Cameron


Select Cameron Surname Genealogy

The Gaelic cam means "crooked" and the surname Cameron comes either from cam plus shron (nose) meaning "crooked nose" or from cam plus brun (hill) meaning "crooked hill."

Camshron has a pretty story about how a strong man with a bent nose came to Lochaber, the traditional lands of the Camerons, married the daughter of a local chieftain and secured the lands after many a battle.  But Cambrun is seen as the more likely origin, even though this name was more common in Fife on the Scottish east coast.

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Scotland.   The Camerons have been the people of Lochaber in Invernessshire - at the southwestern edge of the Great Glen, the rift that runs up from Fort William to Inverness.  Nobody knows how long the clan has existed. 

Donald Dubh, who lived in the 15th century, is considered to be their first authentic chief and, since 1528, the clan chief of Lochaber has been called Lochiel.  He generally had the support of Cameron sub-clans nearby, such as the Camerons of Letterfinlay, Strone, Glen Nevis, and later of Erracht.  These various Camerons were often described as "fiercer than fierceness itself."

Two notable books have been produced about the Cameron clan:
  • Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel by John Drummond.  These memoirs were written in 1733 but not published until 1842.
  • The Camerons: A History of Clan Cameron by John Stewart.  This 1974 book was published by the Clan Cameron Association.
Their most prominent chief, called "Ulysses of the Highlands" by Macaulay, was Sir Ewen Cameron, the 17th chief, a strong supporter of Charles II in Scotland.  It was he who built the family seat at Achnacarry in 1655.  His successors backed the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings. 

Donald Campbell, known as Gentle Lochiel, was planting a long line of beech trees at Achnacarry when he heard news of Bonnie Prince Charlie's landing in Scotland.  Gentle Lochiel was wounded at Culloden, escaped to France, but died soon after.  His brother Archie was executed later in London.  After the Culloden defeat, the Cameron estates were forfeited and Achnacarry burned down (although they were both later restored).

Other Camerons opposed the Stuarts.  Richard Cameron from Fife was a leading Covenanter at that time.  His supporters took up the name of Cameronians and formed a regiment which fought against the Jacobites.  

Later Highland chiefs preserved their clan fighting spirit by forming the Cameron Highlanders, army battalions which fought in the Napoleonic Wars and through to World War Two (the explorer Verney Cameron came from this soldierly background). 

However, the depopulation of the Highlands was beginning and many Camerons left the region in search of work.  A number migrated to large towns like Glasgow.  Others emigrated, first heading to North America and then to Australia and New Zealand.

England.  Some Camerons came into northern England in search of work.  Other Camerons were to be found in London.  Sir Ewen Cameron, born in Inverness in 1841, was an accountant by training who rose to become the head of the HSBC bank in London.  A descendant is the former British Prime Minister David Cameron

America.  Donald Cameron made it to America as an old man in 1775.  His son Simon took up arms for America in the Revolutionary War and a later Simon Cameron, orphaned at a young age, grew up to be Senator for Pennsylvania and briefly Abraham Lincoln's Secretary for War.

On the Confederate side was Paul Cameron, said to be the richest man in North Carolina at that time.  His Cameron family were large plantation and slave owners in North Carolina and elsewhere in the South.  He was the descendant of the Rev. John Cameron who had come to Virginia from Scotland in 1770.  Paul survived the Civil War and he and his family remained prosperous from cotton and railroad holdings through Reconstruction and into the 20th century.

A Scots Highlander, Ewen Cameron, was prominent in the Texas Revolution of 1836 and a member of the ill-fated Mier expedition against the Mexicans (where he was shot while trying io escape).  Cameron county in Texas is named in his honor.    

Canada. 
There are more Camerons in Canada.  An early arrival was Duncan Cameron, who later became a fur trader in the Canadian West and then a politician in Ontario.  He had come with his Loyalist parents to Canada in the 1780s. 

Donald and Margaret Cameron were Loyalists as well and they moved to Glengarry county in the Ottawa valley.  Camerons from the 84th Regiment also settled in this Highland community at that time.  And other Camerons arrived there in the 1820's and 1830's.  One Cameron account describes a family rift in the early 1830's and a branch of the family decamping to Whitby, Ontario.

