Select Buchanan Surname Genealogy

Buchanan is a Scottish surname which has come from the place-name Buchanan near Loch Lomond, northwest of Drymen in Stirlingshire.  Buchanan here derived from the Gaelic buth chanain, meaning “house of the canon” which may have had some connection with an ancient Celtic church. This Buchanan name was adopted in the early 13th century by the head of a branch of the McAuslan clan.  

The Buchanan pronunciation has tended to be “Buck-annon” in the UK and “Beww-cannon” in America

Select Buchanan Resources on The Internet

Select Buchanan Ancestry

Scotland.  According to tradition, the Buchanan clan origins were in Ireland.  They had, however, come to Scotland and been granted lands on the east side of Loch Lomond by King Malcolm II for their services in repelling Nordic invaders.  That land was called Buchanan and they adopted that name as a surname around the year 1225.

The Buchanan chiefs fought in France against the English in the 15th century and were involved in various neighboring clan clashes as well.  Their heyday was probably the 16th century when John Buchanan, the so-called King of Kippen, could dine off the King’s venison.  George Buchanan
 was a scholar and Protestant reformer who was tutor to the James VI of Scotland who became James I of England.

The Buchanan
lands were to remain in their possession until 1682 when the 22nd Laird of Buchanan died and the estates had to be sold to repay debts.

The Buchanans were no longer a clan in the 18th century.  Individual Buchanans in the Loch Lomond area found themselves on both sides of the Jacobite uprising in 1745: 
  • Francis Buchanan of Ampryor was arrested before the Battle of Culloden for stockpiling weapons and was subsequently executed by the English.  His two brothers were spared because of their youth.
  • however, Archibald Buchanan of Drummakill was said to have betrayed the fleeing Marquis of Tullibardine who had taken refuge in his house after the battle.  As a result Drummakill “was forever after ostracized in Scotland.”
Many Buchanans had become Covenanters.  They had fought on the Covenanter side at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and at the Battle of Bothwell Brdge in 1679.  George Buchanan, raised on a small farm in the Loch Lomond area, fought in the latter battle and became a whisky distiller and successful Glasgow merchant.  His four sons were to prosper from the ensuing tobacco trade boom with the American colonies.

“From 1710 Glasgow became the focus of an economic boom which lasted nearly fifty years. This was the age of the tobacco lords, the nouveau riche of the mid-18th century.  They made such fortunes that they adopted the style of aristocrats in their superior manner and in their lavish homes and churches. Their Calvinist background made sure, however, that their display was always of rich but sober materials.”

These Buchanans founded the Buchanan Society in 1725.  Andrew Buchanan was Lord Provost of Glasgow in 1740 and Buchanan Street in Glasgow – now one of the city’s most fashionable shopping areas - was named after his nephew, also called Andrew.  However, the tobacco boom came to an end with the American Revolutionary War.

Another Glasgow merchant, this time in textiles, was James Buchanan of Dowanhill who died in 1844 at the grand age of 89.  He had two eminent grandsons – John, a noted chemist and Arctic explorer in the 1870’s, and Thomas, a Scottish Liberal MP and bibliophile.

David Buchanan, said to have descended from the Buchanan chiefly line, was born in Montrose in 1746.  He and his son David were scholarly printers and publishers there, the younger David becoming editor of the Edinburgh Courant.

Another son George was a noted civil engineer in Edinburgh, working primarily on bridges and harbors.  His line led to a later George Buchanan, first knighted for his engineering work and then expelled from the British Institution of Civil Engineers for “so-called” unprofessional conduct, and to Professor Colin Buchanan, the father of British town planning.

  The Buchanan name in Ireland was a Scottish implant in Ulster.  An early arrival there was George Buchanan who, having sold his Blairlusk estates in Scotland to his brother, arrived in Tyrone in 1674 and settled near Omagh.  From the sons of this patriarch came a number of Buchanan lines in America:
  • John of Tyrone, from whom came James Buchanan, Omagh and New York merchant and Canadian trade advocate in the first half of the 19th century   
  • William of Tyrone, from whom the Buchanans of Meadville, Pennsylvania were said to have been descended
  • George of Munster, from whom the Buchanans of Louisville, Kentucky were said to have been descended  
  • and Thomas of Ramelton in Donegal, from whom James Buchanan, President of the United States, descended.  The President once declared: “My Ulster blood is my most priceless heritage.”
Thomas Buchanan had left Tyrone and moved to Ramelton in 1700.   His grandson John Buchanan married Jane Russell and the Russell grandparents raised their grandson James from the age of seven when he became an orphan.  In 1783 James Buchanan, then 22 years old, sailed from Derry on the Providence to Philadelphia where his uncle Joshua Russell met him at the port and together they rode horseback to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Russell’s Tavern.  This James was the father of US-born President James Buchanan.

  The first Buchanan in America went by the name of Bohannon (apparently an alternative spelling).  Duncan Bohannon of uncertain origins first turned up in Barbados in the 1650’s before moving to Maryland and then to Gloucester county, Virginia.  His descendants, continuing to call themselves Bohannon, moved to Kentucky after the Revolutionary War.

