Select McLaren Surname Genealogy

The Scottish surname MacLaren is related to the English Lawrence in that both are originally derived from the Latin word laurentius, meaning "city of laurels."  MacLaren is in fact the anglicized form of the Gaelic MacLabrann, son of Labrann, the Gaelic version of Lawrence.   An alternative spelling today is McLaurin.

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Scotland.  The MacLarens are a Scottish clan that, it is believed, takes their name from Labhran of Ardveche who was the hereditary Abbot of Achtow in Balquhidder in the Trossachs (Perthshire) in the early 1200's.  This theory is supported by the MacLaren rallying cry in Gaelic of Creag an Tuirc, meaning “Boars Rock.” The rock in question is at Balquhidder near Achtow.  And Balquhidder was subsequently where the MacLarens were based.

The MacLarens were a warlike clan and had many feuds with neighboring clans.  But they did manage to forge an enduring alliance with the Stuarts of Appin, sealed by a marriage in the 15th century. 

However, MacLaren clan numbers were in decline in the following centuries.  Some MacLarens left Scotland and became mercenaries abroad, most notably in Sweden (Carl G. Laurin, the name of a modern Swedish writer, is a legacy of those times).  The MacLaren clan supported the Jacobite cause in 1715 and again in 1745.  After the defeat at Culloden clan chief Donald MacLaren of Invernenty remained a fugitive until the amnesty of 1757.

The MacLaren story was presented in Margaret MacLaren's 1985 book The MacLaren, A History of Clan Labhran.

Duncan McLaren was a self-made man who started his own business as a draper in Edinburgh in the early 1800's, joined the City Council and saved it from bankruptcy, and became Edinburgh's Lord Provost and later MP.  He was married three times and raised a number of achieving children: John, an MP and judge; Charles an MP and baronet; Walter also an MP; Helen an education and public health advocate; and Agnes a Catholic missionary and public health promoter in India.

McLarens have moved south to Edinburgh or Glasgow or England and have emigrated.  But the largest numbers in Scotland are still to be found in Perthshire. 

America.  John and Patrick McLaren, captured at Preston while fighting for the Old Pretender, were transported on the Susannah to South Carolina in 1715.

John McLaurin from Appin in Argyllshire fought and died under the McLaren standard for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746.  His son Duncan, later nicknamed Old McJohn, was orphaned at the age of five.  He came to North Carolina in the 1770’s and fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War.  Sixteen McLaurin families from Appin emigrated to North Carolina in 1790.

  Duncan MacLaren was an early arrival to Prince Edward Island on the Falmouth in 1770.  James MacLaren of Invernenty made it there in 1803 and the 19th century saw a sizeable MacLaren presence in PEI.  A number of McLaren families also settled near Lanark village in Ontario. 

MacLarens have been resident in Buckingham, Quebec since 1840.  James MacLaren built a sawmill there in 1864 and that was the start of the MacLaren dynasty in the region that has extended until the present day. The last of their industrial assets, however, was sold in 2000.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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Abbot Labhran who lived at Balquhidder in the early 1200's is considered the forebear of the MacLaren clan in Perthshire.
Donald MacLaren was a Canadian World War I flying ace.
Bruce McLaren was a New Zealand racing car driver and developer whose name lives on in the McLaren F1 race car.
Bill McLaren was a much-loved TV rugby commentator from the Scottish borders.
Malcolm McLaren was an English rock impresario, the promoter of punk music in the 1970's and the manager of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls.

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  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous in Perthshire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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