The Gilkison surname and origins

Miscellaneous notes

[Author's Note: Much of the following information is courtesy of Norman Gilkison, a native Scot living in Paisley, Scotland. Many thanks to Norman and his existing research!]

The early origins of the Gilkison surname are uncertain; a root of 'Gilchrist' is most likely [suggested by Dr. George V.Black, Surnames of Scotland]. The Anglified version of the name is 'Christopher.' Gilchrist is usually translated to mean 'servant of Christ'. Some research I have seen has therefore suggested that the name may have had its origins in some sort of localized religious group, and would have been used more as a title than a name, similar to the way Father or Sister are used in the Roman Catholic church.

There are, however, many more variations -- Gilkeson, Gilkerson, Gilkersone, Gilchristson, Gilcriston, MacGilchrist, Gilchristoun, Gilkrisoune, Gilkcrissone, Kilkison, Kilcherson -- and the list goes on...

There could be some alternatives. Norman Gilkison states, "In my area until recently gilkie was a word to denote a teenager and it doesn't take much to add on a 'son'. However, people with the [Gilkison] surname didn't appear in this area until later, so that may be a coincidence."

There were three areas in the 1600s where the name was common, plus a few "stray sightings":

  1. Argyllshire centred around Campbeltown
  2. Lanarkshire and Glasgow
  3. Ayrshire

If we accept Dr. Black's hypothesis on the Gilchrist origin, then the family lands lay around Strachur and St. Catherines on the eastern shore of Loch Fyne.

The Gilchrist clan was a sept of the MacLachlans who occupied land in Strathlachlan immediately to the south of the Gilchrists [according to Norman Gilkison, the Gilkisons currently use the MacLachlan tartans] . Another related sept is the MacEwan clan. These clans were Scots who migrated to Scotland from Northern Ireland with the Ardri (high king) Fergus McCool. They spoke Irish Gaelic which differed from the Welsh variety then spoken in Britain. Thus even to recent times, this language was referred to as "Irish" in West of Scotland documents. So anyone speaking this tongue going to America would be described as "Irish".

Some Gilkisons first appear in US and Canadian records in the 1700s, and their descendents are now wide spread across North America.