of the



The Hamilton branch of the family lived in the Closeburn and Morton parishes of Dumfriesshire in the 18th and 19th Centuries. During much of the 18th Century, various Hamilton families, mostly headed by men called John or William, lived at the farmtouns of Auchenleck and Laught.


There is a tenuous connection with the previous century: when a List of Inhabitants of Morton Parish was sent to the Privy Council in 1684, a married man called Hamilton was registered at East Morton “with the family of Laught” as a recusant – that is to say, as a likely Covenanter.


Please use the links below to access the histories.


References (for all documents)


1          1684 Parishioner Lists for Morton & Durisdeer

2          1691 Hearth Tax records for Morton & Durisdeer

3          Introduction to the Derivation of Scottish Surnames by William L. Kirk

4          Closeburn Statistical Accounts 1791-99 & 1834-45

5          Closeburn Hearse Society Book 1826-1884

6          A History of the Scottish People by T C Smout, 1998


Notes on the History of Closeburn and the Early Hamiltons



The name Closeburn is thought to derive from the 12th century Kylosbern, meaning the 'church of Osbern', an Irish saint. In 1232 Ewen Kirkpatrick was confirmed as the possessor of land at Closeburn by Alexander II in recognition of his role in policing the strategic valley of the River Nith. The Kirkpatrick family ruled the district for over 500 years until 1783, when bankruptcy forced the sale of the estate to Rev James Stuart Menteath.

The origin of the Hamilton surname is uncertain, but most authorities consider it to be based on a place name, derived from hamell, meaning either a treeless hill or a home and dun, meaning either a hill or an enclosed, fortified place.  There were a number of places in England called Hamelton, Hambleton or similar and the founder of the aristocratic line of Scottish Hamiltons is supposed to have taken his surname from one of these.  A Norman baron called Walter FitzGilbert de Hameldone owned property near Paisley in Renfrewshire in 1294.  In return for supporting Robert the Bruce he was granted further lands in Lothian and Lanarkshire, including a burgh called Cadzow, which was renamed Hamilton in 1445, after its owner.

It is quite possible that the town was the origin of the Scottish Hamiltons.  If this is the case, it would mean that not all families named Hamilton living in a particular area would necessarily be related to one another.  Nor would they be related to the ancient Norman family of that name.  And the reason for this lies in the way ordinary Lowland Scots acquired their surnames.  Tax collectors working for the State, the Church or the barons needed an effective means of identifying those who were liable for taxation.  Looking for John’s son or Alexander the weaver was no longer satisfactory.  People were obliged to append surnames to their given names.  A proprietor would be likely to take the name of his estate and tenants might in turn assume, or be given, the name of their landlord.  Accordingly, many Scottish Hamiltons will have derived their name from the town, without being in any way related. 


Early Genealogy

The earliest Hamiltons so far found were three registered for the 1684 Privy Council deposition in Durisdeer parish: John at Colinie, William at Auchinsell and Grissel, married to John Gillies, at Drumcruill.  The last two farms were just across the Carron Water from Morton parish, while Colinie was much further up the valley.  

A William Hamilton, possibly the Auchinsell man, was found at Old Castle in Morton in the 1691 Hearth Tax list.  He was married to Janet Hastie and produced a girl and a boy in 1693 and 1696.  He may have had a sister, Janet, who was married to William Hair.  

There were two other women registered in Morton parish in 1684: Agnes Hamilton, the probable spouse of William Ferguson, at Kirkland, and the unnamed spouse of Alexander Brown at Ears (East?) Morton.  These two were listed as Recusants - likely Covenanters - and are notable because they are stated, rather cryptically, as being “with the family of Laught”, where a Hamilton family lived in the 18th Century.  

The Old Parish Records also show two Hamilton wives who were not listed in the 1684 and 1691 records, suggesting they may have come to live in the parish of Morton after 1691, when their reverend husbands took up appointments there:  Helen Hamilton is listed as the Relict of Mr Patrick Flint who would have died in late 1691 or early 1692, while Christian Hamilton probably arrived early in 1692 with the replacement minister, her husband, Rev John Pasley. 

The boy Hamilton born in 1696 (referred to above) may have been called John and may have married Margaret Gibson in 1715, starting a line of Hamiltons based in Auchenleck, in Closeburn parish.  

A probable offshoot of this family was later to occupy Park and Cairn in the south.  

The main Hamilton line, which occupied Laught, Clauchrie, Croalchapel and Hollandbush, is also likely to have originated in Auchenleck but, as yet, there is only circumstantial evidence for this.