Clan Leask USA Gathering at the Virginia Scottish Games

We’re a couple of days after the Virginia Scottish Games and I think I’m finally recovered. What a fantastic weekend! Hosting the Clan Leask USA tent at the games was a ton of fun and from other clans to Leasks I’d never met we got to meet a lot of new people!

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In total we had 26 guests spend time at the tent, 14 of which were completely new friends to Clan Leask. Four of those attended specifically to learn more about our histroy based on the postcard sent out prior to the games! We met a Polish Lieske who saw the similarity with Liesk and wanted to learn more about potential connection; a Lesh of German ancestry, curious about the Y-DNA links; and a young Stewart who was walking around the clans asking about their history learning about other Scottish clans. At least four visitors said they would consider participating in the Leask Y-DNA study.

In addition there were, of course, the other clan tents. MacTavish was the honored clan but a few familiars were in attendance including Sinclair and Hay with whom the Leasks have direct connections and alliances.

John McPherson Leask II, Mac, was interviewed a German student who was interviewing individuals with Scottish heritage to find out what family and clan meant to them and how their Scottish heratige fit into their life. She also asked about our opinion on the vote coming up on September 18th, to which we very carefully acknowledged that we do not know all the facts and won’t be directly affected by the results. Mac Leask, lead researcher for Clan Leask USA, told her that the decision belonged with the Scots who live in Scotland and will have to live with the result, whatever it is.

I’m very proud of our prepartion leading into the games. Clan Leask USA was represented by two three foot by five foot banners showing all thirteen spellings of Leask. We had two clan members in kilts wearing Leask tartan and two women and a child wearing Leask sashes – all Leask tartan reprsented at this games was the Weathered tartan, not the ancient registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans. Our table was lined with the Leask tartan and we had a number of brochures to hand out. We also had a photo album of my parents and my visit to Scotland from 2001.

We had three borchures to share: Potential Origin Stories, Documented History (here, here, and here), and an update on the Y-DNA study (links go to content pulled from the brochure and shared on this site).

Overall I am very pleased to have had the oportunity to represent the Leasks at a Scottish Games and look forward to doing so again soon – we hope to participate at the Virginia Scottish Games again in 2015 as well as, potentially, games in New Hampshire or Georgia in the coming years. If there’s a games near you we should consider let us know!

Tragedy and Transition for the Leasks post 1500

A considerable variety of opinions have been put forward regarding the origin of the name of Leask. Separating these opinions and family stories can be a difficult task and requires a significant amount of research. Please feel welcome to share your research, opinions, and family stories so we can further document the history of the Leasks through the ages.

In 1513 the Line of Leask Chiefs suffered a double tragedy when both William Lask of that Ilk, 5th Chief, and his son, Alexander Lask of that Ilk, Younger, dsp, were both killed at the Battle of Flodden; the latter’s younger brother, William Lask, Burgess of Aberdeen, then became the 6th Leask Chief. William Lesk of that Ilk, the seventh chief supported the infant James VI in opposition to his mother Mary Queen of Scots after the murder of Lord Darnley and her scandalous marriage to Bothwell.

Between 1615 and 1616 there appears to have been a disagreement of some sort between the Leasks and the neighboring Gordons. In all the recorded cases the Gordons appear to have been the aggressors; Adam Gordon, brother of the Laird of Gight assaulted Alexander Leask, then the son of the chief was attacked by George Gordon and finally William Leask of that Ilk was ambushed by John Gordon of Ardlogy and a party of armed men.

In the seventeenth century the Leasks suffered terribly by investing heavily in the Darien Venture. The venture was a disaster with a vast amount of Scotland’s wealth being lost which in some part led to the union of Scotland and England Alexander Leask of that Ilk, the thirteenth chief was forced to give up his estates which were taken over by Robert Cumming.

