History of the Douglas family

The origins of the Douglas family are lost in the mists of time. It is said that "In the margin, about one-third into The Book of Clan Douglas, Volume III, are written the words: `This is about the time when the Earth began'." (Mary Murray, nee Mary Douglas, of Earltown: 1991).

Perhaps, at the time when surnames were first used, a family took the name of the river that flows though what became known as Douglasdale, possibly descendnats of Flemish settlers.

There is the following tradition in regard to the origin of the name. In the year 770 Solvathius king of Scotland, obtained a victory over Donald Bain of the Western Isles, by the assistance of a man who was unknown to him. After the battle, being desirous to see one who had done him so signal a service, he was pointed out to him with these words: " Sholto Dhuglass," behold that swarthy man.

One of this family, Sir William Douglas, entered into the service of Charlemagne and was the founder of the family of Douglassi in Tuscany.

Sir James de Douglas took the heart of Robert Bruce to the Holy Land, to commemorate which his descendants have ever since horn a crowned heart in their arms. Before the death of Bruce in 1329 the arms of the family were azure, three mullets argent. (Ane Historie of the House and Race of Douglas and Angus, David Hume of Godscroft, Edinburgh 1646).

The first recorded Douglas to stride across the stage of Scottish history was Sir William Douglas who fought and died for William Wallace. His son, Sir James Douglas was a supporter and lifelong friend of Robert the Bruce. "Good Sir James" died taking Bruce's heart on a crusade to the Holy Land. The 2nd Earl of Douglas died at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 as his army defeated an English force led by Prince Henry "Hotspur". In 1402 the 4th Earl was defeated by the same Henry Hotspur at the Battle of Homildon Hill. Not many Douglases died in their beds.

Robert BurnsRobert Burns and the Douglas connections.


Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. Many Douglases have already posted photographs of themselves on social media attending Burns Suppers (dinners).

Robert Burns bought a ticket in 1786 to travel to Jamaica to work as a slave driver. urns in 1786 was faced with many challenges including penury (the farm he shared with his brother was losing money); he recently had a child from his maid; he had Jean Armour pregnant with twins, and Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) was also to become pregnant later that year.

Mr. Charles Douglas, to whom Burns engaged himself through his brother, Dr. Patrick Douglas, of Ayr, was the owner of at least two sugar properties. Burns ultimately did not make it to the island. Read more....
Researching our family history can be a lonely task - but it needn't be.  Others are probably researching similar areas, and by exchanging information, we can build up our knowledge more quickly, test ideas and even ask someone better placed to visit cemeteries, public record offices or libraries to track down that elusive ancestor.

The Douglas Archives Community Network is a place where you, our visitor, can interact with others researching their Douglas history and genealogy.  You can set up your own profile and page, add a blog, set up a discussion or post photographs.  You can even decide how your page will look!

There are several groups serving differing specialist areas or branches of the family in which to hold discussions and share progress.
Recently revised pages

Major General Archibald Douglas, 1896-198102/25/2024
Kane Douglas, b198902/23/2024
General Robert Douglas, 1778-187102/17/2024
Luigi Scotti Douglas, 1796-188002/15/2024
Douglas titles02/15/2024
Armorials - People02/15/2024
Douglas Scotti of Vigoleno02/15/2024
Douglas Family in France - History02/14/2024
The Douglas family in France - People02/14/2024
Freskin the Fleming02/13/2024
The Slaying of John Douglas at Little Moccasin Gap, 177602/06/2024
Kinmount, Dumfriesshire02/05/2024
The Emerald Charter01/30/2024
Fun (peculiar) emails 01/26/2024
Thomas Douglas, c1616-168601/24/2024
The Douglas family in France01/08/2024
The Douglas family in France - Places01/08/2024
Heraldry of The Douglas Family in France01/08/2024
The Douglas family in France - Titles01/08/2024
Captain John Erskine Douglas R.N.01/07/2024


What's new?

Douglas in France Douglas in Italy
It is a moot point as to whether the Douglases arrived in France at the time of Charlemagne, or more likely as participants in the 100 Years War.

Steeped in the intricate tapestry of French history, the Douglas family stands as an enduring testament to resilience, legacy, and the fusion of cultures. With roots tracing back centuries, their narrative intertwines with pivotal moments in France's rich heritage, weaving a story of nobility, influence, and adaptation.

Find out more in the France section
   It is a moot point as to whether the Douglases arrived in France at the time of Charlemagne, but certainly the Douglas Scotti claim that this is the case.

The history of the Douglas Scotti family in Italy is a captivating tale of resilience, legacy, and influence. Dating back to several centuries, this noble family has left an indelible mark on Italian history.

Find out mire in the Italy section

Recent research has revealed considerable Douglas involvement in the development of world trade in the sugar industry. but it is an area about which we wish to learn more.  Can you contribute? >>>. Douglas History in Tapestry
The Great Scottish Tapestry tells the story of Scotland in 160  embroidered panels, each representing a different aspect.  Whilst not focusing specifically on the Douglases, our selection shows how Scots have spread around the world and the impact that they have made.
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Index of first names

Current 'Hot Links'
  • Supplementary to the Douglas Archives:
    The Glenfunan Games - Games for all ages to enjoy whist learning about Douglas history and heritage

  • Community Network - the place to make friends with others researching their Douglas roots and work collaboratively.

  • Douglas tartans - our most searched for page

  • Miscellaneous lists of names - The list grows longer week by week. Can you help identify these family members?

  • A repository of files associated with the Douglas DNA project is now available.

