By Richard Gwynallen

James Allen
(1743 – death date unknown)
Anne Gwynne
(1738 – death date unknown)
Relationship to Fawn: 5th great-grandparents

James Allen married Anne Gwynne at St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England on 1 October 1760. I have not acquired a copy of their marriage certificate, but the index card in the church archives spells her name “Ann Gwyn.” However, her father’s name from other records was clearly spelled “Gwynne.” Others researching this line record that Anne’s signature appears on a document she witnessed in Montgomeryshire, Wales as “Anne Gwynne Allen” (whether the name was hyphenated was unclear because of blurred ink).

Thus was born the name Gwynne-Allen. So, who were they?

James Allen’s father was George Allan, born in 1724 in Banffshire, Scotland. George’s father and grandfather were James Allan and William Allan respectively. The switch to the “Allen” spelling seems to have occurred when they moved south.

James was born about 1743 in Scotland, but we do not know where. By 1760 we find James marrying a Welsh woman in Shrewsbury. The family story goes that James’ family fled Scotland to Wales sometime in the years following Culloden. The timing seems to maintain that family tale. Further, the marriage at St. Mary’s, a historic Anglican church dating back to medieval times, indicated that at least one of the parties was Anglican or Episcopalian. This would make sense if the Allens/Allans had been Jacobites.

Anne was the daughter of Evan Gwynne and Maria Morris of Montgomeryshire, Wales. There is little documentation regarding her father, but for her grandfather (Also named Evan or Ifan. They seemed to favour the name Evan/Ifan for at least one son every generation.), the parish records for Montgomeryshire record that “On September 13th 1707 Evan Gwynne son of Evan Gwynne of Kylyrych was sworn in as Burgess of Welshpool and his heirs for ever and ever.” Then, the Hydon and Dol Rent Roll of 1718 for the “Maner of Llanerchudol” shows Evan Gwynne as holding three tenancies.

The Gwynnes had been in Montgomeryshire for a very long time. The Welsh Genealogies in the National Library of Wales finds one of their ancestors, Ieuan Gwynn Ap Gruffudd, in Pentrych, Llanfair Caereinion, Montgomeryshire, Wales about 1500.

A Shrewsbury marriage makes sense for a Montgomeryshire family in 1760 as Shrewsbury was the commercial center for Shropshire and west Wales. There had been Welsh speaking families on both sides of the border for hundreds of years.

Origins of the Allen/Allan Name in Our Family

We believe our Allen/Allan line descends in the male line from Clan MacFarlane. The second half of the 16th century was a turbulent period in the clan’s history. The notorious reputation of MacFarlanes and other southern Highland clans for lifting cattle and similar acts led to the Chief of MacFarlane appearing in the rolls of chiefs made out in 1587-1594 with a view to enforcing the law which made each chief accountable for the peaceful conduct of his followers. After the battle of Glenfruin in 1624 in which MacFarlanes supported the MacGregors against the Colquhouns and prevailed, they were proscribed by the central government, though they escaped the harsh decree against the MacGregors. However, many were tried for a variety of crimes. Some were punished, others pardoned, and many removed to the uplands of Aberdeenshire and to Strathaven in Banffshire. It was at this time that Allan MacFarlane, a younger son of the MacFarlane chief, took his family and settled in Mar and Strathdon in Aberdeenshire. His descendants referred to themselves as MacAllan or Allan instead of MacFarlane. Allans using various spellings proliferated in the area.

In this part of Scotland you find Allans (of various spellings) showing up in the criminal records during the 17th century, many for the crime of “resetting MacGregors.” It was a crime to assist MacGregors, particularly helping them settle. Apparently the connection between MacFarlanes and MacGregors continued even in their adversity.

We find our Allan ancestors, as far back as we can take them anyway, at the end of the 17th century and the 18th century living in Banffshire. We believe the family under the Allan name was one of those families accompanying Allan MacFarlane or who were removed to the area by the government.

The family story holds that George Allan, born in 1724 in Bamffshire, married a MacDonald woman, possibly a woman also bearing the name Allen or Allan. Since Allan is a sept of the MacDonalds of Clanranald we have assumed a relationship to that clan as well. However, that story remains unsubstantiated as we have not identified George Allan’s wife.

Meaning of the name Allen/Allan

Like many others, this surname started off as a personal name. A variety of interpretations have been advanced for the origin of the name.

The 18th century Scottish historian William Forbes Skene derives it from ail or aill, a rock, meaning the man of the cliff or rock, probably a rocky promontory. Some regard it as originally meaning “little rock,” from the Gaelic ailín, which is the diminutive of ail “rock.” Others derive it from ailean, a green plain or meadow, meaning the man of the green plain. Still others derive it from aluinn, an older form of àlainn meaning beautiful or lovely. Finally, some see it developing from allail meaning illustrious or noble. I could see a rocky promontory being beautiful and, since prominent in the landscape, illustrious or noble. A beautiful green plain could also be seen the same way.