The name McWilliam is
first recorded in the twelfth century. The clan has made repeated efforts to seize the
crown by force, but were finally defeated in 1215 at the beginning of the reign of King
Alexander II. The line was destroyed after the daughter of the McWilliam chief was
battered to death against the market cross in Forfar.
Since William was a popular name, many of those who came to be called
McWilliam ('son of William') or Williamson can claim no clan descent. However, there are
records of a Clan MacMhic Uileim, which claimed descent from an early chief of the
Macleods, and during the 16th century the Robertsons of Pittagowan in Atholl went under
the name of McWilliam.
MACWILLIAM / WILLIAMSON: Although the name MacWilliam has been established in the Highlands since the 12th century it cannot be held that many of today's MacWilliams descend from that race. The earliest known race were those of a dis-inherited line of the ancient Royal House of King Duncan II, killed in 1094. For maintainence and pacification many were settled in Lochaber and Badenoch, and from these lands they, like their dis-inherited kinsmen, the MacHeths (ancestors of many Mackays), mustered their neighbours in various abortive attempts to re-assert their claim to the Crown. In the eyes of many Gaels their claim was just, but in the reign of Alexander II (1214-49), their last rising was defeated, and their line extinguished when their leader's daughter, still in her infancy, was dashed to death against the market cross in Forfar. Such downfall allowed the rise of the Comyns who later suffered a similar fate at the hands of Robert Bruce in the 14th century. Most later MacWilliams, traditionally, have been allied with various clans, particularly the Gunns and MacFarlanes, but there is also record of a 'Clan Mac Mhic Uileim', said to descend from MacLeod origins, and the Robertsons of Pittagowan in Atholl are known to have been called 'MacWilliam' during the 16th century. Whatever tradition asserts, it is equally valid to say that there would have been many others in communities where 'William' was popular as a baptismal name. A race were known in Mortlach in the 16th century, and another, some bearing the alternative form 'MacWillie', were settled in Glenlivet. Many of these later became 'Williamsons', a name known in its own right from the 14th century, and derived from the same source, as does the variants Wilson, Will, Wylie, Willie etc., most of whom claim similar clan affiliations. Many of these latter names, however, may have little or no association with any clan, likewise, many may be completely devoid of Scottish ancestry. It is therefore important to establish ancestral links with Scotland before pursuing any search for a clan affiliation, and should such be established, then the emblems of kinship of that Clan, (Crest Badge, Motto & Tartan etc), may be adopted. No chief is now defined for the Names of MacWilliam or Williamson.