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Davidson Clan History

The rich, colorful history of the lawless borderlands of Scotland and England is closely entwined with the stories of the old “borderland” clans, to whom the bearers of the name Davidson belong.


By consulting some of the most ancient manuscripts of Scotland, researchers found the first record of the name Davidson in Perth, Scotland, where, in 1219, Johnannes fillus Davidis, a merchant of Perth, is mentioned.  Some accounts suggest that around 1000 AD the Catti (Chattan) Clan, from whom the Davidson Clan descends, broke into two distinct factions, the Mackintosh and the MacPherson Clans.  The Davidson Clan was part of the MacPherson element, but always considered itself to be the senior Clan of the Chattan group. Records from the Ragman Rolls show Adami fiz Dauld of Forfarshire and Johan le fiz David of Berwickshire rendering homage to King Edward I of England in 1296.  Bearers of Davidson were found on both sides of the Scotish-English border.  The first estates of the Clan Davidson were at Invernahaven, a small estate in Badenoch, where they were said to be found from the mid-14th century.

Bearers of the family name Davidson come from a region once inhabited by the Strathclyde Britons in the West, and the ancient Bernicia Kingdom (Boernicians) in the East.  From this historic region come the ancestors of the Davidson family, the earliest records of whom were fond in Yorkshire, where Thomas Davyson was on record in the Subsidy Rolls for the country in 1327.  Also, in England, a John Daviedson was listed in 1350 in Warwickshire, and a William Daveson listed  in 1500 as one of the “Freemen of York.”  However, most of the name were found in Scotland.  Rivalries continued within the Clan Chattan, over which Clan had the most seniority, and would be next in line for the Chieftainship.  The Davidsons were involved in The Battle of Invernahoven in the mid-14th century.  Discontent between the clan Chattan and the Camerons (Clan Kay) continued to agitate for decades, ending with a bloody battle, later called the “Battle of the North Inch of Perth” in 1396, when each side put thirty champions into a fight to the death.  The contest took place by the River Tay, and was watched by a large crowd including King Robert III, of Scotland.  Forty-eight of the sixty were killed, and the Davidsons and Chattan emerged victorious.  Davidsons also fought in the Battle of Harlaw of 1411:  Robert Davidson, Provost of Aberdeen in 1408 was killed at Harlaw.  The number of Davidsons were greatly reduced by all of the feuding and battling of this era.  In 1500, the Clan began to regain some influence with Alexander Davidson of Davidson in Cromrty married Miss Bayne of Tulloch, of an influential Clan in Ross.  Alexander Davidson purchased the Bayne estate from his father-in-law.  The estate included Tulloch Castle built in 1466, and one of Scotland’s oldest standing Castles.  There was also said to be a distinct Davidson clan of Roxburghshire, which became extinct in 1670.


Despite the division of their ancient territories between the Scottish and English Marches, the clan continued to be united powers unto themselves.  They swore allegiance to neither Scotland nor England.  Conflict and feuding between the families of this region was legendary.  Neither England nor Scotland usually tried to enforce the order of law.  Thus the problems had become so great by 1246 A.D. that six Chiefs from each side met at Carlisle and produced a law code unlike any other.  It placed a greater emphasis on assisting a neighbor in recovering his property, than not stealing it in the first place.  In 1587, the Scottish Parliament condemned certain border families for lawlessness and began breaking up the old “border code.”  Shortly after 1603, and the unification of the Crown of England and Scotland, it was decreed that the “unruly border clans” were to be dispersed.  The Clans and Families of the Border Marches were dispersed to England, northern Scotland and Ireland.  Some were banished directly to the Colonies. 1


House of


Our direct line of Davidsons were forced from Scotland to Ireland during this period of disbursement.


While the factual evidence of the Davison (Davidson) brothers, George and John, arrival in America from Ireland has been well established, there is still some confusion regarding their father.


The following are excerpts from an e-mail by Michelle Davidson Bartee, dated 01 July 1999.  “According to the Will of William Davison, Armagh, Ireland (A record in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland entitled T 748 page 90), the LDS, The Compendium of American Genealogies (Vol 4 pg 320), and Robert S. Hands book, William had a brother John, two sons, George (the eldest) and John, and five daughters, Anne who was married at the time of his death to John McCollum, Elizabeth, Helen, Judith and Margaret who were both under twenty-one. All children were born in Legacorry, County Armagh, Ireland.  George and John were married with children when they came to America in the early part of the 1700's after their fathers death.  Proof of importation records show John immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia with wife Jane, sons George, Thomas, William and Samuel (twins born in 1736, there is more information on them in a book called "Rivers of America,” The French Broad" by Wilma Dykeman pages 47 - 49).  They also after settling in North Carolina added the second “d” later, from Davison to Davidson. It had probably originally been Davidson, but sometime in the 1500's after being forced from Scotland to Ireland the name was probably changed to Davison.”


Davidson family historian John Lisle (Davidson Family History and Ancestry) in an e-mail, dated 15 April 2012, has pointed out that Robert S. Hands admitted in a footnote in his book that there is no evidence linking William of Armagh with John and George.  The 1723 Will of William Davison of Armagh does not likely have anything to do with the Davidson’s of Iredell County.  DNA evidence from descendants of George Davidson's son General William Lee Davidson and from several of his brother John's descendants confirm they were biologically related.  Further, several descendants of Samuel Davidson who bought land with John Davidson in Beverley Manor in Augusta County, Virginia in 1739 confirm a close biological relationship.  Likely, he was a third brother.  All three named their first son George.  By Scottish naming patterns which this Davidson family seems to have used in the first and second generations in America, would strongly suggest that their father was named George.


We have recent DNA evidence that shows that descendants from the family
of Robert Davidson and Major John Davidson of Rural Hill are biologically unrelated.  As this evidence is still from a single descendant, I cannot be as definitive in my assessment but a second descendant, descended from a different son of Major John has recently agreed to join the project.


Click here for information regarding the first generation “Descendants of George Davison,” notes and research provided by Davidson family historian John Lisle.


Click here for information regarding the Davidson (Davison) immigration to the colonies and migration to North Carolina taken from Margaret Gardner Cannefax’s: Cannefax-Gardner and Related Lines pp 95-97 pub. 1972


Click here for information regarding William Lee Davidson and the Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

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