All health and good fortune to descendants of this good SCOTS name.
This, like just about everything else, is a work in progress. I may or may not at times post my source data simply because of the time that I have available at any given moment.
The long-held belief by many that Caldwell began with three pirate brothers who sailed the Mediterranean with Barbarossa simply doesn’t add up. This is not to say that there may be some veins of truth in the legends, but it is most certainly not where we begin, nor is the name of French origin.
Information researched from the Inquisito, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, the Ragman Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, the Doomsday Book, parish cartularies, baptismals, and tax rolls reveal that the first record of the name Caldwell was found in Renfrewshire in Scotland where they were seated from very ancient times, perhaps well before the Norman Conquest and arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066.
The Norman Conquest ended with the failure of the Norse invasion of England and the death of King Harald Hardrathi at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066 just before the Battle of Hastings.
Caldwell legend from Paisley, Scotland, suggests that we were of Norse origin and taken prisoner at the Battle of Largs, Scotland in 1263. Caldwell, is said to signify the “Cold Well”. The Norman word for “Cold” was “Kald”. Armorial bearings of the name are wells, waves, fountains, and fishes, each suggesting water. There is a village named Caldwell near Kilmarnock which is located on artesian wells. A 19th century book, ”The Scottish Nation, Surnames, Families, Literature and Honours” by Wm Anderson states. “Caldwell – a surname derived from lands in Renfrewshire possessed by an ancient family of that name for some centuries.”
Caldwells are noted as having been in Ayrshire Scotland since at least 1349 when William Caldwell was Lord Chancellor of Scotland. Ayrshire can be traced back to the Dalriada period and the beginnings of Scotland between 300 and 800 AD.
“A Dumfries, Ayr, Renfrew, Lanark, or Peebles man, as a dweller in Strathclyde, has some chance of remote British
(Brython) ancestors in his pedigree; a Selkirk, Roxburgh, Berwick-shire, or Lothian man is probably for the most part of English blood; an Argyleshire man is or may be descended from an Irish Scot or Dalriad” – Andrew Lang,
History of Scotland, Vol. I., Page 31.
Armorial bearings, being for distinguishing persons of, and within, a family, and were reserved for and granted only to Nobles and Knights. It is known that armorial Scots were sent to guard and protect French Royalty.
I believe that a connection to France could have come around the time of Alexander II during the 1200’s when armorial Scots were often hired and sent to guard and protect French Royalty. Alexander II was married to the French Marie de Coucy. Alexander III was first married to the daughter of King Henry III, and later to the French princess Yolande. I have no direct evidence that Caldwell’s were in fact Scots who were protectors of the royal families of France, nor have I closely examined the time lines.
The pirate stories don’t begin until the 1400’s, and state that the pirate Caldwells returned to their native France. If any pirate Caldwells did exist, it was not in the context that they have been portrayed for longer than I have been alive. The entry of Caldwell to France as armorial protectors is as likely as any other and perhaps the correct explanation to any early ancestry in France.