Women’s Names among the Scots and Irish

Genealogists tend to make a hash of women’s names because they don’t know, or don’t acknowledge, the cultural rules that would have applied at a particular time and place. The names of pre-Modern women in Scotland and Ireland is a particularly difficult area.

So often people tell me they just want a rule of thumb. My response is that it would be much better to use the names they’re found in primary sources.

Admittedly, that begs the question of how to understand and interpret the names we find. I’m watching for a good, introductory level discussion. In the meantime, I’ve come across this short piece by Barry McCain.

A married woman would take her husband’s surname, but the prefix form was different than the male form. Ó became Uí and Mac became Mhic. This name change did not always hide the surname of the woman’s father however. In traditional Gaelic society some women retained their father’s surname due to the strong sense of family and clan affiliation. This was done when the woman was the daughter of a land holding family and had high status within society.

Two examples from the mid to late 1500s that I located in my own research are: Fionnuala Nic Eáin married Dónaill Mac Ailín. Her “married name” becomes Fionnuala Mhic Ailín. In actuality, she retained her maiden name in the community and is listed by that name in the records. Her name appears crudely anglicised as Finvall Nikean.

If that sounds like the kind of thing you need to know, I encourage you to read the entire article.

Religious and Military Order of the Knights of Malta

The Royal Black Association of the Ancient, Exalted, Illustrious Religious and Military Order of the Knights of Malta was a Scottish chivalric association. It was closely associated in the beginning with Orange Order, although frequently at odds with it. It seems originally to have been synonymous with various “Black” organizations that evolved into the Royal Black Institution by 1846, but was perhaps only one of a number of them.

In the color symbolism popular at the time, the color black symbolized Protestantism, orange symbolized adherence to the House of Orange, and blue symbolized Freemasonry. The color symbolism can become confusing. The name Royal Black Association is intended to convey they are a Protestant association. Originally, membership was restricted to those who were also members of the Orange Order.

Members of the Black Association of the Knights of Malta believed they were authentic knights of the medieval Hospitaller Order of St. John in a continuous and unbroken tradition but the evidence is sketchy.

During and after the Reformation the Order lost Protestant members through both expulsion and disaffection. The Order’s property was confiscated in England (1540) and Scotland (1564). Yet, even after the dissolution in Scotland there are references to preceptors of the Hospital of Scotland (William Schaw in 1589; William Schaw and John Boswell of Auchinleck in 1600; and a member of the Hay family called George or Gilbert in 1642). The Order is said to have been introduced to Ireland in 1643 for the protection of Protestants who had escaped a Catholic massacre in 1641 (Cyclopædia of Fraternities, 274).

The implication here is the Scottish knights in the 18th century were heirs of the Hospitallers though the Priory of Torpichen, which had been dissolved in 1564 but apparently lingered on until 1642 or 1643. This was the theory circulated in the late 1800s, but it is now generally rejected. There is no mention of this group between 1643 and perhaps 1797 or 1820. The gap is too long to be credible.

The earliest evidence asserted for the modern Order is a Royal Black Warrant said to have been signed on 16th September 1797. However, the earliest record of this 1797 warrant is an entry dated 1820. These “Black Knights” were allied to the Orange order. To become a member, a man had to be first an Orangeman. One reason often given for the absence of early records is these records were perhaps maintained and carelessly kept by the Orange Order.

These knights came to be called the Royal Black Association of the Religious and Military Order, Knights of Malta. In 1807 HRH Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland was elected Grand Master in separate elections by both the Orange and Black organizations, but then resigned in 1820 following a parliamentary inquiry. He became King of Hanover in 1837.

The patronage of a royal prince gave an aura of legitimacy, but it seems likely they were originally a quasi-Masonic organization who accepted Chevalier Ramsay’s assertion the Scottish Hospitallers survived the dissolution of the Order in 1564 by entering Freemasonry (Andrew Michael Ramsay, Discourse (1737).

Another theory is that the Scottish Hospitallers originated through what has been called the Temple-Malta Order. The evidences are scattered. From 1705 to 1723, Philippe, duc d’Orléans was Grand Master of revived Templar order (Ordre du Temple). They are said to have been joined by Hospitaller Knights exiled to France from Malta for engaging in Masonic activities. In 1743 a formal organization was formed that became known as the Temple-Malta order. This organization might have been exported to Scotland as part of the French policy of de-stabilizing Britain by promoting the Jacobite cause leading up to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, when Charles Edward Stuart (the Young Pretender) is said to have himself been made Grand Master of another revived Templar order. It is, however, difficult, although perhaps not impossible, to understand how a Catholic order in 1745 turned into a anti-Catholic order by 1797.

The Scottish order established branches in Canada (1829), England (1842), Australia (1868), and the United States (1874). These branches gave rise to dozens of splinter groups of varying character, some as nobiliary associations, some as confraternities, and some as simple fraternal orders.

Earliest Evidence

“The Magnanimous and Invincible Order of Royal Blackmens Association” of Lodge No. _ , held in _________, having commenced on 16th September, in the year 1797, for the preservation of our Glorious King and Constitution.

We, the Right Worshipful the Grand Master, Deputy Master, Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Pursuivant, and the rest of the Grand Officers of this Noble Order meet for the sole and only purpose of relieving our distressed and oppressed loyal Protestant Brethren around the Globe, this being our Warrant. Given under our hand and seal.

