The ubiquitous surname Blair is believed to have been derived from the Gaelic word, ‘Blar’, meaning an open plain or battlefield. There are two separate ancient families that bear the name – the Blairs of that Ilk and the Blairs of Balthayock, however, it is very likely that these two families began independently in different locations due to the widespread nature of the name.
The Blairs of that Ilk can trace their ancestry back to the Norman warrior, Jean Francois, who was granted Barony of Blair by King William the Lion and would go on to become an extremely influential family in Ayrshire. However, the original line ended in 1732 with the death of William Blair of that Ilk with the last senior representative of the family, Cecily Madeline Blair, dying unmarried in 1978 at the age of 94. Upon her death, control the family estate, Blair House, passed to her relatives, the Borthwicks.
The Blairs of Balthayock can trace their ancestry back to Stephen de Blair who held lands in the Parish of Blair, in Gowrie, now named Blairgowrie. The original seat of the Blairs of Balthayock was Balthayock Caslte near Perth – however, these lands were sold in the 19th century. The family now lives in Ardblair Castle near Blairgowrie.