Click here for opening page    Welcome to WWW.MONIKIE.SCOT, from Scotland
Local InterestFamily History Items, FOR ALL!Newbigging Photos & 'Video'1000's of names of family history interest.Locally owned businessesLocal stories of days gone by, from W.D.C.Local Church Pages'Two-in-One' Church MagazineExtracts of historical interest from old books.Stirling AND Skirling surname interest & databaseContact the WebmasterMonikie War Memorial community hallThe Monikie Story - 'READ ALL ABOUT IT' - a book available from this website.A list of the pages on this site - pick some at random!Search THIS website, but read the advice first for best results.

Family Surname History

The STIRLING and SKIRLING surname, particularly in Angus (formerly Forfarshire) in Scotland.


The research into SKIRLING and STIRLING and variant and 'connected' surnames continues and the Webmaster has decided that keeping all the various STIRLING pages on this site up2date is not really possible.
THIS NEW WEBPAGE has been created in the form of a newsletter and will be updated more often than the others. You may still get information from the various linked STIRLING pages on this site, but the new one should ALWAYS be read for the latest news.  This page is dated so that you can check back occasionally.

This page, the links and resources available are changed as new developments take place.

This webpage was uploaded on - 09 December, 2014 but the newsletter below was last edited on the date shown in its heading.

12th November 2005

Before about 1780 the surnames SKIRLING and STIRLING were used by distinctly different families in Forfarshire (or County of Angus) (parish map). Only over the period of about 1780-1820 did the Skirling families begin to adopt Stirling as their own surname. In those 40 years, Skirlings may appear in baptismal, marriage, probate and land records either way. After circa 1820, with a few exceptions, all of the Skirlings had switched to calling themselves Stirling.

The two surnames also have distinct etymologic and phonetic roots and the only similarity they share is their derivation from placenames. Nor can the SKIRLING spelling be taken as a modern transcription error: it appears in a variety of documents, from the Old Parish Records, probate documents, and land records, to the records of the Exchequer of Scotland and the Great and Privy Seals of Scotland. Such records, variously kept in English, Scots and Latin, are consistent with a phonetic spelling of SKIRLING. If a spelling variation is found, it maintains the integrity of the ‘SK’ beginning: Skyrlinge, Skraling, Skirline, Scralyne.” Compared to the “Striuelyn, Striueling, Strivelyn” of Stirling, as well as the fact that Skirlings and Stirlings occasionally appear in documents together, (look HERE at several sample entries from old documents) the two surnames must be distinguished from one another. While the derivation of the surname Stirling from the burgh and shire of the same name has been well-explained elsewhere, the Skirlings seem to have taken their name from a feudal barony in the Scottish Borders that is today represented by the small village of the same name, near Biggar. (Click HERE to read early Statistical Account of several Angus parishes AND of Skirling parish.)

The early Stirling families of Forfarshire present interesting problems of their own, as they are not descended from the same source as the descendants of the Stirlings of Cadder and Keir. It must be remembered that the origin of a heritable surname was a distinctively Continental notion. In the early middle ages, when the sheriffs of Stirling began to adopt their occupation as their surname, other individuals who held land in Stirling adopted “de Striueling” in a purely descriptive sense, namely “of Stirling”. The fact that the eventual surname of these families was the same cannot be taken as a proof that the families were the same. Close examination of the trail of documentary evidence of the Stirlings who made their way to Forfarshire shows them to be a distinctively different family.

Research of both of these families earlier than 1855 is often confounded by historical events and the difficulty of access to the source material.

In the years between the abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the battle of Culloden in 1746, Scotland was in a state of political and religious turmoil, a situation that was not helped by the Cromwell’s Civil War. General Monck’s sacking of Dundee in 1651 caused the destruction of most of the burgh’s early records. The Old Parish Records of Angus also reflect their times – families occasionally seem to vanish for a few years, then reappear later. Particularly around 1698, 1715 and 1745 a “gap” in a family may be a signal that the family was in exile because of their Jacobite leanings. Nor should researchers take the disappearance of a family after the birth of only one or two children as reflecting the death of a spouse without checking other records that might indicate forced transport to the Antipodean or North American colonies.

