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The Dunbar Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: IN PROMPTU (In Readiness)

Let me share with you the fascinating history of your family, the Dunbars. Your family takes its name from Dunbar, a fortress on a height, located in East Lothian. The surname predominantly comes from the descendants of the Earls of Dunbar.

The story begins with Gospatrick, the first Earl of Dunbar. He was given the earldom by Malcolm III after being forced into exile in Scotland due to armed conflict with William the Conqueror. Gospatrick’s lineage is uncertain, although some claim he descended from the Kings of Scotland. It is more likely that he was descended from Uhtred the Bold, Earl of Northumbria, whose ancestors held the north of England from Bamburgh Castle.

Another Gospatrick, the son of the first Earl, witnessed the foundation of the Abbey of Holyrood House in 1128. Patrick ‘Black Beard,’ Earl of Dunbar, competed for the crown of Scotland at Berwick in 1291. The ninth Earl, Patrick, offered shelter to Edward II of England at Dunbar after his flight from the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. George, the eleventh Earl, succeeded to his father’s title and vast estates in 1420 and played a prominent role in public affairs. However, his wealth became his downfall. James I desired the Dunbar estates and imprisoned George on false charges of treason, leading to the forfeiture of the earldom and estates to the Crown.

The Dunbar family established various branches, including the Dunbars of Mochrum, Northfield, Hempriggs, Durn, and Both. Two notable individuals named Gavin Dunbar emerged in the early sixteenth century. One was the Bishop of Aberdeen, while the other served as the Archbishop of Glasgow and Lord High Chancellor of Scotland during the reign of James V. Contemporary to them was William Dunbar, a highly regarded poet in the court of King James IV. His works covered a wide range of topics, with his biting satire and merciless ridicule of enemies earning him recognition. Interestingly, his works contain the first recorded instances of several well-used swear words.

The lineage of your family can be traced back to Gospatrick, who was driven from England to Scotland by William the Conqueror. He was granted the lands of Dunbar by the Scottish king, Malcolm III, and his son was acknowledged as the Earl of Dunbar in 1128. Patrick of Dunbar, who married Ada, the natural daughter of William the Lion, became Justiciar of the Lothians and established the line of the Earls of Home through their daughter’s dowry of the lands of Home.

The 9th Earl of Dunbar married Agnes, daughter of Sir Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. Agnes became renowned for her spirited defense of Dunbar Castle against the English in 1338 when her husband was absent. After the death of her brothers, the estates and titles were shared between Agnes and her sister Isabella, who was married to Sir Patrick Dunbar. George Dunbar, son of Patrick and Isabella, succeeded his cousin as the 10th Earl of Dunbar, and his brother John became the Earl of Moray in 1372.

From 1290 to 1455, the Earls of Dunbar also held the title of Earls of March. However, during the reign of James I, who was envious of their great wealth, the lands and titles were confiscated.

Despite a longstanding feud with Clan Innes, the Dunbars who settled in Moray and Caithness thrived. Branches of the family include Boath in Nairn, Northfield in Morayshire, Hempriggs in Caithness, and Durn in Banffshire

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Family Crest Motto: IN PROMPTU (In Readiness)

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