Menzies Surname Genealogy

This Scottish surname had its
origin in the place-name Mesnieres near Rouen in Normandy and a Norman
of that name who arrived in England at the time of William the
One branch of the family remained in England
and their name was anglicized as Manners.
Another branch moved north to Scotland where they were well
received by
the Scottish king.  The name here was
first de Meyners but became Menzies over time.
The spelling of Menzies as
Menzies reflected Gaelic influences and how it came to be written down
later printed.  But the pronunciation of Menzies in
Scotland, although not
necessarily elsewhere, was more like “Ming” or “Mingis.”
Thus the Scottish Liberal Democrat politician
Menzies Campbell was called “Ming” Campbell; while the Australian Prime
Minister Sir Robert Menzies went by “Menzies” (although he himself
preferred the
Scottish ”Mingis.”).  The alternative Means
and Minnis spellings, that can be found in Ireland and America,
followed more the
Scottish sound of the name.

Menzies Resources on

Menzies Ancestry

early Menzies
in Scotland were of
Norman origin, bearing the name of
de Meyners.

Based initially in
Midlothian, this family rose in prominence in court circles and Robert
Meyners was given the position of Chamberlain of Scotland under
Alexander II in
1249.  The King turned out to be
exceedingly generous to Robert and his family, granting them extensive
lands in
Perthshire, notably at Culdair in Glenlyon and at Weem near Aberfeldy.

Perthshire became the base for the Menzies clan:

  • the Menzies of Weem held the
    Palace of Weem, later Castle Menzies, from the 16th century onwards.  This senior line ended in 1910.
  • while the Menzies
    of Culdair – descended from Colonel James Menzies, a prominent
    officer in the 1660‘s – were later Jacobite supporters and held Meggernie castlein Glenlyon
    at one time.  This line still continues.

Menzies from Weem became well-known in England as a naturalist and
following his voyages to the Pacific in the 1790’s.
He was the first European to reach the summit
of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa and he introduced the monkey puzzle
tree to

Other notable Scottish Menzies have been:

  • John Menzies who as a young
    man of twenty-five started up a newspaper shop in Edinburgh in 1833.  This has expanded into John Menzies PLC, a
    national chain.
  • and Graham Menzies from Angus who was a whisky distiller
    Edinburgh in the mid/late 1800’s and became hugely wealthy.  This fortune was later much dissipated by his
    son John.  John’s son Stewart was Chief
    of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, from 1939 to 1952.

Ireland.  Some Menzies
departed Scotland for Ireland at the time of the Ulster plantations of
the 17th
century.  But the spelling generally
changed in the crossing.

It was Means in
Tyrone and Fermanagh.  There were
early Means in the Clogher area of Tyrone and two Means families were
in Fermanagh by the 1650’s.
Joseph Means arrived
in Fermanagh from Weem as a young man in the 1670’s.
His son John emigrated to New England in
1718, later settling in Pennsylvania.
His line was covered in Elizabeth Foglesong’s 1972 book Means in America.

The spelling was more Minnis in county
Down.  William Minnis was recorded in the
linen business in Lisdoonan in the 1780’s.
John Minnis had by then departed for America where he was a
soldier in
the Revolutionary War and later settled in Tennessee.
His line was covered in Elizabeth Austin’s
1913 book Minnis Family of Ireland and

America.  There are Menzies, Means, and Minnis
names in America.  The Menzies numbers have
been relatively
small – only four in the 1840 census and less than 2,000 in family
today.  There have been a few reasons for
this, other than the fact that not that many Menzies did come to

  • some
    came, but then went back.  That was the
    case with James Menzies of
    Culdair who was captured and exiled to Maryland after the failure of
    the 1715
    Jacobite rising.  He was later allowed to
  • some
    had their name changed on
    arrival in America, or shortly thereafter.  Thus
    it was James Menzies who arrived in Virginia in 1753,
    but he was
    known as James Minnis from 1763 onwards.  And
    the descendants of Andrew Menzies in North Carolina
    around that time
    went by the name of Mings.  
  • and
    there were Menzies Loyalists at the time of the Revolutionary War who
    for Canada.  Three Menzies families from
    New York left at this time and resettled in New Brunswick.  

The family of the Rev. Adam Menzies
did stay in America and did keep their name (although the locals
pronounced it
Minnis).  He had been a Jacobite
supporter in 1745 who had fled to Virginia after their defeat.  His son Samuel fought in the Revolutionary
War and distinguished himself at the Battle of Yorktown.
Samuel moved with his family to Kentucky in
1805.  His son Samuel Jr was an army
surgeon at the time of the Civil War and his grandson G.V. Menzies a
Indiana lawyer.

Canada.  Robert
and Catherine Menzies emigrated from Perthshire in 1832 at the time of
Highland Clearances when small farmers were being driven off their land.  They settled to farm near Milton,
Ontario.  Their second son David moved
away and started his own farm at Clinton in Huron county.
He and his wife Jane had two remarkable

  • their son James
    , born in Clinton in 1885,
    who worked in China over the period 1910-1936 as a Christian missionary.  He also had expertise on ancient Chinese
    bone scripts and was the foremost non-Chinese scholar on the Bronze Age
    in China. 
  • and their grandson Arthur
    Menzies, born in China in 1916, who became a famous Canadian diplomat,
    as ambassador in a number of Asian countries.  He
    returned to China as ambassador in 1976.

Australia.  Two Menzies arrived in
Australia in the
mid-1800’s, one from a notable Perthshire family and the other being a
who had probably jumped ship in Melbourne.
Surprisingly it was the latter’s line which was to have the
impact in Australia. 

1839 a young Scottish couple – Dr. Robert Menzies and his bride
Margaret –
arrived in Sydney with the intention of settling on a farm and making a
for themselves and their family there.
They established their farm at
, some seventy miles south of Sydney.

Sadly their time there was not to last
long.  Robert Menzies’ untimely death
at the age of forty-nine in 1860.  His
wife Margaret passed away a year later.
They left four daughters, but no sons to carry on the farm and
family name.

Menzies, a seaman, had rushed to Ballarat in the 1850’s in search
of gold and a fortune.  Born and bred in
the Glasgow region, he had little incentive to return to Scotland.  His parents had both died, leaving him no
property.  His father James was in his time a bleacher,
chargekeeper and

There was no gold for him in Ballarat.
But his son James was determined that he and his family should

and Kate Menzies had little money, but they had all that respect
for education and learning so typical of Scots of humble origin of
times.  They were determined that their
children should achieve the best education of which each was capable.  What school taught him was supplemented by
the habit the parents had of reading to their family.”

Their son Robert Menzies,
born in Ballarat, rose to become the longest-serving Prime Minister in
Australian history

Menzies Miscellany

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

Menzies Names

Robert de Meyners was appointed Chamberlain of Scotland by Alexander
II in 1249.

started up the newspaper chain of John Menzies
in Edinburgh in 1833.

James Menzies
Canada was a Christian missionary to China in the early 1900’s.
He was also the
foremost non-Chinese scholar on the Bronze Age culture in China. 

Sir Robert Menzies

has been Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, from 1939 to 1941
and from
1949 to 1

Menzies Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Perthshire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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