“What’s In A Name…”

Very popular among first names chosen for today’s millennials are variations of the name Kyle; i.e., Kayla, Kylie, Kylan, and obviously, Kyle.  It just so happens that branches of my family were among the first to receive the name Kyle, but as a family surname.

Kyle Castle Remains (Tower Castle) in Ayr, Scotland

The “Kyle” surname is of Scottish and Northern Irish origin and was derived from a regional name for the district of Kyle in the former county of Ayrshire (which stretched across parts of modern-day East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire) in South West Scotland. It is also said to come from the 5th Century King of the Britons, Coel Hen, who was reputedly killed in battle within this area.

My paternal 13th great grandfather, William Kyle/Kyll (1528-1605), was one of my family’s 16th Century Scottish Patriarchs. His grandson, Alexander Kyle, son of William Kyle, Jr., also was born in the Scotland homeland of Kyle, Ayrshire, where he married Nance Ainsley on February 25, 1603, at age 23.   Between 1605 and 1608 Alexander and Nance had two sons and two daughters:  Patrick, Issabell, Nance, and Marck, respectively.  Alexander lived a relatively short life of 49 years.  It was Alexander and Nance’s grandchildren who emigrated to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia from Tyrone, North Ireland.  To share this story of how my ancestors came to North America centuries ago, I gleaned the following history of Kyle, Scotland, and the family surname “Kyle,” from various others’ digitized research (coadb.com, houseofnames.com, surnamedb.com).

5th Through 9th Centuries

My story begins during the legends of King Arthur (500-550 AD) time period.  Kyle, as a name and as a family survived some of the most storied and tumultuous events in Scotland’s history. Kyle is from the Brythonic Kingdom and is one of the parent languages of modern Scots’ Gaelic.  The Brythonic Kingdom was the “Last British Kingdom” to survive the Romans. After the Roman legions left Britain in 410 AD, the Roman populace lingered on, making alliances with local surviving tribes.

In the 5th through 9th centuries, Scotland was invaded by Norse cultures from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and some invaders remained there causing the Brythonic people to move into the northwest corner of what would later be called England and this “Last Kingdom” of Britain, where Hadrian’s wall met the Irish sea, then slowly moved north by northwest along the coastline to Dunbarton, Scotland.  They easily defended and commanded the “The Rock of Dunbarton,” and all approaches to it.

During this period our Kyle ancestors experienced two serious events. The Irish tribe called the Scotti invaded southern Scotland across the narrowest portion of the Irish sea and established the Kingdom of Dal Riata in the Firth of Forth. Both kingdoms fought for dominance in the region. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Vikings invaded from Norway and destroyed them both. The Kyle family survived these battles and next moved further northwest to where they eventually settled in the District of Ayrshire.

10th Through 16th Centuries

In the next period of change for the Kyle family, King David I of Scotland, (who had been a royal hostage in England, and France),  moved north and married Maud (1113), the Countess of Huntingdon, (great-niece of William the Conqueror). Escorting Maud was the Norman knights who emerged as some of the founders of the most prominent Scottish families and clans.

These southwest Scotland regions were home to some of the most contentious and fought areas. Ongoing interfamily and clan warfare occurred throughout most of its history along those routes taken by the various invaders.  It was the English House of Hanover who brought about secure borderlands and eventually halted the last of the Scottish wars of independence.

17th Through 18th Centuries

But, in the 1600s these border regions were still a considerable source of friction, from both English and Scottish sides. Protestant vs. Catholic fueled both sects to continue centuries-long blood feuds or grievances.  And, the Kyle family was one of the earliest converts to the Protestant faith. The English crown also heavily recruited Protestant Scots to help settle Northern Ireland. At this time, the Kyle family name becomes linked with Ulster, Donegal, and Antrim; all places where Protestant Scottish families were used to resettle large tracts of lands known as Plantations.

During the various rebellions in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Kyle family predominately allied themselves with the British Crown. They stayed out of the ‘troubles’ in Scotland while maintaining the peace in Ireland. (The Irish had several aborted attempts at rebellion at the same time the Jacobite rebellion swept through Scotland.)

