Saturday, October 01, 2005

Aut Pax Aut Bellum

Genealogy is fun, isn't it? I grew up with no clear idea of what my heritage is. There was some speculation by some members of my family that the name Maness was, at different times, Dutch, Greek, German, French, and various combinations of all of them and more. That part is probably true. Not knowing the origin of our name it is easy to see why we didn't marry our own kind, genealogically speaking.

With the invention of the internet (thanks Mr. Gore) and my access to it, I finally got the chance to do a little sleuthing to find the origin of the family surname. For free. What I found is:

I am Scottish!

This is how I arrived at that conclusion:

I entered my paternal grandfather's name at where I found his father's name, and his father's and so on, until I reached a dead end in the 1600's in North Carolina. Any more information, I could find, but I would have to pay for it, and I am too cheap to do that.

Scots are known for being "thrifty". Another validation of my heritage.

However, That was enough information for me to discover that my great-great-etc grandfather came over to America from Scotland. His name was John Manus. The spelling change was attributed to a census taker, who spelled the name "Maness" and I don't know why it was never changed back. I couldn't understand why the census taker chose that particular misspelling of the name, until I did further research at where I discovered that both the name Manus and the name Maness are "septs" of the same clan, and are essentially the same family which is a fact that would have been commonly known in the large Scot population of the state of North Carolina at the time.

A sept is basically a cousin of the main clan or a family that more or less attached themselves to a bigger clan for protection and maybe a sense of identity. A hanger-on, you might say.

That clan is known as the clan Gunn. Here is the Gunn family crest.The Latin Phrase on it means, "Either peace or war"

Not very imaginative, I admit, but hey, we weren't a clan of poets.

There is a fascinating history about Scot clans and their septs that can be found in various places on the internet (Thanks, Al) and even links to modern day societies that celebrate the histories of the clans of Scotland. I found the Clan Gunn's tartan plaid there. (that's the pattern of the cloth that the kilts were made from. It is traditional that each clan have their own plaid.) This is it. The Gunn clan family plaid:

And here is part of a condensed history of the Gunn clan:

Helen, only daughter of Lachlan Gunn of Braemor, was celebrated for her great beauty and was due to marry her cousin Alexander. Dugald Keith, a retainer of Keith of Ackergill, had tried to woo her, been rejected, and responded jealously. On her wedding day, he paid a surprise visit to her father's house, surrounding it with armed members of his own family, who then began slaying the unsuspecting Gunns.

Keith took Helen and imprisoned her in Ackergill. Eventually, to escape his sexual abuse, she went to the top of the tower and jumped to her death. The feud that ensued was very long and bloody, with continuing attacks upon each clan. One costly but indecisive battle was at Harpsdale, near Thurso, in 1426.

Eventually, in 1464, the war-weary chiefs of the two clans agreed to meet at the Chapel of St Tears to lay their grievances to rest. The chief of the Gunns was George. He held the important office of crowner, and wore the magnificent brooch of the post. He arrived at the chapel on horseback with eleven other riders, as agreed.

The Keiths arrived on twelve horses also, but with two men to a horse, and slaughtered the Gunns. The brooch of the crowner was taken from dead Gunn's body. A century later, William MacKames, George's grandson, avenged his kinsmen with the life of George Keith of Akergill, his son and twelve others in a bloodbath at Drummoy in Sutherland.

In 1978, the two clans ended the feud.


Scots can be very stubborn. I have that trait, also.

OK. That's enough for today. Some might say too much.


Francis Lynn said...

Genealogy can be addictive. I started with one great-grandfather's name. From that, I now have about 200 direct relative's names going back to 1580. I've spent untold hours going thru census records, been in dozens of cemetaries looking for info, been in little villages in upstate NY going through 100 yr old ledger records, God knows what else I've done.

Along the way I came across nice people who let me stay at their home overnight, had a small village hotel owner give me the key to the hotel cuz he was going shopping, learned that there are more fires in cemetaries that destroyed records than you would think, been at graves where groundhogs have burrowed thru the coffin & kicked out bone, clothing & buttons.

