Family History & Genealogy in Niagara County, NY

OLIPHANT History in Scotland & England

1,000 Years of OLIPHANTs

Donald Oliphant, a Norwegian nobleman was imprisoned by Donald Bane, King of Scots, 1093.* Laurence Oliphant, 11th from Donald, was created a peer by King James II as Baron Oliphant in 1456.

*See below: "in the reign of Donald I., King of Scotland, a noble Norwegian called Sir Donald (or Daniel) de Holifard or Olifard, was taken prisoner by the Scottish monarch": Domnall mac Ailpín (Donald I) was king of the Picts from 858 to 862. So Donald HOLIFARD/OLIFARD (OLIPHANT) arrived between 858 and 862 AD/CE in the 9th Century; not during the reign of Donald Bane.

Few houses have made a greater figure in the annals of Scotland than that of "Holifard," "Olifard," "Olifart," or "Oliphant". The traditional accounts of their origin are various. Some assert that, when Harold, King of Norway, invaded Scotland with a powerful fleet, and army, in the reign of Donald I., King of Scotland, a noble Norwegian called Sir Donald (or Daniel) de Holifard or Olifard, was taken prisoner by the Scottish monarch; and being a man of rank and distinction, was treated according to his quality and merit. A peace being eventually concluded, Sir Donald
had liberty to return home ; but having contracted a friendship with several of the first families, he married, and settled in Scotland; and is said to have been the remote progenitor of all the Olifards or Oliphants in Scotland. Be this as it may, the very remote progenitor of this most ancient and noble family, by unquestionable documents, was Sir David de Holifard or Olifard, a man of rank and figure in Scotland, in the reign of Alexander I. He appears to have been much about the court of David I.
The Baronage of Angus and Mearns

By Peter David McGregor
p. 269

In Douglas' Scottish Peerage we meet with the following record: "Few families have made a greater figure in the annals of Scotland than that of Oliphant, yet traditional accounts of their origin are various. Some allege that when Harrold, King of Norway invaded Scotland with a powerful fleet and army in the reign of King Donald VI, a noble Norwegian, called Sir Donald Oliphant,* was taken prisoner by the King of Scots, and being a man of rank and distinction, was treated according to his quality and merit. A peace being afterwards concluded, Sir Donald had liberty to return home; but having contracted a friendship with several of the first families, he married and settled in this country, and is said to be the progenitor of all the Oliphants in Scotland."
from: Legends of Strathisla, Inverness-shire, and Strathbogie: with an appendix. Third Edition. J. M'Gillivray, 1862

* note: most sources give Donald's name as Holifard, Holifarth, etc., not Oliphant. The surname later appears as Olifard, before being modified to Olifaunt, Oliphant, etc.

David Olifard, the first of this ancient family on record, served in the army of King Stephen against the Empress Maud, anno 1141, and having, during the war, rescued from ambuscade David I. of Scotland, who had espoused the opposite cause, received from that monarch a grant of the lands of Crailing and Smallham, in Roxburghshire; and had the honor of being the earliest justiciary of Scotland of whom any record appears.

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of The Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland; by John Burke, Esq.; Vol. I; p.493

The first known Oliphant landholding was in England at Lilleford in Northampton by the family of David Olifard, who is commonly held to be the progenitor of the clan. In 1141 he was granted lands at Crailing and Smailholm – both in Roxburghshire, Scotland – by King David I of Scotland who had risen from being the Earl of Huntingdon following the deaths of his own elder brothers. David Olifard was granted these lands for saving his godfather's (David I's) life at the Battle of Winchester in that year. David Olifard also had a brother called Osbert, which name may have emanated from his namesake in Normandy one hundred years before. David was also made Chief Justiciar of Lothian, second only in rank in Scotland after David I's brother, who was Chief Justiciar of Scotia.
David Olifard's son Sir Walter Olifard, the second Justiciar, in 1173 married Christian, the daughter of Ferchar, Earl of Strathearn. Her dowry was the lands of Strageath. However, ten years later in 1183 they were exchanged for others at Aberdalgie, which became the principal Oliphant seat for nearly four hundred and fifty years.  

