DNA Project

Grant Histories
Monymusk Text
Age of the Monymusk Text
Cromdale Text
Tullochgorm Text
Shaw Text
Baronage Text

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Complete list of Chiefs
The Name Grant
Grant Arms
Grant Family Trees
Chief`s Ancestral Lines
The Cherokee Connection
The DNA Project
The Septs

Fraser/Norman Critique I
Fraser/Norman Critique II

A Brief History


   "DNA evidence established in 2007 has now conclusively vindicated the Grant Seannachies of the past who were unanimous that the original Grant Chiefs were of Viking stock. The Chiefs’ ancestral lines go back to Håkon the Mighty, protector of Norway (970-995), Grig, (“Gregory the Great”) Regent of Scotland (878-889), Heming the Great, King of Denmark (fl. 810) and Alfred the Great of Wessex!

Our patriarch, Olav Hemingsson came North with Malcolm III around 1057. The Clan’s plant badge, the “Seedling Scots Pine, fructed proper”, echoes the Norse origins of the first Chiefly line. The Crowns on the Chief’s Arms represent the Spirit of Victory. In the tinctures (the colours), the vassalage to Malcolm is acknowledged."

Adrian Grant

The ancestors of the Grants were in Strathspey during the reign of Malcolm III, their main tasks being to ensure that the beacon atop Craigelachie (by Aviemore) was lit to warn the king – and the rest of Lowland Scotland – if danger threatened from the North. Our crest, the “Burning Hill proper” reflects this as does the War Cry “Craigelachie”; our Motto, “Stand Fast” reflects our attitude towards any attack coming from that direction.

These lands, together with others round Loch Freuchie near Dunkeld, were lost after 1098 when the usurping king Edgar seized the throne with Norman support and Olav was executed; but 50 years later our pre-Grant ancestors were re-established on the banks of Loch Ness at Boleskine, becoming Lords of Stratherrick for some 180 years. Several heads of the family at this time served as Sheriff of Inverness in that post’s various guises.

The name Grant was adopted as surname about 1175, although it was almost certainly a by-name from 1060. Its basic meaning is “Gritty” – and the Grants have always shown “true Grit”.

Early Diaspora

Stratherrick was not sufficiently rich to sustain younger sons in much style and soon many of those who did not stand to inherit were to be found in England and Ireland and as townspeople throughout the islands. Among these Richard Grant left Scotland to become Chancellor of Lincoln and subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Grant was the English King’s visor at York, William Grant the English King’s messenger in Ireland and another William Grant had the honour of acting as the protector of the English princess Margaret when she came to be Alexander III’s queen in Scotland. His son David was Sheriff of Stirling.

Return to Strathspey and Consolidation there

In 1316 Robert the Bruce rewarded the highland Grants for their loyalty with the barony of Inverallan – after a gap of over 200 years they were back in Strathspey. Gradually they consolidated their position, eventually disposing of Stratherrick where the last tract of land was given up in 1420.

The ordinary Clansmen – beyond the chiefly family itself – adopted the surname when they marched off to assist the king at Berwick in 1482. But not all Grants have acquired their name in this way. Some were originally MacGregor kinsmen who adopted the name when their own was proscribed, while others, the so-called Trochie Grants were originally Farquharsons – descending from children who had been orphaned as a result of battle between Grants and Gordons on one side and Farquharsons on the other. As time went by the landholdings in Strathspey were consolidated until they stretched “between the Two Craigelachies” on both sides of the river. Controlling the crossing of the river was a major source of income and employment.

As the lands were consolidated and extended, there was room for more and more cadets (younger sons of the Chiefs). Apart from Glenmoriston and Corriemony (for Glenurquhart) mentioned below, the major subdivisions of the clan include Ballindalloch, Rothiemurchus, Monymusk, Tullochgorm, and Dalvey and the major groups from even earlier times: the Clan Allan and the Clan Ciaran. There are several other cadet lines. The Grants were so prevalent in the Strathspey area that the use of our surname was often not a great help – thus many were commonly known by by-names or nicknames or by the names of the lands they held. This was especially true of the major cadet lines mentioned.

It seems that it was not long after this that one enterprising Grant brought well bred Highland Horses (the so-called Strathavon Horse) to England and this has led to various niche breeding sites in England and even America – and, by the by was the reason that a John Grant played a part in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and was hanged for his pains.

New Lands in the West

King James IV called upon the Grants to try to bring peace and order to the wilds of the West Highlands making them Royal Chamberlains in Glenurquhart and Glenmoriston. In 1509 this valued service was recognised when the lands were converted into Free Baronies.

[2009 marked the Quincentenary of this event – and to commemorate it, Clan Grant Society members raised over £1000 to help the charity Trees for Life which has a major reforestation project in the area.]


The Grant Chief supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and was rewarded by his lands being turned into a Regality in 1694, giving him power of “pit and gallows” and earning him the nickname of “The Highland King”. The integration of the Chiefs of Grant with their clansmen is well illustrated by the famous pictures of the Champion, the Piper, the Henwife, the Fool and others which all date from this time. At the same time Grant Chiefs came to the conclusion that the political union with England was vital to economic survival – and Grants played a significant part in orchestrating this.

