The Beaton Family

The following account of the Beaton Family in Scotland and Canada was prepared by Harry Connors Jr.

Please e-mail me with any additions, corrections, and comments.

This site created by Harry E. Connors III

Music is Farewell to Nova Scotia sequenced by Barry Taylor

The Beaton Family


When Peggy and I were in Scotland in September, 1988, I tried to find the roots of the Beaton family in that country. The memo I wrote after that trip told of the large number of Beatons now in Scotland, our trip through the Isle of Skye and Lochaber (supposed origin of our Beaton branch), and the discovery that there had been Beatons who were high in the Catholic Hierarchy and in the Government at the time of James V and Mary Queen of Scots. No direct connection to Donald Beaton of Galena could be established, however.

Just last month, Peggy and I visited Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and we seem to have found "the missing link". The key was a book on Canadian Scottish Pioneers which I found in a local Ohio library with the help of a friend of Scotch descent. This book listed numerous Beatons, but by itself could not distinguish which of the many Donald Beatons might have been our ancestor. It listed sources, however, and indicated that I should visit Mabou as well as Antigonish in Nova Scotia.

Mabou is a small town on the West Coast of the Cape Breton district of Nova Scotia. A check of the telephone book found that the most common surname was MacDonald (10% of listings) and that Beaton was a close second. I made inquiry at the Post office and was immediately introduced to a Beaton customer and it was arranged that Mr. Greg Beaton would open up the local Historical Society room to us that very hour. There he found one of the references I was seeking (Mabou Pioneers by A. D. MacDonald) and I quickly found exact reference to our Donald Beaton and to his parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers.

"Tenth-cousin" Greg kindly sold me a copy of Mabou Pioneers so that I have been able to study it at leisure. It gives general background on the Beatons in Scotland as well as the whole migration of the Scottish Highlanders to P, E. I. and Nova Scotia. The following details come from the book.

Before listing the Genealogies and Beaton background, I should note that A. D. MacDonald was apparently the Catholic parish priest in Mabou from 1842 to 1865 and that he wrote the book during that time or shortly thereafter. (He refers to Donald's son Matthew as living in Galena in the present tense). It is obvious that the Highlanders had a large Catholic contingent even as late as 1800 and that the Beatons were, as claimed, Catholic.

I should also mention that we visited Belfast, P.E.I. on this trip and were struck by the beauty of that place where John Benton probably first lived and may have died (see below).

Scottish Roots

According to Father MacDonald, the Beatons of Scotland originated from the Bethune family of French Flanders. They came to England with William the Conqueror in 1088 and are first recorded in Scotland (Fife area) around 1165 as deBeton. A branch of the Fife family later produced Cardinal David, Bishop of St. Andrews and Chancellor to James V, who died in 1546. He was a hated foe of Henry VIII and John Knox. This same branch included Ambassadors to France and others close to Scotch royalty.

Our ancestors descended from Peter Bethune (Beaton), a cousin of Cardinal David, who was a famous physician and was invited first to Argyle, and then to the Isle of Skye by the Lairds of MacDonald and MacLeod. He was given land and other benefits as an inducement to stay, so he married a MacDonald and settled down.

Around 1720, a descendent of Peter, Alexander Beaton, left Skye for the District of Lochaber where he married Anne MacBain, sister of the "notable" Gillis MacBain who died a hero at Culloden Moor. Three of Alexander's sons also fought at Culloden (1745), and one of them, John, was our direct ancestor.

The Beatons in Nova Scotia

The Scotch Highlanders were severely repressed by the English Crown after the uprising of 1745, and laws were passed which literally drove them off the land. As a result, the Highlanders began mass migrations to the Canadian Maritimes beginning about 1775 and continuing for over 50 years.

It is not clear if John Beaton, son of Alexander of Skye, came to Canada, Nor is there a record of his wife's name. There were John Beatons who came around 1800 and one, who might be our ancestor, came to Belfast, P.E.I. in 1803. But our John would have been at least 70 years old by then (if he fought at Culloden), an unlikely age to emigrate.

It is stated that all three of John's sons came to Canada and our ancestor, Donald, came to Mabou about 1817, possibly after going first to P.E.I. With Donald came his wife, Mary Campbell, daughter of Angus Campbell. At the same time, their son, Angus, and his wife, Charlotte MacPherson, also came to Mabou. Angus and Charlotte had been married in Lochaber.

The family of Angus and Charlotte Beaton consisted of 5 daughters and 4 sons. One of the sons was Donald who emigrated to Galena, Illinois and was the father of Matthew Beaton of Galena.

Donald's brothers and sisters were:

John-went to California.
Murdoch-went to New Orleans. Probably he took Donald in when Donald went there to try to recover from the illness which caused his death. Murdoch is buried in Bath, Maine, but he left children in New Orleans.
Angus-Died in New York.
Mary-Married Donald MacIssac. Eight children.
Catherine-Married Duncan Gillis. Two daughters stayed in Nova Scotia.
Sara-Married Alexander MacDonald of Mahou, a sea captain. Five children.
Jessie-Married John Cameron. Ten children. Most stayed in Nova Scotia.


As far as I am concerned, this pretty well wraps up the Beaton heritage of the Connors, the O'Neills, the Sheridans, the Gallaghers, the Walshes, the Martins, the Adams, and, above all, of Aunt Claire Leader Anderson. All are descended from Donald Beaton, the blacksmith who went to Galena, Illinois and served the army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

I suspect that Aunt Eleanor Beaton had some of the same information, possibly from Father MacDonald's book. I'd appreciate learning of any information which reinforces or disputes what is given here.

In any event, the Scotch heritage that came from Donald Beaton was Catholic and Highlander and contains MacDonald, MacBain, MacPherson, and Campbell blood among many other proud Highland names.

Harry Connors
June 10, 1989

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This page last modified on Sunday, November 25, 2007

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Clan Donald History

Beaton Origins



MacPherson's Farewell

Big Finley Beaton

The Beaton Family

Donald or Daniel Beaton

The Dwen Family

Fort Snelling: 1851-52

Aunt Clara's letters

Elizabeth Maguire's obituary

Elizabeth O'Leary's obituary

Matthew Beaton's biographies

Matthew Beaton, 50 Years in Business

Aunt Annie

Burke's Bethune of Balfour

Burke's Graham of Fintry