Recorded in the spellings of Gilchrist, Gilcriest, Gillcrist and Gilcryst, this is an ancient Scottish clan surname. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic 'Gille Criosd'. This translates as a friend or servant of Christ, but more logically it described an early follower of Christ, and hence a Christian. It is very arguable as to when the name was first recorded, not the least because in its earliest days the now surname was a personal or first name. Early examples include Gillecrist mac Finguni (as spelt), who appears in the 'Book of Deer' being a witness to land grants in 1127, whilst Gillecrist Bretnach or Gillchrist, the Welshman, was a charter witness at Carrick, in the year 1200. An inscription upon St. Martin's cross in Iona reads "A prayer for Gilchrist who made this cross". Although the date is not known it is believed to be 7th century. Gilcrist, earl of Mar, in 1179 - 1204, built a priory for the Culdees (an order of monks) of Mongmust. Whilst the surname was first recorded in Scotland in the 13th Century, it is said that an indigenous Irish sept also existed in County Longford before that time. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Kilschyn Gilcrist of Perthshire. H e rendered homage to the Scottish interregnum government of John Balliol, in 1296. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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