Associated Family Names – (Septs)


The preferred modern method of detailing clan related names is now Associated Family Names, which were once called (Septs). 

The founder of Clan MacTavish in Knapdale was Taviss Mor Mhic macCalumn, or, Tavis the Great son of Calumn in 12th century Argyll. His ancestors were the Irish MacGilletamhais of Guill and Irgull, Northern Donegal, Ireland, descendants of the Boars Kings in the kin-group of Cenel nDuach of the Kingdom of Guill and Irguill, found in the various Irish annals. The clan lands of Dun an Ard Righ (now Dunardry) in Knapdale, Argyllshire, were given to the MacTavish ancestors in the reign of King Domnall the 2nd, grandson of King Kenneth McAlpin, about 893 AD. The Northern Irish are noted the descendants of the 2nd century Northern Irish King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, and the specific lineal connections are noted in the chronicle, Chronicon Scotorum (Chronicon Scotorum, According to Nollaig Ó Muraíle, it is “a collection of annals belonging to the ‘Clonmacnoise group’, covering the period from prehistoric times to 1150 but with some gaps, closely related to the ‘Annals of Tigernach‘.)

CLAN/FAMILY NAMES: Cash, Holmes, Kash, Kaish, MacAishe, MacCamish, MacCash, MacCavish, MacComb, MacCombie, MacComich, MacComish, MaComie, Macomie, MacCosh, MacIltavish, MacIlTavish, MacLaws, MacLawes, MacElhose, MacLehose, MacTais, MacTaus, MacTauais, MacTavish, McTavish, Mactavish, Mactavis, M’Tavish, MacTawes, MacTawis, MacTawys, MacTawes, MacTeague, Stephens, Stephenson, Stevens, Stevenson, Tavish, Tawes, Tawse, Tawesson, Tawis, Teague, Thom, Thomas, Thomason, Thomasson, Thompson, Thomson, Tod, and Todd, and all variant spellings are welcome to join us in celebrating our shared Scottish Highland heritage.

Additional resources provide an extended list of the Clan MacTavish related family names as follows:

Cavis, Cevis, Cavish, Kavis, Kavish, Kaviss, Hawes, Haws, Hawson, Haweson, Hawesson, Hawsone, Holmes, MacAves, MacAvis, MacAvish, MacAwis, MacAwishe, MacAws, MacCaueis, MacCauish, MacCause, MacCavis, MacCavish, MacCavss, MacCaweis, MacCawis, MacCawes, MacCaws, MacCevis, MacClavish, MacGavish, MacGilchois, MacGilhosche, MacGillhois, MacHomais, MacHolmes, (less often McHomes), MacIlhaos, MacIlhois, MacIlhoise, MacIlhose, MacIlhouse, MacIllhois, MacIllhos, MacIllhose, MacKawes, MacKilhoise, MacKillhose, MacKlavish, MacKlehois, Makavhis, Makawis, Makcaus, Makcawis, Makcaws, Makcawys, Makgilhois, MacCevis, MacLawes, MacLaws, MacLehose, MacTaevis, MacTamhais, MacTause, MacTaveis, MacTavish, MacTawisch, MacTawys, MacTeague, MacTegue, MacThamais, MacThamhais, MacThavish, MacThomhais, McTavish, Makgilhoise, Micklehose, Mucklehose, Taes, Tais, Taise, Taish, Taiss, Tam, Tameson, Tamesone, Tamson, Tamsone, Taus, Tauis, Tauise, Tauison, Tavis, Tavish, Taweson, Tawesson, Tawis, Tawes, Taws, Tawse, Tawseon, Tawseson, Tawson, Taweist, Tawst, Tawus, Thomason, Thomasson, Thomassone, Thomassoun, Thomessone, Thompson, Thomson, Thomsone, Thomsoun, Thomsoune, Thomsson Tomson, Tomsone.

The original, or near original, name might be retained in one parish, when an Anglicized version of the same name would show up in the same or a neighboring parish. In some instances multiple variations of names occurred in the same district. Names often reflected relationship and origin, and sometimes occupation, or a marital alliance. The main surname of the clan is most often the surname of its Chief, and all other surnames that came into use within the clan, came to be called septs, vassals or followers; which are now more commonly called Associated Family Names.

