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Clan Armstrong: History, Crest, Tartan & History

Written by: Stewart Borland
Published: 14th April 2015, last updated: 14th April 2022

Armstrong Clan History & Violent Reputation

On the marches, the border between England and Scotland life was difficult. From the earliest medieval times the people who farmed these lands were always at a disadvantage. They were living on the front line of a war that lasted many centuries. Armies from England marched through with regular mayhem, killing livestock and taking what they wanted on their way to battles further north. If that wasn’t bad enough other Scottish clans marching south would often do the same. Of all the clans who lived in and defended the lands that bordered Scotland, few were as indomitable or just plain scary as Clan Armstrong.

Their reputation for ferocity grew over the centuries, due in large part to the constant need to defend their territory – practise makes perfect. Clan Armstrong came to be of great importance to the Royal House of Stuart, as Scotland didn’t have a regular standing army, and often relied on the border clans for military aid. The Armstrongs, it was said in 1528, could muster 3000 armed horsemen to the field at very short notice.

The Armstrong Sword in Stone

Milnholm Cross (a sword in a stone) erected circa 1300, is the oldest monument to Clan Armstrong. It commemorates clan chief, Alexander Armstrong, who died at the hands of William De Soulis (of which more below). Today it looks over the peaceful valley of Liddersdale, once one of the most dangerous and lawless places in the British Isles, the Medieval equivalent of Helmand Province.

The Milnholm Cross A 2.5m high stone cross by the B6357 erected to commemorate an Armstrong laird who was killed at Hermitage Castle

Milnholm Cross. Photo by Walter Baxter / CC BY-SA 2.0

Armstrong Tartan

Armstrong Taran

The Armstrong tartan is predominantly green and navy, striped with thick red lines and thinner black lines.

Its design can be traced back to 1842, when it was described in Vestiarium Scotorum, published by the Sobieski Stewarts.

Photo by Joseph Shelby / Public Domain.

Armstrong Crest

Clan Armstrong Crest

The Armstrong crest was a symbol of allegiance, used by clan members to show allegiance to their clan chief. The Clan Armstrong’s crest features an arm from the shoulder, armed, in the centre of the strap and buckle, framed by the motto Invictus maneo, latin for I remain unvanquished.

Photo by Celtus / CC BY-SA 3.0

A Reiving Scottish Clan

Before the 1300s the Armstrongs originated from the south side of the borders in Cumberland, but came to settle in Liddersdale, making Mangerton the seat of their chief. Throughout the borders there was a reiving tradition among those who lived there. Reiving is an old word that means ‘raiding’, and this became necessary to their survival. An Armstrong wife whose cupboard was empty would serve the men a platter of spurs for their supper, which meant: get out there and steal some cattle, we are on the edge of starvation!

The reiving tradition, though it strikes our modern sensibilities as criminal, was really the result of being constantly invaded by both sides of the border. Farmers had no choice but to supplement their battered harvests. Loyalties to either country were shot to pieces by the need to ensure the survival of the clan. They even carried a double sided flag: English on one side and Scottish on the other, to present to whichever army apprehended them! It was said the Armstrongs, like other reiving clans, were ‘Scottish when it suited them and English at their pleasure.’

With the reiving tradition the Armstrong clan developed an extremely skilled horsemanship. To be a border reiver was a young boy’s dream. Much more exciting than being a farmer. It wasn’t just a career for vagrants; clan chiefs and noble families embraced the reiving tradition. Riding out to protect your own and take back what had been stolen was an honourable pursuit.

Border Reiver Statue in Galashiels

The Reiver Momunment by Thomas J. Clapperton, in Galashiels. Photo by Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 2.0

March Laws

In such a violent place as the marches, it is incredible to think that there were laws, wardens, and codes of conduct. Border Laws, also called March Laws were set up around reiving. For example, if your family had been raided, you had the right to counter with your own raid within 6 days, even across the border. Anyone who happened to wander into the path of this counter-raid had to join in or be considered complicit with the raiders. If you’re not with us you’re against us was the attitude. This counter-raid was termed the Hot Trot, and had to be announced with a piece of burning turf held up high, and with ‘hound and horne, hue and cry’.

Sleuth Hounds

Sleuth hounds, Scottish dogs bred for the purpose, would follow the trail and horses would pursue. After 6 days it was termed a ‘Cold Trot’ and had to be specially sanctioned. But always the threat of lawlessness and anarchy was present. The laws existed during peace time, but during times of war it was every clan for itself. Such a situation couldn’t remain long within the bounds of legality when blood feuds often motivated the reivers.

Sleuth Hound

A Scottish Sleuth Hound looked very similar to a bloodhound, but originally there were differences between the two breeds, a sleuth hound being red or black with small spots. Since about 1700 they have no longer existed as a separate species. Those who dared to deny entry to a sleuth hound on a “hot trot” were deemed guilty of complicity

Building Towers and Retailiation

Protectionism became rife. At the height of their powers the Armstrong Border reivers made Al Capone look like an actual violin player. By 1526, Clan Armstrong seized control of most of the ‘Debatable lands’ and built towers, beginning with Hollows Tower which was built by John Armstrong of Gilnockie. The English deemed this illegal. Consequently, in 1528 the English warden at that time, Lord Dacre, took a small army to attack the area’s inhabitants. As a result, they burned down Hollows Tower. The Armstrong Clan retaliated by burning his home town of Netherby in Cumberland.

Dumbarton Castle: The Legend

In the hills above Langholm, the forbidding Hermitage castle was built in 1240 by the Norman knight Nicholas De Soulis, to control the ‘troublesome Armstrongs’. So even then, they were a force to be feared. By 1320 it was in the hands of William De Soulis, who declared his God-given right to deflower the local virgins. He had been getting away with that for a while, but then he made the mistake of ensnaring a prominent Armstrong maid. She was saved by her family and revenge was swift. They captured De Soulis and threatened to kill him.

