CHALMERS - Genealogical History: Balnacraig Preface


Prefatory Note to the Family of Chalmers of Balnacraig

The following is the Prefatory Note of "A Genealogical History of the Family of Chalmers of Balnacraig and Cadet Branches," by Alex. M. Munro and published in 1901. See also "Origin of the Surname Chalmers and an Account of the Arms of the Family."

I would like to thank Guy Ingram of Australia for bringing the book to my attention, and for sending me large extracts from it - and Eileen Young, Library Assistant at the Aberdeen Central Library, who bore with me with great patience, whilst I organised payment for a copy of the entire book from the library.


The late Mr. Patrick Henderson Chalmers, Advocate was for many years engaged in collecting material for illustrating the history of the Chalmers Family, and at his death the whole of the collection and notes were handed to me.

In 1885 Mr. Chalmers printed for private circulation two papers entitled (1) "Memorandum of Information as to the Branch of the Family of Chalmers, from which Principal George Chalmers D.D. was decscended" and (2) "Memorandum as to the History of the Branch of the Family of Chalmers, descened from Hugh Chalmer, Minister of Marnoch".

The memoranda, consisting of extracts from the Public Registers, Session Records and such like sources, contained to date of their publication the facts he had gleaned concerning those two branches of the family, from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century. The papers were really intended by him as sketches to favilitate reference and to elicit additional information. Between 1885 and his death in 1889 Mr. Chalmers added considerably to his notes, but so far as I could see had not mapped out any scheme for utilising the infromation collected by him.

When the papers were handed to me at the request of the late Mr. John Grey Chalmers it became a labour of some time to analyse them with a view of ascertaining how far they would furnish a sketch of the family, and any pretence to be representative. At the conclusion of this preliminary work I resolved to confine the history to the Balnacraig Family and those of Aldbar; Balbithan and Wester Disblair; Sleepiehillock; Murthill, Methlic and Cults, and Strichen, - all cadets of the parent house.

At a later stage of the work I was confirmed in this conclusion as my opinion was strengthened that the ancient family of Chalmers of Gadgirth in Ayrshire and the House of Balnacraig had nothing in common as regards their origin beyond the fact that the surname was the joint heritage of both. This circumstance, which in most instances would be considered an important link in the connection between the two familes, was in reality in their case the accident that the progenitors of both held office at a time when the name of the office was being fixed as the surname of the individual. This fact in a more or less degree is true in other cases where the same surname need not imply affinity or relationship

In confining the History of the Balnacriag Family and Cadets I have not been able to include several members boasting the family surname and who have been connected with the locality by birth. Apart from the Strichen Family, referred to at the proper place, there is that of Pittensear in Morayshire whose actual connection I have been unable to determine, as also that of the Minister of Glass and his descendants who doubtless whould have a part in the History. Some notes regarding these have been placed in an appendix.

Although the members of the family cannot be said to have taken a prominent part in the shaping of great historical events of their time, they have nevertheless annals that cannot be ignored by those desirous of having a clear and well infromed idea of the history of the North. David Chalmers of Ormond in the stormy days of Queen Mary played no insignificant part, and played it perhaps with little credit to the family name, although he ultimately was reinstated in his former position as one of the judges of the Supreme Court.

In the domain of the church the family seem to have been especially conspicuous, for in the following pages twenty eight members will be found connected either with the pre- or post- Reformation Church. Few families indeed we imagine could show such a record. To the University of Aberdeen the family gave two Principals and three professors, while the late head of the English Presbyterian Church College was also a Chalmers. In civic life they took an active part, and no less than seven members readhed the high office of Chief Magistrate of Aberdeen. The office of Sherriff Clerk in the counties of Aberdeen and Banff was four times occupied by a Chalmers, while three town-clerks of Aberdeen were members of the family.

No conspicuous names appear in the area of liteerature, yet in the beginning of the last century Alexander Chalmers, of the Biographical Dictionary, did good service in editing the numerous publications attributed to him; George Chalmers in his "Caledonia" made a unique contribution towards the study of the antiquities of his native country, and at a later date Patrick Chalmers of Aldbar did much in the same line for his own county of Angus. Nor is it forgotten that it was to the foresight and enterprise of a member of this family that the first newspaper north of the Forth owes its origin, while its existence for over a century was watched and cared for by his descendants.

In the Services, both Army and Navy, no fewer than twelve members find a place, while the learned professions a goodly representation is to be found in law and medicine. In the former there is a Member of Parliament and a Sherriff while Dr. James Chalmers, Physician to James VI and Charles I maintians the reputation of the family in the latter department.

In thus briefly summarising the achievments of some of its members, I do so with the object of justifying the remark already made that the annals of the Chalmers family, possessing nothing of a very remarkable character, are still worthy of preservation. These annals it is hoped will add something to the material being collected towards that fuller history of our Northern Counties which will help in a greater degree to a better understanding and fuller appreceiation of the part played by them in the development and history of the country


A.M.M. March, 1901


"Origin of the Surname Chalmers and an Account of the Arms of the Family." from the same document by Munro.

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