The Chief was unswerving in his support for the Government during the ’15. But the government did not even begin to compensate him for the expenses he had incurred at that time and so the clan stayed as neutral as it could during the ’45.

But the lairds of Glenmoriston were surrounded by and had intermarried with natural Jacobites, so they took the Jacobite cause in the ’15, resulting in his lands being forfeit for his pains, but the young Ludovick, later to be Chief, bought them all back and gave them back to his cadet, doing much the same thing for several other Siol Alpin kinsmen of different clans in a similar position.

In the wake of the Jacobite defeat at Culloden after the ’45 rising, The “Seven Men of Glenmoriston” led by “Black Peter” Patrick Grant of Craskie were crucial in keeping Bonnie Prince Charlie safe from Government hands despite a reward amounting to £30 000 - tens of millions of Pounds in today’s money. Hanoverian troops scoured the area committing many atrocities.

But many of the Glenurquhart men in particular had been forced to join the Jacobite side and Ludovick was able to secure a pardon for them provided they handed themselves in. They placed themselves in Ludovick’s charge and marched to Inverness where Government officials renegued on the undertaking given and they were put on board a prison ship whence to Barbados. Of the 80 condemned in this way only 7 ever returned to Scotland. This betrayal has been the cause of much only too understandable bitterness and it is sad that some of this was misdirected to Ludovick who, ever after, rued the way things had turned out so differently to what he had thought he had managed to negotiate.

Like most other clans in Scotland, Grants were represented in the colonies – through the East India Company and through Slavery in the Americas. While not condoning this practice in any way, it has to be said that there is good evidence that Grant slaves were treated with more humanity than many if not most others.

Foundation Stones of Scottish Culture

* It is to be noted that the earliest extant reference to a standard clan Tartan is of the Grant Tartan and belongs to the very early 1700s

* One result of profits to Scotland derived from the slave trade was the agricultural revolution initiated by Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk – who, inter alia, introduced the turnip to the country. And so it can be said that the now traditional Scottish meal of Haggis neeps and tatties is substantially down to the Grants.

* And, of course we have not yet even mentioned the Water of Life. The Scotch Whisky trail is basically all about Grant lands – and Grant brands!

* Similarly the Grants can lay claim to a major tranche of Scottish country music – the Strathspey time signature.

After the Demise of the Clan System

The defeat of the Jacobites saw the end of the Clan System as it had been understood and the end of the privileges of Regality for the Chief of Grant. But Grant lairds largely avoided the cruelty of clearance so widely practised elsewhere – the “Good” Sir James Grant founding Grantown in 1765 (first training the masons by having them work on an extension to Castle Grant) to provide an alternative way of earning a living to the poverty which had been so widespread for too long.

The Chiefs’ money problems continued - relieved in part by marriage to the Seafield heiress, Sir Lewis Alexander Grant inheriting the Earldom through his mother only a few months after he had inherited the chiefship of the clan from his father, both in 1811.

The estates were disentailed in the 1880s and then the Dowager Countess in effect exiled the Chiefs in New Zealand for some years. Another consequence of the disentailing was that when the Chiefship of the clan was separated from the Earldom of Seafield, the estates, including Castle Grant, went with the latter. And so it is that only since the year 2000 has the current (33rd) chief, Sir James Grant of Grant, Lord Strathspey, been re-establishing himself in Strathspey – only 120 years later this time!

DNA Vindicates the Highland Seannachie

Below is a brief discussion of the implications of the results of the Grant DNA Project so far. To read the full results visit the independent Grant DNA Project website.

It was a long time ago, probably around 2002, that DNA was first discussed as a way forward to sifting through the problems that we faced. Professor Sykes with his Oxford Ancestors was very much in the news explaining how DNA could be used to show elements of a person’s ancestry. But at that time the science was in its infancy and what was on offer then was not going to address our problem. As is too often the case it was the Americans who saw the commercial angle, with the company Family Tree DNA being set up primarily based on identifying specific aspects of the Y Chromosome (inherited only by males and only through the father). By doing the research within a surname structure (this also inherited normally through the father) great synergy can be obtained – ie. if you share the surname AND you share the genes then there is a FAR higher chance that you are indeed related in historical times.

The first Grant DNA sample was analysed in the spring of 2004 courtesy of the generous hosting of the MacDonalds who already had their project up and running. But by now this was spreading like wildfire and it was but a few weeks later that a Grant project was set up independently of any Clan Grant Society by a Grant in the USA

The Chiefly Line

Very early on many Grants who had no such idea or any expectation discovered to their delight that they were blood members of the chiefly line. As we pieced their lineages together we have been able to specify the DNA signature of many of the cadet lines. Among these lines are:
(a) Corrimony: This line descends from John Grant, son of the Bard Roy. In this case it is no doubt a relief for the participants including Chris the Chef and Kiwi Peter to see their signatures match the prospective chieftain himself!
(b) Lurg: This line descends from Robert, son of Duncan Grant younger of Freuchie.
(c) Glenlochy (otherwise the MacRobbies): Tradition is that this line is from an illegitimate son of Robert Grant the Ambassador. Descendants of this line found themselves involved in the Canadian fur trade

Our hope is that more members of known cadet lines will join in to allow others to be able to narrow their search when trying to extend their family trees and link in to the known chiefly line.

