Highland Lobans

Where have all the Lobans gone, long time passing?
Where have all the Lobans gone, long time ago?
Where have all the Lobans gone? They’ve gone to Logans every one….
(with apologies to Pete Seeger)

“As auld as the Lobans of Drumderfit….” 

Highland Lobans became Logans

The Highland and Lowland Lobans appear to have originated about the same time, yet there are far fewer records of the Highland branch in the Old Parish Records, and we have so far not encountered a single living Loban (or Lobban) from this branch.  So what happened to them? Is the Highland Loban name extinct? The answer to the first question, as has long been suspected but perhaps not clearly articulated is, that the name changed to Logan and they are all in Cynthia Sweet’s book, Logan Families of Ross & Cromarty, Scotland.  I hope to develop a deep-DNA tree and family analysis similar to that done for the Lowland Lobbans.  The answer to the second is, probably so, but I keep a hope burning that at least one may turn up. In this essay I present evidence in support of these answers. One further question one can address with the genetic information about the Highland Lobans is whether there is a connection to one of the several haplogroups within the MacLennans, as claimed by some of the origin legends.

It has long been known that some Lobans became Logan, the question here is whether they all did (or at least if all those with living male descendants did).  The argument is based on research by Jim Logan, Cynthia Sweet, Malcolm Lobban, and others, as well as my own Y-DNA research.

A caveat here:  I recognize that many lines in the trees that seem to end, may do so only because of a lack of data in the records. We know that records, especially parish records, have omissions, and that the electronic, searchable data bases have transcription errors, even on top of spelling mistakes in the originals, which can mask the name one is searching for.

The idea that the names of Highland Lobans gradually changed to Logan is not new.  It is mentioned briefly in several sources, among them the following:

Alexander MacKenzie, in History of the Frasers of Lovat (1896, p. 36), spoke of the “modernization” of the name Loban to Logan: the sole survivor of the battle at Drumderfit whose descendants “afterwards occupied the farm of … Drumderfit, for four hundred years, derived the name of Loban, modernised into Logan.”

More recently, an issue of the MacLennan Newsletter, the source of which we have not been able to trace [originally re-posted on a blog site in 2004], states that, “The names Loban, Lobban, and Logan appear interchangeable in the records of the Black Isle, Easter Ross, between 1750–1850. The Drumderfit family near Kessock on the Black Isle appear to have changed their name from Loban to Logan about 1750. Other Lobans or Lobbans had their names changed by estate factors and by clergymen during the compilation of tenantry lists and church registers, there is ample documentary evidence of this.”  In another  Newsletter, Dec. 1975, then Chief Ronald MacLennan noted, “In my researches in the North I found many Lobbans [sic], gradually through misuse of name, became known as Logan.”

The genealogical charts in both Cynthia Sweet’s book and Malcolm Lobban’s book (pdf here) accord with the remark quoted above from the McLennan Newsletter, that the name change occurred about 1750, at least at Drumderfit. Nearly two hundred years earlier, in 1564, Queen Mary had granted the lands of Drumderfit to her bodyguard James Gray, the property at that time occupied by “William Lobane” (Sweet 2011, sources on pp. 9–10).

So, whether or not the story of the defeated MacLennan hiding under a peat cart is true, it seems that the Highland name Loban originated at Drumderfit and was perpetuated for over 300 years there and presumably in the neighboring areas as descendant branches accumulated, but gradually changed into Logan. Whether that could be called “misuse,” or “modernization,”  or assimilation is not for us to decide.  In contrast, the Lowland Lobans, whose name tended to change to Lobban, have a most recent common ancestor whom DNA places about 1450, and he may have been a descendant of the original—possibly Flemish—emigrant. Thus, the two tribes are of more or less similar vintage, and one would therefore expect — a priori — there to be similar numbers of descendants. But there are not. In order to further document the change from Loban to Logan in the Highland branch, we first compare statistics between the two groups.

