The Downie families (and associated surnames) who can trace their family lines back to the West of Scotland through paper or genetics do not appear to have ever been a large family.  At the 1841 census of the highland parishes identifies that there were approximately 131 individuals with the Downie surname mainly concentrated in Argyll.  By that time nearly all the previous examples of the surname i.e. Mcildownie had has ceased to exist in Scottish birth, marriage, death and census records and in their stead the surname Downie is found. Previous to this, from baptism registers there were more Downie families, but numerous social and political factors such as the highland clearances contributed to them moving far from home.

The surnames that appear in the various parish records are often variations on the same theme being the phonetic of Domhnaich or Donich being DoE-ne.  It appears that this interpretation was often at the discretion or hearing of the person taking the notes of baptism.  Examples of this can be seen when the parish registrar is changed (observed by a change in handwriting) and the surname is spelt differently.  Some surname spellings are unique to a particular parish, for example the name Mcildownie is predominant in the <?Glasgow, western Stirling, Mcgildonie in Inverchaolain, McAldonich in Glenorchy, Mcilghunie, or Mcildunie in western Perth around Killin and McOldonich, or McIldonich in Inverness.

The development of the surnames must be viewed in the social and political context of the time.  There is a vast array of books, articles and discussion on the changes that were going on during the time in which the Downie name derived in Highland Scotland.  If possible to sum up the situation in one line; Scotland was developing as a nation and that the language of choice was Lowland Scottish, not the Gaelic of the highlands which had fallen out of favour and those names with a Gaelic bent were replaced with their anglicised version.

I have enjoyed pulling together the threads that existed and proposing the theories surrounding the information that I had found.  In completing this research I have had three very positive experiences, the first is with the various Clan Associations and the wealth of knowledge that they hold.  As the time between the big waves of immigrations increase it is my observation that some of the Clans are losing members, this is a shame because they hold vast amounts of knowledge and care of your family history.  I thoroughly recommend all people of Scottish descent to find their clans and connect with the various associations and through very small costs to join and small or large amounts of participation you can keep that history alive.

In particular the following Clan Associations have been excellent in assisting with either information or guidance, Clan Lamont who membership have patiently listened to my various hypotheses, provided me with countless avenues of enquires and friendly encouragement; Clan Lindsay who’s association is tireless in their efforts and have provided support and information; Clan Donald who were kind enough to provide information and sympathy knowing some history of the surname; Clan MacMillan who’s genealogist has done some fantastic work that they have been kind enough to publish some of this information on line that has supported this investigation and the members of the Clan Buchanan who have been kind enough to publish excellent information on the various web sites.

The second experience that I have had and can highly recommend, is the people that you meet and can help when doing this type of research.  I have met some fantastic people while examining the Downie surname, in particular a namesake but from different genetic backgrounds is Craig Downie.  Craig is a wealth of knowledge on matters pertaining to the Downie surname in Scotland and the benefits of family DNA testing.

Issues that requires further investigation is any possible association between the Mcildownie and Mcildowie surnames.  The latter has often been stated to be anglacised to the surname Dowie or Black from the Gaelic.  Dowie is probably a reduced form of MacIldowie/McAldowie, an anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Gille Dhuibh ‘son of the black lad’ (Reference).  The Scottish Surname Database described how the Dounie (Downie) surname has been used in conjunction with the Dowie, Douie, Dowy, Douie, Doyie, Duie surname (Reference) Further to that is the association of the surname Brown with that of Downie, with instances found where the surname Douney was anglacised to Brown within the same family.  Hopefully further DNA testing can assist in tracing the patterns of these name changes.  The area of Patronymics requires more investigation and from my basic observations the practices lasted longer in the North of Scotland that the South, making the investigations of the surname in the Inverness area very difficult.

On DNA testing for genealogical purposes, I am thankful and astonished at the great work being done by so many people in the genealogy community.  Where paper trails can falter or families rely on false or distorted information passed down the generations or just plain misconceptions, the results of DNA test do not lie.  In a world of good guesses to trace your family history DNA testing is an important ‘factual’ tool that can dispel all manner of myths and misconceptions.  I am not saying that it is perfect, but has a high level of reliability and validity in helping to identify your family history.  Therefore, if you have ever thought about family DNA testing do not hesitate.  Regardless of which DNA Company you choose to go with, the costs for the basic test are reasonable, easy to do (just rubbing the inside of your mouth to obtain skin samples) and are at a level that can only be used for examining your family history.  Please remember to publish your information to YSearch.  YSearch is a public site where DNA profiles from the different companies can be published and compared.

Finally, the last positive experience is that of connecting with ‘long lost’ family members that otherwise would have been consigned and lost to memory.  It appears that each thread of the families has some scholarly soul who is interested in the family history and this has allowed me to get and remain in contact with relatives in Scotland, United States and Australia and for that I am eternally grateful.

 Senior Sergeant Damian Downie