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For many years as a youngster, we were told that there was a tradition of adding or subtracting letters from a name when a child was born 'on the wrong side of the blanket'. I have yet to discover the significance of the second 'S' in my surname. can anyone help me. Perhaps there is a reason that even  with all the Douglas DNA  that is registered on file, to date, I have not even been close to a match.

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Spelling was still in the works , all around Scotland  


                 The Lord's Prayer in Middle Scots

               M. Nisbet c. 1520

              LORD'S PRAYER

                Our fader that art in heuenis,
                hallewit be thi name.
                Thi kingdom cum to.
                 Thi wil be done in erde, as in heuen.
                 Gefe to vs this day our breid ouer vthir substance.
                 And forgif to vs our dettis,
                 as we forgef to our dettouris.
                  And leid vs nocht into temptatioun,
                  bot deliuer vs fra euile.



On the whole Middle Scots scribes never managed to establish a single standardized spelling for every word, but operated a system of free variation based on a number of spelling variants.

Some scribes used their own variants, but this was relatively rare. The least variation occurred in the later 16th century as printers moved towards fixed spellings. This ended in the 17th century when printers began to adopt imported English conventions. Middle Scots used a number of now obsolete letters and letter combinations:
A ligature of long s and short s, similar to German ß, is sometimes used for s.    

Problem Solved 

This example came from the US Constitution .

The inflection -ys, -is was realised /ɪz/ after sibilate and affricate consonants and other voiced consonants, and /ɪs/ after other voiceless consonants, later contracted to /z/ and /s/ as in Modern Scots -s. The spelling -ys or -is also occurred in other words .......  Like Drysdale              

This example or rather the variance from it was noted  by Howell Pryse in 1665 in the

Virginia Colonial Abstracts , Volume 3 

page 230 , where it states 
''  Howell Pryse hath proved right by testimony produced to 750 acres of Land for the importacon [importation] of Edmond Vickery , James King , Richd Newman , Tho. Morris , William Cooper , Willm Reynolds , James Drysdale............... Drysdale , for instance, with the undignified pronunciation of ''Drizzle'' ....... B.F.''

Hey, what great insight! thanks for all your input. I must admit that my ancestor William George did have his name spelt both ways, but seems to have settled on the "twa ess" after he got to Australia. Doesn't make my job any easier though. I wish I had the nerve to try and get a tooth from his remains(legally), so it could be analysed to see just where he came from. If it was southern Scotland, then I have 4 names from that area that were baptised 'William' around the time of his birth.

So close, yet so far


Good stuff, Daryl.

I got back from 4 weeks (2 in Scotland and 2 in England) this August. As I drove around Scotland, it got more and more confusing. At Stirling, I saw two stained-glass windows (one for Archibald the Grim of Threave fame and another for a James)----both were our two-s variant. Others have commented that the two-s form is rare indeed. This is true. There are many possible explanations for this mystery. It is known that the Red (Angus) Douglases switched sides to join the Stewarts at the Battle of Arkinholm (1440's) and dispossessed all the Lothian and Galloway Douglasses of their lands and castles. Wee Davie Ross felt that the two-s form was the "ancient" spelling and it was slighted or re-spelled by the Red Douglases. Apparently, the Black Douglasses retreated to Ireland and the New World 3 or so centuries later. Hamiltons, Humes, and the like were installed in all our old castles and lands.

There were also Highland Douglasses, and they fought against "Bonny Prince Charlie" (as, of course they would!).

Davie Ross truly believed that we'd never sort it all out. James, the Black Douglas, had no official children. There WAS a James in Galloway, post 1330 and prior to Archibald, but I don't know how he fits in. I'm sure that upcoming DNA tests will help sort it out, but until then, I'll remain a proud (and, if necessary defiant) DouglaSS! I was amazed how little the "Douglas" people at various Highland Games, and Douglas Clan gatherings knew. I'm pretty convinced that the Arkinholm link may be a key, though. The chance misspellings may also be a contributing factor.

Yours aye,


Hi, Everyone.

For what it's worth, you can go to this site at Forebears.

