Bits and Pieces


So in the absence of a definitive DNA match I have to put things together the best I can based on some “close” DNA matches, my own amateur ancestry.com paper trail and broad generalities about “Thompsons”.

So I’ll start here with the most basic things. Thompson is a short form of that great Lord of the Rings type name. You know, like Gimly son of Gloen, only in my family it was (insert name here) son of Thomas. Over time it might be Thomas’s son and be shortened to Thomson. Later the intrusive “P” was added, possibly to be fancy, or to differentiate from some unknown other group of Thomsons or because people in my family enjoy spitting when they talk. Either way Thompson is more common in England and Ireland, while Thomson is generally associated with Scotland.

Most family name sites and genealogy forums agree that Thompson or Thomson is a Scottish name, but it’s pretty likely that it could originate anywhere there’s a Thomas who has a son….so you can never be totally sure. There are plenty of Thomsens in Scandinavian and Germanic countries so I doubt all sons of Thomas are Scottish.

For my research though, at this time (everything changes) we appear to be from Northern Ireland in the late 1700s. That coincides nicely with the Ulster Scots who are the product of the Ulster Plantation and the general Plantations of Ireland that Occurred over hundreds of years. Given the English intrusive “P” in the Thompson name it stands to reason that we are from the British Isles (probably England) and at some point moved to Northern Ireland and became Irish Thompsons before we moved to the U.S. in the early 1800s.

That also fits nicely with our family story that we are English and that we are in some way related to the Royal family. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the Knighthood but family stories however strange sometimes contain seeds of truth and kernels of family history even when they lead you where you least expect. In my case Donegal Ireland.

Back to generic Thompson name information. I’ll assume we have the Scottish name because we’re probably Ulster Scots or Ulster Irish or Scots Irish or Northern Irelanders whatever you’re comfortable with. During the mid to late 1700s and early 1800s they just called themselves Irish so I’ll use these terms interchangeably.

So Thom(p)son is Scottish enough for me. Where does the name come from? Well…Ireland. With the original “Scotti” (what the romans called them) or the Dal Raida kingdom that contained Northern Ireland and Scotland in the 500s AD. Last names are a fairly recent invention, but the root words for the Thompson name originate with the Gaelic speaking Irish Scots. The Thompson DNA project has a pretty nice breakdown of all the different versions of Thompson names from MacTomaidh to Holmes.

A couple of highland clans from that area claim the Thompsons. Probably the most vocal that I’ve seen are MacTavish (Tavish is actually and anglicized version of how the Irish pronounced Tomaidh) and MacThomas. MacTavish is a western Highland and lowland clan around Argyle. MacThomas is a more easterly highland clan around Glenshee. Thompsons are also claimed by Fraser (MacTavish has a deer on it’s coat of arms like Fraser’s deer badge) and Campbell (who claims MacTavish as well. They get the boars head from Campbell).

And of course the Thom(p)sons want to be their own recognized clan.

All of this makes the generic Thompson Family Motto even more ironic.

“Know Thyself.”

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