There are few family records until the latter half of the nineteenth century. With the assistance of well-known Leasks such as Lieutenant General Sir Henry Leask, General Officer commanding the Army in Scotland, some of the estates were bought back in 1963 and the Clan Leask Society was established in 1982. In 1968 the Lord Lyon recognized the present Chief’s grandfather as Chief of the Clan Leask.

Origins of the Leasks in Orkney and Shetland

My specific family line hails from Shetland, with my great grandfather Leask having grown up on the shores of Channerwick Beach. In the early 2000s my mother, father, and I visited Shetland and saw the stone cottage my great grandfather lived in – what a humbling expierience. Here are some of the documented facts of early Leasks in Orkney and Shetland as they appear in our upcoming brochure Researching the Leasks: Documented Historical Evidence. As always, we welcome your thoughts on this evidence and any insights into how your family may relate or what stories they may have passed around the Leasks in Orkney and Shetland.

In 1391 Thomas de Laysak (Lask) traveled to Kirkwell, Orkney, where he was one of the witnesses to a charter issued by Henry St. Clair (Sinclair), the Earl of Orkney. The Orkney Leasks are descended from James of Lask, younger son of Thomas de Lask of that Ilk, the second Chief of the Leasks, who is recorded at various times during 1388-1400 in the Scottish Public Records.

James of Lask emigrated to Orkney in 1446. His descendants, through son Boniface Lesk, have been traced to Isabella Logie Leask of Orkney, who married James Leask, b. 1802, of Westbank, Kirkwall, Orkney, and was the Great Grandfather of J. W. G Leask of that Ilk. Richard Leask, another grandson of James of Lask, accompanied Sir David Sinclair to Sumburgh when he was appointed Fold of Shetland and became his co-executor in 1506. He is presumed to be progenitor of all Leask families in Shetland.

It was not until c.1450 that the Orkney and Shetland Isles became part of Scotland when they were brought as her dowry by Margaret of Denmark when she came to marry King James II of Scotland.

For more about research of the Leasks check out our research site at http://research.leask.com/

Origin Stories of the Leasks

In addition to the theories briefly explained in the previously posted “The Land of Leask” there are a number of theories based on a combiation of research and oral history about the origins of the Leasks.

One old family tree traces the Leask origin from the Norse God Thor of the Norse Sagas. In Norse Leask means “a stirring fellow”; other authorities believe that it comes from the Gaelic, Lasgair, meaning “active” or “brave”. There are several other possible origins of the surname Leask. One possibility is that it is a diminutive of the Anglo-Saxon word lisse, which means happy. An early reference to the name is that of Erik Leask who was reputedly chamberlain to the king of Denmark.

Professor Keith Leask of Aberdeen University noted the similarity to the name Liscus, a Gallic chief mentioned by Julius Caesar, who opposed the Roman advance in Gaul and later rose to a high rank in the Roman Army. He believed that the ancestor of the Leasks was Liscus who was chief of the Haedui, a tribe of Gauls who were described by Julius Caesar during his Gallic Wars.

One of the greatest fortresses in France, the Castle of Boulogne, was a possession of Charlemagne which subsequently belonged to a family called de Lesque. Additionally, the famous Laski family in Poland are thought by some to be connected to the Leasks and there is a town in Poland called Lask in Polish but Lusk in Russian.

It has been claimed that Sir Francis Grant, Lord Lyon King of Arms said “The Leasks appear from their Arms to have sprung from a 2nd son of one of the ancient Earls of Moray.” The Moray family are descendants of Freskin, a Flemish nobleman who settled in Scotland during the reign of King David I. (Johanna, Lady of Strathnaver, married Freskin II. Johanna can be found on a family tree of the first Norse Earl of Orkney which begins with the mythological Odin.

The Lyon Office suggested Freskin I (who died 1166 -1171) was grandfather of Hugo and progenitor of the Earls of Sutherland and the Family of Moray. Both these families had for their Arms, three Mullets: Sutherland, or on a field Gules; Moray, Argent on Azure. Just as the Douglas family assumed the Moray Arms on intermarriage, so the Leask Arms are supposed, by the Lyon Office of Scotland, to be derived from the Moray.