If you compare the incidence and location of the use of "Douglass" in the British Isles in 1881-1901 to the use of "Douglas," you see something pretty interesting.

When you ignore the shading and look at the locations of the raw numeric counts, you see that "Douglass" is FAR more likely to be used in Northern England than it is in Scotland, including in Southern Scotland. 

"Douglass" was used 435 times in Northumberland (England) and 463 times in Durham (England) vs. 49 times in Roxburghshire (Scotland) or even 35 times in Lanarkshire (Scotland).

For the sake of comparison, during the same period, "Douglas" was used  904 times in Northumberland (England), 710 times in Durham (England), compared with 484 times in Roxburghshire (Scotland) and 1,494 times in Lanarkshire (Scotland).

So, 32 percent of Douglas(s) in Northumberland used the double s, and 39 percent of the Douglas(s) in Durham used the double s, but only nine percent of Douglas(s) in Roxburghshire and two percent of Douglas(s) in Lanarkshire used the double s.

To make it even more interesting, when you move a little further south in England, "Douglas" is used 817 times in Yorkshire and 896 times in Lancashire, compared with 193 and 54 respective uses of "Douglass." So, as you move even further south in England away from the border, the likelihood of one s being used increases once again.

Obviously, the single-s families outnumber the double-s individuals in terms of raw numbers, but the likelihood of the adoption or use of the double-s variation of the name seems to be far more likely in the northernmost countries of England, but almost exclusively in the northernmost countries of England. 

Again, the link is here, and it was a fun little research exercise. You can check it out yourselves:

Percentages by location and Math wasn't the question of Daryl's . Rather more particular towards the question was spelling. Most folks couldn't spell their own names so they just made a mark ....on whatever they were signing ...

The earliest form of the Drysdale name that I have been able to find , was in fact , in LATIN & spelled As such..... DRIVESDALE ... [c.1215 . Charter by Robert de Bruc , to Hugh son of Ingevald of the whole of the land which his father held in DRIVESDALE. Hugh shall hold it in wood and plain, land and water monastery and mill ] this is one of the 40+ written variants of my name [s] The double SS / single S Douglas/s spellings were IMHO variants and that's all ... Remember that folks who are illiterate, how can they place a value on spelling of the written word ??? Whatever the answers to this question is , the answers I can guarantee you the unique opportunity for Douglas/s is in LATIN as well ...not that I can decipher any of the language, but it was so well preserved.... Not to step on any toes here , but ,You may have been told by so and so that uncle some body Douglas/s got a bit mad at another Douglas/person/people/family or group and the answer was Gee thanks for the inconvenience caused to me and mine , well I'm going to just seek myself some justice with the most inadequate tools that I have available to me. . You may be able to sell that story within the past 100 years or so ...prior to that I would say you're just chasing your tails and not much more than that.

The values WE place on spellings today was not as relevant to the unlearned, be they landed gentry or just common folk... You all may have a view of how's your name my business??? I have Douglas on my moms side that married in to my Moorman descended lines... Oh yeah and then theres them Douglas in the. Drysdale document where them fellows just slam up n went on and changed their whole surname to Drysdale. Now . It's believable , yeah , there is a possibility it's just as likely a lie told to the Dunfermline Press thats the first place it surfaced at

Russell, it was not my intent to answer Daryl's initial question directly. In fact, if you look way back to my initial contribution to this discussion (more than three years ago, in fact), you'll see that I suggested the adoption of different spellings of Douglas might be due to individual preference, illiteracy, or a combination of factors.

My most recent reply is intended simply to identify a trend using data, and for people to draw their own conclusions as to what it might mean, if anything. You'll notice, I didn't even hazard a guess as to what might be the cause of it, whether due to the adoption of naming customs common in those regions, or due to the migration of individuals from place to place. I am simply using the aggregated data as a device to contribute to the discussion, especially since I haven't seen this data posted on the Douglas(s) forum in the past.

This seems quite scientifically (or demographically) valid. I wonder if the "two s" variety were chased out of their Lothian and Galloway haunts by the Red Douyglas and Stewart victors? Seems likely. Also, there seems tobe quite a few Douglasses in Ireland. There are ocean-loads in the Canadian Maritimes and Maine.

