Clan Irwin Association:  Irwin with an I”?

When my mother began doing genealogical research in the 1950’s, she had a very difficult time.  Her maiden name was Erwin and after confirming her findings for just a couple of generations, she was unable to trace her lineage beyond what her elder relations could remember.  Despite years of slogging through old courthouses, cemeteries and libraries, she was at a dead end.  Instead, she started researching her maternal side and was able to use that information for my grandmother (also my mother, cousin, etc.) to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The Erwin research stagnated.

Prior to a trip to Scotland, I tried to do more research and see where our Erwin relatives had roots.  I knew they were “Scotch-Irish” so a Google search into Clan Erwin led me to Drum Castle and Clan Irwin Association (aka the CIA).  I eagerly joined and, on that trip, visited Drum Castle for the first time.  But, I wasn’t sure that these were MY Erwins.

Since joining the Clan Irwin Association, I have found out that yes, these are my people and that I am descended from the Drum branch of the name.  I also found out why, in the days before computers/the internet, my mother had such a hard time.  There are over 270 accepted variations of the name!  Several of these spellings show up in my lineage.  Through my membership with the Association, I have met people that share that same lineage and have helped me fill gaps in my own ancestry.

Following are some of the over 270 accepted variations of the name:

  • Airwin
  • Arewin
  • Arvinge
  • Arvon
  • Curwen
  • Curwing
  • D’Orvin
  • deHerwyne
  • deIrevigne
  • deOrvin
  • Eirryn
  • Erbeine
  • Erevein
  • Erewynis
  • Erin
  • Erin-Fiene
  • Ervin
  • Ervpnne
  • Iarwin
  • Irevin
  • Irewing
  • Irin
  • Irlytn
  • Irn
  • Irrin
  • Irruein
  • Irruin
  • Irruwingus
  • Irueyn
  • Iruing
  • Irvane
  • Irvine
  • Irven
  • Irving
  • Irvon
  • Irvyerins
  • Irwein
  • Irwen
  • Irwin
  • Irwon
  • Irynagio
  • Oerin

Prefixes have appeared with the name (MacIrwin). Suffixes have also appeared with the name (Irwintire and Ervinton).  Septs of the clan are: Brand and Snodgrass.

So, if there are so many accepted variations of the name, why did the Association take the name of Irwin and not another spelling?  I found the answer in the first issue of the Holly Leaf Chronicle, the newsletter for the CIA from the first quarter of 1976. An article written by Ralph R. Irwin, the first President (now Chairman) of the CIA, states that:

…many Scottish Clans, of which our Clan was one, about the turn of the century organized to reinforce that heritage in America lest it fade into the past.  Unfortunately, the first organization, The Irvine Society did not carry through to the present.  So, on 21 March 1976 Clan Irwin Association was organized to carry on toward the same objectives.  Realizing that History teaches; that Genealogy adds an enlivening personal footnote thereto; that our tartan and heraldic insignia engender solidarity, Clan Irwin makes the most of them all.

The choice of the name was not an arbitrary selection.  In the year 1184 the historian Hovedon wrote about the Castle Irwin in Scotland; the Charter for Drum Castle, a Crown document signed by Robert the Bruce in 1323, was given to Sir William de Irwin.  This is evidence that from early dates, the name was Irwin.  Its use now obviates the selection of either Irving or Irvine as used by our Chiefs today. But however variously our name be spelled, we are all descended from the same Border Clan that has existed for eight centuries.”

I couldn’t have said it any more eloquently sir.  I feel so honored to be linked to those that came before us and the people that I have met through the CIA.   We are blessed.

Leslie Smeathers

(This article is the opinion and beliefs of the author, not necessarily Clan Irwin Association.)