Alexander Armstrong, as clan chief, forbade them to do this, however, and showed mercy to De Soulis. For this act of kindness De Soulis invited Alexander to his castle and murdered him! The story goes that the Armstrongs captured the castle and boiled De Soulis in molten lead. But, the veracity of this tale, though compelling, is in doubt. There is evidence that De Soulis died a prisoner in Dumbarton Castle. Legend has it he practised the ‘dark arts’, and a demon he conjured still haunts the Castle. Similarly, the writer and historian Walter Elliot says the Hermitage Castle, ‘is an evil place, it feels evil.’

Hermitage Castle, Scottish Borders, Scotland.

Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders. Photo by Postdlf / CC BY-SA 3.0

James V, The Teenage King, and the Clan Armstrong

James V inherited his throne in 1513, at the tender age of 17 months, after his father was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field. The country was ruled by regents until 1524 until he dismissed them, and began to rule outright as a boy king. With the feuds raging in the marches, and his uncle Henry VIII of England criticising his failure to stop them, James V needed to take decisive action. Hence, the Armstrong clan was an obvious target to set up as an example.

In 1530 James V invited Johnny Armstrong of Gilnockie to have talks with him. They were to meet the Royal hunting party at Caerlanrig. Johnny and his men, not sensing any danger, went out from Gilnockie Tower unarmed and dressed themselves in their best finery, befitting a meeting with a monarch. What the king didn’t tell them was that there was an army of 10,000 men waiting to ambush them. On seeing Johnny and his men finely dressed, the teenage king was alleged to utter with great indignance ‘what wants this knave that a king should have?’ meaning, why are these men dressed like kings?  He immediately ordered their execution.

He’d had no intention of talking to them. He considered them traitors. Armstrong and his men were hanged. Johnny Armstrong, horrified at this betrayal of trust said before he died, that he had been a fool to ‘seek grace’ in a ‘graceless face’. The Armstrongs clan may have been guilty of many things, but to their proud minds, duplicity, was repugnant. Read more about James V and other monarchs of Scotland here.

James V of Scotland

James V of Scotland. Photo by PD-Art / Public Domain.

Armstrong Gravestone

Pathway to the Armstrong Grave

The gravestone was discovered by a farmer about 30 years ago. While tilling the field he unearthed a large stone with markings on it. The Armstrong Association were informed, as its position opposite Caernlarig Chapel meant it could well be that of Armstrong and his men. Dowsers were employed to begin dowsing at the four corners of the field and slowly walk together. Their rods all reacted at the same spot where, later, an Archeologist found skeletal remains buried beneath. The stone has been re-erected at that same spot.

The picture to the left shows the pathway to the stone, marking the mass grave of those killed by James V in 1530.

The End of Reiving

The Armstrongs continued to hold power in the lands of what is now South Roxburghshire. During the reign of Elizabeth I, reivers from Clans like Armstrong, Graham, and Elliot kept up such sustained raids on the south that the English parliament considered rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out. Then, in 1603 everything changed. James VI of Scotland ascended to the English throne on the death of Elizabeth I. It was the dawn of a new age, a new United Kingdom. It signaled the end of reiving and a whole way of life for the border clans.

The Armstrongs were just one of the targets for James’ euphemistically named policies for the pacification of the Borders. Due to this, all borderers were ordered to become farmers. The worst offenders charged to throw themselves on the king’s mercy for the ‘foul and insolent outrages’ previously seen in the borders (by which he meant reiving). The towers in the debatable lands were torn down and the wardens ejected. Consequently, the area was renamed the ‘Middle shires’ and it became an offence to call them the Borders.

A leather jack of the kind worn by reivers in the 16th century

A 16th Century leather ‘jack’ worn by reivers. Photo by Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0

Most notably, members of Clan Armstrong, among others, were forbidden to carry weapons or own horses of a higher than minimal value. Certainly, the more expensive light cavalry horses favoured by reivers were no longer allowed. For a culture based entirely on equestrian virtues this was a terrible blow, the end of their cultural heritage. Therefore, Reiver families who resisted these changes were forced from their lands and homes, hunted down, and deported or killed.

The goal of James’s policy was to consign the whole reiving tradition to the pages of history. It had no place in the new ‘Jamesian’ world. Today, we would call it Ethnic Cleansing. Many were tried and hanged in Carlisle or Newcastle. Towns like Rowanburn, once strongly populated with Armstrongs, were in a few short years markedly absent of that surname in their town records. By the 1640s any reivers left from the border clans were just outlaws living in gangs and terrorising the countryside. The common people, wanting finally to live in peace, no longer gave them shelter or aid.

Common Riding Tradition

Today, in border towns like Jedburgh, Hawick, Langholm and Selkirk, the reiving tradition is still remembered. These towns celebrate the annual festival of the ‘Common Riding’, a celebration of horsemanship that brings many flocking into town. This goes back to the 13th Century: local clans would ride around their land boundaries to weed out any encroachment by neighbouring landowners. Though this is no longer necessary, the border towns have kept the tradition alive. The Common Riding is an impressive series of festive events across the border counties, sometimes with events spanning several days. Horsemanship is always at the top of the agenda, in commemoration of those gallant reivers of old who risked their lives to protect their clan.

Riders returning from riding the Selkirk Marches gallop in at The Toll

Common Riding event at Selkirk. Photo by Retro junkies / Public domain.

Clan Armstrong Descendants

With the last of the Armstrong lairds being hung in Edinburgh in 1610, for having lead a raid on Penrith, England, the rest of clan fled the Borders and a lot of Armstrong families settled in Ulster. These days, Armstrong is amongst the fifth most common surname in Ulster. Moreover, since the clan was dispersed in the 17th century, there has been no trace of the Armstrong chiefs.

A Famous Armstrong

Portrait of Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing mission in his space suit, with his helmet on the table in front of him

A Famous indomitable Armstrong: Neil Armstrong.

The American astronaut and aeronautical engineer was born in 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, is mostly known for being the first person to walk on the Moon.

A year after successfully landing on the Moon, Neil visited his ancestral home in Scotland.

Neil Armstrong. Photo by NASA / Public domain.

Armstrongs with Highland Titles

As of April 2022, there are over 650 plots in the Highland Titles Land Register under the Armstrong name.