At this point (the reason will become clear later) we should note that the proven Lurg tree (ie in this case we are 100% sure) showed up to be only 60% likely from DNA – in other words if you took ten examples four would turn out not to be the case.

A few of the project members had a DNA signature which was fairly close to the Chiefly line, but nevertheless far enough away for them not to be included in that group automatically. I urged the project coordinators to consider them as possible connections. They were sceptical, but to humour me they set them up as a sub-group with loads of question marks!

Viking Members

From a very early stage we had what looked like a good candidate for a representative of the old Viking Chiefs, as another American member tested R1a1, and not just “any old” R1a1, but the particular sub-group which fitted the old stories (so, for example, NOT the same sub-group as Somerled, the King of the Isles and progenitor of the MacDonalds) – but the problem was that we did not know enough his pedigree – so that had to wait for confirmation of some sort. Later another member tested R1a1; again it was the same sub-group – but the two signatures just did not match. This meant that at best only one of these two could be from the Old Chiefs and we had no way of telling. Some time later, another R1a1 turned up. Again it was the same subset and again he did not match with either of the others. So now we had three candidate signatures for the original chiefly line!

Sir William Fraser was particularly mocking of the Clan Allan Grants – the Grants of Auchernack (properly and anciently Achachearnach). In our genealogies, and in their own lore, they are stated to be descendants of Allan – a brother of Sir Lawrence Grant – who was born around the year 1210. Instead Fraser claimed that these were merely local Abernethy peasants who had at some unspecified stage adopted the name Grant for their own safety or their own gain. Fraser’s story made no sense – but that had not stopped him elsewhere!

In the spring of 2008 a senior representative of the Clan Allan joined the project. He had a known and unbroken pedigree stretching back to the middle 1600s and….. he tested R1a1! Again this was the same subset of R1a1 which would be expected if the old genealogies were true. So given that the family lore exactly matches the science, we may be quite certain that this signature does indeed represent the ancient chiefly line.

And of the others? One of the other R1a1s turned out to be a very clear match with our standard and hence we may be confident that he too is descended also from the Viking Chiefs It is curious that all our R1a1 signatures come from the same ethnic subgroup and from this we should conclude that in the other samples we have the descendants of family servants/retainers who will have been with Olaf Hemingsson and his ancestors over many generations – all the way back to Denmark in 850 AD!

The Stewart Signature

The old Seannachies being vindicated, we now needed to see whether the Chiefly line signature would demonstrate the veracity of the claim about Andrew Stewart. We had tried to look into this before, but failed to find any criterion signature to compare with. A fresh search on the internet revealed two quite separate benchmark examples through the Stewarts of Balquidder. They had entirely separate pedigrees, linking into the line of the High Stewards of Scotland at quite separate points – but their DNA matched 37/37 so there could be no doubt that this was the true DNA signature.

Somewhat bizarrely the three members who looked somewhat doubtful members of the chiefly line matched this Stewart signature without any possible room for doubt. But precisely because there had been some doubt as to whether this group belonged to the Chiefly line, there was now some doubt as to whether the chiefly line really was Stewart! From the historical point of view the story was complicated by the fact that for many years, the Lords of Kincardine (between Abernethy and Rothiemurchus) were Stewarts – so it was at least logically possible that the members who showed the Royal Stewart signature could be the result of some unrecorded extra-marital event between the two families!! We cast around to see what explanations we might come up with, but had no convincing result.

Statistics to the Rescue

Family Tree DNA kindly provided the statistical analysis: 40%. In other words if you took ten examples at random where the proposed common ancestor dated back to c1260, then in 4 out of 10 cases it would prove to be correct. This is not the overwhelming incontrovertible proof we might have wished for, but it is entirely consistent – there is no basis for denying it. (Bear in mind the 60% score for the Lurg line which we KNOW to be correct).

The conclusion we draw is that the outsiders descend from a junior son of Andrew Stewart, while the chiefly line then descends from Patrick Beg mac Mauld, the heir – as told in the old genealogies.


The Monymusk Text and others are consistent in saying that the original Grant Chiefs were Viking. The DNA evidence proves that this is true.

The Monymusk Text says that when the Viking line died out it was Andrew Stewart who married the heiress. The DNA evidence is consistent with this.


Of course all of the above accounts for only a small proportion of all Grants. The vast majority are the ordinary clansmen whose ancestors adopted the surname in the late 1400s. We have one participant whose male line ancestors were in Scotland long before even the Picts arrived!

The Clan Grant Centre Trust