David de Olifard is said to have accompanied the retreat of David I. from Winchester in 1142. David I. certainly gave the companion of his journey the manors of Smallham and Crailing in Roxburghshire. David Olifard had the honor to be the first Justiciary of Lothian of which any record appears. In this important character he appeared during the year 1165; and he continued to act as justiciary for several years under William the Lion. When he died appears not, but he left five sons - David, William, Walter, Philip, and Falco, who all appeared in the chartularies during William's reigh. David Olifard inherited the effects of his father, and he died at the end of the twelfth century, leaving two sons, Walter and David. Walter inherited the estates of his father, and acted with applause as justiciary of Lothian for more than twenty years under Alexander II. There was not a person in Scotland during that intrigueing age, who was more trusted in public councils or in private affairs, or was more worthy of trust, than Walter Olifard. He married Christian, the daughter of the Earl of Stratheran, with whom he obtained an estate in that Gaelic district. This seems to have been the first settlement of this family in Perthshire. Walter's brother, David, married Johanna the heiress of Calder, in Lanarkshire, wherein he planted the Olifards. This name was afterwards softened to Oliphant; and from this stock sprung the several branches of the Oliphants in Scotland. They acquired the peerage from James II. There was another Olifard who settled among the Gaelic people of the Mearns during the reign of David I. He was probably a brother of the first Olifard who settled in Roxburghshire. Osbert Olifart was sheriff of the Mearns under Malcolm IV. His only daughter married Hugh, who was designed de Aberbuthenoth, from the name of his estate, and who was the progenitor of the Viscounts of Arbuthnot, and of other respectable families of the same name, who are all descended of the blood of the Olifards.

Caledonia: or A Historical and Topograhical Account of North Britain From The Most Ancient To The Present Times; By George Chalmers; New Edition: Vol. II; 1887; pgs 515-516


At Sterling, in 1230, William Comyn, "Erle of Buchane and Justice of Scotland," as well as "Walter Olifard, Justice of Louthiane," and Malcolm, Erle of "Fyffe," were present at a Council held by Alexander II. (page 515)

The family of Comyn is well known in history, and that of Olifard seems to have figured in the front rank under the Celtic kings from the middle of the twelfth century, since the name occurs in 1154 as that witness to an Act of Malcolm IV. among the highest nobles in the kingdom. (page 516)

The references to the Justices of Scotland and Lothian occur in various Acts of this reign besides those already mentioned. Thus at Scone in 1227 we find William Comyn, Earl of Buchan and Justice of Scotland, as a witness immediately after the Chancellor of the Kingdom; and Walter Olifard, Justice of Lothian, as well as his clerk, witnesses another Act at Roxburgh in 1231, and again "apud Listun" in 1235. (page 516)