The 17th century also saw the age of colonization in the new world.  In 1655, Britain’s Royal Navy defeated the Spanish in a battle for control over Port Royal, Jamaica.  This opened up Britain’s exploration and colonization of the Caribbean, coupled with the burgeoning colonies all along the eastern shoreline of North America.  Thus, many Kyle family members moved from Ireland to Jamaica or on to North America.  America’s first census in 1790, shows 12 Kyle families with 69 household members had moved into Pennsylvania and Vermont.  Today’s largest concentrations of the Kyle surname can be found in Canada, New Zealand, and The United States.

My Kyle ancestors were descendants of John William Kyle (1675-1723), whose ancestry dates back to Kyle, Ayrshire. John William Kyle had three sons, Robert, Patrick, and James–all who came to America in the 1740s. Robert settled in Albermarle County, VA in 1756.

A record at the Court House in Charlottesville shows “a plot of 190 acres in Albermarle lying on the branches of David’s Creek, surveyed for Robert Kyle October 7th, 1749.”

Robert Kyle was born in County Tyrone, N. Ireland in 1702; he married Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Campbell, who was also born there in 1704. She was the daughter of Hugh Campbell II. Robert died in 1774 and Betty Ann in 1779 in what was then Buckingham County, Virginia, not far from where our eldest son and his family reside today. Robert and Betty were parents of William, Joseph, Robert, David and three daughters: Frances, Jane, and Margaret.

Sons William and Joseph, now married, joined their parents in July 1759 and lived in Richmond, Virginia, until January 1760, when they and their families moved to the Kyle plantation in Botetourt County, Virginia.

William and Joseph both served in the American Revolution from Botetourt County, Virginia. (Lewis Summer’s “Annals of Southwest Virginia” page 1396.)
These Scots-Irish Kyles had strong ties and achievements in the Rogersville, Tennessee area. Brothers, Robert and David Kyle, left Tyrone County, Ireland, about 1740, and settled in Virginia. Robert’s son, Robert, made it to East Tennessee as a Captain in the Revolutionary War, where he commanded a garrison of soldiers against the Indians in Hawkins County in 1777. Robert, the son, in 1785, established a home at Walnut Hill, seven miles west of the present-day Rogersville, TN. He had seven children, one of whom, Jane, was scalped by the Indians at her front gate. Despite her injuries, Jane recovered with only the loss of hair.

Absalom Kyle, the son of Robert, married Barsheba Cobb (a member of an aristocratic family). Absalom and Barsheba’s life together started humbly in a log cabin because father Cobb opposed their marriage. Robert eventually prospered by establishing a stagecoach route between Atlanta and Washington through Rogersville.

By 1818, Robert Kyle and wife Barsheba Cobb had a large brick home built for them and their 14 children at Walnut Hill, Hawkins, TN. Their son, William Caswell Kyle, was a General in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. A brother, Leonidas Netherland Kyle was a Confederate Army Captain and his son, Gale Porter Kyle, married Gladys Boone, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone, the English pioneer who set up the wilderness road to Kentucky, which passed through Rogersville.

When I searched my DNA results for linkage to present-day Kyles, the first to show up was a distant cousin whose branch of the family spells its surname as “Keel.”  This spelling in his tree dates back to the mid-1700s when Samuel Kyle’s (1715-1785) first son shows “Samuel Keel” as the spelling of his name as does his next four children.  This branch resided in and around Amish Country in Pennsylvania.

2 thoughts on ““What’s In A Name…”

  1. I just found your history, and recognize much of it from research that I have done on my own. I can trace my line back using mostly first sources to Robert Kyle (1793-1820) and Leah Brooks (1747-1832) and I have Robert’s father Robert ( – 1775) from the History of Kyle, Kile, Coyle family in America. I was wondering if you have first source material from that time frame or if you are relying on some of the same surname histories that I have been using?

    Kyle Kindle (s/o William Kyle Kindle, s/o Mary Kyle Perry, d/o Willietta T Kyle, d/o Thomas Absalom Kyle, s/o Gayle H Kyle, s/o Thomas Kyle, s/o Robert Kyle and Leah Brooks).


    • Thank you for your comment, Kyle. I mentioned upfront in my post that I gleaned much of the history of the Kyle surname and Scotland family “Kyle,” from various others’ digitized research (coadb.com, houseofnames.com, surnamedb.com). Here are some other resources I referred to: http://www.kylesociety.org/; http://kylefamilyhistory.com/kyle-family-history/; etc. I should have included all my resources in my post. Obviously, I wish I had first source materials that would have dated back to those times. Unfortunately, I don’t. In the future, though, I’ll be more assertive in referencing all of my sources.


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