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Grant Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: CRAIG ELACHIE (the rock of alarm)

Let me share with you the fascinating history of your family, the Grants, passed down through generations. Until recently, it was believed that the Grants were descended either from the Siol Alpin, the Highland clans with roots tracing back to King Alpin, or of Norman descent, as their name derived from the Norman French term ‘le grand,’ meaning ‘great’ or ‘large.’ The first record of a family with the surname ‘le Grant’ dates back to the mid-thirteenth century when they acquired lands in Stratherrick. However, recent DNA evidence suggests a Viking origin for the Grant chiefs. Your family’s progenitor appears to be Olav Hemingsson, who arrived in Scotland from England with Malcolm III around 1057. Olav’s ancestors held prestigious titles such as Jarls of Hladr, Earls of Northumberland, and Earls of Worcester.

Olav possessed lands extending from Kingussie to Granton in Strathspey and around Freuchie in Strathbraan. Sadly, he was executed, and his line was dispossessed in 1098 due to his support for Edmund and Donalbane against King Edgar. Aulay, Olav’s great-great-grandson, is believed to have adopted the Norman-French designation Grant around 1174, becoming the first chief. Meanwhile, other members of your family were making their mark; William Grant served as the guardian of Alexander III’s child bride, Margaret. The Grants supported the Bruce claim during the Wars of Independence for the Scottish crown. John and Randolph de Grant were taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. Bruce’s eventual victory secured the Grants’ holdings in Strathspey. However, the main line of the family failed, and the name continued through the co-heiress Maud and her husband Andrew Stewart, who adopted the surname Grant.

The Grant lands were then erected into the free barony of Freuchie, where Sir James Grant built a castle in 1536, originally known as Castle Freuchie but later renamed Castle Grant in the seventeenth century. Ludovick Grant, the eighth Laird of Freuchie, became so powerful that he was often referred to as ‘the Highland king.’ He deviated from his family’s past loyalty to the Stuarts and supported the government of Mary and William. In 1811, Sir Lewis Grant inherited the Ogilvie earldoms of Seafield and Findlater, and as a result, the Grant chiefs gained a seat in the House of Lords. In 1858, the seventh earl was bestowed the title of Baron Strathspey. While the prestige and wealth of the chiefly family later declined, Castle Grant still stands today as a private residence.

The Grants first emerged in Scotland during the mid-thirteenth century. Sir Laurence de Grant served as Sheriff of Inverness in 1263 and is believed to have come north from Nottinghamshire, where his mother’s family, the Bissets, held land. During the same period, his brother Robert held lands in Nairnshire. Additionally, there is a tradition connecting the Highland Grants to Clan Gregor, as members of the Siol Alpin and descendants of King Kenneth MacAlpin’s father. Certainly, they followed Robert the Bruce, as John and Randolph de Grant were taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. Due to their loyalty to King Robert, they received the lands of Glenmoriston and Glen Urquhart and established a strong presence as a Highland clan, owning vast lands in the Spey Valley. In 1563, Sir James Grant built Castle Freuchie, which was later renamed Castle Grant two centuries later.

During the seventeenth century, the Grants initially supported the Marquis of Montrose and the Royal Cause in Scotland but switched loyalties during William of Orange’s invasion. They then supported the House of Hanover during the 1715 and 1745 Uprisings. Through the marriage of Sir Ludovic Grant, the seventh Baronet and twentieth Chief of the Name, to Lady Margaret Ogilvie, daughter of the Earl of Findlater, the earldom of Seafield was later acquired by the ninth Baronet. In 1884, the seventh Earl of Seafield was granted the title of Baron Strathspey. When the eleventh Earl passed away in 1915, the earldom was inherited by his only daughter, with his brother becoming Lord Strathspey and Chief of the Clan.

Your family has also produced remarkable individuals who left their mark in various fields. Sir Francis Grant (1858-1726) became Lord of Session and took the name Lord Cullen. William Grant (1701-1764), the second son of Lord Cullen, also served as Lord of Session and adopted the name Lord Prestongrange. Sir Francis Grant (1803-1878) was born in Edinburgh and gained acclaim as a painter of sporting scenes. He later became the President of the Royal Academy in London in 1866. Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885), born in Ohio, USA, became the 18th President of the United States of America. James Grant (1822-1887) was a skilled draughtsman and author of 56 novels and publications, including “The Tartans and Clans of Scotland.” Sir Alexander Grant (1826-1884), born in New York, served as the Principal of Edinburgh University from 1868. James Augustus Grant (1827-1892) explored the sources of the Nile and authored “A Walk across Africa” in 1864. Duncan Grant (1885-1978), born in Rothiemurchus, became an accomplished painter and was associated with the Bloomsbury Set. Additionally, several members of the Speyside Grant family played significant roles in shaping today’s Scotch whisky industry.

These are just a few highlights from the captivating history of your family, the Grants, who have left their mark in Scottish history, produced remarkable individuals, and made significant contributions in various fields.

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Family Crest Motto: CRAIG ELACHIE (the rock of alarm)

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