This name originates from the lands of same name in Westerkirk in Dumfriesshire. Prior to 1286 a charter was granted by John Macgill of that Ilk to Adam de Glendonwyn of his part of the lands and baronies of Clifton and Mertobel in Roxburghshire. Sir Adam obtained a discharge of all bygone feu-duties from Archibald Douglas, lord of Galloway in 1313, and John of Glendonwyne and Symoun of Glendonwyne were two of the ‘borowis’ for the earl of Douglas’s bounds of the West March in 1398.
William de Glendonwyn was rector of Crawfurdjon in 1450 and was canon of the church of Glasgow in 1467.
Symon of Glendynwyn was one of the conservators of the truce between Scotland and England in 1451.
The Glenuningis were named among the unruly clans on the West March in 1587, and Robert Glendonying was retoured heir in lands in the parish of Balmaghi in 1599. John Glendinning joined Montrose and consequently was outlawed with his lands forfeited. The direct line is said to have ended in 1720, but William Glendonwyn of that Ilk is mentioned in 1798.
DNA sampling has recently disclosed ancestral relationships between those with the names of Glendinning, Little and Elliot. The 17th century historian, Scott of Satchells, described a transplantation from Angus to the Borders of “twelve great families.” The Elliots of Redheugh were the predominant family, and their Breton origin has now been well established. Historians have found that Anglo-Bretons and therefore Scots-Bretons, were notoriously late in adopting surnames. In the case of the Elliots, the adopted surname, “Elwald” was used interchangeably with the old Breton toponym-based surname, and eventually abandoned. This DNA sampling now suggests that those families which were not settled on Redheugh lands adopted their own new surnames, based on local toponymic or geographic features, as the Flemish Douglas progenitor had done, taking his name from lands surrounding Douglas Water. The Glendinnings took their name from their new home, and the Littles took their name from the Liddel.
The close connection between the Douglases, the Elliots, Glendinnings and Littles makes these DNA results especially significant. The Breton origin of the progenitor of the Stewarts, Walter fitzAlan (of Dol, Brittany), has always been known, but now we can at last identify more Scots of Breton origin, whose settlement in Scotland, like that of so many feudatories of Norman, Flemish and Picard origin during the reign of William the Lion, has been described by one distinguished historian as a “tidal wave. William especially favoured Flemings like Freskin (Clan Murray) and his nephew Theobald, founder of the powerful Douglas family, and Beorwald, founder of Clan Innes. Most mercenaries or professional soldiers of this period were either Flemish or Breton, given land instead of pay by a cash-strapped William I.