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A surname project traces members of a family that share a common surname. Since surnames are passed down from father to son like the Y-chromosome, this test is for males taking a Y-DNA test.

Females do not carry their father's Y-DNA and acquire a new surname by way of marriage, so the tested individual must be a male that wants to check his direct paternal line (father's father's father's...) with a Y-DNA37, or Y-DNA67 marker test. Females who would like to check their direct paternal line can have a male relative with this surname order a Y-DNA test.                                         

This paper was originally written over ten years ago and has now been re-written to include new information as a result of further research which I have undertaken with the assistance of several people who are named in the text which follows.  In particular I would like to thank my kinsman Professor Iain Ledingham who has been kind enough to collaborate with me over the last year or so in our research into the origins of the Ledingham name and made various suggestions as to how the contents of this paper might be improved. If errors remain I accept full responsibility for these and would be grateful if they might be pointed out to me so that they might be corrected.


At the time of writing my original paper I indicated that the earliest reference to the origins of the Ledingham name was in a book which I discovered in my village library where I live in Kemnay, Aberdeenshire.   At the time of writing this new and hopefully improved version of my paper this statement remains correct.  The book I found quite by chance is about the history of this area and is called"Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch" by Reverend John Davidson and was published in 1878, [Ref.1].  In this book Rev. Davidson indicates that the lands of Lodhgavel [which he says was later known by the name Ledingham] and Malinside, in the parish of Culsalmond in Aberdeenshire, had been gifted to the Abbey of Lindores in Fife by David, the Earl of Huntingdon sometime before 1195.[ see pages 25, 31 and 157]. This information, Davidson indicates,comes from a Papal Bull issued by Pope Celestine the Third in the year 1195 which confirmed the gifts of land made earlier by David when he founded the Abbey.  David was the son of Prince Henry and grandson of King David the First of Scotland and as such was in possession of extensive property throughout Scotland including land in Fife, Perth, Stirling, Forfar and, most notably in the present context, in the Earldom of the Garioch in Aberdeenshire where Culsalmond is located.  


Davidson goes on to say that in 1198 another Papal Bull, this time from Pope Innocent the Third, confirmed the above grant of lands in the Garioch to the Abbey of Lindores but that the names Lethgauel and Malind are now used in the document to describe this territory.  Davidson does not make it clear in his book when the Ledingham name was first used instead of Lodhgavel or Lethgauel or why the change of name took place nor does he give detailed references as to the sources of his information.  The following paper represents my efforts therefore to seek out this information and to suggest how the Ledingham name came into being.   As yet my research is by no means complete but I hope that the contents of this paper as it stands at present will be of interest to those who are curious about how the family name originated.


In an attempt to track down when the name Ledingham might first have been used I recently examined various charters and Papal Bulls, both in the original Latin and in the English translation, relating to the Abbey of Lindores in Fife in two publications.  The first, “Lindores Abbey and its Burgh of Newburgh” by Alexander Laing, [Ref.2] includes a different spelling of the word Lethgauel in the Papal Bull of 1198 where it is given as Lethgavel in the English translation.   In the second publication “Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, 1195– 1479”, edited by the Right Rev. John Dowden, DD,[Ref.3] various other spellings in addition to the above are given.  In some it is Ledhgauel in Latin and Ledhgavelin English or Lethgaven in both Latin and English whereas in others it is given as Letgavel, Ledgauel, Lethgawyl or Lethgawylle.  The last two spellings suggest to me that perhaps a Welsh scribe was at work in transcribing the Latin text!  What seems clear is that different scribes put their own slant on the spelling of the same word as it was not always clear to them how a particular place name or surname was supposed to be written especially if the original text they were translating was written in a language other than Latin or the hand written text they were trying to decipher was difficult to read.


In looking at the above texts, however, I have discovered that there is no mention of the word “Lodhgavel” in any of the other charters or Bulls I have been able to examine thus far or in their translations.   In researching material for his book,published in 1878, Davidson may have had access to Laing’s book on Lindores Abbey published in 1876 but from this source he would have seen that the word“Lethgavel” was given in the English translation of the 1198 Bull of Pope Innocent the Third.  Unfortunately there is no Latin version of the Bull in Laing’s book nor is there any mention of the earlier 1195 Papal Bull of Pope Celestine the Third.  Dowden’s Chartulary was not published until 1903 so Davidson could not have been aware of the alternative spellings for“Lethgavel” given in that publication, none of which include “Lodhgavel”. 


From what he says in the preface of his book, however, Davidson appears to have had access to a book published in 1862 by the  Spalding Club of Aberdeen called “Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff”, [Ref.4] to which Davidson’s attention had been drawn by the editor of the book, a Dr. Joseph Robertson.   In this volume, number four in a series, a Papal Bull from Pope Nicholas IV dated 1291 is quoted confirming Earl David’s previous grant of territory in the Garioch and elsewhere to Lindores Abbey.  On page 502, the lands of “Lodhgavel and Malinch” appear in the Latin text referring to the above gift.  Since the earlier Bulls of 1195 and 1198 already used the name “Ledhgauel” and “Lethgavel” respectively to describe this territory and later Bulls also use a similar formulation I suspect that there has been an error on the part of the scribe concerned in translating the 1291 Bull and that this mistake has been incorporated in the Spalding Club publication and quoted by the Rev. Davidson as applying not only to the 1291 Bull but also incorrectly to the 1195 Bull of Pope Celestine 111.  Further research into this issue will be required however to confirm my suspicions but in the meantime I am inclined to omit “Lodhgavel” as a valid contender for the origin of the Ledingham name.


As part of my investigation into the origins of the Ledingham name I made contact with Professor Wilhelm Nicolaisen, a leading writer and academic in the study of surname and place name derivation in this country. At his request I conducted a thorough search of numerous charters and historical documents to see how the Latin place name “Lethgavel” or “Ledhgauen” changed over the years. I also listed all the examples I could find of the Ledingham name and its variations to see if the Ledingham surname owes its origins to a Ledingham place name or if there is some other explanation as to how an obscure corner of Aberdeenshire came to be known as “Ledingham” and people in that area came to be known by this surname.  The information gained from this exercise has been gathered together and sent to Professor Nicolaisen for his comment.   A copy of this material is available on request to those who might be interested in this information.


At this point, however, I think it would be helpful to digress for a moment to explore how and when surnames came into being in Scotland as this sets the parameters for future discussion on the origins of the Ledingham surname.


Accordingto the Society of Genealogists, in one of their leaflets with the above title published in 2001, it is perhaps not generally understood that surnames are a fairly recent invention in terms of our social evolution.   Before the Norman Conquest they say that most people used a single one part name whether they were Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians or Normans.  Certain people might have had an additional “byname” but these were not hereditary surnames as we know them today as they were not passed down from father to son.   It was not until the early 12th century that such hereditary surnames came into common use amongst the nobility and it was the end of the 14th century before hereditary surnames became established amongst the general population south of the Border.  For folk in Scotland the Society of Genealogists suggest that the process of surname development came later and that “in Wales and Shetland a large proportion of the population did not develop stable hereditary surnames until the 18th century, many not becoming stable until the middle of the 19th century”!  [Society of Genealogists Information Leaflet No7, “The relevance of surnames in genealogy”, 2001, Ref.5].   It would seem therefore that we are not going to find examples of the Ledingham surname in Scotland until after the 14th century at the earliest.


It is also of relevance here to indicate that according to the Society surnames tend to be based on four main categories-


1.Patronymics, where the name is taken from the individual’s father or some other relation. 

2. Locative, where the surname is linked to the place where someone lives or has come from. 

3. Occupational, where a person’s occupation has led to a surname based on that occupation.

4.Nicknames, where a particular feature or characteristic of an individual has led to them being named after that feature.


David Hey in “Family Names and Family History” published in 2000, [Ref.6] quotes an earlier author, the Rev. C W Bardsley writing in 1873 as saying that surnames could be divided into five categories-


1.Baptismal or Personal Names.

2.Local Surnames.

3.Official Surnames.

4.Occupational Names.



Bardsley is further quoted as saying that “practically there are only four classes, for it is often hard to distinguish between occupation and office”, [ibid].  Hey goes on to say” that modern scholars prefer to subdivide the second category (which they label ‘toponymic’) into ‘locative’ names derived from settlements and ‘topographical’ names derived from features of the landscape”, [ibid]. The question arises therefore, into what category does the Ledingham surname fall?   As will be seen from evidence to be presented in this paper there is a suggestion that the surname may have a “locative” origin derived from a Gaelic place name but as I will go on to show this hypothesis does not seem to me to be valid and it is more likely in my opinion that the surname is based on a baptismal or personal name which was introduced to this area by one or more individuals who brought this name with them.  


The points made above in this section about the categories into which surnames fall and the timeline involved in their development are examined in depth by Professor Wilhelm Nicolaisen to whom reference has been made above.   He has written in painstaking detail about the origin of Scottish place names and surnames in a considerable number of books and articles too numerous to list here.  In one of his most recent publications however he states that “hereditary surnames came into being in lowland Scotland mostly in the 13th and 14th centuries,while the Highlands followed suit much later”.  [- “Surnames and Medieval Popular Culture”,published in the Journal of Popular Culture, number 14, I (1980), pages 119-130, reproduced in his book “In the Beginning was the Name” published by the Scottish Place Name Society, 2011, Ref. 7].        


One of the problems in this field of study, Professor Nicolaisen indicates, is the lack of reliable written evidence before 1500 which can be used to link surnames with particular localities. After this date he indicates there are more documentary sources available to assist in tracking down the origins of place names and surnames but that “there is a need for a systematic and comprehensive survey of the surnames of Scotland”, [ibid] as there has not been sufficient attention devoted to this topic.  It is clear therefore that the hunt for written information on the origin of the Ledingham name is not going to be easy. The timeframe involved starts with Latin place names such as Lethgavel and Ledgauel in 1195 or thereabouts and the appearance of the Ledingham surname in Aberdeenshire in the late 16thcentury as detailed below. To begin with place name and surname information is located mainly in Latin charters and Papal Bulls.  As time goes on more documents are available for study in the way of Royal charters, tax records etc. This paper represents a search of this material in order to find the origin of the Ledingham name.   


The first reference I have been able to find thus far to a name like Ledingham in local records is dated 1575 and appears in a volume published in 1904 by the Spalding Club of Aberdeen which lists Sheriff Court records relating to Aberdeenshire dating back to before 1600, [Ref. 8].  On the first of February 1575 “George Ledinghame in Auchinlek” was listed as being a member of a jury at an inquest at a Sheriff Court in Aberdeenshire along with fifteen other individuals.  It should be noted here that in some publications this event is recorded as having occurred in 1574.  This is an error as at that time the “Legal Year” ran from March of one year to April the following year and this was the case until 1600 in Scotland.  In England this reform was not introduced until 1752 according to Bruce Durie,    [“Understanding Documents for Genealogy and Local History”, The History Press, Gloucestershire, page 87, [Ref 9].


The Diet Book for the Sheriff Court in Aberdeenshire, in which this event is recorded, shows the inquest being held in the year 1574 to 1575 which means that February 1575 is the only possibility.  Had it taken place in February 1574 the “Legal Year” of 1573 to 1574 would have been quoted, which is not the case.   From research into local farm names I have also discovered that there was a farm called Auchinlek near Rhynie in Aberdeenshire at that time.  As George Ledinghame is described as being “in Auchinlek” I understand that this means he was not the owner of the property but was a tenant.  Had he been the owner he would have been described as “of Auchinlek”.  If neither a tenant nor an owner I understand he would have been described as being “at Auchinlek”. I am grateful to my kinsman Professor Iain Ledingham for this information received from Bruce Durie in a personal communication in 2012.


The next written reference which I found to the Ledingham name was in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, which is a complete record of all charters and legal agreements made by the Kings and Queens of Scotland from 1306 to 1707 and the union of Scotland with England.


On the twenty third of November 1591 the name Lethinghame appears in a charter relating to the “barioniam” (barony) of Wranghame which included other lands such as “Williamstoune”, “ Kirktoun of Culsalmond” and “Malingsyd”.  This charter was signed at   “Halyrudhous” [Holyrood House] in the reign of King James VI of Scotland.  In this document, which is in Latin in keeping with all such documents of the time, the Barony is given to a “Joanni Gordoune de Newtoun” and his male heirs, [Ref.10].


In 1594 the name Lethinghame appears again in a charter dated the 2nd.  October signed at Holyrood House, still in the reign of King James VI of Scotland, [Ref.11].   In this document the lands of Lethinghame and other territory referred to above are given to a Jacobo Gordoun of “Newtoun daCulsalmond” and his male heirs.


On the 31st March, 1600 a further charter, [Ref.12] was signed in Edinburgh granting the feudal rights of land called “Ledinghame” to a Patrick Leslie and his male heirs in the Presbytery of Alford [which takes in the parish of the Garioch].


In 1610 on the 2nd August reference is made in the Register of the Great Seal, [Ref. 13] to a croft in the parish of Inverurie occupied by an Alexander Ledinghame and a William Gavan. In 1613, on the 30th July reference is again made to the same croft, [Ref.14] and to the same Alexander Ledinghame and a William Gawane,[presumably Gavan].  Further reference is made on the 4th April 1620 to the same croft and to the same occupiers except that Gavan is now spelt Gawan [Ref.15]. It was quite common for surnames to be spelt differently by different scribes and for names to change over time as can also be seen in the different spellings of the Ledingham name itself over the years.


On the 22nd December, 1662 the names Miekle and Little Lethingham appear in a charter signed in Edinburgh under the Great Seal of Scotland granting these lands amongst others to a Sir John Strauchan [Ref.16].


Finally, the names Miekle and Little Leddinghames appear in a further charter dated September the 7th 1666 granting these lands to a George Skeyne[Ref.17].



The place name Ledingham first appears on a map of this area drawn by a Robert Gordon of Straloch in the year 1640, [Ref.18] and 1654, [Ref.19] but on later maps of the area around 1800 the name changed to the local colloquial spelling "Ledikin".  There are still dwelling houses and farms village of Insch, near Inverurie called East Ledikin, West Ledikin etc.


In 1696 a poll tax was levied in Scotland to help the government pay for the cost of maintaining an army and to pay off their debts.  [How things change!]  Every household in Aberdeenshire was recorded and a list compiled of those due to pay the tax along with the amount paid by them.  Only beggars and children under 16 years escaped paying the tax.


In 1844 the Spalding Club in Aberdeen published the complete list of these names in two volumes as one of a number of important historical records about thisarea [Ref.20].  In this record there area total of 38 people with the name Ledingham or Ledinghame after excluding some names which have been duplicated in the original text.  If wives are not included in the total there are only 20 adult males with this surname living mainly near Insch in the parishes of Oyne, Leslie, Premnay and Daviot. This suggests to me that the family name may only have existed in this part of the world therefore for a fairly short time prior to 1696.  I shall return to this issue later in the paper.


It is also interesting to note that in the same volume there are five people recorded in 1696 with the names “Leadikine, Ledicine and Ladicine” living in the parishes of Oyne, Keig and Kincarden respectively.  These could be early examples of the Ledikin name which was applied at a later date in the eighteenth century to the area known as Lethinghame in 1591 or they could be a corruption of the Ledingham name itself and recorded as such by scribes who wrote what they thought the name sounded like.


There are also a number of examples of people with the name “Leddikin” or something similar in the International Genealogical Index produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints going back as far as 1648 but as this index is not always reliable further work would be required to trace the history of people bearing that name and to verify as far as possible the accuracy of information given in the IGI.  Such work falls outwith the scope of the present paper but as will be seen the name Lediken will crop up again from time to time in this paper. 


   The study of proper names, place names and personal names has given rise to a number of publications some of which have been of help in trying to trace the origins of the Ledingham place name and surname and others less so.  The first publication I looked at was “Celtic Place-Names in Aberdeenshire” by John Milne, published in 1912, [Ref.21].  In his book, page 217, Milne suggests that the place-name Ledikin was called Leathgayn in 1366 and Ledingham in 1660 but does not give sources for this information. Leathgayn he suggests comes from Leathad a’ Ghabhainn meaning “hillsidewhere there was a fold”.  About 1800 he says that the family name Ledingham was colloquially made Ledikin.


Milne seems to be suggesting that the place name Ledikin started as Leathgayn, changed to Ledingham and then, as the family name was transformed in everyday speech to Ledikin, this also changed the place name.  This progression from Ledingham to Ledikin does not seem logical to me as the Ledingham surname continued to be used in this part of Aberdeenshire alongside the Ledikin surname for a considerable time before the latter surname fell into disuse, whilst the Ledingham surname prospered.  Milne has made no reference to the local valuation rolls which clearly show the Ledingham place name continued to be used interchangeably with the Lediken place name to describe land in this area up to 1901 nor does he seem to have been aware of the surnames given above in the 1696 Poll Tax records and their possible link to the Ledikin name.


Although he does not make specific reference to the earlier Latin place names for the area contained in the various Papal Bulls and charters going back to 1195 the example he gives from 1366 of “Leathgayn”, which looks suspiciously like“Lethgaven” in the Latin texts, is worthy of further examination to see if it is possible to discover the source of his information and to see what it might reveal.


I have been advised by Professor Nicolaisen in a personal communication however that in the field of toponymy Milne is not considered a reliable source. I have included him here nevertheless as his book is freely available to the general public and might well be consulted by anyone interested in this topic, who like me, would not know any better.  In any case for the reasons given above I am inclined to reject Milne’s suggestions as to how the Ledingham surname developed.


In James MacDonald’s book “The Place Names of West Aberdeenshire”, published in 1899, [Ref.22], page 238, he refers to Ledikin in the parish of Culsalmond being known as Lethinghame in 1644 and Ledinghame in 1600.   He then goes on to quote an authority on the Gaelic language, a Professor Mackinnon, who stated that “Leideag or Leideagan is a common name for fields, especially those on the outskirts of farms in the West Highlands” and more importantly “The words appear very similar, but I am not prepared to say that they are the same”.


Like Milne, McDonald does not make any reference to the names by which this area was known in earlier times in the Latin Bulls and charters nor does he explain how a Gaelic place name, which might be similar to “Leideagan”, came to be applied to the place name Ledinghame which was in existence in the written record well before Lediken appeared on the scene.  For these reasons and those given above in the previous paragraph I do not find McDonald’s suggestions helpful in explaining how the Ledingham name came about nor how Ledikin got its name. Professor Nicolaisen has also advised me that in the business of place name derivation McDonald too is not considered all that reliable.


In George F. Black’s book, “The Surnames of Scotland” published in 1946, page 421,[Ref.23], Black gives examples of the surname appearing in 1574 as Ledinghame, in 1603 as Liddinghame and in 1798 as Ledingham.   He also suggests that in the 17th century, Ledigan was the form of the name in the Earldom of Mar, which was adjacent to the Garioch, but does not give any examples of people with this name or where they were located in the Mar province.  He then goes on to say that there is a place in Culsalmond called Ledikin which was spelled “Lethinghame “ in 1644 and Ledinghame in 1600 but does not make any connection between Ledigan in Mar and Ledikin in Culsalmond.


Black repeats the information given previously by MacDonald relating to Professor Mackinnon’s comparison of the name Ledikin with the Gaelic Leideagan but he does not mention Professor Mackinnon’s unwillingness to commit himself to the two words being the same!


Black also mentions an Alexander Ledderkin whose surname in 1745 he suggests is linked to the place name Ledikin near Insch but surprisingly he does not make any connection between this surname and the surname Ledingham despite the fact that he suggests the latter name is also linked to the place name Ledikin.  It is also disappointing that Black does not comment on the earlier Latin form of the words used to describe this part of Aberdeenshire.


In“The Place Names of Aberdeenshire”, (Ref.24), William Alexander repeats the information given by McDonald and Professor Mackinnon mentioned above about the origin of the place name "Ledikin" and that it may be derived from the Gaelic "leideag" or "leideagan".  He then states quite categorically, “The surname Ledingham would be this name”.   Since the place name and surname "Ledingham" were in use however from 1640 and 1575 respectively and the place name "Ledikin" only appears from 1800 onwards I am puzzled as to how "Ledingham" could be derived from the Gaelic “leideagan” or from “Lediken”.   I can see how Ledikin or Lediken might be derived from the Gaelic but not the surname or place name Ledingham.   Even if names such as those illustrated above are considered to be early examples of the Ledikin name I would suggest that the dominant name has always been Ledingham.  Based on the information available to me at this point in time I would suggest that "Ledikin" may well be a later version of the surname "Ledingham" but not a precursor, nor abridging form of the surname.


Interestingly Alexander does make reference, page 320, to the early Latin word “Lethgavel” which he links to Culsalmond but unfortunately he says that the origin of this place name is “obsolete and unknown”!  He does make reference to “Lethgaven” appearing in charters associated with Lindores Abbey and states that it is a place near Williamston (which is in Culsalmond) but then says that the name is “probably the same name as Lawgaven, Glenbervie”.   I am afraid that on the evidence provided above in this paper I have to disagree with Mr. Black, despite his undoubted standing in the field of toponymy, and reject this suggestion.


In David Dorward’s book, “Scottish Surnames”, published in 2000, page 181, [Ref.25]  Dorward indicates that although the name Ledingham is similar in construction to English names such as Birmingham or Nottingham the name in fact originates in Aberdeenshire and probably comes from the Gaelic word Leideagan, meaning“outlying fields”.  Unlike Black, Dorward says that both Ledigan and Ledikin were forms of the name in the province of Mar until the 17th century.   He then refers to examples given above in Black’s book and says that the name is still very much a northeast Scotland name and uncommon elsewhere.


Having written to Mr Dorward on the subject of the Ledingham name he very kindly wrote to me and suggested that the Ledingham name might be another example of what he calls “re-interpretation” whereby existing Scottish names might have been altered by “anglophile” scribes to make them fit with the “official” language of the day and quotes Cunningham and Fotheringham as being examples of this process.  What he says happened was that when government appointed scribes transcribed local place names or surnames they sometimes added the English “ingham” ending to the name.   This process I suspect could also have been deliberate at times on the part of scribes as part of an “Anglicisation” of native place names.  Unfortunately Dorward does not make any reference to the Latin names for this area in the various Bulls and charters referred to earlier in this paper which would have been helpful in either ruling them out, or corroborating them, as the origin of Ledigan, Ledikin and Ledingham as place names.


Whilst I appreciate that I do not have the background in history or linguistics which the above authors have, I wonder if too great an emphasis has been put by some of these writers on the similarity of Ledikin and Leideagan and therefore suggesting that the origin of the Ledingham name is Gaelic.  Since the evidence I have been able to find thus far points to the Ledingham name being in existence before Ledikin appeared I do not see why Ledingham should therefore be Gaelic in origin but this is of course always a possibility. Further research is required to trackdown Dorward’s information about the use of Ledigan and Lidiken in the province of Mar up to the 17th century as all the reading I have done thus far points to the Garioch, not Mar as the source of this place name.  Dorward’s suggestion as to the origins of names ending in “ingham” is also interesting and merits further examination.


One author of place name studies, James B. Johnston writing in 1892, [Ref.26], gives the following progression for the Ledingham place name which he locates in Culsalmond, Aberdeenshire as follows, “1195  Lethgavel, 1600 –gauin, 1600 Leth-, Lettingham(e), 1640 Leding-”.   He says that this is an “instructive change” and suggests a Gaelic origin in “lethgabhail” meaning ‘half,  landshare at the fork’, then gamhainn, ‘of the stirks’ but does not say when this name might have applied except to say that it was “early taken for a Saxon name in –ham”.  The similarity between “Lethgavel” and “Lethgabhail” do suggest to me two possibilities (1) that an original Gaelic name for this area such as “leth gabhail” might well have been translated into Latin as Lethgavel, Lethgauinn etc or (2) that leth gabhail came later as a Gaelic translation of the Latin word Lethgavel.  My inclination would be that the former possibility is a more likely scenario.


It is also interesting to note that Johnston gives a different suggestion in Gaelic for the origin of the place name Ledingham to that given by Milne above. Milne quotes Leathad a’ Ghabhainn, meaning “hillside where there was a fold” as the origin of the name whereas Johnston suggests “leth gabhail”.  Unfortunately I do not possess the necessary skills in Gaelic or Latin to be able to comment on which of these suggestions might be correct and will have to refer this question to those who have more knowledge and expertise in this area.


  As indicated earlier, however, in my opinion the foremost writer in the field of place name and surname study in Scotland and elsewhere has undoubtedly been Professor Wilhelm Nicolaisen. His books and articles over the years since the publication of “Scottish Place-Names” in 1976, [Ref.27], have contributed massively to our understanding of Scottish place-names and surnames.  Unfortunately to date Professor Nicolaisen has not published any material on the Ledingham place name and surname in the North East of Scotland although he has written about names with an “ingham” element elsewhere in the country.  He has also looked at how language developed in North East Scotland from Pictish and pre-Celtic beginnings to Gaelic and English/Scots, all of which is vital to an understanding of how the Ledingham place name and surname may have originated.  As indicated earlier, in response to an e-mail from Professor Nicolaisen, he requested that I prepare a list for him giving all the examples I could find of the Ledingham place name and surname in various historical and other documents with all their variations giving details of the source and date of these examples. This list has now been sent to Professor Nicolaisen and it is to be hoped that it will be of assistance in taking forward the search for the origins of the Ledingham name.



As part of my recent research into the origin of the Ledingham name I have been examining various letters, charters and papers relating to the activities of King Edward the First of England in his wars with Scotland during the period 1272 to 1307.  These documents were contained in a volume published by HM Register House in 1884 edited by Joseph Bain called “Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland”, [Ref.28].  It was of interest to me that there were a considerable number of place names and surnames in the documents which contained “ingham” or something similar as part of the name.  Place names such as Nottingham, Birmingham, Coningham, Evelingham or Evelingjam, Rokingham and Aldingham amongst others appear along with people such as Robert de Coningham, Hugh de Cressingham, John de Metingham, William de Bellingham, John de Pampingham, Geoffry de Brantingham, John de Bekingham, Gilbert de Edelingham amongst others.  All these names have one thing in common.  They are Anglo-Saxon in origin.


It could be that the name Ledingham therefore is not Celtic or Gaelic but is in fact Anglo-Saxon in origin.   The "ingham" part of the name as indicated above is found in a number of surnames and place names especially in England.   According to Kenneth O. Morgan in “The Oxford History of Britain”, [Ref.29] the "ing" part of the name means the"tribe" or "people" and the "ham" suffix means the "homestead of ".   Ledingham would seem to mean therefore "the homestead of Led`s people", “Led”, or something similar, being the name of the chief of the tribe or group of people.


Based on my initial research I thought that one possibility as to how the Ledingham surname came to be associated with the North-East of Scotland was that there might have been a movement at some point of one or more individuals called Ledingham or something similar from England to the North East of Scotland.  From my reading it seemed to me that it might have had something to do with the Scottish kings and nobles and their efforts to colonise this part of the world with Anglo-Saxon, Norman or other non-Celtic families which happened at various times over the years.  This colonisation process is referred to in the book “Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch” by Rev. Davidson and in other texts, e.g. “Scottish Life before 1500” by Sidney Wood, [Ref.30] and “A History of Aberdeen and Banff ” by William Watt,[Ref.31].


It would appear that the Scottish kings and nobility after 1093 or thereabouts were very welcoming towards folk from South of the Border including many Norman families, who had been gradually extending their influence and presence in Britain following the Norman Conquest in 1066.   The Scottish kings David 1, [1124-1153], William 1, [1153-1165] and Malcolm IV, [1165-1214] in particular brought English nobles to Scotland where they were given lands and titles.   According to K J Stringer on page 225 of his book “Earl David of Huntingdon, 1152 to 1219”, [Ref.32], Earl David was involved in granting land in the Garioch to various Anglo-Saxon and Norman families around the year 1185.  Amongst others, Robert of Billingham was granted “one ploughgate in the district of Durnachehell,     (Durnoin Chapel of Garioch) and a toft in David’s Burgh of Inverurie”.   His brother, Simon of Billingham, was given a similar award but this time in “Durno and Lethenty in the Chapel of Garioch”.  These lands are not all that far away from Culsalmond and are the earliest references to a surname which I have found linked to this area which contains the Anglo-Saxon element “ingham”.  Unfortunately there is no mention in the records I have looked at thus far of a “Ledingham” family being granted territory in the Garioch or being brought in as servants by the various Anglo-Saxon or Norman nobles who took over land in this area.

As I indicated earlier, however, if the first Ledingham arrived in the Garioch area around 1185 or shortly thereafter then I would have expected a higher number of Ledinghams to have been recorded for Poll Tax purposes in 1696.   Based on the assumption that one male child was born every few years and survived long enough to have children of his own there would have been a considerable number of Ledinghams in the Garioch by 1696 had this been the case.   Of course disease, famine and infant mortality might have reduced the population of the area and led to a smaller number of people with this surname by this date but as yet I have not come across anything in my research which makes reference to significant events of this type in this area which would have caused such a reduction.  I must conclude therefore that it was not David, the first Earl of Huntingdon who might have brought someone with the Ledingham name into the Garioch around 1185 and that we must look elsewhere as to the origin of the family name.

Interestingly Dorward, in referring to the origins of other Scottish surnames, which incorporate the Anglo-Saxon “ingham” element, has made a number of observations about the name Fotheringham which may be of relevance to the origins of the Ledingham surname.  He indicates that the Fotheringhay estate was in the hands of the Scottish Royal family in the 12th century as part of the lands belonging to a second Earl of Huntingdon who in 1331 was crowned King David II of Scotland at the tender age of seven.  There followed a particularly savage period in Scottish history, which saw David II exiled to France for several years and the captive house guest of Edward III in England for several more. Dorward indicates however that when David II returned to Scotland in 1357 he rewarded various English nobles with lands and estates in Scotland.  Henry de Fodringhay was granted land near Dundee and other friends and relatives of David were granted territory in Angus and elsewhere.  It may be therefore that it was not David the first Earl of Huntingdon who was instrumental in introducing the Ledingham name into this area but his descendent David who went on to be King of Scotland who brought more Anglo-Saxon and Norman families into different parts of Scotland during his reign including the Garioch.

When writing the first version of this paper I indicated I had received information about the possible origin of the Ledingham name from an organisation called the Hall of Names which was at that time based in Canada. This organisation now has a European base with the website address www.hallofnames.org.uk,[Ref.33]. Their website features an interesting range of genealogically orientated commercial products including wall charts which they claim illustrates the history and origin of various family names.  Whilst some of the information given by this organisation needs to be taken with a pinch of salt their explanation as to the origin of the Ledingham name does merit some consideration.  What they say in their wall chart on the Ledingham name is that it originated from a place called Leadenham in Lincolnshire which appears in the Doomsday Book in 1086.  At that time the land belonged to a Count Alan whose tenants were a couple by the name of Colegrim and Derinc.  This information can be verified by visiting the online Doomsday Book website at www.doomesdaybook.co.uk/lincolnshire4.html,[Ref. 34] but here the spelling of the place name is given as both Leadenham and Ledeneham.


The Hall of Names go on to make the rather grandiose claim that the surname Ledingham emerged as a notable family name in the county of Lincolnshire but the only examples they are able to give are - a Hugh de Ledenham who succeeded to the Leadenham estate in 1200 and another Hugh de Ledenham who was recorded in 1302 as owning land and estates in Lincoln.  Another name which they say was significant in Lincolnshire at this time was “Lednum”, which sounds as if it might be a variation on the Ledenham name. This suggests that further research might be worthwhile to see if this name is related in any way to the Ledingham name.  From an examination of the most recently published telephone directories for Lincolnshire, however, there are no families with the surname Lednum, seven with the surname Ledenham and only one Ledingham!

The Hall of Names does make a suggestion about how the “Ledingham” name might have been transported from Lincolnshire to Scotland. They indicate that during the time of the Norman Kings there were many feudal rebellions.  Many Barons and their families moved away from their estates to get away from royal influence “even into Scotland”.   Unfortunately the Hall of Names put these events as taking place during the 12th century which as indicated above does not fit with the number of Ledinghams recorded in 1696 in Aberdeenshire and therefore must be rejected in my view as an explanation for the family name appearing in North East Scotland at that time.

It could be of course that there was a later movement of Ledenhams or Lednums from Lincolnshire to Aberdeenshire which would account for the relatively small number of Ledingham families in this part of the world in 1696.   If such a movement took place around 1357 when King David the second returned to Scotland, after his exile in England for several years, this scenario might be more realistic.  This is pure speculation of course and I have found no evidence thus far in my research for such a migration.   When contacted about this suggestion the Family History Society in Lincolnshire indicated that they were not aware of any evidence that there had been such a connection between Lincolnshire and Aberdeenshire and did not think that the Ledingham name was linked to that part of the world, [personal communication with Lincolnshire Family History Society]

Professor Nicholaisen, to whom I have referred earlier, in fact stated to me in an e-mail that unless there were strong genetic indicators that there might be such a link I should dismiss Lincolnshire as a possible source for the Ledingham surname.  If it was possible to obtain DNA samples from folk with the Ledenham surname in Lincolnshire, or elsewhere, and compare the results with those of the Ledingham clan this might of course settle the matter once and for all but to date such a study has not taken place.  I would have to say therefore that at this point in time the jury is still out about the Hall of Names’ suggestion that the Ledingham surname originated in Lincolnshire.

Whilst on the subject of place names which might be linked to the Ledingham name it might be worthwhile mentioning here that there is a town near Boulogne in Normandy which is called “Ledinghem”. Whether it has any connection with the Ledingham name and whether the Ledingham clan originated there and came over to Britain during the Norman Invasion or afterwards are questions which suggest possible avenues for further research. For the moment however there are other aspects of my family history which need to be explored.  


As yet I have not had time to go back beyond 1696 in my search for my own family roots.  In that year according to the Poll Tax records mentioned previously a John Ledinghame is recorded as being a tenant farmer at Hattoun in the Parish of Oyne, Aberdeenshire along with his mother Jean Adam and his sister Marjorie Ledinghame.   I am reasonably certain that this John Ledinghame is my great, great, great, great, great grandfather but as records before 1780 are not so reliable I cannot be one hundred per cent certain that this is the case.


On 20/02/1704 a James Leddingham was baptised at Auchleven in the parish of Oyne.  His father’s name is given as John Leddinghame and is I am sure the same John Ledinghame listed above residing in Hattoun in 1696.   James Leddingham went on to have children of his own, amongst whom was a John Ledingham christened at Premnay near Insch in Aberdeenshire on 9/03/1741.   John, who was described as a farmer, subsequently married a Jean Weir on 22/8/1780 a Kirkton of Premnay in Aberdeenshire.  From this point on my family tree is secure but before that time it is not possible to be completely certain of the individuals involved and their family connections.   In due course I would hope to firm up the information gained to date and who knows perhaps trace my roots to an earlier member of the Ledingham clan.


John and his wife are recorded as having had six children amongst whom was an Alexander Ledingham, baptised at Kirkton of Premnay in Aberdeenshire who was my great, great grandfather.   Alexander was a blacksmith in Premnay and also had six children including a John Ledingham, my great grandfather, who also worked as a blacksmith in Premnay.  His son Alexander Ledingham was born at Premnay and after working as a blacksmith there moved to Huntly in Aberdeenshire where he married a Janet Wight in 1891.   He then moved to Alloa in Clackmannanshire with his family including my father, Ernest Ledingham, who was a tool maker with the agricultural implement manufacturer, Sellars.   My father and mother had two children, James Alexander Ledingham and myself, Kenneth George, both born in Alloa.


So there you have it, or just about. Recently a new found kinsman, Professor Iain Ledingham and I had DNA samples tested in the United States by the company FamilytreeDNA.com, [Ref 35].  The results show that the two of us are indeed related but who our common ancestor might be remains unresolved as yet.  Iain has traced his paternal ancestry back to a George Ledingham who was born around 1801 in the parish of Culsalmond ,Aberdeenshire.  He worked as a farmer and as a quarrier in the slate quarries of the Glens of Foudland around Bainshole and Skares so geographically he was not all that far away from my folks in Premnay and Auchleven but where our families might link up we have yet to discover.


As far as the DNA analysis is concerned both of us are shown to belong to a particular DNA type called Haplotype I1. In a recent e-mail from Professor Ken Nordvedt, who is the recognised authority on this haplotype, he suggested that our DNA results quite clearly show that Professor Ledingham and I have our origins in a Saxon tribe from North West Germany who migrated to the British Isles in the 5th century AD or perhaps later during the Norman invasion of Britain.  According to Professor Nordvert it is not possible to determine at this stage whether our ancestors were Angle, Saxon, Jute or possibly even Viking although he thinks this last link less likely.  This information does, however, I think strongly suggest that the Ledingham name is Anglo-Saxon in origin rather than Celtic.  Further analysis will hopefully allow for more precise attribution to be made as the science of genealogical DNA testing develops and becomes more sophisticated.



1.  Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch, RevJohn Davidson, pub. by A.Brown & co.,     1878.


2. Lindores Abbey and the Burgh of Newburgh, Alexander Laing, pub. by Edmonston and   

Douglas, Edinburgh, 1876.


3. Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores,1195-1479, edited by the Right Rev. John Dowden,

 DD., University of Edinburgh Press, 1903.


4. Bull of Pope Nicholas IV, 1291, Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, pub.by

    the Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1862.


5. Society of Genealogists Information Leaflet No7, “The relevance of surnames in

    genealogy”, taken from their website, http://www.sog.org.uk,9/04/2001.


6.  Family Names and Family History, David Hey, pub.by Hambledon and London, 2000.


7. Surnames and Medieval PopularCulture, Professor Wilhelm Nicolaisen, pub. in the Journal of Popular Culture, number 14, I(1980), pages 119-130, reproduced in his book “In the Beginning was the Name” pages81 to 94, pub. by the Scottish Place Name Society, 2011.


8. Records of the Sheriff Court of Aberdeenshire, edited by David Littlejohn LLD., volume

     one, pub.by the New Spalding Club, 1904.


9. Understanding Documents for Genealogyand Local History, Bruce Durie, The History

     Press,Gloucestershire, 2013.


10. Charter no.1964, 23nd November 1591, Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, editor

     James B. Paul, pub.by Clark Constable, 1984.


11. Charter no. 172, 2ndOctober, 1594, ibid.


12.Charter no 1032, 31st March, 1600, ibid.


13.Charter no 355, 2nd August, 1610, ibid.


14.Charter no. 899, 30th July, 1613, ibid.


15.Charter no.13, 4th April 1620, ibid.


16.Charter no. 332, 22nd December 1662, ibid.


17.Charter no. 967, 7th September 1666, ibid.


18.Map by Robert Gordon of Strathloch, 1640, National Library of Scotland, 2001.


19. Map by Robert Gordon of Strathloch,1654, Collection for a history of the Shires of

       Aberdeen and Banff, ed. Joseph Robertson, pub.by the Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1843.


20.  List of Pollable Persons within the Shire ofAberdeen, 1696, volume one, edited by John

     Stuart, pub. by the Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1844.


21.Celtic Place-names in Aberdeenshire, John Milne, pub. by Aberdeen Daily Journals,



22.  The Place Names of West Aberdeenshire, JamesMcDonald, pub. by the Spalding Club,

     Aberdeen, 1899.


23. The Surnames of Scotland, George F.Black, pub .by New York Public Library, 1965.


24. The Place Names of Aberdeenshire, WilliamAlexander, pub. by the Third Spalding

       Club, Aberdeen, 1952.


25. Scottish Surnames, David Dorward, pub.by Collins, 2000.


26. Place Names of Scotland, James B.Johnston, pub. by D. Douglas, London, 1892.


27. Scottish Place Names, Their Study and Significance, W.F.H.Nicolaisen, originally pub.

       byB.T.Batsford, London, 1976, new edition pub. by John Donald, Edinburgh, 2001,  

      revised edition pub. 2011.


28.Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, Vol.11, 1272-1407, edited by Joseph

      Bain, H.M.Register House, Edinburgh,1884.


29.The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, Kenneth O. Morgan, Guild Publishing,



30. Scottish Life before 1500, Sydney Wood, pub.by Cheltenham Stanley Thornes, 1995.


31. A History of Aberdeen and Banff, WilliamWatt, pub by William Blackwood & Sons,



32. Earl David of Huntingdon, 1152 to 1219,K J Stringer, pub. by Edinburgh University

       Press,1985, page 225.  


33. Hall of Names International, Kingston,Ontario, Canada, now Hall of Names Europe,



34.The Doomsday Book, www.domesdaybook.co.uk/lincolnshire4.html


35.Family Tree DNA- Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd., 1445 North Loop West, Suite 820,     

Houston, Texas 77008, USA,