The offices of Justicar in Scotland and in Lothian were practically vested in the great families of Comyn and Olifard (Oliphant): and we have succeeded in tracing a reference to a third Justiciar in the person of John Comyn (Rymer's Foedera), who is described in 1258 as "Justiciar' Galwediae." If we take the Olifard family to illustrate this hereditary Justiciarship, for such as it was, there is evidence of their possession of the Lothian office from somewhere about 1150 to the year 1247 at any rate. Thus, soon after 1142, David Olifard, the first of the family who came from England, is described as "Justicirius Laudonie," whilst his brother Osbert, who appears from an incidental allusion in certain deeds to have held lands called Kirknewton of Arbuthnot, is designed Sheriff and Forester of the Mearns. David's son and grandson became Justiciars of Lothian in succession, and an Olifard is mentioned as holding that office in 1222. In 1223, as "Justiciary of our lord the king," we find him settling a dispute about the lands at Stobo in 1226. Alexander II. confirmed to the church of Melrose a grant of certain lands, and Walter Olifard was present; as also in 1228 and in 1229, when the lands of Dunscore in Dumfriesshire were granted to the monks of Melrose. In 1230 this Justiciar attended the King's Council at Sterling, and in 1231 he and his clerk David are at Roxburgh. We read of the measurement of certain land of Saltoun, "as it was measured to me by Sir Walter Olifard, Justiciary of Laudonia," showing what a serious portion of the duties may have been concerned with the civil work of delimitation. In 1235 we find Walter Olifard, "apud Listun," as a witness, and his death and burial at Melrose is recorded in 1242. There does not appear to be any reference after this to the Olifards as Justices of Lothian, except one in 1247, when William Olifard is so described; but in 1248, Grahame seems at any rate to have been acting as Justiciar. When consideration is given to the fact that the Olifards owned large estates on Tweedside, in the valley of the Clyde, and latterly in Perthshire, we can readily perceive the policy which placed them in so exalted a judicial position. (page 520)

Justicars of Lothian: 1142 David Olifard; 1178 Walter Olifard; 1222 Walter Olifard (yr.); 1247: William Olifard (page 520)

Name of Walter Olifaunt on Gask Charter 1363-1364 AD/CE

The information below has been made available by Richard Oliphant of Condie and Roderick Oliphant

The name Oliphant derived through variations of Holifard/Holifarth probably, from the Norwegian name Olaf. Following the crusades, the name changed to take on that given to the animal encountered in Palestine - an Oliphaunt. Mediaeval French termed the animal thus but that name evolved later into Elephant. However, W. Maitland Thomson quotes J.H. Round's Cal. Of Documents, France in stating that there is no record of the name in Normandy prior to 1066 and concludes it was first assumed on English soil. This is belied by evidence of the Oliphant progenitor in Scotland long before that.

The Oliphants in Scotland descend from Donald Olifard, a Norwegian nobleman shipwecked on the East coast in the Ninth Century, at the time of Harold Haarfager (Fair-haired) of Norway's invasions of Scotland, some 300 years before David Olifard (vide The Baronage of Angus and the Mearns, p.269.)

By late 10th Century, Roger Oliphant was Hereditary Sherriff of the Mearns. By 1004, Duncan Oliphant, the then Sherriff, married Helen Hassa, the last of that name, to become Thane of Glenbervie, which included Aberbuthnoth, in Kincardineshire. Their son Walter married Matilda Sinell, dau. of Thane of Angus and produced at least two sons, David who moved to Lilford in Northants and Osbert, who married Aegidia, dau. of the Hay of Arroll (sic). Osbert had a daughter who married James Melvil, an Hungarian Nobleman (vide The Baronage of Angus and the Mearns, p.73-4.) The Aberbuthnoth lands passed to Hugh de Swinton upon his marriage to their daughter Margaret, who took on the name Arbuthnot (vide that Clan.)

Prior to the 12th Century, the Oliphants had built up an affiliation with the Scottish Royal family, who had the palace of Kincardine. As Jervais notes the Oliphant family was not present in Normandy prior to (or after) 1066. The other evidence would indicate that David I must have taken David Olifard's family to Northamptonshire with him as part of his retinue upon his marriage to the Countess of Northamptonshire. Both Douglas' Peerage of Scotland and Crawfurd's state David was David I's godson, which reflects why David Oliphant had been given the King's first name at birth. Facing David I's expulsion from his lands in Northamptonshire by defeat at the Battle of Winchester his allegiance was logically to the Scottish king and not to Norman England where he would have had difficulty surviving, (as is borne out by lack of later historic evidence of those Oliphants who are recorded as having stayed.) Back in Scotland, David Olifard was made Justiciary of the Lothians (lowlands) and had grants of Smailham and Crailing, in Roxbrughshire followed by the great lordship of Bothwell. The location of these early residences is not known, probably because fortifications then were built of wood.