It is addictive. Genealogy is like solving a detective mystery. Frustrating often, but fun & worth it when you hit paydirt on a name.

By the way, not Scot here, but married one :(

Lone Ranger said...

I once traced by heritage back three generations and then stopped because I was afraid I'd prove Darwin's Theory.

Mark said...

LOL! I'll bet there are some that would say you prove Darwins theory yourself.

Goat said...

Aye us Scots-Irish have long memories and thicker skulls and the backbone to build the greatest nation ever. You will enjoy James Webb's "Born Fighting"

Poison Pero said...

Another Scots-Irish here.......Caruthers.

Proud descendant of the Clan Bruce......At least this is what I've been told.

But then again, most Scots claim this......LOL!

How bout you Press??? Let me guess: FRENCH!!!

Mark said...

Pero, i just looked it up and Carruthers is a sept of the Bruce clan, but i also found another fact about the Bruce clan about which you may not be as proud. I copied and will now paste it here:

It is possible to trace the descendancy of this famous clan to Normandy, France in the 11th century. Robert de Brus followed William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy to England in 1066.. One of his relatives, Robert de Brus, became a companion-in-arms to Prince David in his visit to the court of Henry I of England, afterwards David I of Scotland, following him north as he went to reclaim his kingdom in 1124.

You are French, buddy! LOL

tugboatcapn said...

Aut pax aut bellum?
Either peace or war?

I don't think that is an unimaginative slogan at all, Mark.

A modern translation would be:
"Leave us alone or we will kick your butt."

Not a bad slogan at all, if you ask me.

Etchen said...

A fewllow Scotsman, eh? How wonderful! Our motto is Clarior hinc honos (Hence the brighter honour)--I think I like your motto much better! ;-)

Patt said...

Good to see you are part Scottish.Scotland is a magic country the people are great and so varied you would love it here but we dont all wear kilts ,It does rain most of the time and i still havent met an unkind generous person were i live in Glasgow .BY THE WAY NICE TARTAN

Anonymous said...

we weren't a clan of poets

perhaps you should read some of Neil Gunn's works (b.1891), he evokes the north coast very well!

Anonymous said...

It is interesting what you can find on the internet. I do not know how clan members are related, if at all, but I am also a member of the Gunn Clan. My siblings and myself are the first born in America, my father and his siblings were born in Canada, and my grandmother along with the rest of her family was born in Scotland.

I have grown up with the motto, "Aut Pax Aut Bellum," along with the tartan, and the crest. Anyway, I just want to let you know, if you read this it has been a long time since you posted this, that there are other fellow Gunn Clan members here in the US.

Erik Mann said...

I have lived in norway all my life but my sur name is Mann, and even if l never have met an other person from the gunn clan, l feel pride in my heart every time l think about my heritage....

Udon Nomi said...

I always love finding another Clansman. I wish to urge caution with too much searhing, as in my mothers side is a sept of Clan Gunn (Wiley), I married a Mann, whose sister married a Wilson, and her maternal grandparents were Maness,..All septs of the Gunn..keeping it "together" here in Texas.

Hollie Miller said...

Hi Mark, my name is Hollie. John Maness b. 1655 is my 8th Great Grandfather. I guess we're cousins. If you should ever read this I would like for you to email me I can send you information on my line.
Take care.
Hollie Miller
New York

Anonymous said...

We have the motto, crest and tartan hanging up on our living room wall as I am also part of the clan! "Aut Pax Aut Bellum", mottos don't come much better do they?

I live in England and my late grandfather lived in Scotland, which is where my dad grew up. Our sirname's Main. There are quite a few of us here in Britain.

Just thought I'd drop a comment to say well done on tracing ur roots!
Hannah, 16

Anonymous said...

There is a kid from Edinburgh of the Clan Gunn. He's definitely a poet. His name is Jamieson, another sept.

