McPherson Surname Genealogy

Macpherson has been a Scottish
Highland clan, its name having derived from the Gaelic Mac
a’ Phearsain
meaning “son of the parson.”  The
parson in question was Muriach, a 12th
century parson or lay preacher of Kingussie at Badenoch in
history of clan Macpherson has been called “the posterity of the three
brethren” as the three grandsons of Muriach were the antecedents of the
three main Macpherson clan lines – Cluny, Pitmain and Invereshie.  McPherson
and MacPherson
are the main surname
spellings today.

McPherson Resources on

McPherson Ancestry

Scotland.   The
Macpherson clan base was at Badenoch in Inverness-shire in the
northeast of

According to clan tradition, the Macphersons were granted the
lands of
Badenoch by Robert the Bruce in return for their support against the
Comyn clan.

Sometimes known as clan Muredach after an early chief and later as
Makferson, they were part of a Chattan clan confederation which also
the Mackintosh and Davidson clans.   Their
strongholds in the Strathspey area were Cluny Castle near Newtonmore
Invershie and Pitmain Houses near Kingussie.

Sir Aeneas Macpherson of Invershie
was in the late 17th century the first seanchaidh or genealogist of the

Macpherson events during the four hundred years of clan rule and clan
feuds were:

  • the
    Macpherson defeat of the Camerons in
    skirmish in the late 14th century
    at Invernahoven.
  • the rise of the outlaw
    Jamie Macpherson, an illegitimate son of the Macpherson Laird of
    Invereshie.  He was hanged in Banff in
    1700.  But he is remembered by Macpherson’s
    a song which was later embellished by the poet
    Robert Burns.
  • and
    the ending of the clan as an effective unit after the failure of the
    rebellion in 1745.

Ewan Macpherson of Cluny had played an active role at the
start of the rebellion, although he and his men took no part in the
defeat at
Culloden.  However, Ewan was a marked man
and he went into hiding before later fleeing to France.

his time in hiding, his wife Janet gave birth to their son.  The child was born in a corn kiln, thus
earning him the nickname of ‘Duncan of the Kiln.’”

James Macpherson who grew up in Badenoch after
Culloden was a poet,
the first Scottish
poet to gain an international reputation.
He was best known as the “translator” of the ancient
Ossian cycle of epic poems.

The McPhersons of the fishing village of Hopeman on the Moray Firth
back to William and Janet McPherson, first recorded there in 1755.

Macphersons also appeared on the west coast
of Scotland. 
A small sept of Campbells in the neighborhood of
Glassery in Argyllshire bore the name of Macphersonin the 14thand 15th

Some Macphersons came to the Hebrides and to
Skye.  John Macpherson arrived on the
island of Eigg in the Hebrides from Badenoch in the 1750’s; while his
Alexander emigrated from there to Nova Scotia in 1810.
Dr. Hugh Macpherson from Aberdeen acquired
Eigg in 1828 and he and his descendants were its absentee landlords for
next seventy years.

The Skye
Macphersons have included:

  • clergymen at Duirinish and Sleat in the early/mid
  • Sir John Macpherson, a Scottish administrator in India
    who served as the
    Governor General of Bengal in 1785.
  • and Donald and Mary McPherson who emigrated
    from Sleat to Australia in 1854.

These Skye
were probably descended from the Macdonald clan
rather than coming
from Badenoch.

  Born near Inverness, Daniel McPherson was kidnapped
and brought to Philadelphia against
his will around the year 1697.  After the
period of his servitude he married and settled down in Chester county,

“It was said that in later years Daniel was discovered
by a friend of his family and was at the time of discovery ‘well to do
and of
easy circumstances.’”

Two of his sons John
and William migrated to North Carolina and later McPhersons headed west
Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa.