By the numbers

Looking first at the total Loban and Lobban baptisms in OPR by date (my database derived from Scotland’sPeople, incl. Catholics), we can see that both names were in use by the time extant records began. There are almost no records pre-1675, then till 1775 there were more Lobans than Lobbans, after that Lobban was more common. These are all-Scotland records, so some Lobans were lost to Logan, others to Lobban. The decrease in numbers after 1825 presumably reflects emigration and the periods up to 1725 and 1775 are impacted by the 40-year gap in Rothiemay records.

All-Scotland baptism events for Lobban and Loban in fifty-year periods. The periods were chosen to match those in Jim Logan’s table (reproduced below) but include only OPR data which stop in 1855.

When we split out the data geographically, we see that there are far fewer baptisms and marriages of Loban+Lobban in the Inverness area than in the Moray-Banff-west Aberdeenshire area (data below are the numbers used for the maps on the parent page)—only 164 compared to 791.  There is still a huge discrepancy even if we add in the 140 Logan records for Ross & Cromarty + Inverness in Jim Logan’s Table 8, below.

Baptisms and marriages in NE Scotland by parish. From the OPR dataset spreadsheet by Stephanie Logan. Color column refers to codes used in the original distribution maps.
Baptisms and marriages in Inverness area by parish. From the OPR dataset spreadsheet by Stephanie Logan.

Jim Logan did a big analysis of Logan and related names in the U.K., and noted the following about Scotland:

“After Logan, Loban is the most significant name in Scotland to analyze more closely. To support this analysis Table 8 contains data extracted from the original Space-Time distribution of Logan and Loban records in Scotland with data for these two names shown side by side with matching counties. A very significant pattern is seen by sorting the counties first by their total count and then selecting out the counties with major counts of Lobans and sorting them separately. The first 13 counties in the Logan column are all in the southern region of Scotland. With approximately one third of the land mass, 90% of Logan records are in this area.

“This contrasts sharply with the Loban distribution, shown in the lower right portion of the table. Note that 94% of Scottish Loban records are from these six counties in the northern portion of Scotland. More specifically, they surround the Moray Firth which is exactly the location of the Loban story mentioned above. Note, however, there are also Logans in the area –particularly in Aberdeen and in Ross and Cromarty. The relationship between the Lobans and the Logans in this area is not clear, but note that the Logans in Aberdeen appear to a half or a full century earlier that the Lobans in that area. However, the scattered presence of Lobans in the south does not support an argument for a relationship between the Lobans and the southern Logans.”

Source: Logan, J.J. (Jim). 2013. Distribution of Logan Surname in British Isles. https://pre1800logans.groups.io/g/main/files/Records%20for%20the%20UK%20and%20Ireland/LoganSurnameDistributionBI.pdf; used with permission.

Jim Logan’s analysis suggests a hypothesis that many of the Logans recorded in Ross & Cromarty might be former Lobans and there is a thoroughgoing account of the group by Cynthia Sweet (2011) in her 490-page book Logan Families of Ross & Crormarty, Scotland. We cannot tell how many branches were formerly Loban except through Y-DNA testing into the haplogroup, or establishing the Loban name in the earliest ancestors in extant records.

By the trees

There are correspondingly fewer and smaller trees in Syd Lobban’s comprehensive collection that either positively or probably can be assigned to the Highland group, and among these, as we will describe below, there are no known living Lobans. We will review the other historical evidence for name changes, since our point is not to prove that some Loban lines became Logan—that is already well established by the sources cited above—rather, that there are few to no living descendants still bearing the name Loban (or Lobban).

Syd Lobban’s database contains all the records he could find from the online baptism, marriage and death records in the parishes and subsequently in the national records (post 1855), plus the names in the various censuses done since 1841, and whatever other information he could compile from records and some correspondence with living individuals. But the parish records mostly began (or at least those still extant began) in the early 1700s. Records from the late 1600s are scarce. If the name Loban was changing to Logan in the mid-18th C., as suggested above, it would be likely that many families would have already changed by the time the records begin, so that we have here a plausible and sufficient explanation for the low numbers of Lobans in the Highland parish records. This point seems to be emphasized by the fact that the two living descendants in our DNA database—both Logans—record only the earliest ancestor as Loban, at the beginning of the records.  This is also true of the one Lowland Loban family we know who became Logan.

