Origin and History of the Surname McPherson

Source # 1

The name McPherson or MacPherson... comes from the Gaelic Mac a' Phearsain and means 'Son of the Parson'. The Parson in question was Muriach, a 12th century parson, or lay preacher, of Kingussie in Badenoch.

Historically, the term 'parson' (in the Gaelic, pearsain or pears-eaglais literally 'person of the church') had a different meaning. Before the Reformation in Highland Scotland, the religious leader of a parish was the priest and the parson was the steward of church property, responsible for the collection of tithes.

The history of Clan Macpherson has been called "The Posterity of the Three Brethren" as the three grandsons of Muriach are the antecedents of the three main clan families, Cluny, Pitmain and Invereshie. For many centuries, the Macphersons have been a leading clan in the Clan Chattan Confederation along with Clan MacKintosh, Clan Shaw and others. Although the Macphersons have a strong claim to the Chattan lineage, they have been unsuccessful in wresting control of the Clan Chattan from the MacKintosh.

Today, the clans cooperate closely in the Clan Chattan Association, where John MacKintosh, chief of Clan MacKintosh, is president and Sir William Macpherson, chief of Clan Macpherson, is vice president of the association along with allied clan chiefs.

Source # 2

This interesting surname is of Scottish origin, and is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "Mac an Phearsain", the prefix "mac" denoting son of, plus "pearsan" parson, hence "son of the parson".

Early recordings include Bean Makimpersone who witnessed a bond between William of Rose and Duncan Makintosche, captain of Clancattane (1490); payment was made to David Makfassane "for twa gunnis of matel" in 1538, and Donald Makphersone, prior of Strathphillane, appears as witness in 1585, and is recorded in the "Black Book of Taymouth".

Edinburgh Church Records list the marriages of Aeneas McPherson to Margaret Scrimgeor on April 19th 1677, and of Alex McPherson to Anna Robertson on March 29th 1683. John McPherson was born in Edinburgh in 1784. He was a merchant who emigrated to North East Canada.

A Coat of Arms granted to the family is per fesse gold and blue a lymphad, sails furled, gold oars in action, in the dexter chief a hand fessways couped, grasping a red dagger erect, in the sinister chief a red cross crosslet fitcheee.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alexander Makfersan, which was dated 1447, bailie to the bishop of Aberdeen, during the reign of King James II of Scotland, 1437 - 1460.

Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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