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The Aikenhead Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: RUPTO ROBORE NATI (We are born in a weak condition)

Let me tell you the fascinating history of your family name, Aikenhead. Your family’s roots trace back to an ancient barony in Lanarkshire known as Aikenhead, from which your ancestors derived their name. The place itself was named for its unique characteristic, signifying a ‘height covered in oaks,’ quite literally an oaken-head. The earliest documentation of the surname dates back to 1296, when William de Lakenhaued paid homage for his lands to the invading King Edward I of England. In 1372, the lands of Akynheuide in the sheriffdom of Lanark were confirmed to John de Maxwell by King Robert II, according to George F. Black’s records. Your family’s association with the legal profession was evident, as William de Aikenhead served as a bailie in the burgh of Rutherglen in 1376, and another William de Aikenhead held the position of a notary public in Irvine in 1444.

The barony of Aikenhead is believed to have passed out of your family’s possession during the early seventeenth century. However, the connection to the legal world persisted, and James Aikenhead, claiming to represent Aikenhead of that Ilk (meaning from the place of Aikenhead), became an advocate and commissioner of Edinburgh. He was granted arms between 1672 and 1673 in the Lyon Court Register, as recorded by Nisbet. This James was said to be the son of David Aikenhead, who held the title of Lord Provost of Edinburgh and was praised for his loyalty and virtue. However, some stories also mention a rhyme alluding to his fiery complexion, humorously referring to him as ‘Aiken timbers made, his fiery face had long ago set all his head in a blazing glow.’

Further evidence indicates that your family held a prominent position among Edinburgh’s professional and mercantile elite during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For instance, Sir Patrick Aikenhead was listed as the commissary clerk of Edinburgh and an investor in the unfortunate Darien scheme of 1695. David Aikenhead, who passed away in 1750, was described in his will as a skilled surgeon in Edinburgh. In 1749, James Aikenhead was mentioned in a sasine as a merchant in Edinburgh, and his son, also named James, was listed as a merchant and guildsbrother in 1776.

However, your family name is notably connected to the tragic tale of Thomas Aikenhead, a student and freethinker, who was executed for blasphemy in 1697. Thomas was the son of James Aikenhead, an apothecary and burgess. During his third year of studies at the University of Edinburgh, Thomas expressed views that diverged from the theological orthodoxy of the time. As a consequence, he was subjected to a trial, marched from Edinburgh to Leith, and eventually hanged, making him the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Britain.

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Family Crest Motto: RUPTO ROBORE NATI (We are born in a weak condition)

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