Good work andf good info, Ian!

What a great discussion. I didn't think I would spark such indepth investigation

Thanks one and all



With just insert surname at end, as in;

Using with Douglas, and Elliot with a single ending letter, they concentrate more on the Scottish side of the border. With Douglass, and Elliott with a double ending last letter they concentrate on the English side of the border, with Elliott highly concentrated in Co. Fermanagh, Ulster, Ireland.

It seems like Douglas with variants, is a locality name,_South_Lanarkshire, people would move out of Douglas, and be listed from "de" Douglas, such as John de Douglas, and by dropping the "de" Douglas became a surname. Some Douglas likely moved into England, where to peoples of both kingdoms, like to differentiate their names. This happens between a lot of nations, a name change, so in England on their northern border with Scotland, to show they were an English Douglas, a "s" was likely added. If you were living on the Scottish Borders in England, this would show that the Douglass English border family some loyalty to England. Though this is not felt to be the only reason for the difference in spelling. Would refer the "Douglass" spelling a variant not a sept, like the spelling of "Elliot", and "Elliott" are variant spellings.

Another good program to give a visual of concentration of the names Douglas and Douglass or any other surname in the UK is; ;

Howdy folks,

It seems the prevailing theories for the second s of Douglass are

1) Clerical (3rd party) errors

2) Illiteracy errors (self errors)

3) Disambiguation between clans (Black and Red)

4) Something else.

So far, my research originated and continues to support theory 3, Disambiguation.  As I mentioned some time back, I have traced my lineage in the US back to William Douglass, b 1641 in Maryland.  Most recently, I came across  I found in their logs a Hugh Douglass, b 1613 London, indentured servant, jumped ship (Constance) in Delaware in 1635.  Also in July 27, 1635, the ship Primrose was mastered by a Captain Douglass (no first name).  Anne Stevens who compiled the shiplist did an exhausting job. And the microfiche from the State of Maryland is clearly legible.  It has links to all source documentation, which comes from, with records from all over the world (I refuse to sign up for an account.)  But very cool resource.

In my case, the second S seems not to be typographical error, rather deliberate and consistent.  Also, the stories of the Black Dinner and the battle of Arkinholm seem to support my GF's stories of Scottish royalty, a battle lost, the second S to separate us from the others, and emigration to the US.

Excellent link;


The Hercules left London, England March 24, 1633/4 and Southampton on April 18, 1634 with her master, John Kiddey, arriving in New England at an unknown date.
The following alphabetical roll is according to document from the Port of Southampton, copied at "the Custom house in Portsmouth" on December 6, 1735, by Thomas Whitehouse
Certificate of March 24, 1633/4, London:

Elliott, William (listed as William Elliot in "Planters of the Commonwealth")

The main forms of the name appear in an old rhyme:

The double L and single T
Descend from Minto and Wolflee,

The double T and single L
Mark the old race in Stobs that dwell,

The single L and single T
The Eliots of St. Germains be,

But double T and double L
Who they are, nobody can tell.

He would be a St. Germains Elliott, and I which family spelled their name as Elliot in the American Colony would be of; Minto and Wolflee. The poem for us Elliot with names Elliot, Eliott, Eliot, and Elliott, gives likely indication where the family came from. So spelling of the names Douglas, and Douglass, if the family is made up of different Y-DNA's excluding about a quarter for NPE non-parental events, then the name spelling Douglas, and Douglass would likely have regional localities previous to migration to the Plantations and Colonies, if they did migrate. Most list for Elliott in these early ship record would be of England, though most Elliott ancestry today overseas from the UK, their ancestry migrated from Scotland or Ulster, Ireland.

Excellent post! The only thing I gathered (from various sources, including Davie Ross) was that the second "s" was actually dropped. Flip a coin. There was a 2-s Douglass who had a timber cutting license with the English (ships' masts, a la "The Bowdoin Pines". He lived south of Bath/Brunswick Maine in the 1630's.


Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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