by Robert M. McAllister

March, 1999

One of my more interesting research projects on MacAlister family genealogy is tracing our ancestors in Scotland, and connecting them to our American and Canadian family lines in the Clan McAlister of America (CMA). I should also say that it is the most challenging aspect of my research, since very few of the records are available in the United States or Canada.

After working for five years as the CMA Historian and Genealogist, I became very interested in our Scottish family connections, and have concentrated my research efforts lately on that topic. The principal Scottish records available to me have been those referred to by Capt. Ian MacDonald of Clachan, Kintyre, in the studies he has done for many MacAlisters over the past twenty years. By chance, I met Alastair Campbell of Airds, who is also the Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms at the Lyon Court in Edinburgh. This Court is the organization which awards Armorial Bearings to Scottish families based on their genealogical records. Alastair and his wife Mary Anne had attended the North Carolina Scottish Heritage Society Symposium in Laurinburg, NC in March 1998. After many discussions in Laurinburg, he said that he would help me in my research. Since that time, I have been in correspondence with Alastair, who provided has me with information which led to correspondence with John MacAlister of Seil, the recipient of the latest Armorial Bearings in the MacAlister Tarbert sept. 


The St. Andrews Society of Scotland recently published "A Letter From Scotland, The Keys to the Castle," which described the Ceremony of Installation of the Governor of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. In the procession were the following Pursuivants of Arms: Carrick and Lyon Clerk (Elizabeth Roads); Unicorn (Alastair Campbell); Kintyre; Ross; Rothesay; Albany; and the Lyon King of Arms. On pages 45 - 48 of the December 1995 issue of the "MacAlasdair Clan" journal, the editor Don Sanford has listed the names and dates for the MacAlister Armorial Bearings which had been recorded in the period 1957 - 1996. This information came from a 25 October 1995 letter written to Don by Mrs. Elizabeth Roads, MVO, Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records, Court of the Lord Lyon, Edinburgh. Subsequent to 1995, Mrs. Roads has been chosen Carrick Pursuivant of Arms, as well as Lyon Clerk, as described above. I am going into this degree of detail in order to describe how the results of genealogical research in Scotland today underlie the awarding of Armorial Bearings, which include a Charter. As a matter of fact, the same kind research has been done for hundreds of years to establish not only a Scottish family's title, but also land ownership, which many regard as more important than genealogy.

One of the realities of Scottish genealogical research is that not all of our families kept detailed records of births, deaths, marriages, land transfers and other important papers which are maintained in every civilized society today. Only in the twentieth century has the recording of such information been extended to all Scottish families, not just the upper class landowners. A significant problem for me has been locating the results of research done by or for McAllister families in Scotland. I have already referred to Capt. Ian MacDonald, who lives and continues to work in Kintyre. I am also reading books on MacAlisters and MacDonalds which are available on microfilm from the local Mormon Church Family History Center.

Four principal McAllister septs, or families, have been identified and are being researched: Loup, Tarbert, Glenbarr and Alexander of Menstrie, all which descend from Alasdair Mor, the progenitor of our Clan. The preliminary results of this research have been published in recent issues of the journal as narratives, together with MAC1 lineage charts. I do not regard this work as definitive by any means, and hope that readers who find discrepancies will call them to my attention, so that they can be resolved for the good of our organization. If a discrepancy cannot be resolved after thorough research, I will make a decision, and record it in the Remarks section of the master MacAlister pedigree contained in the CMA MAC1 data file.

The latest recipient of Armorial Bearings was John MacAlister of Seil, who received his "ensigns armorial" from the Lyon Court on April 21, 1994. In a letter dated January 21, 1999, John wrote that his records were processed quickly on account of his advanced age. He was born in 1916, married Barbara E.C. Pepler, and has a son John. John enclosed a photo copy of his Charter, his pedigree chart going back to Alasdair Mor, two newspaper articles, and two photographs. I have used the pedigree chart to supplement and update the data in the CMA MAC1 data file. I have also written to John, requesting his help in solving a lineage problem that has arisen on the R02 (Ronald MacAlister) line, and have given him a complimentary subscription to our "MacAlasdair Clan" journal.

John MacAlister's pedigree chart shows that the Tarbert line did not become extinct with the deaths of John and Peter MacAlister, both of whom died in service with the Royal Air Force in World War II. Their parents, Sir John and Elizabeth Batley MacAlister, had a third son Anthony, who is married to Yvonne J. Prower, a fact that I did not know previously. And John MacAlister is also a member of the Tarbert sept. The chart also contains Volume and Folio references to the charters granted by the Lyon Court to three other MacAlisters of the Tarbert line. I will write to the Lyon Clerk and request copies of those charters for the MAC1 file. We already have copies of many other MacAlister charters, many of which are written in Latin. Wherever a charter exists, I have added an entry to that effect in the MAC1 Remarks section. It is also my intention to reformat the MAC1 data file into the Family Tree maker genealogy program, since it will allow the insertion of photographs, charters and the other records which should be made available to all MacAlister researchers.