Maryland did have some Buchanans:
  • Thomas Buchanan, Scots Irish, came to Charles county around 1712.  His sons James and William were the forebears of many of the Buchanans who settled in the Toe river valley in the western part of North Carolina.
  • meanwhile George Buchanan from Edinburgh arrived in 1723 and was one of the founders of Baltimore.  He built the family mansion just outside of town, known by the Scottish name of Auchentorlie.  Franklin Buchanan of this family was a Confederate naval officer during the Civil War, commanding the ironclad CSS Virginia.
And Pennsylvania attracted three notable Scots Irish Buchanan lines:
  • Thomas Buchanan and his wife Jane who left Donegal for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sometime in the 1720’s. Major John Buchanan, born there in 1759, was one of the founders of present-day Nashville, Tennessee.  He led the defence of the early settlement against Indian attacks in 1792.  His great grandson John P. Buchanan was Governor of Tennessee a hundred years later.
  • John Buchanan who came to Pennsylvania from Derry in the 1740’s and then moved onto the New river area of Virginia.  His son Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War and afterwards moved to Kentucky where he had received a land grant.  His descendants headed further west to Illinois and Indiana.
  • while US President James Buchanan, the son of immigrant James Buchanan, was born in a log cabin in Cove Point, Franklin county in 1791.  He never married.
One ancestry chart does connect Pat Buchanan, the political commentator, to the early Bohannon line.  The Bohannon name did appear in Mississippi in the early 19th century.  His more immediate point of contact is with William Buchanan of Chickasaw county, Mississippi who fought and was captured at Atlanta during the Civil War.

  George Buchanan from the Glasgow merchant family was a sugar planter in Jamaica in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  However, after the death of his wife Jane in 1815, he brought his family back to England.  His son Andrew, trained as a doctor, moved to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1857 and was active in the care of mental patients there. 

"Andrew was tall and erect, but of slight build.  His hair was black and inclined to be curly, his features aquiline, grey eyes overshadowed by strong eyebrows - according to relatives 'a marked Buchanan face,'"

Canada.  The merchant James Buchanan of Omagh in county Tyrone promoted trade and immigration to Canada in the first half of the 19th century.  He died in Canada in 1851.  Not surprisingly, there were some Buchanan immigrants to Canada from Tyrone: 
  • Andrew Buchanan and his family came in 1847 and were pioneer settlers in Perth county, Ontario.  Some of their descendants later migrated west to Manitoba in the 1870’s.  
  • while William and Matilda Buchanan made the Atlantic passage in the same year.  They settled in Grey county, Ontario where they raised 13 children.  
These two families were probably related.  Meanwhile Thomas Buchanan from Donegal arrived with a large family retinue in Ontario in 1857.  He worked on the Canadian railways and later made his home in Nova Scotia.

There were also Buchanans from Scotland.  Isaac Buchanan, the son of a Glasgow merchant, came to Toronto in 1832 to start up a merchant business there.  He prospered, later settling in Hamilton.  John Buchanan was probably of lesser account.  He had come to PEI from Loch Lomond in Scotland in the early 1850’s.  Sadly, he did not live long there, being killed by a horse on his farm when he was around 29.  But he and his wife had had six children by that time.  The male line continued through his son Anthony, a postmaster at Elmwood.

  As with Canada, Buchanan arrivals were a mix of Scots and Scots Irish.

Andrew Buchanan, a yarn merchant from county Tyrone, had two sons who came out to Australia – William in 1822 and Charles in 1832.  They farmed on nearby land along the Hunter river in NSW.  Charles’s two sons William and Nathaniel were cattle ranchers there.

“In 1850 the brothers went on the California Gold Rush, but returned to Australia after a short stay to find that their station had been mismanaged and lost in their absence.”

They migrated north to Queensland and were pioneer ranchers in this northern part of Australia.  Both worked until the end of their lives, William in 1911 and Nathaniel in 1901.

David Buchanan meanwhile came out to Australia from Edinburgh in 1852.  He was a lawyer who practiced in New South Wales and was a member of the NSW Legislative Council

Select Buchanan Miscellany

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

Select Buchanan Names

George Buchanan was a 16th century Scottish writer, humanist scholar, and Protestant reformer.  He was the tutor to James VI of Scotland who later became James I of England.
Andrew Buchanan
was a Glasgow tobacco lord and its Provost in 1740. 
Major John Buchanan
was an American frontiersman, one of the founders of present-day Nashville, Tennessee.
James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States, preceding Abraham Lincoln.  His attempts to maintain peace between North and South seemed to alienate both sides and helped precipitate the Civil War.
Professor Colin Buchanan
became Britain’s most famous town planner, following the publication of his Traffic in Towns in 1963.
Ken Buchanan
from Scotland is considered the greatest British lightweight boxer in history, following his winning of the world title in 1970

Select Buchanans Today
  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page