Many of the records necessary for early research are held privately, or must be viewed on-site as there are no available transcriptions in reliable secondary sources. While the National Archives of Scotland ( has a comprehensive online catalogue, the same cannot be said of the National Library of Scotland ( or smaller Scottish archives. The Dundee City Council Archives are catalogued online to a point, usually just enough to determine the location of the material. The Strathmore estate papers are split between the Glamis Archives and Dundee, and while the latter is available by appointment, it is not indexed. The burgh records of Forfar, recently moved to the Angus Council Archives new home at the Hunter Library building, nearby Restenneth Abbey, which was for a time after the move, difficult to get to as there was no public transport. (NEWS August 2006) A minibus service from nearby Forfar has been introduced - timetables, single HERE or PDF format 4@ copies. This, together with a paucity of available secondary sources in North America and Australia, creates enormous problems for serious researchers. And while Scotland is making a commendable effort to digitalise family and local history records, exhaustive research of these can prove to be expensive.

In 1991, the webmaster began to collect a database of all the Stirlings of Forfarshire (Angus). Gleaned originally from the IGI, and augmented by Statutory Records, the computer database ALLSTIR grew to over 3,000 records. Several problems were immediately apparent. Some of the information in the IGI was duplicated, and frequently contained errors, especially in dates and places. Using the Statutory Census records for 1841, 1881, 1891 and 1901, together with examination of the Statutory Registrations of Births, Deaths & Marriages, also Old Parish Records, it was possible to merge duplicate individuals, where identified, so that their birth, marriage and death records appeared in one file entry. Each vital record was sourced from, when possible, actual review of the document in question. Thus it has been possible to develop family lines within the data. Information gathered from Kirk Session Records, sextant’s books, the Registers of Deeds, testaments, Sasines and the burgess records of Dundee has allowed even more accuracy in the data and merging of duplicate individuals.

In the summer and autumn of 2003, our principal researcher was able to make use of Princeton University’s (USA) comprehensive collection of Scottish secondary sources, so that information from the Regesta Regnum Scottorum (RRS), the Registers of the Great and Privy Seals (RMS and RSS), the Exchequer records, the chartularies of Dunfermline, Coupar Angus, Arbroath, Aberdeen, Moray, Kelso and Melrose were added, greatly enhancing the records available of the early history of both surnames. The early source material has formed a second database that covers the source material for the barony of Skirling, the early Stirlings of Moray, Edzell, Tillydovie and Easter Braikie (the latter three being nearby in north east Angus), as well as the Skirlings of the counties of Fife, Perth and Angus. In effect, this second database begins in 1097 ends where ALLSTIR begins, in the 17th century.

The addition of the sourced information to ALLSTIR – often digitally copied for reference – has proven that the Skirling and Stirling families of Angus are distinct from one another. The data has also shown that, after about 1850, a large number of families, surnamed Stirling, migrated into Angus. Many of the Stirling families after 1850, particularly in the Arbroath area, are not descended from the ancient families of Forfarshire. Indeed, a few were actually descendants of the Stirlings of Cadder and Keir. While not removed from the database, records for these Incoming Stirlings have been flagged as a third distinct group which we jokingly refer to as the "ithers". It is perhaps a historical irony that most of the people surnamed Stirling that live in Angus today, are descendants of the Incoming Stirlings. Very, very few descendants of the original Skirlings and Stirlings of Angus remain.

To date, several Skirling lines have been identified, as well as several Stirling lines. There are, in addition, at least two lines that – because of the problem of dates and the timing of the shift in the spelling of Skirling to Stirling – could be either.