Angus Cameron came to Canada in 1806 as the hospital sergeant of a Highland regiment and ended up keeping a bar in the Ottawa area.   His son Malcolm distinguished himself in politics, but not in business and he died a poor man.  An adopted son Malcolm also became a politician.

Winnipeg.  The Highland Cameron connection in Canada has continued with the Camerons (or the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada to give them their lengthier title), which was formed as a fighting regiment in Winnipeg in 1910 and still functions today. 

John Cameron was in Winnipeg by the early 1870's and founded the town's first newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press.  He married his second wife Rebecca McIvor there. According to family folklore, she was the only unmarried white girl in the community and their daughter May the first white child born there.

British Columbia.  Meanwhile Cariboo Cameron, who had grown up in Glengarry county, went west in the early 1860's in search of gold.  He struck lucky in 1862 in Cariboo, British Columbia.

"His wife Sophia had died of typhioid fever just prior to the find and Cameron, fulfilling a pledge to her, hauled her body some 600 miles on snowshoes, by horse, and by steamer to Victoria.  When he finally arrived there after a harrowing journey of two months, he had the coffin filled with alcohol in order to preserve her body."

Cariboo Cameron, sadly, frittered his wealth away and died penniless.

Australia.  By the mid 1830's Australia was beginning to receive a steady flow of Scottish immigrants from the Highlands under the bounty system.  The Boyne, Blonde, and Brilliant brought settlers from Lochaber and Argyll, including some 300 Camerons.  Indeed, there were 200 Camerons on the Boyne alone.

Among other early Cameron settlers were:
  • Duncan Cameron, a ship's surgeon who received a land grant in Tasmania and moved there in 1822.  His family prospered as farmers and landowners and later ventured into local politics.
  • Hugh Cameron, an early settler in Hunter valley, NSW.  He was granted 1,290 acres of land there in 1828.
  • Alexander Cameron, who came to Australia in 1839.  Ten years later, he had acquired land in Penola, South Australia for sheep-farming.  He also was the original licensee of the Royal Oak Hotel there. 
  • Thomas Cameron a shepherd from Inverness, who came in 1848.  He settled in Geelong where he ran the Royal Highlander Hotel.
  • Donald Cameron from Perth, who came to Ballarat and the Victoria goldfields in the 1850's. 
Later Camerons numbered many in the professions and also trade union activists - such as Donald Cameron (the son of a Scottish slater) and Clyde Cameron (the son of a first generation sheep shearer).

Dr. Robert Cameron's three volume edition of Cameron Genealogies, published in 2000, is a huge reference souce for Cameron settlers in Australia and their descendants.

New Zealand.  The most notable Cameron name in New Zealand history has been Sir Duncan Cameron, a Highland officer who commanded the British troops in the land wars against the Maoris in the 1860's. 

A number of Camerons had arrived earlier, among the Highlanders who came out to Wellington with Laird Donald McDonald on the Blenheim in 1840 - including Donald Cameron and his wife Christina (the subject of Marc Ulyatt's book The Kiawarra Camerons). 

Many Camerons settled in South Island.  Hugh Cameron came from the Highlands to Dunedin in 1860.  His descendants still run his sheep station at Ben-Ohau.  Andrew Cameron arrived in 1863, studied in Scotland and Dunedin to become a Presbyterian minister, and later founded Knox College in Otago.   Some Camerons continued to uphold their Highland traditions, such as the Camerons of Mataura who started the first civilian pipe band in New Zealand in Invercargill in 1896.

Select Cameron Miscellany

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


Select Cameron Names


Sir Ewen Cameron
, the 17th chief of the Cameron clan, was a prominent supporter of Charles II in Scotland during the Restoration period.
Richard Cameron was a leading Scottish Covenanter of the late 17th century.  His followers were called Cameronians.
Duncan Cameron was a prosperous Canadian fur trader and an early political figure in Upper Canada.
Julia Cameron was a pioneering British photographer of the mid 19th century.
Verney Cameron was the African explorer acclaimed by the Victorian public after Livingstone.
James Cameron is the Canadian film-maker who made Titanic in 1997 and Avator in 2009.
David Cameron is the leader of the Conservative Party who became the British Prime Minister in May 2010.

Select Camerons Today
  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous in Renfrewshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 54,000 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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