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The Balfour Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: FORDWARD (forward)

Let me share with you the fascinating history of your family name, Balfour. Your family is associated with Fife and Orkney, and the name itself has a geographical origin, originating from the lands of Balfour, which is a homestead located on the River Orr, in the parish of Markinch, Fife. According to tradition, these lands were granted to Siward, a Northumbrian, during the reign of Duncan I. The earliest record of the name dates back to 1304, with an individual named John de Balfure.

Your family has a rich history of supporting noble causes. Sir Duncan de Balfour, a member of your family, stood by the side of Sir William Wallace and tragically lost his life at the Battle of Blackironside in 1298. The last Balfour of Balfour was Sir John, who passed away in 1375, leaving his estates to his only daughter, Margaret. The Balfour lineage continued through the descendants of Adam, Sir John’s brother, who married into the influential Macduff Earls of Fife. Sir Michael Balfour, who was raised in the earl’s household, played a significant role in shaping the Balfour legacy. From him, the Balfours of Denmylne, Forret, Torry, Kinloch, and many other branches emerged, making the surname widespread throughout Fife. Notable branches include the Balfours of Burleigh, Fernie, Dunbog, Balbirnie, Halbeath, Lawlethan, and Banktown.

The Balfours have a history of courage and sacrifice. James Balfour of Denmylne met his fate at the siege of Roxburgh in 1460, and his son John, along with numerous Scottish nobles, perished at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Another distinguished figure in your family, Sir Michael Balfour, served as Comptroller of the Household to Charles I and fought loyally for the king during the War of the Three Kingdoms. His son, Sir James Balfour, achieved great renown and was appointed Lord Lyon, King of Arms in 1630. He was not only a distinguished scholar and antiquary but also a chronicler of the Scottish monarchy, leaving behind valuable treatises on heraldry.

Your family also had notable members who made their mark outside of Scotland. Sir Andrew Balfour, the younger brother of Lord Lyon, was a remarkable physician, botanist, and antiquary who played a key role in establishing the Botanic Garden of Edinburgh. Additionally, the Balfours of Balbirnie, originally known as ‘the Balfours of Dovan,’ became prominent landowners in Fife. They acquired the estate of Balbirnie, near Glenrothes, during the mid-seventeenth century.

Your family’s influence extended to the Orkney Islands as well. The Orkney Balfours were descendants of Gilbert Balfour, who was described as “enterprising and avaricious.” Gilbert served as Master of the Household to Queen Mary and profited from the spoils of the Scottish Reformation, acquiring lands in Orkney and constructing the family seat at Noltland Castle. Tragically, he was later executed by the King of Sweden.

One notable figure from the Balfour family is Arthur James Balfour, the Earl of Balfour (1848-1903), who distinguished himself as a British politician and statesman. He served as Secretary for Ireland and later became Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905, leaving a lasting impact on British history.

Your family’s heritage is one of resilience, intellectual pursuit, and contribution to various fields. It is a legacy to be proud of, and it reflects the strength and character of your ancestors.

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Family Crest Motto: FORDWARD (forward)

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