Cynthia Sweet  found several families with the name change, among them:

  1. In 1835, Knockbain parish, Kenneth Loban married Ann Bisset. They had at least seven children, all of whom appear to have been christened using the surname Logan. And on each occasion, the father is also given as Logan.  Son Kenneth Logan (1844–1892) migrated to southern England.  We have not been able to trace this line into the 20th Century.
  2. John Loban (weaver) (31 Jan.1776– ) m. Katherine Fraser. 7 known children, all but one baptized under the name Loban,  Mary was baptized as Logan, with the father’s name of course spelled the same way. (Sweet 2011, p. 361–362). The significant name change came with son William (27 Apr. 1781– ), baptized Loban, but all the children as Logan.
    This family is the one Anthony Wilcocks tells of (and is part of), that ended up in South Africa, and John had a twin brother, Alexander. The twins were born to John Loban & More Glass in Kilcoy. Alexander’s descendants stayed in Inverness area and retained the name Loban for several generations before eventually changing it to Lobban. The last known descendants are Alexander’s great grandsons (last living was Robert Cumming Lobban, J.P., 1851–1921; apparently none had children…one died in childhood).

Turning to Syd Lobban’s trees:

Following are the catalog entries for trees potentially of Inverness Loban families. There are additional trees for which a geographic provenance is hard to guess.  There are 5 trees, of which one changed to Logan early on (mid1700s) and is still extant, one changed to Lobban mid1800s but may no longer be extant, two seem to have died out, and one might have descendants that we have not yet found.

“Kilmorack Lobans Inverness” tree

https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-390158672/lobban-schefter?familyTreeID=18     (49 public people)

Traces the descendants of Donald Loban  (b. 1665, Kilmorack), m. Katherine Niendod, and his brother David (b. 1662; spouse unknown) into the mid 1700s. David’s line daughtered out in the early 1700s but Donald’s great grandsons Donald (b. 5 Oct. 1734 Inverness) and John (b. 5 June 1729, Inverness)  may have lived to have children. (Matches the Kenneth Loban m. Isobell McKay family on Sweet p. 437, as shown by baptism of Donald Loban 5 Oct. 1734.)

 “Daviot Lobans” tree

https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-390158672/lobban?familyTreeID=23    (20 people)

This small tree traces some descendants of William Loban (b. 1730, Inverness-shire) m. Katherine Shaw into the early 20th Century.  The most recent of them, Alexander Loban (b. 1825, Daviot, d. 1901) and his sister, Isabella Loban (b. 1829, Daviot, d. 1914), are recorded in the 1881 Census as retired prison governor and prison matron, respectively, living at Governors House, Kilmallie, Fort William, Argyll.  Neither married, so that line seems to have ended. (Mentioned by Sweet on p. 437, with the marriage of William Louban and Katherine Shaw.)

“Highland Lobans” tree

https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-390158672/lobban?familyTreeID=27    (81 public people)

This tree traces the descendants of John Loban (1770–1841), m. Helen Morrison, into the 20th C. Although this family was in Dingwall, Ross & Cromarty at first, they later moved around Scotland.  The most recent descendants known are George Henry Loban (1901–1985) and Albert Ernest Loban (1902–1969). George married but we do not know of any children; Albert married thrice and had a daughter by his second wife, but apparently no sons.  (The initial family in the line is listed by Sweet on p. 373.)