Accessorise like a true Armstrong

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Highland Titles: A Very Modern Clan

Alike historical clans, our community also share the investment and attachment to the land, our Nature Reserves, and we even have our own tartan and crest. Join the clan by purchasing a plot of land and continue our mission to conserve Scotland, one square foot at a time™!  Learn more about tracing Scottish ancestry here.

About the author

Written by: Stewart Borland

Comments on this post

  • Dennis Baylis
    15/06/15 - 03:02

    WOW History I was not taught. Please lets have more.

  • Louise Levy
    02/09/15 - 08:32

    Really fascinating – my husbands mother is an Armstrong and one of our children identify very closely with this clan! We are also of clan Donald!

  • Thursa Wilde
    02/09/15 - 15:30

    You have some quality blood in your veins Louise!

  • Jack Armstrong
    17/10/15 - 17:14

    Well done. This is the most thorough history of the early Armstrongs I’ve seen. Thank you!

  • Thursa Wilde
    20/10/15 - 17:37

    Thank you Jack. 🙂

  • owen jones
    20/01/16 - 01:23

    on my mothers ancestry the Armstrongs are direct thru her aunty eliza Armstrong who emigrated to Australia or were sent here from Ireland.some of the clan were deported to fermanagh after the wars as Presbyterians,in one clash on the border wars 28 men were killed by English arrows,today, armstrong is a prevalent surname in this part of Ireland,find more on this in the annual gatherings of sports catalogues.

  • Hannah Petty
    15/03/16 - 18:38

    I need to come take a visit. My Dad’s side has been traced back to the Armstrong clan of Scotland. I can see where I get my personality from!

  • Michael Buzan
    04/09/16 - 15:55

    my Mother and Grandfather are Armstrongs and I hope to find out more about her side of my family.

  • Greg Johnson
    15/03/17 - 03:58

    Hi, I have a question?
    As a result of the betrayal of clan Armstrong by James V and James VI, is there lasting enmity between Clan Stuart and Clan Armstrong?

    • Peter
      05/04/17 - 08:57

      Hi Greg
      Not to my knowledge.

  • Leah Armstrong
    14/04/17 - 13:52

    Thank you so much for this history! A proud Armstrong, I am. American born but Scotland is in my heart & my veins!

  • Michael Ivor Armstrong
    01/06/17 - 22:22

    We live near Preston, close enough to the Borders to visit easily. The lands aroundJedburgh feel like home.
    My wife and I have two daughters and three sons, all of whom are very fiercely proud of the clan. My daughters, who both live in Germany, have refused to give up the name and, like the rest of the family, close ranks at the slightest thing. I think it’s in the blood. I spent 30 years with Police, 25 of them with horses on the moited branch. By sheer coincidence I was a Skill at Arms champion, winning the Wilkinson Sword of Honour at the Royal Tournament 5 times.
    Invictus Maneo.

  • Vickie Russo
    18/06/17 - 03:19

    Thank you so much for the information on this site! I have been researching my ancestry for several years and some of the bits and pieces of a few stories have been solidified! I am a direct descendant of the Lairds of Mangerton Castle as well as Johnnie of Gilnockie. Johnnie of Gilnockie is my 12X great-grandfather. I am leaving the US soon to visit Scotland, Mangerton Castle, and the surrounding area. I am excited to see the beautiful land of my ancestors, but saddened to be at the place where they lived such a difficult life that often ended in a horrific death. Invictus Maneo!

  • Greg Johnson
    06/09/17 - 00:20

    Hi Peter

    James V and V1 were treacherous, incompetent and foolish Kings. They betrayed the Border clans. James V1 conducted a campaign in the Borders that today would be described as ethnic cleansing. After hundreds of years of loyal service to Scotland the people of the Borders were treated in this way is contemptible and a blight on both Scotland and especially the House of Stuart.
    James V1 initiated union with England that was a disaster for him and Scotland. The English Parliament played with him. His son Charles 1st was executed by the parliament and within a few generations the English were rid of the Stuart royals altogether. But the English owned Scotland and still do, it is a subject country. Essentially James V1 divided his own country and helped England conquer it. Well done!
    England has impoverished Scotland, closed their industries and relegated the population to social security to survive. They are dependent on English hand-outs, treated as second class citizens. The English Royal family has a great time at their Balmoral Estate every year.

  • Beverlee Armstrong Brown
    08/09/17 - 21:03

    James VI of Scotland was James I of England and it’s too simplistic to blame the English for everything that Scotland feels has been done to them. As a Canadian first, of Scottish descent for which I’m very proud, we can’t go through life pointing fingers and laying fault. Over 700 years of heritage cannot and should not be encapsulated into a few sentences. We carry our past is our heads and our present in our hearts….who knows what our future brings. Teaching our descendants to be good caring people is our sole job and holding onto grudges is not part of that. The history of Scotland and England has brought us to today; the relationship has evolved and will continue to grow, expanding their future into what they want. I’m 74 and a visit to Scotland is the last item on my bucket list not completed. I’m hopeful I’ll make it but to all the other Armstrongs out there……hi cuss!

  • Laura Armstrong
    10/09/17 - 03:28

    Thank you so much for the comprehensive history of my clan! My father was very proud of his heritage…to honor that I kept my name when I got married…to a Graham no less! I’m a teacher in Wisconsin at an elementary school called Cumberland. Ironic, right?

  • Bella Boudoir
    12/09/17 - 10:53

    I too am a jack Armstrong. How funny it is our clan mannerisms still remain centuries later. I am a keen and compitent rider who has mustered many cattle in my early days. I also have a strange resilience to hold strong no matter the circumstance. Also an even stronger desire to not conform and feircly protect what is mine!. Yip defiantly an Armstrong
    Jacqui New Zealand

  • Therese Marie Armstrong
    28/10/17 - 02:08

    I visited the lands of my ancestors in 2007 ,I attended a gathering of the Armstrong Clan in Lockerbie,what a wonderful experience to walk upon the land of my ancestors and visit Hermitage castle .I wept when I had to return to Australia.This is the best summary of the history of the Armstrong’s that I have read.Invictus Maneo.Thank You.