Two centuries on Walter, son of the Sir William Olifard who defended Stirling Castle against Edward I's armies, was granted the lands in Perthshire (and Angus) not only of Gask but also of Hatton, Kinpurney Newtyle, Balcraig etc., etc. upon marriage to the Princess Elizabeth (youngest daughter of Robert the Bruce by his second wife.) All the main Bruce Charters (Robert + David II) were entrusted by the 9th Lord Oliphant into the Gask charter chest and are set out in the books below (Regesta Regum Scottorum has transcripts in the Latin (nos. 27, 337 to 343 inclusive, 371, 422.) All these charters from the Gask Charter Chest are now with National Library for Scotland although more than one copy of each charter would have been prepared, some of which survive.

When Robert died and was succeeded by David II in 1364, in the usual feudal style the lands were all ceded back to the Crown and then re-granted to Walter and his wife Elizabeth, the king's sister. (David II was full brother to Elizabeth, by Robert's second wife.)

from: BARONAGE, pp. 18-20; Burial Vault, Glenbervie, and HERALD, Vol. I.;
referenced in THE BARONAGE OF ANGUS AND MEARNS, by David MacGregor Peter, 1855
pg 73-74:
Note- In the Glenbervie ivy-clad yew-crowned aisle, or vault, in the old churchyard, is placed a mural tablet with the initials "S.W.D., D.A.D;  A.D. 1442," and a date of erection "1680." It is illuminated with the armorial bearings, &c. of the ancient families of Melvil, - Arms, The sun in splendor. Hassa, - Arms, Three palets; on a chief, a demi-lion, issuant. Douglas. - Arms, Quarterly with second, Auchinleck; third, Arbuthnott. Achfleck, - Arms, A cross embattled; in second quarter, a similar cross. Olifart, - Arms, Three cresants. It contains the following contracted inscription, in grotesque characters:

"Milliti (filo 2d Archibaldi com’ Angusiae vulgo Bell ye Cat) Gvlielmo Dowglassioa Bredwod, Iacobvm patre Haeretricis a Glenbervy, nvptae Eliz Milvil nupta Iohani Achfleck de eode’ peperit." Hic iacent (in spe Bonae revrrectionis) Gle’berviae co’archi i’fra designati et secvd’v’ cogo’ina singvlis classib’ divisi ab Anno 730. Hvgo Hassa German’ illinc hvc perigrinat’ vbi praeclaris meritis post’qva insi’gis apparvisset germvnda dervise a Gle’bervy her’rice sibi nvpta svb hoc primv’ obdormiit tvmvlo cv’ coniv’e liberisqvi svis horv’ posteri continver’t in Ann: 1004 Helena vltima Hassarum soboles - Duncan’ Olifart’ Merniae decurio (interfectis Donaldo & Waltero Hassaeis fratribs praedictae Helenae clara pugna in campo a Barry expulsando Danos’) Helenae haeretricae nupt’ Glenberuiae succedit gignitq’ haeredem Walteru’ filiamq’ Margaretam cum agris nunc Arbuthnott designatis Ort’ inde est Robert’ a presente Vicecomes 2d de eode’ nomine princeps. Walter’ duxit uxorem Matilda Sinelli (Angusiae Thani) filia’ Osbert horu’ fili’ Aegidia Hay Arrolii filiam (militae studens) en’ Godefrido Buliogniae in Syriam perrext relicta filia vnigenita hacretricae in praelio occis’ Nupta 1057 Jacobo Meluil ex Hungaria Nobli orto nupta cui peperit filium Hugonem matrimonio Gernardae Macpendarii Merniac Thani filia."

