The traditional progenitor of the clan was Fearchar Mac an t Sagairt which is translated as “son of the priest”. Fearchar was created Earl of Ross in 1234, for services to Alexander II.
The last chief of the clan Ross to hold the earldom died in 1372, having fathered no sons. His daughter tried to claim the earldom, but it passed to the MacDonalds of the Isles and subsequently into the hands of the crown in 1476. The once proud Ross estate of Balnagowan became heavily burdened by debt in the 18th century and it was purchased by a lowland branch of the Ross family who, although bearing the family name, were genealogically complete strangers to the Celtic Earls of Ross.
In the early 20th century the chiefship of the clan Ross was restored to the true line.