Last Name:
First Name:

 Our Early Jameson History - a little background

Our particular Jameson family, regardless of it's various spellings and translations,[1] has it's early history in the British Isles. Although we are thought to be of Scottish origins the oldest records we actually have are in Ulster, Ireland in the late 1600's and early 1700's.[2]


Modern genetic science is able to help us identify our earliest possible ancestors, in a somewhat general way, from thousands of years ago. Although the categorical results are clear, there is some question of dating and the actual path of the eventual migration into the British Isles. Modern YDNA testing indicates our Jameson family would have belonged to a specific group of people, they themselves undoubtedly descended from others originally of the African continent, who can be found some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago in the Iberian Refugia (Spain), during the last ice age. Their subsequent migration patterns, after the ice finally began its slow retreat, would have been a northern movement through France and then on to a northeastern loop into what is now Germany and Denmark, then into all of Scandinavia. Eventually, some from this group migrated westward into the British Isles and Iceland. Some say our particular ancestor group didn't genetically format into it's present profile until about 3,000 to 5,000 years ago (3000-1500 BC), somewhere in northern Europe, probably Denmark.[3] Nevertheless, everyone pretty much agrees with the general migration patterns, as well as all other modern results.

The oldest verifiable traditional records of our particular Jameson family are from the early 1700s in Ulster, Ireland. The very nature of this existence and the circumstances surrounding it, clearly indicate that we were not indigenous there, but relatively recent arrivals, probably less then a hundred years, and most likely from Scotland, although English roots cannot yet be completely ruled out.

Given our particular family's genetic make up and because we are widely thought to be from Scotland, we would have probably been of Nordic forefathers, through Viking conquests and migrations, possibly dating back as far as the seventh or eighth century. Our patriarchal genetic profile appears to substantiate this. We do not know when or where they may have first arrived. However, it would be safe to say they were definitely there before the use of surnames in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Long enough ago to now be considered as an integral and structural part of that ethnicity.

It may be interesting to know that our family's proven general genetic group[4] is shared by at least two different known migrations into the British Isles, from the same ancient peoples. One from the massive and well known migration in the early fifth century, from the area of what is now Denmark and Germany into England, by a people known as Anglo-Saxons who are sometimes thought of as the "permanent invaders."[5] Our general genetic group is also the same as that from a later migration of Vikings westward into Scotland, as mentioned above. In addition it can also be said that our general genetic group, can also be found amongst the Normans who came to Britain in the tenth century, probably Franco forebears of those who ended up migrating eastward from ancient times, or Vikings who could be found in Normandy at the time the Normans invaded England.


Most traditions have it that our Jameson ancestors emigrated, from Argyllshire (Argyll), in the middle western part of Scotland, not far from the northern part of Ireland where they can then be found as early as the 1600's.[6] In those days Argyll was a fairly large region of western Scotland and included several nearby islands. It is however possible that the traditions of an Argyll homeland are not accurate[7] and there are persuasive arguments to support this. Foremost and well documented is that the Ulster migration of that period (1600-1700), was generally accomplished by Lowlands Scots. Indeed various Ulster Plantation mandates and charters excluded those from the Highlands of which Argyll is specifically mentioned.[8] It is also known that Ulster immigration from the western coastal area of Lowlands Scotland, immediately south of Argyllshire was widespread and common. Significant here was Ayrshire a region known to have many families with the surname Jam?son. The similarity between the names Argyllshire and Aryshire should not go unnoticed and one can speculate if they were perhaps somehow intertwined, transposed or mistaken during the two centuries of handed down oral tradition about the original homeland. It is also possible our Jamesons came from the troublesome Middle Marches area of the Scottish/English border region where Jameson families were also known to exist.[9]

Although there were those with the Jameson surname in any number of likely Scottish regions, there is no known specific connection to any of these and our Jameson family. Recent YDNA genetic analysis however, suggests older connections with our family in a more northeastern part of Scotland. One such connection is with a family from the Alloa area of Clackmannanshire. Completely separate, is another connection with a family just north of there in Aberdeen and other parts of Aberdeenshire in what is known as North East Scotland. However, any details about connections to either of these families, apart from the Y-DNA similarities, has yet to be found. Intriguingly, any possible connections with these families, is reinforced by the discovery of documents[10] from late seventeenth century Ulster, Ireland, where members of what we believe were our family ancestors using an uncommon spelling of our surname found in those same Alloa families and others in the north east parts of Scotland including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.[11] A more careful examination of the families found in and around the Jamesons in the Bann Valley area of Ulster, Ireland compared with those same surnames in Scotland around the same or just earlier period might bring a better understanding of our Jameson's earlier homelands.

