The History of the MacKenzie Clan – Outlander

If you watch the Outlander series on TV or have read the Outlander books, you’re familiar with the MacKenzie Clan. If not, keep reading and you will be soon enough.

In Scotland, clans originated from Celtic or Norman ancestors. In the case of the MacKenzie family, it was Celtic origins.

The Celts – Ancient MacKenzie Blood

Celtic Warrior - Ancient MacKenzieThere are no written records from the Celts themselves, so historians have had to piece together Celtic history using historical accounts from other cultures and archeological findings. The first known incident involving the Celts is from 400 BC in Northern Italy. They are referred to as barbarians from the Alps. In ancient times they referred to themselves as Gauls and had the motto “To the brave belong all things.”

They were very successful warriors and defeating the Roman armies was a piece of cake for them.

The Roman historian Diodorus had this to say about the Celts:

Their aspect is terrifying…They are very tall in stature, with rippling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane. Some of them are clean-shaven, but others – especially those of high rank, shave their cheeks but leave a mustache that covers the whole mouth and, when they eat and drink, acts like a sieve, trapping particles of food…The way they dress is astonishing: they wear brightly colored and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the separate checks close together and in various colors.

[The Celts] wear bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which made them look even taller than they already are…while others cover themselves with breast-armor made out of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle…Weird, discordant horns were sounded, [they shouted in chorus with their] deep and harsh voices, they beat their swords rhythmically against their shields.

Their style of dressing certainly matches that of the MacKenzie clan described in the Outlander books. I’m not so sure about going into battle naked though, wouldn’t that be a sight! The physical description of the Celts reminds me of the ones given about the Vikings. If you trace the Celts back, you will find that they came from Ireland.

Origin of the MacKenzie Surname

The surname MacKenzie is derived from Gaelic, the language of the Gauls, and is a Scottish name – Scottish Gaelic stems from Old Irish. It is the Gaelic “Mac Coinnich”, which comes from the patronymic personal name “Coinneach”, meaning handsome.

The MacKenzie Family Tree

Clan MacKenzie has a long history in Scotland. I think it’s neat that they are a real clan and were included in the Outlander books, much like the Fraser’s. Want to find out more? Visit the official Clan MacKenzie website for detailed information on the members of the clan.


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Curious about historical events, people and places - I love to learn and share the stories I find with others.

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