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The Chisholm Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: FEROS FERIO (I am fierce with the fierce)

Let me share with you the historical background of your family name, Chisholm. Although the surname is now associated with Highland heritage, it originated from the barony of Chisholm near Hawick in Roxburghshire. The name of the place itself is derived from Old English, meaning ‘Cheese Island.’ The earliest mention of the name in Scottish records dates back to sometime between 1248 and 1258 when Alexander de Chesehelm witnessed a charter. Around the same time, a John de Chesehelme was mentioned in a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander IV in 1254. Richard de Chesehelme of Roxburghshire paid homage to Edward I of England and was listed on the Ragman Roll of 1296. It is likely that these men were related, and many modern Chisholms can trace their ancestry back to them.

Richard used a seal in 1296 depicting a boar’s head, which remains the principal heraldic device of your family. It is found on the chief’s shield, and a boar’s head held aloft atop a dagger serves as the crest. This emblem stems from the tradition that two Chisholm brothers saved the king’s life when he was attacked by a fierce wild boar. As a reward, they were granted lands in Invernesshire. They rose to prominence in the north, and in 1359, Robert de Chisholme was appointed constable of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. He had been knighted by David II and was captured at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. His son, Alexander, married Margaret, the heiress of the lands of Erchless, and Erchless Castle became the clan’s seat.

During the early Reformation, the family remained Catholic, and Sir James Chisholm faced denouncement in 1592 for engaging in “treasonable matters against the true religion.” He was excommunicated in 1593. However, the chiefs later converted to Protestantism. In the 1715 uprising, Chisholm of Chrocfin, an elderly veteran, led two hundred clan men at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. As a result, the family estates were forfeited to the crown, but a pardon was granted in 1727. The Chisholms exercised caution during the 1745 Jacobite uprising and managed to retain their lands. However, in the mid-eighteenth century, Ruiridh, the twenty-second chief, attempted to increase his tenants’ rents to raise money, leading to mass emigration from Chisholm lands to the New World overseas. Alexander, the twenty-second chief, tried to reverse this decline but passed away, leaving his only daughter, Mary. The chiefship then devolved upon his half-brother, William, who converted most of the family’s land to sheep grazing, perpetuating the emigrations. In 1887, the chiefship passed through an heiress to the present chiefly line.

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The Family Crest

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Family Crest Motto: FEROS FERIO (I am fierce with the fierce)

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