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The Chalmers Family History & Ancestry

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Let me share with you the historical background of your family name, Chalmers. Your family name is derived from the office of chamberlain to the king. Your ancestor, Herbertus, held the esteemed position of ‘Camerarius Regis Scotiae,’ or Great Chamberlain of Scotland, from 1124 to 1153. The Chalmers family owned lands in Ayr and Lanarkshire and possessed the barony of Gadgirth in Ayrshire since that time. Alexander Nisbet, a heraldic authority from the eighteenth century, remarked that they adopted the name De Camera, similar to how the family of the Great Stewards assumed the name Stewart when they ascended to the throne. This reference is made to the office held by their original dynastic founder. Herbutus de Camera is documented as a witness to several deeds during the reigns of King David I and his son, King William the Lion. His son, John Chalmer, is listed as Dominus, or Lord of Gadgirth, in a deed from 1399. James Chalmer of Gadgirth, a fervent Protestant reformer, was admired by his contemporary John Knox for his zeal. In the eighteenth century, Lieutenant George Chalmers, an imperial adventurer and naval officer, accumulated a fortune in British India. The Gadgirth Estate eventually passed to another relative, Lieutenant Colonel John Burnett of Gadgirth, known for his agricultural improvements, who passed away at the age of eighty in 1833.

The name Chalmers is also found in Aberdeenshire, where the Chalmers of Balnacraig, Cults, and Aldbar are believed to have originated from a separate lineage than their Ayrshire counterparts. The ancestor of the Balnacraig family is thought to be Robert Chalmers of Kintore, who received a charter for his lands in 1357. His son served as the Provost of Aberdeen from 1392 to 1404. The fourth Baronet, Sir George Chalmers, gained recognition as a portrait painter, and some of his works are displayed in the National Museum of Scotland. Another prominent Chalmers family in Aberdeen were printers and newspaper proprietors. In 1748, James Chalmers, born around 1713, founded the Aberdeen Journal, which is still in existence today as the Press and Journal. Dr. Thomas Chalmers, born in 1780, was a highly influential theological writer. He was appointed as the Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh in 1828 and became the first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland after the Disruption of 1843, which led to the split of the Church of Scotland. He advocated for applying Christian ethics to economic issues and worked tirelessly to alleviate poverty among the urban poor. A magnificent statue of Dr. Thomas Chalmers now stands in Princes Street in Edinburgh, honoring his legacy.

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