Genealogy of the Macdonalds of Sutherland
An ancient Scottish family of farmers and their descendants
Last Update: 12 April 2023
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This genealogy traces the descendants of Robert Macdonald, a farmer in Sutherland, Scotland. Little is known about him. Robert was grandfather to Jennie Macdonald.
Jennie Macdonald married John George Bartholomew (1860-1920) of the famous Edinburgh Map-making family.
As a result of that marriage, a close family bond has been sealed between the Bartholomew and Macdonald families to this day, especially with the Macdonald lines now living in the United States. John George's descendents associate themselves closely to the Macdonald clan traditions and have adopted the Macdonald tartan with pride. For this reason, this family history is hosted on the Bartholomew website
Janet (‘Jennie’) MACDONALD was born at Mudale in Sutherland in 1858. She married John George BARTHOLOMEW in Edinburgh in 1889. The family’s story begins here with her father Alexander Sinclair MACDONALD who married Elizabeth COGHILL.
Their Macdonald ancestors lived on the north coast of Scotland in Caithness and Sutherland for over 200 years. It is believed the Macdonalds of Sutherland originated from the Isle of Skye or other islands. When Alexander married Elizabeth in 1846, the Highland Clearances were coming to an end. He has spent his youth in Strath Halladale in a croft at Trantlebeg.
Alexander Sinclair MACDONALD worked with his older brother William as a shopkeeper in Thurso. It is here where his first two daughters Christina and Catherine were born, but in 1852 he took up farming and eventually had farms at Mudale near Altnaharra, at Dalchork near Lairg and Cyderhall near Dornoch. He was intensely interested in land improvements, was “thorough in all practical matters of life, an honourable man in all his dealings and a deeply respected and beloved master”. He was a Justice of the Peace and earnest supporter of the Free Church. Alexander is buried in Lairg Churchyard.
His widow Elizabeth COGHILL survived him by 20 years and died in Edinburgh aged 84, where two of her daughters were living.
There were six children: Christina, Catherine (Kate), Robert, Alexina (Ina), Janet (Jennie) and Mary.
Christina MACDONALD and Mary MACDONALD never married.
Kate MACDONALD married a minister David MACDONALD (unrelated). The couple met in London and had three daughters but then separated with David moving to back north to Kinlochewe, Wester Ross. Their eldest daughter, Grace was born in Edinburgh and married William PATON. Grace spent some time in India in the 1920’s. From this branch we have the PATON and MONTEFIORE families today. Second daughter Jan, worked in Palestine in the 1920’s and 1930’s but did not marry. The youngest Catherine (Kat) married a doctor George (Bill) MACKAY, originally from Strath Halladale. They lived in London and had two children from whom the MACKAY and PATTISON branches are descended.
Alexander and Elizabeth’s only son, Robert MACDONALD decided to seek his fortune in the United States and emigrated in 1885. He settled and worked as a rancher in Baird, Texas where he built the “Macdonald Ranch”. Robert made a return trip to Scotland with Augusta LEA in 1890 where they got married.
They had six children: Anne, Robert junior, Alastair, William, Lea and Donald Grant. In 1912, the family moved to Leesburg, Virginia. Robert senior remained devoted to his sisters and returned to visit Scotland five times. Only William didn’t marry. He stayed in Texas as a rancher. It is from the other five children that the further branches of the MACDONALD, CRAIGHILL, HUSSEY and WILLIAMS are descended.
Today, the families are well spread out across the United States. The eldest, Robert MACDONALD III died in 2022 at the age of 89 in Lebanon, Missouri.
A strong connection with the Edinburgh Bartholomews prevails thanks to the keen mutual interest in the family’s Scottish roots.
Jennie MACDONALD settled in Edinburgh with John George BARTHOLOMEW., already established as a geographer and cartographer in his father's business. They lived initially in a gracious Georgian property at Falcon Hall in Morningside, Edinburgh and then moved to Newington House near the new company offices. Jennie and John had five children and thirteen grandchildren from whom the VAN DUSEN, HAMILTON GRIERSON, DINWIDDIE, JAMES and MEAKIN families are descended. As a family, they regularly holidayed around Scotland and we are left with charming hand-illustrated holiday journals of these trips away. Jennie was a keen watercolour painter.
Ina MACDONALD settled first in Motherwell where she was married to Peter CALDWELL-SMITH who later became the medical officer of heath in Putney. They had three children. Their eldest daughter Hilda married a Major Jack PRITCHARD who was the first person to land in America by air crossing the Atlantic in the R.34 airship.
Elder son Alistair emigrated to Sydney as a railway engineer, and the youngest, Eric became a doctor and settled in the south of England. Ina’s descendants continue in the CALDWELL-SMITH, PRITCHARD, DANCKWERTS, WHITE and TOPPING family lines.
From a humble Scottish croft in Trantlebeg, Strath Halladale, the family of Alexander Sinclair MACDONALD has certainly moved around in 200 years...
Take a journey through the lands of the Macdonalds of Sutherland with this interactive version of the Bartholomew's Half-Inch map. Start in Trantelbeg, Strath Halladale and let your mouse or fingertips explore further.
Click on image below and zoom in and out of the map to find many of the places, large and small, which are part of the family heritage.
Privacy of living individuals:, Names and personal details for all living persons have been suppressed and marked 'Living' and cannot be accessed. Serious researchers who wish to request access to additional information about the family genealogy should contact the webmaster using the'Contact Us'link in the menu above.
The information presented here is primarily based on the painstaking research completed by Robert Gordon Bartholomew (1927-2017) based in Edinburgh. Robert had been a passionate genealogist throughout his lifetime and it is to him that this family genealogy is dedicated.