Clans that were not large and powerful enough to defend their own members had to ally themselves with a great clan chief in order to share his land and receive protection. In turn, these families were obliged to aid the chief in whatever battle needed to be waged. When a daughter married outside the clan, she could bring her new family in as a so-called "sept". This term was borrowed from the Irish culture in the 19th century to help explain the variety of surnames by members of a single clan, and is more often associated with Highland clans than Lowland families.
There is no historical record that lists all the families in the former County of Ayrshire which were actually allied to Clan Cunningham. Scholars constantly revise their lists, to the point where a fourth edition might be drastically different from the third. The following family names were at one time listed as belonging to Clan Cunningham in Tartan For Me by Dr. Philip D. Smith .
From a trade name for the official who kept registers of an order of knighthood. A family with this name lived in Lanarkshire prior to 1432. Records show a William Chancellor was merchant in Edinburgh in 1681.
Not uncommon in Prestwick in the 15th and 16th centuries. Records show an Archibald George was a burgess and councillor of Irvine in the former District of Cunningham, Ayrshire, 1597-1601.
Local name from Giffen in the parish of Beith in the former District of Cunningham, Ayrshire. Records show a William Giffen appointed councillor in 1710 in Corsehill. May be spelled Giffen or Giffin. May represent one who originally descended from Giffen (ridge), in Ayrshire. In Scotland and among the early settlers in America it is almost always spelled Giffen. In records the name is spelled two ways, sometimes, in the same document. Our finding is that the Scottish spelling is most prevalent. It is today spelled Giffin by a large part of Giffen descendants in America and elsewhere. The origin of the name is quite obscure. Tradition dates it first in Ayrshire, Scotland, about the year 1625. About the year 1638 there were three Giffen brothers in Ayrshire, one of whom went to Ireland, another to America, and a third to Argyleshire, settling in Kintrye. [Note: Griffith, Griffin and other similar variations of the Welsh name Griffen, do not derive from the Scottish name Giffen.]
From MacGunnion, which is from MacGillegunnin . Gunnin is the Welsh form of Finnen, which comes from the name of St. Findbarr of Moyville, whose death is recorded in 579. Records show a John Gunnion in Cammford, parish of Kirkinner in 1684; and Janet Gunnion in Baillieshire, Wigtown in 1788.
Local name from Guliland near Dundonald in the former District of Cunningham, Ayrshire. Records show a John Guliland in the District of Cunningham in 1640.
Derives from Hackney in Middlesex (England). Records show an Adam Hakenay had a charter of lands in Ayr, 1316.
From Irish "O'hir" = a person from Ir. Both Hair and Hare were common in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, with names recorded as early as 1366. Records show Patrick Ahayre was bailie of Ayr in 1415; and a Patrick Hayre (same person?) was alderman in Ayr in 1430.
Local name Hemphill, near Galston, Ayrshire. Records show a Robert Hemphill in 1689; and another Robert Hemphill in Stewartoune in 1704.
From Old French "pohier" = a native of Picardy. Records show a William Poer was parson of Lumlair in 1227; and a Thomas Power sold a horse in 1312. Margaret Power was heir to Anna Cunninghame, spouse of Hugh Power, a merchant in Edinburgh in 1664.
Local name from the place Stair in Ayrshire.
Starret/t/ Stirret/t/ Stirrat//t Sterrit
From the local name Stairaird (now Stirie) near Stair in Ayrshire. These variations were once common in the parish of Dalry in Ayrshire.
Probably from the town in England. Records show a Thomas de Wincestre of the county of "Are" (Ayr) rendering homage in 1296.
Local name from places in Ayrshire, Midlothian and Kincardineshire.Sources:
Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland, New York: New York Public Library, 1946.
Scarlett, James D., Scotland's Clans and Tartans, London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1985.
Smith, Philip D., Tartan for Me, 4th Edition, Bruceton Mills, WV: Scotpress, 1990.
Giffin, Rev. J.W., D.D., Giffen Genealogic Family History of Descendants of Robert Giffen and Mary Bane Giffen, Cleveland, OH: Central Publishing House, 1927, pps. 14-22.
Smith, Elsdon C., Dictionary of American Family Names, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 77.