Susan Leask, wife of Jonathan Leask of that Ilk, suggested “If there is a connection to the Morays it must be before 1380, if as suggested the Arms became marital Arms.” Susan Leask, after a search of documents in her possession, said she could find no written evidence that the Lyon Office had stated the above. After discussions with the administrators of the Y-DNA testing done by the Morays, Sutherlands, and Leasks we jointly concluded Y-DNA testing so far does not support this theory of a paternal link to these clans, leaving only the possibility for a maternal link to a female member of the Freskin family.

Susan Leask pointed out “The Device of the Saint Michaels (modern Mitchell) being the Mascle, it is not impossible that the Mascles of the Leask Arms came to this William through his second wife.” (This is the William de Lask who made the will leaving a stone of wax…. 1380).

A considerable variety of opinions have been put forward regarding the origin of the name of Leask. Separating these opinions and family stories can be a difficult task and requires a significant amount of research. We are always looking for more stories, suggestions, and research, and hope you will join us in gathering further research on the Leasks!

Clan Leask USA Postcard

This is the front of the postcard came in the mail in the past week or so – I’m very excited! We sent around 300 of these to residents within 150 miles of The Plains, Virginia, with one of the surname varients of Leask inviting them to join us at the games.

Clan Leask USA Postcard - Front

Front of the Clan Leask USA Postcard invitation for the Clan Leask Gathering in The Plains, Virginia

If you’re in the area we hope you’ll join us in The Plains, Virginia, for the Virginia Scottish Games where the Leasks will gather! At least, some will :)

Click here for more information about the Clan Leask USA Gathering

The Land of Leask

Are you familiar with the Land of Leask? In an area approximately 20 miles north of Aberdeen City there are a number of “Leask” named places including Byreleask, Knapsleask, and Nether Leask (or Netherleask).

The Land of Leask (Leskgoroune), Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The Land of Leask (Leskgoroune), Aberdeenshire. (source: Ray Leask’s Clan Leask website)

In early times, families were often known by the name of the place they came from, hence the belief that the Leask name may have originated from the Aberdeenshire Lands of Leask, (map below) Leskgoroune. Adriane C. Grant, author of Scottish Clans: Legend, Logic & Evidence believes that the origin of the name Leask is geographical.  He said “I have spoken with Neil MacGregor, the expert on Gaelic placenames and I am left in no doubt that the real basis of “Leskgoroune” is actually ‘Lois Eodhnaon’ – (St) Adamnan’s chapel yard”.

He continued, “this is a reference to the church dedicated to St Adamnan at Knapsleask.  It seems to me likely that the whole of the Leask estate will have been assigned to the upkeep of the chapel whenever it was founded. So Leask is really Lois – chapel yard. We are not 100% sure where the intrusive -kg- came from – but you may be aware that “g” has the value “k” in Gaelic.” This specultation is questioned by others, who do not see Lois Edhnaon as the translation of Leskgoroune.

We do know that around 1345 William Lesk received a charter of confirmation to his lands of Leskgoroune or Leskgaranne from David II of Scotland, son of Robert the Bruce. He might be the same William Lesk who was recorded in the parish records of the church at Ellon, Aberdeenshire as: Willelmi de Lask (also spelled Laysk), the Elder, Lord of that Ilk, who bequeathed a pound of wax yearly to the alter of the Holyrood in the church of St Mary of Ellon.

The Chapel of Leask dates back to the earliest of times. It is thought that a Colomban Oratory stood on this land about the end of the sixth century. The ruins of the present building, constructed about the thirteenth century, stand on the site of the ancient chapel.