Long live our Glorious King and the Memory of our Glorious Deliverer, William III.

Signed –

  • Joseph Tineman, Grand Master – 16th September 1797
  • Benjamin Goodman, Deputy Grand Master – 17-09-1797
  • Thos. Tinley, Grand Pursuivant – 17-09-1797
  • Daniel Maulang, H.P. – 17-09-1797
  • George Dobson, D.H.P. – 17-09-1797
  • John Ladd, G.S. – 17-09-1797
  • Alfred La Grues, D.G.S. – 17-09-1797

Locus Sigili.

Grand Masters

  • 1797 Joseph Tineman​ (Ireland)
  • 1807 Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland
  • 1820 William Leedom (Provincial Grand Master, Ireland)
  • 1827 William Freeman (Provincial Grand Master, Ireland)
  • 1831 George Donaldson (Provincial Grand Master, Scotland)
  • 1840 Robert Blair (Provincial Grand Master, Scotland)
  • 1850 William Dixon (Provincial Grand Master, Scotland)
  • 1853 William Dixon (Grand Master)
  • 1855 Samuel Robertson
  • 1860 Henry Marshall
  • 1866 Hans Newell
  • 1869 George McLeod
  • 1890 Thomas Macklin
  • 1897 William G. Ingram
  • 1915 Louis G. Pierson


The early history of the Order is considerably confused, with different writers interpreting the history in different ways, often to make a favorable case for their branch of the Order.

Note: This text originally prepared as the Overview for a Geni project. Revised May 3, 2020 to repair links.

Knights of St. John & Malta

The Knights of St. John and Malta was a Canadian and U.S. chivalric association. Originally a branch of Religious and Military Order of the Knights of Malta in Scotland, it was chartered as an independent organization in 1875 it was chartered as an independent organization under the name Supreme Grand Black Encampment of North America. The name of the organization was changed to Knights of St. John and Malta in 1880.

Members of the Black Association of the Knights of Malta believed they were authentic knights of the medieval Hospitaller Order of St. John in a continuous and unbroken tradition. The implication was that they were heirs though the Priory of Torpichen, although this theory is now generally rejected. Another theory is that they originated through a mixing of Scottish men with French Hospitaller knights in the 18th century.

In 1928 the Order merged with one of its Canadian break-away groups as well as a California group that claimed to have been part of the historic Spanish Order to become the Sovereign Order of St. John and Malta. In 1965 King Peter II of Yugoslavia became patron of the order.

Grand Masters

  • 1874 Robert E. A. Land
  • 1906 Joseph G. Burrows
  • 1910 Edmund B. Collett
  • 1911 William Buckett
  • 1925 John J. Sheridan
  • 1928 Arthur T. Lamson


Note: This text originally prepared as the Overview for a Geni project. Revised May 3, 2020 to repair links.

Heraldic Lore

“Swan, (lat. cygnus, fr. cygne): this graceful bird has for various reasons been a favourite charge in armorial bearings. Swans are generally blazoned as proper, i.e. white, else they are described as argent, but they are frequently beaked and legged of other tinctures. The bird is generally borne with expanded wings, and it seems desirable that the position should be noticed, though as a fact it is only seldom so. Sometimes they are drawn swimming towards each other, and for this the word ‘respectant’ or ‘incontrant’ seems to have been used by some heraldic writers.”

“The Cygnet sometimes occur; and a cygnet royal implies a swan gorged with a ducal coronet, having a chain affixed thereunto and reflexed over its back. It should rather be blazoned a swan proper, ducally gorged and chained or, a cygnet being properly a young swan. It was one of the badges of Henry V. The term, however, may properly be used when there are two or more swans in one coat, like lioncel.”

Source: Swan in Parker’s Heraldry (1894)

Company of Saint John

The Company of Saint John is a chivalric confraternity founded in 1914 as Rock Island Commandery (Illinois) as a local chapter of the Knights of St. John and Malta, an order that claimed to be a branch of the historic Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The original patron was St. George, the patron saint of Rock Island.

The organizer and first Commander was George W. Place (1914-1958), whose father is said to have been a member of the St. John order in Bay City (Michigan). He was succeeded as Commander by his son C. A. Place (1958-2000), who was succeeded by his son Justin Swanström (2000- ).

After the death of Chevalier Place in 2000, the commandery was re-named and re-organized as the Company of St. John. Other changes included:

  • The patron was changed to St. John the Baptist, the traditional patron of the Hospitaller Order.
  • The office of Commander was changed to Master.
  • The ranks of Knight of Saint John (KSJ) and Lady of Saint John (LSJ) were changed to Companion of St. John (CSJ).

As a further part of the reforms the company was amalgamated with two of its affiliated organizations:

  • Company of Saint Bede, an academic confraternity of historians and those charged with historical preservation, education, and scholarship. The company was founded in 1976 under the patronage of St. Bede, patron saint of historians and Father of English History.
  • Noble Company of the Swan, a chivalric confraternity founded in 1971 under the patronage of St. Michael, patron saint of knights.

The arms of the Company of Saint John are the arms of the Place family with the addition of a Maltese cross: Azure a Maltese cross Argent and on a chief Argent three chaplets of roses Gules.