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The Byres Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: MARTE SUO TUTUS (safe by his own exertions)

Let me share with you the historical background of your family name, Byres. Your family takes its name from the ancient barony in the county of Haddington, specifically Byres Castle. This castle was situated in a strategically defensible position overlooking the fertile farmland of the county. Over time, it came under the ownership of the Lindsay family, although it is believed to have been destroyed by the English in 1548. Despite the destruction, the orchard tower of the castle survived and remains as a captivating ruin to this day.

The earliest recorded individual of the Byres family, according to George Black, a renowned authority on Scottish surnames, is a monk named John de Byres in 1309. Your family had two notable branches known as ‘of Coates’ and ‘of Tonley’. John Byres, who was born in 1569, was an Edinburgh merchant credited with establishing the Coates branch. He acquired the Coates estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh and eventually became the Lord Provost of the city. The magnificent mansion of Coates, built in the seventeenth century, still stands today and is now part of the renowned St Mary’s Cathedral Music School. Unfortunately, his son, also named John Byres, suffered significant losses due to his involvement in the ill-fated Darien scheme, resulting in the family losing additional estates in Aberdeenshire.

The Byres of Tonley family descended from the House of Coates, although the exact connection remains somewhat obscure. In 1667, James Byres married Janet Middleton in Aberdeen, and family historian Andrew Mitchell Gill suggested that this James might have been a younger son of the original John Byres of Coates. Their son, Robert Byres, worked as a merchant but tragically drowned in Dublin Bay. However, his widow and trustees purchased the barony of Tonley, securing the family’s position there.

Major Patrick Byres played a significant role in your family’s history. He fought in the Battle of Culloden and subsequently fled to France, where he joined the service of Cameron of Lochiel in the French Royal Scotch Regiment. He married Janet Moir, and their descendants later adopted the name Moir Byres. Their son, James Byres, was a fascinating figure who combined Jacobitism with a keen interest in antiquities. From 1764, he worked as an antiquarian guide for young aristocrats embarking on the ‘Grand Tour.’ As an antiquities dealer, he played a pivotal role in shaping classical tastes among the British aristocracy. In 1790, he left Rome and settled as the Laird of Tonley, where he designed a classical monument dedicated to his neighbor, Miss Fraser. Following his tenure, his nephew inherited Tonley and was described as an amiable country gentleman. Eventually, the Moir family of Overhill, a distinguished Aberdeen family, assumed the additional surname of Byres and continues to reside on the family lands to this day.

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The Family Crest

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Family Crest Motto: MARTE SUO TUTUS (safe by his own exertions)

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