The Ruins of Chapel Leask.
(source: Ray Leask’s Clan Leask website)

Despite having their own Chapel, it is recorded in the Parish records of the Church at nearby Ellon, that the Leask Chief, his family, and retainers, were regular attenders at St. Mary’s Church. Thus in 1380 the parish records reveal that Willelmi de Lask, the Elder, Lord of that Ilk, bequeathed ‘one stone of wax from the Lands of Logy, together with twelve pence of silver in order that candles might be burned for ever, for himself and his wives, Alice de Rath and Mariota de Saint Michael, and for the salvation of his sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, on the Sabbath and other feast days, on their tomb’.

Over the years the Lands of Leask steadily expanded beyond the boundaries of Slains Parish, partly by inheritance, partly by exchange of lands, and by purchase. The Estate included the Home Farm, Mains of Leask, Moss Leask, Byreleask, Knapsleask, Nether Leask, Milton of Leask, and Mill of Leask.

In 1390 the second known chief of Clan Leask, ballie of the barony of Findon, inherited half of the lands of Henry de Brogan, Lord of Achlowne.

In 1456 Ulfrid or Wilfred Lask of that Ilk, signed a ‘Band of Manrent’ to William Earl of Erroll, of the Clan Hay, and resigned the lands of Leask and Auchlethin in favor of his son Thomas Lask. In this deed Thomas is designated ‘armiger’ to his superior, Sir William Hay.

Ray Leask has a section of his website dedicated to the Hills of Leask (Leskgourgone) with a great set of photos covering KnapsLeask, the Chapel of Leask, Mains of Leask, Mill of Leask, Milltown of Leask, Moss Leask, Nether Leask, and the Manor House. Be sure to check it out and use the dropdown navigation to see each sub-section!

Y-DNA Surname Study August 2014 Update

At the end of August we are hosting a Clan Leask Gathering at the Virginia Scottish Games in The Planes, Vigrinia. We are creating a few handouts and mailings. Eventually we will put the full content on our websites, but one step at a time. I just sent the Y-DNA Surname Study – August 2014 Update brochure to my editor (a.k.a. my wife who is an English teacher) and am very excited about what we pulled together. Here is the introduction/summary from the brochure to give you a taste of what has been going on:

 


 

There are many known spellings of the name Leask: Leisk, Liesk, Lisk, Lesk, Lesh, Laesk, Lask, Leysk, Laysk, and Lusk (underlined names have participated in the Leask Surname Y-DNA Study to date). The testing thus far has proven Leask, Lisk, Leisk and some of those whose name is spelled Lusk are related and therefore are all members of the Clan Leask.

Through the Leask Y-DNA Surname Study, three distinct lines have been discovered for Clan Leask. Groups #1 and #2, though different are closely related; they are likely to have a similar geographic origin and a common ancestor within 1200 years. Group #3 has a greatly different genetic code and appears to have a much different geographic origin.

Three distinct lines of Leasks have been discovered through Y-DNA testing for the Clan – two related and one unique.

The Y-DNA study indicates the answer for most of the Leasks tested so far is that their origin is either Norwegian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon or Danish; the tested Leasks are likely to have originated in either Ancient Friesland or Jutland. Ancient Friesland was located in what is today Northern Holland, Northern Germany and Western Denmark.  Group #3 suggests a potential linage from Iberia.

More about this study, including instructions to join it and references for this article, can be found at our genealogy research site, http://research.leask.com/.

 

Clan Leask USA Announces First-ever USA Clan Leask Gathering

We are very excited to announce the first ever Clan Leask Gathering in the United States! We will have a tent at the Virginia Scottish Games in The Plains, Virginia on August 30th and 31st!

We’re hoping this games, so near our nation’s capital, will offer a great meeting place for US-based Leask’s to shake hands with some potential long-lost (and distant) relatives. There are multiple airport options and The Plains is easily accessible by major cross-country highways.

We are planning to bring materials to help those interested in learning more about our shared heritage. Come talk with USA Genealogy expert, Mac Leask, to learn about our varied last names, where your branch of the clan may have come from, and the status of our Y-DNA testing- including how you can join the testing to see where your branch of the family may connect with others who have joined the research!

Keep an eye on the USA Gathering 2014 page for more information about this years games and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly!