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Sapere Aude Incipe
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BIRNIE, a surname derived from a parish of that name in the county of Elgin. About the beginning of the thirteenth century this parish was named Brenuth, “a name probably derived from Brae-nut, that is, ‘high land abounding in nuts;’ for many hazel trees once grew upon the sides of the hills and banks of the rivulets, and the general appearance of the parish is hilly. The natives pronounce it Burn-nigh – that is, ‘a village near the burn or river.’ This etymology is descriptive enough of the particular place now called Birnie.” [Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. ix. p. 155.] As a specimen of the absurd and oftentimes fabulous accounts given by genealogists of the origin of old families we find in Nisbet’s Heraldry, (Appendix, vol. ii. page 68,) the following Sennachy’s tradition of the origin of the family of Birnie, said to have been formerly in the possession of the Birnies of Brocmhill; – One Birnie (an Irish word signifying bright, a name bestowed upon him from his glittering armour), with his two sons, were in the army of Kenneth the Second, king of the Scots, raised to avenge the death of his father, Alpin, by the Picts in 838 or thereby, and when pressing furiously one evening into the thickest of the Pictish force, were all made prisoners, and chained by the leg to a stock of wood. To obtain their freedom, says the legend, they cut off their bound leg, and in the next battle were observed – upon their remaining leg – to behave themselves with extraordinary courage. In reward of their valour, a barony of lands near Elgin was bestowed upon the father by the victor, which still bears his name. And in confirmation of the fable, it is gravely added, that – (in anticipation, we suppose, of an institution and of terms not known in Scotland until centuries afterwards) – he gave them for their arms Gules, in resemblance of a bloody battle, a Fesse, the mark of honour, betwixt a bow and arrow in full draught, and three legs couped on the thigh. It might have been nearer the truth to have conjectured that as Byrne of Birnie is obviously derived from Biron (the origin of the modern English Byron) pronounced short as in France, Birnie may have been the usual diminutive of Birony, as Barry, from Bar, and that Birony, like Barry and others, may have been the name of some Anglo-Norman follower of Malcolm IV., who received a grant of lands in Moray (Elgin) on the occasion of the conquest and transportation thence of the native inhabitants. PLEASE SELECT A Y-DNA37 or Y-DNA67 MARKER TEST as the 12 marker test does not give us enough information for effective matching.