Origins of the Carmichael name
The first Carmichaels may have been indigenous Britons, or they could have been among the many Norman knights who were invited to settle in southern Scotland by Kings Malcolm III and his son David I following the successful Normandy Invasion of England in 1066 (a genealogist’s report prepared for the second Earl of Carmichael speculates that the chiefly line may have descended from a knight from Mont St. Michel on the coast of Normandy).
Carmichaels will probably never be known, what is known is that some 800 years ago the residents who had settled around what later became Carmichael Estate had adopted the name of their district, Caer Mychel, for their surname -- a practice that King Malcom III began to encourage around the year 1056. Tinto Hill, the “Hill of Fire” (pictured above), is the highest elevation in the region at 2,320 feet. Just north of it stood the prominent stone ruins of three ancient Briton hill forts, called a “caer” in the Gaelic tongue.
Within a few generations, these transplanted Norman nobles were among the leading families of Scotland and included the Bruce, Stewart, Hamilton, Fraser, and Gordon families, just to name a few. While the origins of the first
In the year 1068, shortly after marrying King Malcolm III, Queen Margaret founded one of the first seven Christian churches in Scotland on one of these sites. "Caer hill" subsequently became known as kirkhill, or "church hill," and was dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Queen Margaret was an extremely pious and devout Roman Catholic who converted the entire Kingdom from the ancient Culdee faith to Catholicism, for which she was canonized as St. Margaret after her death.
The first survey of Christian churches in Scotland in 1116 refers to this church as "Llan" (church, later called kirk) Mychel (of St. Michael). Thus, “Caer Mychel” became the name of the place, and the name was adopted by the residents for their surname.
The first Carmichael name of record is Robert de Carmitely --a scribes’ attempt to spell the name-- who resigned claims to the patronage of the church of Cleghorn around 1220, and who is again mentioned in the Charter of Dryburgh Abbey in 1226 as Robert de Carmichael. The name evolved through a series of spellings to Carmichael as it is generally spelled today.
During the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Carmichaels traveled widely. Some went to Galloway where they became kinsmen of the Stewarts of Galloway, later moving northwards and settling in Lismore and Appin as kinsmen of the Stewarts of Appin and the MacDougalls. Others traveled to Holland where Robert Carmichael ‘the armourer’ still has descendants known today as ‘Carmiggelts’. Further migrations to Ireland in 1690 and to the Americas as far back as 1650 resulted in the world-wide spread of the Carmichael name.
There are towns named Carmichael in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi, California, Saskatoon Canada, Barbados West Indies, and Australia. In 1997 the world-wide Carmichael population was estimated at over 42,000 with half resident in the United States, a quarter in the United Kingdom and 10% in Canada. An additional 10% lives in Australia, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, South Africa and Italy.