Recorded as Douglas, occassionally as Douglass and Dougliss, this noble and distinguished surname is of Scottish territorial origins. It derives from an estate known as "The lands of Douglas" in Lanarkshire, situated on the Douglas Water. These waters were so named from the Old Gaelic "dubh", dark or black, plus "glas", a rivulet or stream. The original stronghold of the Douglas family and their retainers lay in this area, and the Douglases were described by the historian Lang as "the great, turbulent, daring, and too often treacherous house". The fair principal stems of the family are: the old Douglas of Douglasdale (the Black Douglas), illustrious in the War of Independence: the line of Morton who were closely connected with Mary Queen of Scots: the house of Drumlanrig and Queensberry, and the House of Angus, the Red Douglas. The family also hold the titles, Earl of Douglas, Earl of Angus and Earl of Forfar. Among the one hundred notable namebearers mentioned in "The Dictionary of National Biography" is Sir James Douglas, (1286 - 1330), who set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, carrying the heart of the dead Robert Bruce. A coat of arms granted to Sir James' nephew, William, is a silver shield with a red man's heart, on a blue chief three silver stars. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Duglas, charter witness in Kelso, which was dated 1175, in the "Records of Kelso Abbey", Roxburghshire, during the reign of King William, known as "The Lion of Scotland", 1165 - 1214. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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