Believed to be from Norman descent, it is possible that the Burnett family are connected to the great Saxon family of Burnard that were in England before the Norman Conquest. Were this to be the case, it is likely the name of the family was derived from the Saxon, ‘beornhear’, meaning ‘bear hand’ but more commonly translated as ‘brave warrior’.
Calling themselves, de Bernard, the family would come to Scotland after the return of King David I from England in the 12th century – where they settled in Roxburghshire. However, after helping Robert the Bruce during the War of Independence, they were rewarded with land in the Royal Forest of Drum, just south of the modern city of Aberdeen. Here they built Crathes Castle, their historic clan seat which still remains there to this day.