Home    Next

The Border Reivers Website




Scattered throughout the world are the descendants of the families who lived in the Anglo-Scottish Borders during the times of the Border reivers.

Many of these family were themselves reivers and almost all of them suffered through reiving.

The spirit of these families, with their own unique histories, traditions and loyalties are still alive today and you may be member of this great fraternity.


In 1587 a Scottish act of parliament referred to the inhabitants of the Scottish Borders, as well as the Highlands, as clans, while the English borderers are usually referred to as families.

However, for those who are anxious to establish Scottish ancestry, many surnames were established on both sides of the Border.]

When referring to Border surnames variations in spelling should be discounted. Some names have a dozen or more variations.

Some of the larger clans had branches, or septs, which do not always feature in lists of Border names. Septs of the Armstrong Clan, for example, are the Crosiers and Nixons. While still keeping their own surname sept members lived under the protection of the major group.

Allegiance to one’s own family was stronger than any other ties. even that of nationality. Such was the family bond, it was the obligation of a family member to support another member no matter what the circumstances. Thus an erring member often dragged the whole family into disputes and the whole clan would fall out of favour with the authorities. Worse, perhaps, was when another clan was involved when soured relations could quite easily develop into a feud between the two families. Family feuds were common and often lasted long after the cause of the dispute was forgotten.

One of the bitterest and most lengthy feuds was between the  Maxwells and the Johnstones who were intermittently at feud for several hundred years.  Feuding not only occurred between clans or families. The Kerrs of Ferniehirst and the Kers of Cessford both of the same clan, were at feud with each other for decades.

South of the Border, in Northumberland, the Greys were at feud with the Widdringtons and the Selbys with the Collingwoods. And so it went on, the resulting hostilities, adding to the misery caused by reivers and the many incursions of the national armies.

After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the more troublesome clans, or rather those out of favour with the King, were dispersed often quite brutally. The families living in Liddesdale were particularly harshly treated, being dispossessed of their lands and their homes destroyed whether they were involved in reiving or not, although it must be admitted, that virtually all of them were.

Scattered groups of these dispossessed people found their way to Ireland and some further away to America. Others moved south into the Tyne valley where they were later employed by the industrial explosion in Northumberland and Durham during the 19th century.

Now, reiving surnames are found throughout the world. They are all Border stock

Go to:

Border surnames