  • Elizabeth QUINN (nee Armstrong)
    07/12/17 - 16:15

    Thanks for this great history. I am aware that I have a relative common to both sides of my family Armstrong/ Nelson and Bryant / Cranston and that one of my relatives was in the grenadier guards.

  • David Paul Armstrong
    25/01/18 - 22:34

    I love this history, but am sadden by the death of so many Armstrongs at the hand of King James V, and King James VI. My ancestry has been traced way back, and I Johnnie of Gilnockie is my 13x great- grandfather. Reading this I it made me laugh at times, and sad a bit too, but I can surely see where some of my personality come from. Do not mess with an Armstrong, because that fierceness is still there. I have never been to Scotland, but hope to see it before I die.
    Invictus Maneo!

  • Olga Armstrong
    05/03/18 - 19:15

    My great grand father Jack Armstrong migrated from Scotland to Cote D’Ivoire as a British Merchant over 100 years ago. I’m so keen to know if l still have any surviving relatives. I need help to trace my ancestors.

  • Sarah Armstrong
    25/03/18 - 06:29

    As a direct descendant from my father’s side, this is the most fascinating discovery I could make. Using ancestry helped a lot. Kids used to tease me that I’m related to Neil Armstrong, because of my last name. But now I know, I really am! Invictus Menao.

  • Linda Weber
    04/05/18 - 13:37

    I am descended from the Armstrongs on my mothers side. After reading this post, I can definitely see that I have inherited the tendency to resist conforming, fight for what is right and not back down even when the odds are against me – NOW I know where I got it – all hail the Armstrongs! My mother and sister visited Scotland last year and were fascinated. We always laugh about sharing these same personality traits.

  • Tom Armstrong
    04/06/18 - 18:21

    My cousin traced our name back to the clan (circa 1400) days but, he may have taken some leaps of faith. We do have solid info about our recent ancestors. Our closest proven information is from the early 1800s and shows our family in Georgia. We eventually migrated to Texas in the mid 1800s (post civil war) and have been there ever since. We have always wondered if our family was sent to Georgia as convicts. Georgia (like Australia) was at one time supposed to be a penal colony. The narrative certainly fits the history and treatment of Armstrongs. Has any work been done on whether the Armstrong clan was treated as such? That is the story we tell, true or not. As my dad said, real Texans do not let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

  • Jack E. Armstrong
    17/06/18 - 00:43

    Hard to find proof of where my family heritage is from.

  • Campion Armstrong
    11/07/18 - 00:04

    Outstanding research and a great story to boot.
    We can trace back to the borderlands but with leaps of faith. We are more confident of our migration from Ireland straight to Cincinnati Ohio USA, where as luck would have it a Catholic Armstrong and a Protestant Armstrong met and married. The daughter’s father (William) owed a shoe shop for humans and horses in the early 1800’s. When the Protestant , named William too, arrived into Cincinnati he saw the Armstrong signage and went in to ask for a job… he got the job and a wife too. They had a large family. Some stayed in Cincinnati and others went to northern Ohio Wapakoneta where Niel Armstrong is from. And to this day in Ohio Armstrong’s in the know will ask another Ohio Armstrong , “ are you from the northern or southern Ohio Armstrong. So I am told. Can’t wait to take my family to Scotland do you know what time of year the festivals take place there I’d love to go. Thanks Invictus Maneo

  • Barry Armstrong
    29/07/18 - 09:36

    I and my three children are redheads as are most of my cousins. When I had skin cancer a few years ago the consultant saw my name and hair colour and said I have Celt and Viking DNA.
    Explains a lot about my temperament.

  • Elizabeth LaDouceur
    07/10/18 - 22:55

    My mom ws an Armstrong on her dad’s side. She said that her cousins were 6’5″ or over, blond, blue or green eyed and broad shouldered. She also said that we are direct descendants of the Armstrong clan. My grandfather was either from Edinborough or Glasgow; I don’t remember. He must have descended from the ones who decided that there had been enough marauding; time to be respectable. I also grew up believing that the description of how an Englishman looked was actually Viking. Weren’t we related to Robin Hood and tht that was part of the reason that they were finally killed of? Like in the family going totally rogue, didn’t that create a Robin Hood type who was an embarrassment to the crown? I read that the Armstrongs were given their own kingdom by the King of England in exchange for protecting the border and that they ended-up mixing family-wise with the Royals….back then.

  • Dan Armstrong
    20/11/18 - 16:50

    Thank you for this. As I continue to research my lineage (which potentially seems to lead directly to Johnnie Gilnockie Armstrong),I continue to be amazed that my father Merle was an accomplished racehorse jockey and rather a character that would have for rightin with the personalities and culture of our Reiver relatives. I’m so eager to learn more.

  • Merle Venter
    30/12/18 - 14:49

    My grandfather was an Armstrong but sadly the family do not have any other information, so this has been extremely interesting. Perhaps his forefathers came from the Border areas. My father’s family were/are Cunningham and while we all thought we came from Scottish descent, it seems that we may have come from Irish descent. So love Scotland and Ireland.

  • Mark Elliott
    06/01/19 - 03:30

    Of the MIDDLE MARCH Clans; Armstrong, Elliott, Nixon, and Crozier, though of Gorrenberry, Scotland, at the time family left 1607, Gorrenberry was neither of the Kingdom of Scotland or English, so my heritage is of The Borders, the land between the two kingdoms, and my loyalty is strongly with the major clan of the Middle Marches. Since the Elliott seem to be claiming Scotland, and I claim Middle March kinship because family left in 1607, today I am an Armstrong, descended from the Armstrong and Elliott of Gilnockies day and apart of that gallant company.

