1979 book The Linkletter Family of Prince Edward Island covered their history.

From this line came John Fulton Linkletter, an evangelical preacher in Saskatchewan in the early 1900’s. He adopted in 1912 a baby boy who took the name of Art Linkletter and who, after their move to California, became a well-known American radio and TV presenter. He and his wife Lois had one of the longest marriages of any public person in America, lasting nearly seventy-five years.

Linklater Surname Miscellany

The Derivation of Linklater.  Linklater comprised two Old Norse words – lyng meaning “heather” and klett meaning “rock.”  Old Norse being an inflected language, the addition of “-r” is the nominative suffix.

The name was pronounced Linkilter. Linklater was originally written Lingklet, but a “k” came to be substituted in the written form because the “g” was pronounced as “k.”

The pronunciation of Linklater as Linkilter is an example of metathesis, a reversal of letters to facilitate pronunciation.  This was common in Scotland and Orkney at one time.  For example, grass was pronounced girse and burnt pronounced brunt.

Peter Linklater of the Bounty.  Peter Linklater was born in Tingwall parish on the Shetland Islands in 1758.  He was reportedly recruited in the Orkneys at Stromness by one of Captain Bligh’s officers to replace a carpenter’s mate who had died on the voyage.

He signed on as the Quartermaster on the Bounty in August 1787.  After the mutiny on the vessel in April 1789, he joined Bligh and his loyalist followers in being set adrift in the launch boat.

During the 3,500-mile voyage to Timor, he and crewmate William Purcell accused Bligh of sneaking extra rations for himself. Bligh retaliated by having both men briefly imprisoned after their arrival at Coupang.

Bligh insisted that Linklater was in good health when Bligh left Batavia (Djakarta in present-day Indonesia) in early 1790.  However, he died in Batavia two weeks later, apparently of malaria, before he could arrange passage for himself to England.

Magnus and Veronica Linklater.  Magnus Linklater, the son of the writer Eric Linklater, was born in the Orkneys in 1942.  He pursued a career in journalism, beginning at The Express in Manchester before moving to the Evening Standard in London.  Then came fourteen years on The Sunday Times, working his way up to the position of executive editor before leaving to become a managing editor at The Observer in 1983.  He became editor of The Scotsman in 1988.

He was described by his colleagues as the last of the gentleman editors.  He is reported to have enjoyed the dinner party side of The Scotsman job.  He mixed with the Scottish establishment and peppered the paper with double barrelled by-lines. Yet for all that he fitted so naturally into the paper and its milieu, it was his first job in Scottish journalism.

His membership of the great and good was at odds with his writer father’s humble roots.  Eric Linklater was the son of a master mariner, an Aberdeen grammar school boy made good through his prolific production of popular novels.

Magnus left the editorship of The Scotsman in 1994 after a row with the newspaper’s management about its direction. His departure came as a shock.  In six years Linklater had built himself an image that was almost inseparable from the newspaper itself by becoming a spokesman for devolution.

In 1967 Magnus had married Veronica Lyle, the grand-daughter of Sir Archibald Sinclair who had served in Churchill’s War Cabinet.  While Magnus scaled the journalistic ladder in Fleet Street, she set out on a social work career.  To many she was nothing short of a saint, changing the children’s lives at the school she had founded for them at Butterstone in Perthshire.  She was made Baroness Linklater of Butterstone in 1997.

Linklater Metis in Manitoba.  Metis was the term given to the offspring of European women under what was called “a marriage according to the custom of the country.”  Over time a distinct Metis culture developed, with the main numbers to be found around the Red River colony in Manitoba.  These were the records of two Linklater Metis.

John Linklater

John Linklater was recorded as “a half-breed” at Fort Frances in Manitoba in 1871.  His scrip application four years later indicated that he was born in 1805 of a Scots father and an Indian woman.   He had been employed by the HBC and was likely the son of an Orkney fur trader and an Anashinabe woman.

William Linklater

William Linklater, perhaps his son, made a scrip application as head of a family. He was born in 1832 in Winnipeg, the son of Metis parents John Linklater and Elizabeth Saunders, and married Caroline McKay at the HBC trading post at Fort Pelly in Saskatchewan in 1858.  He was still living at Fort Pelly when he claimed support for his wife and ten children.

Linklaters and Linkletters in Canada Today

Linklater Linkletter
Province Number Province Number
Manitoba    400 Nova Scotia    250
Saskatchewan    200 PEI    100
Ontario    500 Ontario    350
Elsewhere    300 Elsewhere    300
Total   1,400 Total   1,000

Reader Feedback – Linklaters from Colorado and possibly from Canada.  My generation from Thomas L Linklater and his wife Anne and that one of their children was name Harry Linklater Sr. He was my grandpa Linklater. I would like to get a DNA test.  I feel strongly that the Linklater families were from Canada. I need to knew their history.

Janet Linklater (

Reader Feedback – Linklaters to Australia.  My great grandad James Linklater was born in Edinburgh in 1842.  Some of his descendants are now in Australia.

Terry Linklater (

Linklater Names

  • John Linklater was the co-founder in London in 1838 of what became the international law firm of Linklaters. 
  • Eric Linklater was a Scottish writer of novels and short stories popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 
  • Art Linkletter, born Arthur Kelly, was a well-known radio/TV presenter in America from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. 
  • Richard Linklater is an American filmmaker from Texas.

Linklater Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Orkneys)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Linklater 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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