The designation (sept) was given to persons who are linked to a clan, but may not share the same surname of its chief. These persons may, or may not, share the same bloodline of the chief. In many instances a (sept) name was derived from an ancestor within the clan, or it may be a Latinized or Anglicized version of the original Highland Gaelic name. (Septs) may be thought of in terms of – being connected, and the phrases “Associated Family Names” or “Connected Names” may be rightly exchanged for the word (sept).  The old (sept) names may appear associated with more than one clan. On the Isle of Man, the Mac and first letter of the patronymic was often dropped, for example MacTamhais (MacTavish), the MacT was dropped entirely and replaced with a “C” or “K”,  altering the name to such spellings as Kavis, Kevish or Cavish.

MacAishe, is a spelling found for MacTavish of Dunardry in court files dealing with The Earl of Argyll’s participation in the Monmouth Rebellion.

MacCaishe is found in connection with Angus Og McDonald, and is also spelled MacTavish in related documents. Hector MacCaish or MacTavish of Kinnibus, was Mister Household to Angus Og McDonald. MacCamish, MacCavish, Caishe and Cash, etc.,  are altered surname forms. When the “T” of Tavish is missing and replaced with a “C” (MacC), this alteration is indicative of an elided surname.

MacComish, MacCammish, MacHomais, etc., are forms of MacTavish in the Northern Irish and Scottish Gaelic dialects.

Thomson, and similar Tom names, have been claimed as (septs) by diverse clans for several centuries. What does this signify? It simply means that at some time, families may have altered their surname spelling from its Gaelic form, or became associated to a specific clan for protection.  It may also mean that some ancestor in the past named Thomas, or Tammas, gave his name to his descendants as a surname. In the case of Clan MacTavish, Tom surnames are derived from the Gaelic MacGilleTamhais, shortened to MacTamhais, modernly MacTavish. MacGilleTamhais means – Son(s) of the Devotee of Saint Thomas. Ancient Gaelic names bearing Gille, are explicitly followed by a saint’s name (i.e. MacGillePadraig, or Son of the Devotee (or servant/follower) of Saint Patrick). Mac bears two meanings. Mac (literally means “son”, equated to ‘son of’) and may identify an individual, or it can mean all who descend from one person of that name (i.e. a clan). The first Thomson variation found connected with Clan MacTavish was John Thomson, invariably Ian MacTavish, in Kilmartin, Glassary, who was a witness to a Land Charter for the MacTavish lands of Dunardry in 1533 AD. John Thomson’s family has been traced to Rudle farm, anciently a MacTavish property.

In the case of Tod and Todd, the connection is since the 12th century, where they were bound up into the clan as fox hunters, archers and warriors (Tod Bunter or Tod Hunter are early variations), the name is originally of Lowland origin. Some changed their name to MacTavish.

MacLehose, MacElhose, MacIlTavish, MacLaws, etc., are forms of MacGilleTamhais.

MacTeague, is a traditional sept of MacTavish from time immemorial.

The Steven (s) (son)/Stephen (s) (son) surnames were accepted in the normal practice of an adopted (sept), by persons of these names, via a request to one or more chiefs. (Note: In the Highland Gaelic Language, “ph” may be pronounced as an English “v”. Steven Highland patronymic names occured originally as MacStiban, MacSteaphan or MacStiven, or a variation thereof, and were frequently seen written in records in an “Englished” form like, Stiven or Stivenson.

The name Holmes is derived from an altered surname form found in a Northern Irish and Scottish (Gaelic) dialects, originally MacGilleTamhais, then MacTavis, but altered to MacHomais, and shortened to the Anglicized to Holmes. Gaelic: Homais (Thomas) – phonetic transliteration: Holm – es (the consonant ‘l’ is silent), phonetic English: Homes. These people are not connected to the Lowland Holmes families. This name is now more frequently found in Northern Ireland, in the USA, Canada and elsewhere, more so than in Scotland.