    Peace on the Border;

  • Susan Armstrong Vivyan
    14/01/19 - 18:32

    Our Armstrong lineage is currently in central Ohio as well as NW Ohio. Interesting to read Linda Weber’s post “I can definitely see that I have inherited the tendency to resist conforming, fight for what is right and not back down even when the odds are against me – NOW I know where I got it – all hail the Armstrongs!” I can relate. Justice runs through my veins.
    My grandfather was in the farming business (IH dealer in NW OH); my son interested in horses & the Armstrong history. He recently purchased bedding from Eddie Bauer = Armstrong tartan. I’ll be incorporating the Armstrong tartan plaid (wrapping paper) into a painting for him. Theme will be Scottish landscape, tartan plaid + Celtic tree.
    History is not separate from who we are today.

  • Mark Elliott
    21/01/19 - 04:08

    The Armstrong Sword in Stone; The Armstrong’s Milnholm (miln-mill, holm ‘fairly level bank’) Cross, is christian because the IHS on it’s from represents Christ, on the Cross. The crack in your illustration above shows where the shield with the arms was added around 1880.
    The History of Liddesdale, Eskdale, Ewesdale, Wauchopedale and the Debateable Land: By Robert Bruce Armstrong, Volume 1 1883, page 94,”An addition bearing a shield with arms has within a recent period been added to the cross probably about the same time the upper portion of the face of the cross was removed leaving the letters IHS MA AA in relief as represented in the illustration. The late Dr John Stuart the well known authority on sculptured stones supposed this cross to have been erected at some period between the middle of the thirteenth and middle of the fourteenth centuries.”

  • William Gerald Armstrong
    14/02/19 - 00:56

    Hi All my Brothers Sisters & Border Reivers,My name is William Gerald Armstrong,Nickname Gerry just spent the last Hour reading some of your messages buitefull,But your all so far away from your border reiver lands, THAT makes me a bit SAD,but yet in away it feels like we are all under ohe roof in one of HOUR border villages like Langholm, or Newcastleton,having a good old chitchat about are four fathers & morthers,I lave in a city,called Carlisle, Cumbria,7miles from scotts border,im surrounded by so much History about Clan Armstrong & border reivers,i do lots of fell walking around the Reiver walks, some times i feel that my four Fathers are walking with me & saying great to have you back Gerry,see i come from a town called Enniskillen, in Co Fermanagh, Ulster,come to Carlisle,9 years ago for a walking Holiday the borders & lowlands were just mind blowing for me,went back to Ulster sold my house & with in six weeks ways back in Carlisle,its cold wet windy but good days its mind blowing, the iceing on the cake for me is im back walking true the fells in my four fathers foot steps,Invictus Maneo Gerry God Bless

  • Robin Armstrong Siktberg
    14/02/19 - 02:26

    I love reading these comments! I also share these qualities with my sister and several cousins. We don’t hesitate to stand up for ourselves and others and my dad (Robert Armstrong) and his brother (John Armstrong) were ornery and opinionated in the best possible ways. My dad did a lot of genealogy and traced our American lineage back to 1740, when Archibald Armstrong came here from Scotland (I think from Ulster) and set up a trading post near Rome, New York. He fought in the French and Indian War. Archibald had nine children, and his sons fought on the American side in the Revolution. The Armstrong family stayed near Rome, where my grandfather, Walter Armstrong, was born. He moved to Columbus, Ohio— WWI vet, and had three kids. My dad and uncle, WWII vets, and their younger sister.

    I have read so much British and Scottish history, and am so proud to be an Armstrong. I visited Gilnockie Tower in 1992, when it was still privately owned. I’m bringing my daughter back this summer— we are both so excited to see the inside of the tower and the museum!

  • Robin Armstrong Siktberg
    14/02/19 - 02:33

    I noticed the comment above from the Ohio Armstrong. It’s interesting…my dads family was from Rome, New York, but moved to Columbus Ohio. Then eventually to Cleveland. I used to ask my dad if we were related to Neil Armstrong, and he said, “Yes, distantly, about 200 years back. He was from the Pennsylvania branch.”

  • Rose Butchers
    04/03/19 - 02:00

    This is very interesting reading. I am so intrigued by the Armstrong history. My gg-grandmother was Catherine Armstrong who was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in 1843. Her dad was John Armstrong, and this is probably why I am having issues researching the Armstrong family, as I believe there are numerous John Armstrong’s!! Catherine married John Morrison on 13th May 1867 in Omagh, County Tyrone just prior to emigrating to New Zealand. If anyone can help with websites that I can search would be very helpful.
    Take Care all you Armstrongs’ out there.

  • Nick Armstrong
    07/03/19 - 00:05

    Hi as we have no clan chief is there anyway to make a claim to be chief?

  • [email protected]
    06/06/19 - 10:23

    very interesting and am one proud Armstrong great research proud of all us Armstrong’s all stand tall

  • Denise Mary Callander stein
    15/08/19 - 20:37

    We are from USA through Canada and into Illinois. My dad is a Callander he misspelled his name early in and it was changed from Callendar. I would love to know about the 3 brothers one my dads grandfather that came over from Scotland. My dad is Lowell Callander. I’m arriving in Edinborough Tomorrow morning for the first time. I hope to learn a little but heading to. The highlands this trip. Hope to learn more for another trip to the lowlands one day soon. Any body who knows anything it would be wonderful.

  • Candace Armstrong
    30/08/19 - 07:27

    This article is so fascinating! I’ve researched my family’s origins for years but have never come across anything as informative. The comments were also nice to read; feels like we’re one big, geographically distant family! My family lives in SW Ontario, and you guessed it, we’re all farmers, mainly soy bean. My grandfather was Maxwell Armstrong. I’ve also had an obsession with horses for as long as I can remember and have been riding since I was 7. These genes must be pretty strong! lol I also dated a Graham a few years back. That would have been funny if we married! I’m so looking forward to visiting Scotland someday, especially to checkout some of these places!!

  • Margaret Armstrong Schueller
    05/12/19 - 03:57

    The information above is fascinating.
    To Candace Armstrong from SW Ontario: My grandfather, Harry Armstrong, was from the SW Ontario area (born 1900, Chatham et al?). My dad, Frank, and his siblings: Richard and Margaret grew up in Chicago. I never knew my grandfather as he passed at early age of 50. My family and cousins attended an Armstrong family reunion in SW Ontario: Windsor and Chatham in August of 1970. Would this be the similar Armstrongs? There was an extensive geneology (prepared on a blueprint like paper) prepared by a Russell Armstrong from Canada that we had but has been lost over the years. The family tree traced back 5-6 generations to the British Isles: Scotland/England/Ireland. Would love to find those connections!