Anonymous said...

i'm a williamson, a sept of the gunn clan. live in central scotland (and yes i have a kilt)

peace or war

manes4478 said...


I am a direct decendent of John Maness b. 1655 Scotland (10th generation). I have documents, wills, death certificates, pictures, ect.... I went to the website you informed us about. I entered Manus as you directed and instead of Gunn I was directed to the "Clan of Colquhoun". Can you provide any guidence?


Mark said...


As a matter of fact, I am directly descended from John Maness born 1655 in Scotland also. The geneology list of septs at is incomplete.

Go to, and look up septs of the Gunn clan, and you will find Maness, spelled Maness, as well as Manus. I was mistaken initially. Sorry for the accidental misinformation.

I have to be descended from a sept of the Gunn clan because it is the only clan which has the Maness sept.

I would be interested in any additional information you can supply me as well, because there is an apparent discrepency in my geneology search which I can't seem to reconcile. I might actually be descended from Clan Colquhoun, depending on if the last name was indeed changed by the census or not. My e-mail address is linked in my blogger profile.

Anonymous said...

Hi there My Names Bobby Im also a Scot n was looking in to my family history to find out that My Clan Is the Gunns so we cld be related lol Aut Pax Aut Bellum

Anonymous said...

I too, am Clan Gunn. A number of this clan emigrated to Canada a long time ago. Some stayed here, some moved on to the US.

Here's a really good clan map that shows the Gunns way up in the north:

Anonymous said...


I just found your post by chance. I just wanted to drop a line to say well done on your findings. I am actually a Jamieson of the Clan Gunn and my father still acts as one of the Clann magisters, and we still live on the orginal lands. :P
Homecoming Scotland is this year, an all the Clan's are meeting up, Clan Gunn is one of the biggest one's, but it'll be good to have everyone together.

Michelle K Gunn-Jamieson

Mark said...

Hi Michelle. Unfortunately Clan Gunn isn't big around here. I attended the Highland games of Northern Virginia here and found only 2 other clan Gunn members there.

We weren't even officially represented at the event.

kwik won said...

hey guys i to am a fellow Gunn and i have out motto tattod on my forarms , my grandfarther never told my dad the history so i decided to find out for myself, if anyone knows when the gunns came to NZ plese tell me in

Tami said...

Aut Pax Aut Bellum My mother is a Gunn. Came over in 1949 on the Queen Mary.

I too have the Stubborn thick headed business about me.

Zander M16 said...

Hey im a Mann and my family is part of the Clan Gunn and i am scottish i dont think im stubborn to be honest

Erin said...

I learned a few years back my family came from Gunn Clan. My sister visited Scotland when her husband was stationed in England. It's weird to come across other people from Gunn Clan, like waaaayyy out relations.

Anonymous said...

I bought a silver (?) brooch of the Gunn clan Aut Pax Aut Bellum crest at an antique market, and through your site found out its meaning. Would you be interested in it? My e-mail is if so. Marilyn

Anonymous said...

Clan Gunn, sept Jamison here and very proud of the lineage- seems we were a troublesome lot to some of the larger clans back in the day and other major powers ever since ;) My branch of the Jamisons has been in the States long enough for my Great Great Great
Grandfather to have served as a Colonel in the Continental Army, Virginia contingent then again under Jefferson Davis for the Confederacy. Either peace or war indeed! Long live Clan Gunn.

Ozzieal said...

For a new, academically based Clan Gunn site see it's concerned with ununravelling the real Clan Gunn history from the myths which currently pass as Clan Gunn history.

Justin Craddock said...

My Grandmother was Colleen Gunn. I'm a Craddock, but still a descendant of Clan Gunn.

Keep digging. Apparently our crest is etched on a rock in the US and dated prior to the pilgrims.

Jennifer Scott said...

We must be distant cousin's. I am a great(6th) granddaughter of John Maness. Descended from his great grandson, one of the triplets, Meshach Maness.