“Jas Loban and Barbara Hutch” tree

https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-390158672/lobban?familyTreeID=26    (106 public people)

This tree begins with Patrick Loban (b. abt. 1745, possibly in Resolis, Black Isle), m. Janet Ross, and traces the descendants into the 20th Century. Donald Loban (1840-1903), m. Mary Wehlan, died in N. Ireland, but most of his children were born and settled in Tyneside/South Shields area of Durham, England, where Donald had gone to work in the shipbuilding industry. [See Emigrants to England page]   At the 1871 census Donald was living in bachelor digs in Hebburn and his name then and in later documents was spelled Lobban, as were his children’s names.  Only one of Donald’s sons (John Lobban, 1875–) lived to marry and have children, but both the boy and the girl died in infancy.   Maybe the name changed because there were several Lowland Lobbans in that area?

Main Logan families in Ross & Cromarty, from Sweet’s book.

We do not know how many Logan halogroups were present in the Black Isle. A test for the connection between these two is underway, but even if it is positive, there may have been other unrelated Logan families.

1. Logans of Drumderfit
This tree begins with a four siblings, with Robert Logan (Loban) (b. ca. 1704–ca. 1780)= Isabel Forbes, merchant  and tenant at Drumderfit, being the one with extensive known descendants. They were probably the parents of Robert Logan (b. ca. 1737-1749 d. 1826), who was for a time a plantation owner in St. Thomas in the  East, Jamaica, and who had a natural child with a “free mulatto” woman, this child also called Robert Logan (1778–1866), became a prominent settler in the Red River district of what is now Manitoba , Canada; Cynthia published her research on him here. I have developed and analyzed a family tree for this line.  These people were Gaels so probably Gaelic-speaking.

2. Kenneth Logan of Ross & Comarty
Kenneth Logan (Loban/Loggan) (b. by 1750, d. after 1797), wife unknown, was a tenant at Muirends, Newtown. Two major branches, from sons John Logan (Loban) (b. ca. 1771–d. ca. 1850) and his one son Kenneth Logan (Loban) (1797, m. Ann Bissett), and Duncan Logan (ca. 1780–c. 1850), m. Margaret McDonald.


In conclusion, it is evident that two stories have been conflated in the history of Loban/Lobban. In the Highlands, a family name arose at Drumderfit in the Black Isle of Ross-shire, perhaps ca. 1372, lasted for 400 years but by the 18th Century had been largely changed to Logan, so that today there appear to be few if any living descendants in this haplogroup still using the name Loban. It is also not yet clear how many among the living Logans belong to this haplogroup.

Concurrently, though with no definite starting date, a family name of Loban arose in the Lowlands, with a “Germanic” Y-DNA line that would be consistent with them being descendants of a Flemish emigrant. Their name gradually changed to Lobban, though some Loban lines still exist. Although we know of one instance where the name changed to Logan when a family moved to Aberdeen, there is little connection to Logans and no genetic connection to the Highland Loban/Logan families.

Future study

I have been able to define considerable structure in the deep tree of the Lowland Lobbans, and I suspect that such structure can be found in the Highland Loban/Logans, using a similar approach. I have begun reaching out to representative individuals in different branches for Y-700 samples. To date (May 2021) four samples are  linked together (see Drumderfit Loban/Logans page) and there are two more individuals in the Logan DNA Project Limb 3 for whom I hope to get Y-700 results to expand the structure.

The haplogroup of the Highland Loban/Logans enables us to look for connections to the MacLennans: if, as some of the legends claim, the progenitor of the Lobans was the survivor of a MacLennan raiding party, there may be a connection. Our one sample to date has one MacLennan match, but that match has not released his data to the DNA projects. There are also two MacLennans in a haplogroup a couple of nodes above our sample. That haplogroup, however, has many branches coming from it, so we are not sure yet whether this will constitute evidence for a connection.  Of course, all this searching assumes that the surviving member of the raiding party was himself a MacLennan–and that is not necessarily true!

Conflict at Drumderfit, from Fraser (1825) A History of the Clan Fraser. https://digital.nls.uk/histories-of-scottish-families/archive/94945674#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=70&xywh=2104%2C227%2C3277%2C1940. National Library of Scotland.


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Page by C.S. Lobban, posted 23 July 2020, updated 27 Jan. 2022