To the soldier (second son of Archibald, Earl [Count?] of Angus, commonly known as ‘Bell the Cat’ Guilielmus (William) Dowglass of Bredwood,  and his wife, the heiress of Glenbervy, Eliz[abeth] Milvil, wife of Johan Achfleck of that place bore a son, Jacobus [James]. 
Here lies (in hope of the resurrection of the Good [Lord]), the Earl Archibald of Glenbervie below designated, second in command of a single division of the armies from the year 730. 
Hugo Hassa, German, travelled from there to here, where, after outstanding services and honours, he had appeared to have destroyed the siblings of his wife the heiress of Glenbervie, [and] first fell asleep under this mound with his wife and children, of whom descendants continued until the year 1004, Helen [being] the last offspring of the Hassas. 
Duncan Olifart of Mernia, cavalry officer, (the brothers Donald and Walter Hassa of the aforesaid Helen having been killed in open battle in the plain at Barry, expelling the Danes)  married Helen, heiress of Glenbervie and succeded [to the title of Thane?] and begat an heir, Walter, and a daughter, Margaret,  with lands now designated Arbuthnott. Descended thence is Robert, at present  2nd Viscount of that place and nominally Chieftain.  Walter took as wife Matilda Sinell, daughter of Osbert, Thane of Angus. Their son married Aegidia, daughter of Hay of Arroll and and went (studying soldiery) to Syria with Godfrey of Bulignia leaving an only daughter as heiress, and was cut down in youth. [She] married Jacobus [James] Melvil, of noble descent  from Hungary, in 1057 and bore a son, Hugo who married the daughter of Macpendar of Gernard, Thane of Mernia


(from the History of Glenbervie by Montrose; 1895)

The translation of the above is " Here lie in the hope of a happy resurrection, the lairds of Glenbervie mentioned below, and classified according to their surnames from the year 730 . Hugh Hassa, a native of Germany, who settled in this country, where his eminent merits raised him to distinction, married Germunda Dervies, heiress of Glenbervie, and was the first that slept in this tomb, where his wife and children repose by his side. Their posterity continued until 1001. "Helena was the last of the Hassa family." " Duncan Oliphant, sheriff of the Mearns (Donald and Walter Hassa, the brothers of the foresaid Helen, having been killed in a famous battle fought in a plain at Barry, against a host of Danish invaders) having married Helen, the heiress of Glenbervie, succeeded to the property, and begat Walter, his heir, and a daughter named Margaret, on whom he bestowed the lands now called Arbuthnott. From her was descended Robert, the second Viscount from the present, and the first of that name. Walter married Matilda Scnclli, daughter of the Thane of Angus. Their son Osbert married Aegidia Hay, daughter of Errol, and being an ardent soldier, went with Godfrey of Bologna to Syria, where he was killed in battle, leaving as his heiress an only daughter who in 1057 married James Mclril, a Hungarian noble, to whom she bore Hugo, who married Geruarda, daughter of Macpender, Thane of the Mearns. Their posterity continued to the year 1440." " Elizabeth Melvil, having married John Affleck of that ilk, bore to him James, father of the heiress of Glenbervie, who married Sir William Douglas of Bredwood, second son of Archibald, Earl of Angus, commonly called Bell-the-Cat." 






LINKS to more information:



OLIPHANT Clan & Family Association















History of the Parish and Manor of Lilford



ANCIENT FACES: OLIPHANT History and Genealogy









Perthshire, Scotland

Lilford, Huxloe Hundred, Northamptonshire, England

Huxloe Hundred: Lilford with Wigsthorpe

History of the Parish and Manor of Lilford

Northamptonshire, England


Bothwell Castle: King David I granted the barony of Bothwell to David Olifard (or Olifant), Justiciar of Lothian, in the mid 12th century. The lands passed to his descendents, and in 1242 the barony became the property of Walter de Moravia, or Walter of Moray, who had married the last Olifard baron's heir. He began construction of the castle, but by the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296, only the main donjon, the prison tower, and the short connecting curtain wall were completed. Foundations of the remainder were probably in place, and would have been defended by a wooden palisade

Kellie Castle was built and owned by Oliphants from 1360 to 1613. More information.