This brings us to probably the most significant update to the material and our knowledge. Within our group, male descendants of three separate 'paper-trail' lines of Skirlings have had their Y-chromosome DNA tested. The results confirm a close relationship, although, as of now there is no known record to prove the relationship. The Skirlings of Dunnichen, Kinnettles and Panbride/Barry (parishes in Angus) are tightly related genetically, so tightly related that it can be categorically stated they are the same family.

Three additional male DNA tests have proven to be inconclusive. One descendant, living in Scotland, had data that matched neither his supposed cousins nor the Skirlings. His DNA signature was, on the other hand, distinctively ‘Celtic Scottish’. It did not match any DNA of supposed Stirling descendants from Cadder and Keir families of central Scotland, which is distinctively Continental in origin. The other two men, who descend from a brother of the ancestor of the first, matched each other, but not the other descendant. Their DNA signature seems to indicate a different origin than Scotland. Unfortunately, the man who could settle the matter, a man descended from the same original ancestor, but from an uncle of the other three, is reluctant to take the test, even though other members have already funded the test. This is unfortunate as such DNA tests can easily be made completely anonymously.

By far the biggest surprise of all was in the Skirling DNA data. While the three men each carry a distinctive mutation that separates them as a cadet line, all three are tightly related to the clan Gregor. The three are more tightly related to the main line than many who have the surname Macgregor! Statistical analysis suggests the separation happened anywhere from 450-800 years ago, and further analysis seems to suggest that the Skirlings may have had their origins in the original Macgregor homeland of Glenorchy.

A family of Stirlings in the Dunblane area of Perthshire share a similar problem. Comparison of data with members of that family, also tightly related to the Macgregors, and therefore to the Skirlings, supports the idea that the Skirlings separated from the main body of the clan earlier than the Stirlings of Dunblane. The Dunblane families all share a family legend of “Stirling” being an alias adopted by Macgregor ancestors after the proscription of the clan in 1604. The Skirlings do not have any such stories, so it would seem that the DNA’s suggestion is correct. Clan Gregor’s problems began long before 1604 – some suggest as early as the Wars of Independence, therefore an earlier separation is certainly plausible.

Most intriguing is that a line of Stirlings in the ALLSTIR database may be related to the Dunblane Stirlings. A descendant of that family – who contacted the webmaster asking about the ALLSTIR database – has recently submitted a DNA test and his results should be returned within two months or so. His family records strongly suggest a Dunblane connection, yet his direct ancestor was born and lived in Tannadice and later Tealing. Comparison to other records in ALLSTIR are inconclusive; it is also possible he could be a Skirling or Angus Stirling. In this man’s case, the DNA results should open many, many doors.

Later updates will try to touch on the main points discussed here in more detail - please visit this page again.

You are encouraged to raise any interest you may have on this subject with the webmaster who will endeavour to answer if possible.

The SEARCH ENGINE for THIS site will find many further references - you are strongly advised to make good use of it. 

Please read the panel below. Although the DNA tests can only be carried out for males, ladies do try to persuade your brother / husband / father / uncle, etc. to be  tested if a Mister Stirling. (Apologies to the late Lord Kitchener for the use of his poster image from WWI :^)



Mister Stirling,

Are YOU (or your father, brother, son, uncle, etc.) a MALE STIRLING DESCENDANT who can (possibly with our assistance) trace your ancestors?

We would like to help you.  PLEASE contact the Webmaster and/or look at the sites below for more detail. Do, PLEASE let our SK/Tirling Group know if you are thinking of taking part - we might be able to assist you.


This page was updated - 09 December, 2014

Try entering   STIRLING or SKIRLING in this website search engine for lots and lots more STIRLING entries.

You are also invited to visit my CLEVELY Homepage for some information about my paternal surname.


Please press the BACK BUTTON for your previous page.

The design and content of this page and website is the copyright of the webmaster (unless otherwise stated, freely surrendered, or in the public domain) and, where appropriate, may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the webmaster.
This page was updated - 09 December, 2014