DNA used to try and solve the name game for outlawed MacGregors

The MacGregors were once the most feared and persecuted clansmen in Scotland – forced to renounce their ancient ancestry or face execution.

Clan Gregor was effectively erased from existence after King James VI decreed the name MacGregor should be abolished following the murder of the King’s Forester, killed for hanging some clansmen for poaching.

For two centuries the MacGregors, including the legendary Rob Roy, lived as outlaws.

MacGregor clansmen, caught after refusing to renounce their name, were killed while the women were stripped, branded, and whipped through the streets before they and their children were sold into slavery in Britain’s new American colonies.

Others legally changed their surnames to escape persecution as the clan was dispersed to the four winds.

But now, 233 years after the persecution of the MacGregors finally ended, the latest advances in DNA technology are being used for the first time by the Clan Gregor Society to welcome “lost” clansmen back into their fold.

The DNA profile of a known descendent of the chief’s line – the MacGregors of Glencarnoch – is being used as the benchmark for the vital tests. He is known simply by the codename Kit 2124.

And the council of the Clan Gregor Society has announced that it will admit to full membership of the society anyone who can prove they share 31 out of the 37 DNA markers in common with the main MacGregor bloodline profiler – irrespective of their surname.


Professor Richard McGregor, the chairman of the Clan Gregor Society of Scotland, said:

“The council has taken this decision in recognition of the fact that, as a result of Clan Gregor’s past turbulent history, individuals were required to assume names which were totally divorced from their actual clan, and although such name changes were often documented at the time, others were not.

“The council recognises the ancestors of some MacGregors chose not to return to the original clan name for a variety of reasons, and that advances in DNA testing now allows descendants of such individuals to be identified as belonging to the clan.”

• THE persecution of the Clan Gregor began in 1603 when King James VI issued an edict proclaiming that the name MacGregor should be “altogidder abolished” and ruling that those of the “wicked and unhappie race of the Clan Gregour” who bore the name must renounce it or suffer death.

The gentry were encouraged to hunt down Gregors who refused to change their surnames and a price of 1,000 merks – a fortune – was put on the heads of clan leaders, with 100 merks for other clan members.

The persecution finally ended in 1774, when the Act of Proscription against the clan was repealed.

To find out more please see the new MacGregor DNA blog.

Surnames that were looked at or this project are:

Agor, Bennett, Black, Campbell, Card/Cart, Clark, Dougall, Dowie, Drummond, Foxton, Greer/Grier/Grierson, Gregor, Gregory, Gregson, Grieg/Gregg, Grieve, Grigsby, Gruer, Hardy, King, Lackey/Leckie, Lawrie, MacDougall, MacFarlane, MacGregor, MacGregor-Skinner, MacPherson, MacWhannell/McIlchonnell, Magruder/McGruder, Malloch, Mathews, McAdam, McAdams, McGee/Magee, McGregor, McGrew/McGreer, McLaughlin/Gilmore/Stranahan, MacNab, McNee, McWhannell, Megehee, Mitchell, Moore, Mustard, Nevins, Nichols, Offutt, Orr, Peterson, Pyatt, Ree/McLergan/McLean, Reese, Reid, Rodgers, Shanahan/Strannigan, Shankland, Shipperlee, Skerratt, Skinner, Smith, Snow, Stallings, Stirling, Thorn, Turk, Warner, Welcker, West, Westran, Whyte/White


About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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9 thoughts on “DNA used to try and solve the name game for outlawed MacGregors

  1. Jared Gragg

    I would like to be able to get this test done and check. We spell our surname Gragg. But we have traced our family back to the McGregor clan. Please get back with me on this. I would love to proudly hang our colors and flag and my house.

  2. Norman Rider

    The family story of my wife’s 3x great grandfather as written is as follows:
    James Ferguson (Clan MaCgregor) believed to have dropped the second surname. Believed to be the eldest son, preferring the army to the church joined her majesty’s forces, came out to India with the British Army.

    How do we go about getting my wife’s DNA tested to see if there is any possible truth in the story?

  3. Andy Grier

    I had my DNA sequenced a few months back. I have found a tenuous genealogical link back to the MacGregor’ clan and would like to find out if the link is correct.
    How can I get my DNA to you for comparison?

  4. Tracy MacGregor

    How can I get my DNA to you for comparison? I am in America and have my dna record through ancestry.com

  5. Emmett F. Secrest Jr.

    I had my DNA tested via Ancestry.com and showed a large percentage I Scotland/Ireland. I also discovered through Ancestry that my family tree leads back to Robert Roy Mc Gregor vía my Grandmother Sallie Rodgers. What do I have to do to verify this and be accepted into the Clan?

  6. Nina Outlaw

    Can anyone tell me more about the name change to Outlaw? How can I get Information on the DNA test ?

  7. Kerry McAdams Connor

    I’d like to continue my family tree connection to Macgregor clan. According to my grandmother, our name McAdams was changed about 1660. I also use Ancestry but now at a roadblock.

  8. Troy Skinner

    I’m very interested in exploring this possibility with a DNA test. I’ve taken the DNA test for FTDNA could I possibly download those results?

  9. Anita Zerk

    My Grandmother was from the Grieve Family from around Ettrick Scotland, it would be wonderful to know if you found a connection to Grieve’s. My cousins maybe keen to do a DNA test & I can ask (Grieve male cousins). William Grieve b1804-d1870 & Janet Dalgleish are my 3 x Great Grandparents in Scotland from Summerhope, near St Mary’s Loch.


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