  • Lori Fruth
    23/12/19 - 02:36

    Question. I was told that the surname Strong has ties to the surname Armstrong. Is there any truth to that at all?

  • Anthony Armstrong
    28/12/19 - 06:05

    Wow from ky all my fellow armstrongs

  • Jamie Armstrong
    02/01/20 - 01:50

    Hello All! After much research I have learned that on my father’s side I have Armstrong and Stewart ancestry. My father’s paternal lineage is all Armstrong, his maternal lineage is all Stewart. We also have a Bruce ancestor dating back to 1600’s. I am so thrilled to learn of this site and the historical information it has to offer! I plan on making a pilgrimage to Scotland in the near future to visit some of the areas inhabited by my ancestors.
    I am a very strong willed HORSE lover, and now I may have an answer, its in the DNA!!

  • Kenneth Armstrong
    12/01/20 - 23:46

    Thank you so much for this. My grandfather has been to Scotland and seen all of this. Armstrong’s are now all around the world, but I am a direct decendant as they landed in South Carolina and then migrated to East Tennessee I’ve met many other Armstrong’s in Tennessee and we all look similar.

  • Jackie Wilkerson
    13/01/20 - 19:41

    I have been researching my Armstrong heritage for a while. I know that my ancestor, Robert Armstrong, was sent to Ireland and then moved to New York, probably in the mid to late 1700s (he died in 1812). I would love to know more about him, where he lived, etc. He married Margaret Anderson. Eventually, they moved west and my great grandfather, Lyndon King Armstrong, settled in Spokane, Washington.

    If anyone has any information, I would be so appreciative!

    Invictus Maneo,
    Jackie Wilkerson

  • Charles Smith
    17/02/20 - 20:54

    Very interesting! I will be in Scotland this summer 2020. I have a new understanding of my family history.

  • Steve Armstrong
    29/02/20 - 22:41

    Really interesting read. I live on the south coast of England, but as I trace my family back I go further and further north. Proud to be an Armstrong.

  • Simon Armstrong
    26/03/20 - 21:35

    WOW, I’m in New Zealand and I was due to go to England in May of this year and travel up to Scotland and visit all of those sites as shown above. I have already sent details and photos of all of these sites to my mate in London who was going to take me up there. My family history goes back to the 12th century Unfortunately, due to “COVID 19” I wont be doing this trip

  • Mark Elliott
    06/04/20 - 06:51

    Armstrong can not be lead. They are a collective of diversity, but when acting independent of each other by pitch in they make one unified strong arm. They are like a bunch of wild border cattle once approach they all scatter everywhere. Being an Elliott, I can hide behind the bushes wait for them to heard up, and start traveling in direction, to follow them. Have to be careful about following the Armstrong, because I can end up strung up with their gallant company like the Ellot (ie Elliott) which followed Gilnockie, and are buried with him.

  • Wheadon
    03/05/20 - 14:03

    I am an Armstrong through and through I was born in Carlisle as was my dad my paternal grandfather was an Armstrong from Kirkcaldy as was his family born and raised there my maternal grandparents were Scott from Dumbarton. I am proud of my heritage and can relate to being stubborn argumentative and strong all of which I am as are my daughters with tempers to match along with auburn hair need I say more yet our husbands wouldn’t have us any other way strong willed women

  • Kathrine Armstrong-Bisson
    09/05/20 - 06:21

    This has been one of the best descriptions and information I have read about our clan. I also am very proud of my heritage, as is my Father. I can definitely say I too have a strange resilience to hold strong no matter the circumstance, and an even stronger desire to not conform and feircly protect what is mine!. I was brought up in Yorkshire, but spent many holidays as a child in Scotland. Living in my 20s in Alnwick, Northumberland. My Father now lives in Castle Douglas, and I always feel I am going home when I head for the borders.

  • Stephen Warren Armstrong
    01/06/20 - 04:08

    Like so many of you who have posted here I also have traced my roots to the Anglo-Scottish Border Esk Valley. But What I find so interesting how so many of you have strong personality traits that is in keeping of what we have learned from history about our kin folk. This is no different from myself. Although I didn’t know of my Scottish ancestry until my mid 30’s looking back I should have guessed much sooner.
    I was adopted by my step father who turned out to be the hero of my life and best friend. I knew little about my birth father except that he was an Armstrong. I had no clue that was a Scottish name.
    What should have been my first clue was the first time I heard bag pipes while serving in the Army in Europe. I can’t explain how I felt at the sound but I couldn’t get enough which also led to a love and passion for everything Scottish.
    After returning home I attended the San Francisco Caledonia club Highland games where I met and became friends with a guy who was a member of the club. By the next year I was a volunteer crew member at the games and soon after he invited me to a meeting. Still thinking I wasn’t Scottish I couldn’t join as a full member but I could join as an associate member. One night as we were on our way to a meeting we stopped for fish and chips at a Scottish pub. I asked the bartender if they had Haggis, he said not enough people liked it enough to carry any. My friend asked me if I was sure I wasn’t Scottish. Because I had always gone by my adopted name he started asking what my mothers madden name was as well as any other relatives. Finally I told him I had been adopted and was born as an Armstrong. He started laughing and grabbed the book of clans that was kept behind the bar and turned to the first page and there it was, Clan Armstrong.
    This started a long search of many years into my ancestors. It ended up at Mangerton Castle. So In 2017 I finally made a solo trip to the border where I met a lovely local woman who volunteered to be my guide around the border and all of the Armstrong historical sites. Most of all I wanted to see the birth place of my distant great grand father, Mangerton Castle. I was so disappointed to find nothing but part of a stone wall and a pile of rubble. But still I could feel the connection. She then told me that I was also a decedent of Gilnockie Tower. So she arraigned for a privet tour with Ian who was the project Mgr of the restoration project even thou it was closed to the public. It was so amazing from the moment I arrived. Ian and I hit it off right away and he spent hours showing me what it had looked like when he first started the project to where it was at that time. I know it sounds weird but it all felt so familiar as I bent over to clear the low door way to enter. Climbing the circular stone stair case I knew ahead of time what I might see at each floor.
    I had only planed to spend 2 days before moving on to the rest of Scotland but ended up staying 5 days. I made so many friends during my stay in Langholm and still stay in touch, they sometimes ask when I’m coming home again. I had planed to go back every other year because it truly did feel like home, but life sometimes gets in the way of what you want to do most.. This year I booked my flight for January and was so excited to finally get back.
    The first week in January overnight I became very ill with some kind of flu that they couldn’t identify. I spent 15 days in the hospital fighting for my life. As the test was developed for antibody’s we know know Covid 19 was in the Ca. area much earlier than first thought. At 70 I was a high risk candidate, so even after the disappointment of missing my trip, I’m glad to still be here to tell my story.
    I’m already planing my trip for next year and God willing I’ll make it this time.
    I would highly recommend to all of you to sign up for the free news letter that is put out by Ian at Gilnockie Tower that always has a wee bit of history as well as all of the going’s on along the Reiver Trail. just send an email to: [email protected]
    Yours aye