Old Wick Castle and Berriedale Castle, held by Clan Sutherland in the 15th century, came to Sir William Oliphant of Berriedale (the progenitor of the Oliphant's of Berriedale) second son of the second Lord Oliphant, by his marriage to Christian, the daughter and heiress of Alexander Sutherland of Duffus in 1497. Old Wick Castle: More information

Berriedale Castle: The castle was established by the Cheynes but passed through marriage to the Sutherlands and then the Oliphants who held it until it was disponed to the Earl of Caithness in 1606. The Lairds of Berriedale were also the Lairds of Old Wick Castle and they possessed about a quarter of the lands of Caithness at the height of their power. More information.

Hatton Castle was built in 1575 by Laurence, the 4th Lord Oliphant and replaced the previous nearby wooden fortalice of Balcraig Castle. Hatton Castle was restored in the 20th century.
Following the decline in the Oliphant fortunes and the loss of Aberdalgie by the main branch of the family, by the 19th century the estates of Gask in Perthshire, Condie, Rossie also in Perthshire and Kinneddar were those most associated with the Oliphant Clan. Although the land at Gask was held by Oliphants from the mid 14th century and although no Castle was ever built there, it is the site of 'The Auld Hoose' in Carolina Oliphant's song. More information.

Ardblair Castle: There is no Clan Seat currently but Ardblair Castle, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire is the seat of one of the Clan Chieftains, the Oliphant of Gask. Ardblair contains the largest collection of Oliphant heirlooms and portraits today. Gask House: More information.

Other Oliphant sites and mounuments

Lilford: Northamptonshire, England. In the time of King Edward the Confessor, 5 hides in Lilford were the property of Thurchil, who held them freely. They had probably been afterwards granted to Waltheof, Earl of Huntingdon, who married Judith, the Conqueror's niece. Judith continued to hold in 1086 after the execution of her husband in 1075. Their eldest daughter and coheir Maud was given in marriage by William to his Norman follower Simon de St. Lis or Senliz, who was made Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, and after his death she was married to David, later king of Scotland, who became Earl of Huntingdon. 
The overlordship then followed the descent of the earldom and honour of Huntingdon. The tenants in demesne were the Oliphants (Olifard, Holyfard) who from being holders of land in England under the kings of Scotland transferred their allegiance to Scotland, becoming magnates and peers there. Three branches of the family apparently held lands within the counties of which the King of Scotland was earl. The earliest member of the family as yet found is Roger Oliphant who witnessed a charter of Simon de St. Liz to St. Andrew's Priory, Northampton, not later than 1108. In the survey of the reign of Henry I (1100–35) William Oliphant was holder of 5 hides in Lilford of the king of Scotland and was living about 1147. 
He was probably succeeded by David Oliphant godson of King David of Scotland, who assisted at King David's escape after the rout at Winchester in 1141. More Information.

Olifart (Oliphant) Arms


Duncan Oliphant (son of Roger Oliphant) was born about 1004 AD / CE, in Mearns, Aberdeenshie, Scotland, and died (date unknown) in Aberbuthnoth, Kincardineshire, Scotland. He married Helen Hassa, who was born about 1010 AD / CE, daughter of Hew Hassa.
Through his marriage, he became Thane of Glenbervie which included Aberbuthnoth in Kincardineshire.
Occupation: Heriditary Sheriff Of the Mearns.

Duncan Oliphant and Helen Hassa had a son: Walter Oliphant, b., Aberbuthnoth, Kincardineshire, Scotland

Walter Oliphant (son of Duncan Oliphant and Helen Hassa) married Matilda Sinell.
Walter Oliphant and Matilda Sinell had a son:
Osbert Oliphard

OLIPHANT Portraits:

Laurence OLIPHANT 6th Laid of Gask

Laurence OLIPHANT 7th Laid of GASK

OLIPHANT Ancestors of Peter S. OLIPHANT of Niagara County, NY, USA: 1805-1170 AD/CE