Also forcibly
removed to America was another Daniel McPherson, one of fourteen
clansmen from Inverness-shire who were captured after the 1715 Jacobite
rebellion and transported to Maryland.
His descendant Reuben McPherson was one of the early pioneers of
Tennessee and took part in the War of 1812 under General Jackson.  After the war he moved with his family to
Jackson county, Alabama.  When he died in
1842 the family settled in Arkansas.

another McPherson from Inverness-shire, William McPherson, came to
sometime in the 1720’s and settled in Drumore township, Lancaster
county.  He was the father of twenty
children.  His line was covered in Lowell
Thomas’s 2002
book McPherson of Pennsylvania.

blacksmith line through his son James led to upstate New York and to
Ohio where
James Birdseye McPherson
born.  He was a Union general during the
Civil War who died in battle in 1864. 

Irish.  Robert McPherson from Derry
to Pennsylvania with other Scots Irish families in 1729.
He eventually settled near Gettysburg in
Adams county.  Edward McPherson, born there in 1830, was a Pennsylvania newspaper editor and US
Congressman.  As director of the Gettysburg
Memorial Association, he was responsible for protecting the Gettysburg
battlefield site.

There were three McPherson brothers from
Coleraine in America – James, Thomas and Adam.
James had arrived in Virginia around 1812, his brothers somewhat
later.  By the 1840’s they were settled
along the banks of the Mississippi river in Arkansas, Tennessee, and

Canada.  Many Scottish Highlanders came
to Nova Scotia
in the early 1800’s, including a number of McPhersons such as:

  • Angus MacPherson from Arisaig in Inverness-shire who
    arrived in the
    early 1800’s.  He was one of the first
    postmasters of Antigonish.
  • Alexander and Catherine MacPherson from Eigg in the
    Hebrides who came on the Hector in
    1810.  His grandson Alexander, born in
    Nova Scotia, went to sea as a young man and ended up in California in
    1874.  He started a business there as a
    provisioner for the American shipping calling at San Francisco.
  • John MacPherson
    from South Uist who was probably in Nova Scotia by the early 1820’s.  In 1835 he had received a land grant at Black
    River on Cape Breton where he settled and built his homestead.  
  • and Norman
    from Skye who came to Pleasant Bay on Cape Breton
    also probably
    in the early 1820’s.  He later moved to
    Cape North where many of his descendants are to be found today.

MacPherson departed Caithness in NE Scotland with his family in 1876
British Columbia.  His son Hector moved
south in 1911 to Oregon where he was elected to the House of
Representatives.  Hector’s son Hector Jr.
who was an Oregon State Senator wrote in 2010 MacPherson
Family History
, an account of his family over four

  Peter MacPherson from Skye had brought his
family on the Triton to Sydney in
1825 and settled near Bathurst.  His son
John was a squatter and later landowner in the Limestone Plains of NSW.  John’s sons John and James both became
lawyers, with John rising to become Premier of Victoria in 1869.

The McPherson
emigration from Skye accelerated in the 1850’s, with many heading for

  • Angus
    and Margaret McPherson on the Clifton in January 1852
  • John
    and Catherine McPherson on the Araminta in October 1852
  • John
    and Janet
    McPherson on the Georgiana in October
  • Thomas
    and Mary McPherson on the Wanata
    in October 1852  
  • Alexander
    and Mary
    McPherson on The Banker’s Daughter in
    September 1853.
  • Alexander
    and Janet McPherson on The Arabian in September 1854.

Similar numbers of McPhersons came to Victoria
Inverness-shire at this time.

Duncan and Mary MacPherson from Badenoch in
Inverness-shire were early settlers in Western Australia, arriving at
the Swan
River Colony in 1846.  However, twenty
years later, they lost their land and trekked inland to the Yarra Yarra
where they started a remote grazing station at a place that came to be
known as
Carnamah.  Duncan and his daughter Maggie ran the telegraph
office there
for almost forty years.  After the
railway went through in 1894 Maggie also ran Carnamah’s first post

McPherson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

McPherson Names

Jamie Macpherson was a Scottish
outlaw hanged in 1700.  His Macpherson’s
was later
embellished and commemorated by Robert Burns.
James Macpherson
was a Scottish poet, best
known as
the “translator” of the ancient Ossian cycle of epic poems in
the 1760’s.
James Birdseye McPherson
was a Union General during the Civil War killed at the Battle of
Atlanta in

an American Pentecostal evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920’s
and 1930’s

Select McPhersons Today

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in NE Scotland)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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