Our Beaton ancestors came from the Island of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides by way of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Donald Beaton was born on Cape Breton Island and immigrated to Galena, Illinois where he married Elizabeth Dwen in 1845. A romantic story of her experiences during the winter of 1851-52 is the subject of Fort Snelling During the Winter of 1851-52: Myth and Reality . Donald Beaton was the grandfather of Irene Beaton who married Francis Emmet Leader. Their daughter, Catherine Leader, married Harry Connors Sr. and was my grandmother.
Our Beaton ancestors are a Sept of Clan Donald (Clan MacDonald), one of the largest and most important of the Highland clans. Fiercely independent and resolutely Catholic, they resisted both royal authority and the Protestant Reformation. When the Stuarts were the kings, MacDonalds resisted. When James II was overthrown by William of Orange, MacDonalds were among his principal supporters.
When one reads the history of Clan Donald one learns to expect names such as King Conn and Ranald MacDonald. Despite these names sounding like bad jokes, they represent real people who are an important part of the heritage of Clan Donald. The clan originally occupied portions of northern Ireland and western Scotland, including the Hebrides. Conn of the Hundred Battles was an Irish king who is considered one of the earliest known ancestors of Clan Donald.
The "Mac" (also "Mc" and "M'") in Celtic names, both Irish and Scots, means"son of." The original "MacDonald" was the son of a "Lord of the Isles" named "Donald."
There are two different accounts of the origins of the Beaton family in the Hebrides and the Western Highlands. An earlier version of this page accepted the account that claimed that the family was descended from Peter Beaton, a first cousin of Cardinal David Beaton, an advisor to Mary, Queen of Scots. This family originally came from the city of Bethune in French Flanders and appears to have come to Great Britain at the time of William the Conqueror. The family established itself in Scotland where the name was changed to Beaton from DeBethune. I am now virtually certain that this is incorrect. The family was originally Irish and was called MacBeth. MacBeth means "Son of Life" and is a reference to the traditional family profession of medicine. The family came to the Hebrides during the Middle Ages and is not related to the Scottish king in Shakespeare's play. A MacBeth was the personal physician of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn . During the 16th century, MacBeths adopted Beaton as a non-Gaelic equivalent for use among non-Gaelic speakers. By the late 18th century, the actual origin of the name Beaton for the family was forgotten by some, and the story of Peter Beaton and the connection to the Lowland Beatons was developed. This story first appeared in print at this time. Please see The Origin of the Beatons for more information.
The arms of Beaton of Balfour
The 10th edition of Burke's Landed Gentry for Great Britain (1900) contains an interesting geneology of the Bethune of Balfour family. Although this geneology probably is not that of our ancestors, I am keeping it on this site for now. According to the 18th century story, our Beaton ancestors are descended from a "Dr. Peter Beaton," a son of Archibald of Pitlochie and grandson of the fifth Laird Betune of Balfour. This would make Dr. Peter a first cousin of Cardinal David Beaton. Another fascinating detail is the discovery that, according to Burke's, Margaret Betune, a sister of Cardinal David married "Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee." This is certainly an error on the part of Burke's as the marriage occurred at least a century prior to the birth of the first Viscount Dundee. A check of the geneology of the family of Graham of Fintry reveals that Margaret Betune was the great great great grandmother of John Graham of Claverhouse, the First Viscount Dundee, the Bonnie Dundee of the well-known poem by Sir Walter Scott which has been turned into an equally well-known song. Another item of interest is that Margaret's sister, Katherine, married another Graham, a first cousin once removed of Margaret's husband.
This site created by Harry E. Connors III
The MacDonald Crest
The MacBeth Crest
Please e-mail me with any additions, corrections, and comments.
Music is The Road To The Isles sequenced by Barry Taylor
The Modern MacDonald tartan
The Modern MacBeth tartan
This page last modified on Thursday, November 22, 2007