  • Julie Armstrong
    18/06/20 - 01:54

    My late husband was Lancelot Warwick Armstrong, the 15th of the name. His birth name was William Armstrong, but his father was disappointed when the youngest child was a girl, so changed “Billy’s” name to Lancelot. He was, most likely, the hereditary Armstrong of Armstrong, the last of the line. He was a tall, long-limbed, very handsome man with blue eyes, very fair and commanding. My own family (Bragdon) was Stewart from both sides. My great-grandmother Anna Stewart was born at sea as the family emigrated to Canada. I do not have my husband’s genealogy – I believe his daughter has it. But when people are getting a bit snobby about their ancestors, I gently remind them I am the last Lady Armstrong of Armstrong. If anyone has further information, or can correct what I remember, I would appreciate knowing it.

  • Jacobus Nicolaas Armstrong
    06/07/20 - 11:51

    So Armstrong is Scott damn never knew I,m from South Africa

  • lesley armstrong
    04/08/20 - 23:48

    i am adopted, and my father’s (obviously from the name) is scottish as where both his parents. they were missionaries in india, and that was where my father was born in the early 1920’s. i don’t even really care about where i originally came from. (that i can find out) but where would i even start to find out more of my fathers background (he passed quite a few years back). i find the Armstrong clan so fascinating and always wanted to visit scotland.

  • Amber Armstrong
    12/08/20 - 19:02

    WOW! I absolutely love knowing the history the Armstrong Clan. If I did my research right, Johnnie Armstrong is my 14th great-grandfather. It just so interesting to read about your own family. Hopefully in the future I can visit all the historical mark.

  • Darryl Armstrong
    15/11/20 - 19:24

    Recently, with my brother’s help, we researched the genealogy of being an Armstrong. I now hold our name and lineage in deep regard. Johnnie Armstrong would be our 13th great-grandfather and I long to see the ancestral lands of the debatable or disputed area. To my fellow Armstrongs out there, Halò and Invictus Maneo!

  • Johnny Schaffer
    18/01/21 - 20:06

    I’m the Great Grandson of Bertha Armstrong ..i read a app that said some company was going to put wind mills on my ancestors land in Scotland the Armstrong family castle etc .The wind mills can be installed on the ocean floor like the country Denmark did or not at all.

  • Lois Armstrong Shuck
    02/02/21 - 08:21

    My father was an Armstrong from Savannah. His dad was in the shipping business back in the day. I’ve noticed caricatures of the name include a ship. Is there any relevant history on that?
    Are they known for boat building or sailing? I don’t live in the South anymore for many years, I love your history. A few things I knew but you added so much. Thank you.

  • Lori Armstrong
    05/03/21 - 03:53

    I enjoy reading my family history

  • Margaret Huff
    14/03/21 - 07:47

    My mother’s mother was born with the surname Strong. She always said her ancestors were Scots Irish who moved to County Sligo and Mayo in Ireland after Cromwell had swept through. I’ve never been able to find any Strongs in Scotland so my research has kind of dead-ended. I’ve wondered if they were originally Armstrongs and simplified their name for some unknown reason. The Strongs in Ireland were supposedly exceptional horsemen and horse breeders/trainers, but they were a long way from nobility. They served as grooms for richer people or were farmers and my direct ancestor moved to Canada before the Potato Famine in 1831, I think. Has anybody ever heard of Irish Strongs, who were originally Scottish Armstrongs?

  • Brienna Armstrong
    15/03/21 - 02:44

    This was fun to read thankyou. Proud to be who I am and part of the family.

  • Brienna Armstrong
    15/03/21 - 10:04

    This was very amazing to read I am an armstrong but my mothers side of my family, Lorri Angela, her last name was Whalen before she married my father Ronald Edward Armstrong.

  • Yvette Armstrong Tracy
    08/04/21 - 10:03

    Thank you so much for this thorough history of our clan. I am American born, but my Armstrong family comes from Scotland and are very proud to be of Scottish decent. My son’s name is John and loves the fact that Johnny Armstrong was a well known Scottsman. I hope to visit Scotland one day. That is the only thing on my bucket list.

  • Neil Ritson
    02/05/21 - 02:03

    I joined the Clan and for only $21/year and they did my genealogy in great detail for free!
    AND they found a long lost cousin who had emigrated to Canada! We phone each other irregularly!!

