Sinclair Surname Genealogy

The root of Sinclair is the French Saint Clair, from one of a number of
place-names in Normandy (Saint-Clair-sur-Elle in La Manche
or Saint-Clair-l’Évêque in Calvados). There were
St. Clair families in France, including the St. Clairs with links
to the Knights Templar
in popular mythology
A Saint Clair came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066; the
name of
Hubertus de Sancto Claro was recorded in the Domesday
Book of 1086; and by that time the St. Clairs had arrived in

Sinclair Resources on

Sinclair Ancestry

William de Saint Clair accompanied Margaret to Scotland in 1068
where she eventually married King Malcolm. In return for his
efforts, the king was said to have
granted Saint Clair the barony of Roslin or Rosslyn near Edinburgh in

These Saint Clairs led the Scottish fighting against the Vikings in the
northeast of the country during the 13th century. Did they in
fact have Viking blood themselves? They had become an important
family in Scotland
by the mid 14th century. Henry
the first to adopt the Sinclair name (pronounced then Sinkler), was
made the
Earl of Orkney
by the King of Norway in 1375.

“Henry Sinclair was a notable
seaman. He is best known today
because of a modern legend (probably untrue) that he took part in
explorations of Greenland and North America
almost a hundred years before Christopher Columbus.”

His grandson William expanded the family’s lands. became the first Earl
of Caithness, and was Lord Chancellor of Scotland from 1454 to
1456. It was William who built Castle Sinclair Girrigoe, the clan
stronghold on a seacliff outside Wick. He split the family
lands, giving the lands of Caithness to his elder son and the lands at
Roslin in Midlothian to his younger son. These Sinclairs played
their role in subsequent Scottish history, royalist during the Civil
War, Jacobite supporters in 1715, but British government supporters in

One branch of the Sinclairs in Caithness, the Sinclairs of Ulbster,
produced Sir John Sinclair, author of the monumental Statistical Account of Scotland, and
his great great grandson Archie Sinclair, leader of the British Liberal
party in the 1930’s. The Sinclairs of Longformacus in
Berwickshire were a branch of the Roslin Sinclairs. This line
stopped about 1800, shortly after the main Roslin line had ended.

Because of its history the
Sinclair name is both Highland and Lowland. The 1891 census

  • 35 percent of Sinclairs in Caithness, Orkney and Shetland
  • 15 percent in Midlothian
  • 25 percent in Lanarkshire
  • and another 25 percent elsewhere.

Ireland. Sinclairs came to
Ireland as part of the Scottish plantations of the 17th century.
William Sinclair of Roslin arrived in 1620. He built his
Newton Manor
, in county Offaly. The Rev. John Sinclair
arrived from Caithness in 1663 and settled at Holyhill in
county Tyrone.

“After the siege of Derry in 1689,
James II’s fleeing troops arrived at Holyhill. They were about to
burn it down when the commander of the troops issued an order that it
should be left untouched. He was a Hamilton and it is thought it
was because the Rev. John Sinclair’s first wife was a Hamilton that he
saved it from destruction. The commander was on the Donegal bank of the
Foyle at the time. So his messenger had to swim across the river
to deliver it.”

These Sinclairs had established themselves in both Tyrone and
Donegal during the 17th century and by the 1770’s had set up a thriving
linen business at Holyhill. However, the Sinclair name is not
common in Ireland today.

. The son of Daniel and Elizabeth
Sinclair in Caithness styled himself Arthur St. Clair and
came to America in the 1760’s with the British army. He later
fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War and rose to become
one of its generals. He was then made governor of the Northwest
territory. But his career ended with an ignominious defeat
against Native American forces

Arthur Sinclair arrived in Virginia from Scotland also sometime in the
1760’s. His son Arthur was an early American war hero, commanding
a US naval squadron on Lake Ontario in the War of 1812. His
grandson Arthur was with Commodore Perry in Japan in 1854 and later
served in the Confederate navy. His great grandson was the
novelist Upton Sinclair.

Another Sinclair family, this time from Inverrness, came to Hampshire
county, Virginia in the 1790’s. These Sinclairs later moved onto
what became known as Sinclair Ridge in West Virginia.

Some Sinclairs are Jewish. Anne Sinclair, for instance, was born
Anne Elise Schwartz to Jewish parents in New York in 1948. She is
today a French TV and radio interviewer married to the controversial
French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Sinclair could become Sinkler or Sinckler in Barbados.
One line of Sinckler planter families began
with James Sincker of St. George parish in the mid-1700’s.
A descendant the Rev. E.G. Sinckler was the Curate
of St. Leonard’s from 1855 until his death in 1881.
It was said during his
time that St. Leonard’s had the best organists and one of the finest
choirs in
the West Indies

Canada. William Sinclair from
Orkney had joined the Hudson Bay Company in 1792 and moved out
west. He married a local Indian girl and they raised a large
family. Their most famous son was the fur trader James
Sinclair. In 1841 and again in 1854 he successfully led parties
of emigrants from the Winnipeg area across the Rockies to settle in
Oregon territory.

Alexander Sinclair
from Caithness
was the forebear of the
Sinclairs of Goshen in Nova Scotia, arriving there in 1816. His
lineage was covered in the Rev. Alexander Sinclair’s 1901 book The Sinclairs of Roslin, Caithness and

Jimmy Sinclair arrived in Vancouver from Scotland with his
family as a young boy in 1911. He entered the Canadian
Parliament and became a Cabinet minister in the 1950’s. His
daughter Margaret, considered a wild child by the press, was married to
the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Sinclair Miscellany

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

Sinclair Names

William de Saint Clair came to Scotland in 1068 and was the
forebear of the Sinclair clan in Scotland.  
Sir John Sinclair
was a late 18th century Scottish writer on
finance. the first – in his pioneering work Statistical Account of Scotland
use the word statistics in English.
an American writer who became well-known through his 1906 muckraking
novel The Jungle.
Clive Sinclair
was an early producer and marketer of home
computers in the
UK in the 1980’s.

Select Sinclairs Today

  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Lothian)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 26,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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