Regardless of where, it is very likely that our Jamesons were members of a Scottish clan during the time they lived there. Almost everyone was a member of a clan as this "rule by clan" was generally accepted as a way of life in Scotland during those times, although less so in the Lowlands by the end of the 17th century. There were many clans in the areas where we are thought to be from, including: Stewarts, Campbells, MacNabs, MacLarens, Grahams, etc. Although no known clan affiliation exists with our Jameson family, the Jamieson surname is often associated with Clan Stewart and especially one of it's main branches, Clan Stuart of Bute, from the Island of Bute, of which the surname Jameson is often specifically listed as a sept. Jameson was also a well known sept of the Clan Gunn from the far northeastern part of Scotland, to which many Jameson families consider their heritage. However no known connection exists between the Jamesons of Clan Gunn and our Jameson family in Ulster, Ireland. The Jameson families in the Lowlands border areas would also be thought of as clans, although in a less traditional way. Here too we know of no direct connections with our Jameson family. More details about clans and our family here.


At the beginning of the 17th century King James I, of England, began a repopulation of northern Ireland with mostly Scottish Protestants.[12] The area was at the time largely occupied by the Desmonds, who had been defeated and depleted in various rebellions with the crown during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This forced repopulation started in 1611 and was an effort by the king to colonize this here-to-fore troublesome area with a more sympathetic and supportive people. The incentives were lucrative with large quantities of land available for each immigrant. Many Scots took advantage of this offer and is undoubtedly why our Jameson ancestors found their way to Ireland. This population was largely increased with further immigration over the next fifty years as a result of persecutions by English Kings Charles I and Charles II in their effort to establish the Church of England in Scotland.

Our Jameson family was part of the early Ulister repopulation, although we do not know exactly when they made their migration, nor do we know where exactly they migrated from or where in Ulster they first settled. The earliest we know about them is from a 1669 taxation document known as the Hearth Money Rolls.[10] This shows an Alexander and a Thomas Jamesone in the area of Ballymoney in County Antrim. They are believed to be the ancestors of our Thomas and Hugh Jameson who emigrated to New England in 1738 and 1746. Hugh being recorded in this exact same area in 1740.[13]

How they came to settle here we don't know. It is possible they came here from an earlier arrival some other place in County Antrim. Or, it is possible they arrived in Ireland as part of the Londonderry Plantation. This was a planned settlement in western Ulster in the county of newly named Derry[14] and covered the area from the River Foyle on the west, eastward to the Bann River. On the west was the old city of Derry now renamed Londonderry[15] and on the east was the town of Coleraine.[16]

Coleraine, and the surrounding Bann River Valley area, was one of the two communities developed by the London Companies during the Plantation of Ulster at the start of the 17th century. Coleraine has a long history of settlement. The Mesolithic site at Mount Sandel, which dates from approximately 5935 BC, has some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in Ireland.

Many other Jamesons can be found in the Bann Valley, some to this day. Several of these Jamesons are thought to be somehow related to our Jamesons who emigrated in the early 1700s.

The Scottish colonists resided in Ireland for over several decades during the middle 1600's. They lived somewhat autonomously, retaining their culture and traditions. Intermarriages of the Scots with the Irish were exceedingly rare, so that the Scotch race remained nearly as distinct as it was prior to its settlement in this new land. They attended their own churches and continued life pretty much as it was known to them in Scotland.

In the latter part of the 17th century King James II of England, the last Roman Catholic King, was disposed of his throne. Determined to regain the crown, he went to Ireland where he raised an army of over 40,000, "wild Irishmen" and had some additional help from the French, thanks to Louis XIV. One of his first acts was an attempt to rid the country of King James I colonists, believing that because they were of a different religion, would never support his monarchy. The wholesale destruction of life and property that followed in the wake of his army caused most of the remaining colonists, about 30,000 in all,  to take refuge in Londonderry, or Derry, the place of oaks, as a city of refuge, and to take shelter behind it's walls. Here they were besieged and blockaded for one hundred and five days. They gave James' army a stubborn fight, killing 8,000. They themselves lost 4,000 of perhaps what may have been only 7,000 effective men. A great many more of the besieged perished of hunger and disease than were killed by the guns of the Irish attackers. Nearly every cellar in the town was said to have been occupied by the putrefying remains of those who died so fast that they could not be buried. The dogs who fattened on the blood of the slain were greedily devoured by the starving people. Even the rats that came to the disaster furnished "meat for the eaters." A soldiers rations were a half pound of tallow and three-quarters of a pound of horse hide per day. Might it not have been here where Darwin obtained his theory of "the survival of the fittest?