    I suggest anyone who is interested should join.

    best wishes from New Zealand


  • Eldon Armstrong
    20/07/21 - 03:25

    After inheriting a family crest i started to research my family name. all i can say is wow. im planning on a trip to Scotland in 2022

  • Y dna
    27/07/21 - 01:24

    Royal match: Clan Armstrong Ancestral Seat: Y-DNA Haplogroups: Rlblalblala2

    Royal Ties Globe Your DNA matches ancient samples, which in turn have Royal ties via their Y- DNA subclades. Discover your potential Royal ties using the Yellow control – your related samples will appear as red or yellow dots. Touch these samples to uncover more – Sample matches (Red) or Deep Dive (Yellow) Touch a crown to learn about the Royal ancestral home found there. Touch, drag and pinch the globe to explore! Spin the globe with the grey sliders.

  • Deborah Armstrong
    15/08/21 - 08:23

    I have always been aware of out Great Grandfather Johnnie x13 and I am delighted to read more on our family history. Look forward to visiting Scotland after COVID. My Armstrong’s came to Australia in 1800’s.

  • Christopher Foust
    09/10/21 - 02:26

    Thank you for this. This is more information on the Armstrong root of my family than I have been able to dig up in years!

  • Jenean
    11/10/21 - 16:11

    My great grandma is an armstrong.. I am a decendant of the armstrong clan from what the family tree DNA testing said.. proud to be an armstrong!!

  • Deborah Varney
    17/10/21 - 13:53

    My Mary Armstrong married Joseph Carter in st Dunstans 1793 . I’m not 100 percent certain of her parents but all the strongest Dna matches point to John strong Armstrong 1763 Fermanagh and margaret Anderson. Does anyone know that line ? Can John’s parents be confirmed? Many thanks

  • David Armstrong
    02/11/21 - 04:28

    I am reserching my family and am having some trouble following my Armstrong line. Very informative read here. Enjoyed reading through the comments. I’m American born and the Armstrong side of my family is from the Georgia/Alabama area. My great grandfather Aristo Armstrong was a Pinkerton Detective and fought in the Spanish American war. Would love to discover more about my Armstrong line.

  • Julie Armstrong Dawson
    11/12/21 - 03:22

    Wonderful reading all the posts. Descendant of the Armstrong’s in my father’s side. Still enjoy trail riding and breaking horses at 56 years old. One day I’ll make it to Scotland!!

  • Krista de leon
    16/12/21 - 22:12

    I truly agree that this is fascinating depiction of the armstrong family history. My maternal grandmother whom was raven haired is an armstrong by her father William Armstrong, her parents came to the states from Ireland in the late 1800s, they are from ferminaugh County Ireland. It was said their family fled there with the rest of the clan. I’m able to trace back to my 12th great grandfather. I now understand alot about my uncles and mothers and even my own interests and personality. My children also display alot of the true armstrong characteristics. Sad history seems it’s continued thru generations. I’m witness to that. Im proud to be armstrong and to be scottish. Invictus maneo!
    Best wishes from Wisconsin

  • Ian Alexander Armstrong
    08/02/22 - 01:14

    I too am a very proud Australian Armstrong and very interested in the Clan History.

    My Great Great Grandfather John Frederick Armstrong and his brother Michael emigrated to Australia from Ireland in 1833.

    John Frederick married my Great Great Grandmother Annie O’Neil on board ship in Rio De Janeiro.

    I assume that they were part of the of the group that left Scotland and went Ulster and elsewhere after 1610.

    John and Michael were both Coopers but had Pubs in Bathurst NSW.

    Great account of the Clan history.

  • James Armstrong
    22/03/22 - 03:44

    This was a very interesting bit of family history, thank you to everyone who has contributed

  • Dr. Neal Armstrong
    16/04/22 - 19:53

    Thank you for this great history of the Armstrong clan. I hope to make it “across the pond” to Scotland and Ireland in the next year or two to trace the roots of my Armstrong ancestors. My great grandfather had immigrated to America from Ireland, but his ancestors had immigrated to Ireland from the Scottish highlands. My paternal grandmother was a Putnam and some of her ancestors were in America, mainly in Massachusetts, since before the American Revolution, including General Israel Putnam who was famous for saying “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

  • Olga Armstrong
    17/05/22 - 01:29

    My great grandmother is Jack Armstrong who migrated to ivory coast as a merchandise or missionary. He never returned back to Scotland. I so keen in tracing my family lineage

  • Jeff
    19/05/22 - 04:26

    My Great Grandmother was an Armstrong. Mable Ann Armstrong. I loved reading about the history of the Clan. Through my Armstrong line here in the USA we’re connected to the Templeton’s who going back far enough go back to the Stewarts/Stuarts and many other clans all the way to Robert De Bruce . My Great Aunt Vivian said that through the Armstrong lineage that we were related to Vikings.

  • Cheryl Armstrong-Bagnal
    20/05/22 - 18:01

    I love my Scot heritage. We lived in West Yorkshire (Thorp Arch) for four years and spent many weekends in Scotland where my heart soared when crossing the border and listening for the faint whispers of my ancestors became a ritual. You’ve done an excellent job of telling of the history of our Clan ! ❤️

  • Sue George
    09/06/22 - 01:30

    I was born an Armstrong and grew up in Northern Illinois, USA. My father was an incredibly strong man, probably the strongest person I ever knew and incredibly gentle. He was a carpenter by trade.

  • Kimberley Wright
    17/06/22 - 09:53

    The more you know! I love learning about history and ancestors.
    William “Kinmont Willie” Armstrong was my 13th great-grandfather.

  • Pat Rees
    02/08/22 - 14:14

    My ancestor was Richard Armstrong who married Elizabeth Graham in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria in the 1770s and the families seem to have been there for many generations so I think they may be descendants of these border reivers, it would be great to make that connection for definite. I’m currently on a tour of Scotland which
    Includes the Culodden battle field. I was trying to see if my ancestors fought there and came across this great article.

  • Gerald Kerwin Armstrong
    11/08/22 - 19:47

    I couldn’t stop dad has a plack that explains how we received the name.Is it true of the scooping up of a king and it went from Fairburn to Armstrong while in battle.

  • Elizabeth Armstrong
    28/09/22 - 14:17

    Wow … I knew my Armstrong kin were a clan not to be trifled with, but this history is the best information I have read so far, I really feel connected to my historical roots in every way possible, Thank you so much.

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