  • Our most visited section this week is information related to slavery

  • The clan system - a section guiding us through the clan structure

    Slaves and slavers The Douglas Heart Visiting Scotland?
    Slaves and tales of daring-do, as the Douglases hunt down the slave traders>>
    A heart features on many Douglas family coats of arms, crests etc, including the one at the top of this page. Find out why... >> Image result for scotlandWe have provided a selection of itineraries for those researching their Douglas history and heritage in Scotland - and a map of places connected with the family. >>
    Are you a Douglas descendant of any of the Earls of Angus, and descendants of the Earls of Morton prior to the 1700s? The Douglas DNA project needs samples of men who are known to be descended from these two lines, in order to verify the DNA types involved. We want to do this in order to allow modern Douglas families to focus their genealogical research into the correct branches of the Douglas tree to find their ancestors. If you are known to descend from these lines the Douglas DNA project may be able to pay for your DNA test.      Lineage testing by DNA  >> We are hoping to make contact with members of the Douglas family who have been in Europe for centuries. Douglases have been in Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy, and possibly other countries, for many generations. We would like to find male representatives of these families to assist our Douglas DNA project. The Douglas DNA project may be able to pay for DNA tests for suitable candidates from these families.

    Lineage testing by DNA >>
    Almost all people of native European descent, wherever they may live throughout the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, hence, the Seven Daughters of Eve.  >>
    Collections of names of those who have not yet been identified, or who have still to have their stories written can be found amongst our Lists of Names.
    These range from poorhouse residents, through Darien investors to coastguards and those who died by drowning. And many more.
    Might your ancestor be one of them?
    Google news headlines from around the world on stories involving 'Douglas'. >>

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    Video image 

    Glenfunan Games Heraldry Newsletters
    Our games section is a fun way to learn more about our clan's history and heritage.
    How well can you do in the quiz?
    Our ever growing section on the family heraldry contains hundred's of armorials from the wide reaches of the Douglases. Each one represents an individual and perhaps includes an element representing their wife.
    I have been collecting Douglas newsletters which contain a wealth of research.  If the topic is not in a Douglas Archives article, it may well be in a newsletter.
    How The Douglas Archives work: What else is new??
    We have collected information from a variety of sources, some of it contradictory! Where the errors are obvious, we have corrected them; where there is doubt, we have shown both options. Scripts from old documents may not have scanned in well, and these will be amended as time goes by. The early history of the Douglases is far from certain.  Early chroniclers often got it wrong.  The editor of The Douglas Archives claims to be no better!  Researchers are, as always, advised to verify information before taking it as gospel. There are two search options - one for the history section and one for the genealogy section.  Try both to find your missing ancestor. Oh yes!  The community network also has its own search facility. If you find something wrong - let us know. If you find something missing - tell us what it is.  This Archive is built from everyone's contributions.  Thank you. Major changes to the site will be notified through our Community Network.  Additions and significant revisions to the History section are listed above.

    Details of the last 12 individuals added to the database in the past 30 days are automatically recorded. With almost 200,,000 names, this growing resource will prove invaluable to researchers. >>
    A TV programme charting the lively lifestyle of Princess Margaret threw up some interesting Douglas connections.  >>
    The royal marriage between the then Prince of Wales and the now Queen Consort brought more Douglas connections, as did the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.  >>

    Further royal connections can be discovered here... >>

    Cartoon - Earl of Douglas and brother

    Edinburgh Castle was the site of the infamous "Black Bull's Dinner" where 16 year old sixth Earl of Douglas and his 14 year old brother David were murdered in front of their 10 year old King (James II). >>
    Concerns are being expressed about the future of the Mausoleum in Castle Douglas  >>

    The restoration the mausoleum of Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas is now complete.  Thanks to all who contributed.
    The Scots won the battle and captured the English leader Henry (Hotspur) Percy. When he offered to capitulate, he was directed to surrender to the bush under which Douglas was lying and so the battle became famous because it was won by a dead man.>>
    Douglas SuportFunds raised enabled a community acquisition of this old Douglas estate saving it from commercial development - but the community still needs our help!  Thanks to all who contributed.
    The Douglas Support Estate
    Caroline markerThis grave marker for Caroline Lucy Johnstone-Douglas is in the Dryfebridge cemetery, which is fast being overgrown by nature, and is in need of tender loving care.
    Not all Douglases have been goody goodies - read about horse thieves, and others.  >>

    Other stories of interest can be found in our Articles section.
    Our place in history
    "In the margin, about one-third into The Book of Clan Douglas, Volume III, are written the words: `This is about the time when the Earth began'." (Mary Murray, nee Mary Douglas, of Earltown: 1991)
    I have still a lot of work to do on this section, and all contributions will be welcomed.

    Click to enlarge this picture of Lance Corporal of Horse Chris 'Dougie' Douglass, serving in Afghanistan with Prince Harry. 

    The father of Lance Corporal of Horse Chris 'Dougie' Douglass, 27, had wondered why his son had stayed so tight-lipped about his desert operations.

    Gary Douglass, 55, from Sunderland said: "Usually he sends us emails and rings to let us know he's OK. But this time he did not tell us much about what he was doing. Now we know why. His mother has been very worried about him."

    Chris, who lives in Army accommodation in London with his wife and two children, Jake, 11, and Reece, five, said: "Harry's always got a smile on his face. Nobody cares about his background."

    How many ancestors do I have?
    I have been wondering how many ancestors I might have...

    Two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents... If I continue this series back at 3 generations per century, I find I have over a billion Viking-era ancestors. And 10^18 in the Roman era. And so on. This is plainly wrong. Where is the flaw in the logic?




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    Last modified: Thursday, 22 February 2024