Many families did survive this siege, and with the arrival of the army of William III, the Prince of Orange and new King of England, fought the Battle of Boyne, June 30th and July 1st 1690[17] They, in one of history's most decisive battles, soundly defeated and destroyed James' army, forcing him to flee to France where he lived until his death in 1701.

A William Jameson was said to have served in the defense of Londonderry during the siege in 1689, and probably in the Battle of Bone in 1690, with such distinguished gallantry and bravery that he was exempted from taxation throughout the British Dominion.[18]

Although James II was driven from Ireland, sectarian violence continued between Irish Catholic and Irish Protestants, indeed to this day. Ireland eventually divided itself into the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which remains a part of the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, by the Test Act of 1704 under Queen Anne (1702-1714), the Scots in Ulster lost every benefit of the Tolerant Act of May 24, 1689, gained under King William. The policies virtually made the people outlaws, and were deprived of their chapels and schools, invalidated their marriages, and prohibited anyone from office above that of petty constable. For these and other reasons emigration out of Ireland, and for that matter all of the British Isles and Europe has continued ever since, particularly from Ireland during the famines in the middle 1800's. This of course included people from our particular Jameson family. Migrations of all kinds to practically everywhere on earth have made this a small world in the time since our Jameson ancestors moved to Ulster in the 1600's. It can be assumed that one can now find a Jameson of our family practically anywhere on this globe.

Other related pages of interest:

Our Ulster Jamesons - An in-depth examination of the Jamesons, particularly our Jamesons, in Ulster, Ireland - starting at the beginning in the 1600's and then since.

Our Early American Jamesons - An in-depth examination of our early immigrant Jamesons, in Colonial New England - starting in the early 1700's.

[1]      Originally MacKechnie and/or MacHamish. Early spelling (translation) is often Jamison, sometimes seen as Jamieson and Jamerson and even Jamesoun. See here for a more thorough explanation.

[2]      The Ulster Jamesons

[3]      Our Ancient Historical Profile - DNA Haplogroup

[4]      YDNA Haplogroup "I-M253" (eye). See here for a more thorough explanation.

[5]      As proven by YDNA testing. See here and here for a more thorough explanation

[6]      "And because of the records preserved by the New Hampshire emigrants, all these Jamesons can connect in the distant past to a family from Argyllshire, Scotland who moved to north Derry, just across a short stretch of sea." The Ulster Background to Immigration - Dr. Linde Lunney - Royal Irish Academy. -

[7]      ".....the name Argyll has also been used by Scottish emigrants as the name of several locations" -

[8]      "It should be noted here, however, that a certain portion of Scotland was expressly excluded from the privilege (if it was a privilege) of sharing in the Ulster Plantation. It was made a necessary condition that the colonists, both of the higher and lower ranks, must have been "born in England or the inward parts of Scotland." This restriction of authorized Scottish settlers to those born in "the inward parts" of the country was evidently designed to exclude Argyllshire and the Isles; that is to say, the Scottish Dalriada, the parts of Scotland inhabited by Celts from Ireland. It was manifestly for the express purpose of excluding them that the restriction referred to was made. They were not the sort of people that were wanted." - The Scotch-Irish in America - by Henry Jones Ford - Appendix C - by the Rev. Professor James Heron, D.D., of The Assembly's College, Belfast, Ireland. -

[9]      The Border Jamesons

[10]      [S129] 1669 Hearth Money Rolls for North Antrim - transcript here.

[11]      The surname spelled Jamesone, is unique and uncommon and seems to be only found amongst a few families in northeast Scotland (Alloa, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, etc.) prior to the seventeenth century. See further comments on his subject, here.

[12]      Predominately Presbyterians.

[13]      [S9] 1740 Protestant Householders' Returns - transcript here.d

[14]      Which until then had been County Coleraine, one of the original 32 counties of Ireland

[15]      The new planned settlement was originally comprised of a single parish (Templemore), on an elevated site, originally known as ‘the island’, which shared property rights with kinsfolk and other fellow settlers in the surrounding liberties.

[16]      Family Formation in a Colonial City: Londonderry, 1650-1750 - by Colin Thomas, School of Environmental Studies, University of Ulster, Coleraine - Received 14 October 1998. Read 7 February 2000. Published 15 September 2000.

[17]      This is incidentally, the origin of the term "Orangemen" or "Orange Irish". Those, who fought with/for the Prince of Orange, during the Battle of Boyne in 1690. It has now come to  be used to generically identify Protestant Irish.

[18]      [S2] Jameson's in America - E.O.Jameson - The Rumford Press -1901 - pp305