Graham Surname Genealogy

is a Scots clan name which traces back to the early 12th century and
the Norman baron who came to Scotland, William de Graham (or de
Graeme).  He was lord of Grantham in Lincolnshire which is where
his name is believed to have been derived.

“In all the early records of England,
Graham means Grantham in Lincoln and William de Graham settled  in
Scotland at the time of King David I.”

However others, including many Montrose Grahams themselves, have
advanced an alternative Pichish Scottish connection for William de
Gaeme – from their warrior leader Graym.  This Graym had attacked
and demolished the Roman wall of Antonious across Scotland sometime
around 1057.

Early spellings of the name were Graym and Grame.  It was first
written as Graham in the Cambuskenneth charters in 1361.
Spellings like Graeme did persist.  The “h”
in Graham often stayed silent.

Resources on

Graham Ancestry

The first Graham known in Scotland was a William de Graham (or de
Graeme) who accompanied King David I on his journey north to assume the
Scottish crown in 1128.  From this de Graeme are descended the
Montrose line of Grahams.  These Grahams soon took the Scottish
side against the English and Sir John de Graham fought with
William Wallace in his campaigns in the 1290’s.  The clan
established their stronghold at Magdock, north of Glasgow, in 1370.

These Grahams were Royalist supporters in Scotland during the Civil War
and James
, who fought for their cause, was ennobled as
Montrose.  Later, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee,
gained the titles of
“Bloody Clavers” and “Bonny Dundee” – depending on whether you were a
Covenanter or not – because he sought to crush them.  He died on
the battlefield in 1689 supporting the Stuart cause (although Bonnie Dundee lives on as a
regimental song).  By this time, the Graham clan were among the
richest in Scotland, holding
lands from Loch Lomond east to Perth in Stirlingshire.  Their
overall story is covered in John Stewart’s 1993 book The Grahams.

There have been various Graham sub-branches, among them
being the Grahams of Inchbrakie, Orchill, Morphie, Balgowan, Cairnie,
Deuchrie, Drums, Duntroon, Fintry, Killearn, Monzie, and Potento.

A Border Clan
The Grahams were also a Border clan.  The line began with Sir
John Graham of Kilbride who had led his followers south in the late
14th century into Border country (where they settled in Eskdale).
They became unruly “reivers,” known for their border
raids into England, their arch enemies being the Robsons in north
Tyneside.  In 1552 they held thirteen fortified towers and could
raise, it was said, over 500 mounted troopers for any raid.

However, the English and Scottish crowns stamped down on them in the
early 1600’s. Grahams were hanged, transported, banished, and
imprisoned.  Even so, there are still a sizeable number of Grahams
to be found today in Dumfriesshire and across the border in Cumbria.

  Grahams migrated south from the Scottish borders
into Cumberland.  The first of these Grahams was said to be “Lang
Will” Graham.  His son Richard was an expert horse-trader whose
friendship with Charles I enabled him to acquire the Netherby estates
near Longtown on the Esk river.  Netherby Hall featured in the
novels of Sir Walter Scott, notably in Marmion in which the Graham family
heiress eloped with the young Lochinvar.

Edmond castle, another Graham home, was built in Hayton near
Carlisle.  The Graham Arms Hotel, a former coaching inn, is nearby
in Kirklinton.  The celebrated clockmaker George Graham was born
there of a Quaker family in 1674.  Another George Graham was a
gunsmith in Cockermouth in
the late 19th century.  William Graham, tried for
murder in Penrith in 1857, subsequently became famous in song in

Ireland.  Many
of the present day Grahams in Ireland stem from an extended family of
name from the Scottish borders who had come to Glenwherry, county
Antrim in the early
1600’s.  Grahams at Troy near Enniskillen in Fermanagh date from
about 1630.  William Graham was recorded as “the muster master” of
the undertakers.  There were Grahams as well in Lisburn and
Belfast by the
18th century.  The Graham family of Lisnastrain near Lisburn saw
extended medical and military service in India with the British Army
during the 19th century.

A Graham family moved to county Derry where they became active in the
United Irishmen cause of 1798. With a price on their heads, one brother
James managed to escape to America; but the other, Watty Graham,
was betrayed and hanged at Coleraine.  He is remembered by the
Gaelic football club which bears his name.  A descendant is the
present-day Belfast writer Joe Graham.

Many Grahams emigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Scots
Irish Grahams are to be found in numbers in America, Canada, and

America.  James Graham,
thought to have been a kin of the Montrose Grahams, arrived in New York
on the Blossom in 1678.
His daughter Isabella married Lewis Morris, an early Governor of New
York.  The Grahams were early settlers in Dutchess county and the
Graham-Brush log house, built there in 1776, still stands.

Many early Grahams
in America were Scots Irish, including:

  • Michael Graham who came to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania
    sometime in the 1720’s.
  • John Graham, possibly related, who came also to Pennsylvania
    around this time.  He and his family settled in the 1740’s in the
    Calfpasture valley in Augusta county, Virginia.  The family
    history was traced by a descendant, David Graham, in his 1899 book History of the Graham Family.
  • James Graham who was in Chester county, Pennsylvania in the
    1740’s.  Grandson William rose to become Senator and then Governor
    of North Carolina in the 1840’s.
  • and David Graham who arrived with other Scots Irish immigrants to
    Charleston, South Carolina in 1772. Son Andrew fought in the
    Revolutionary War and moved to Kentucky.  This family history is
    covered in Philip Graham’s 2008 book David
    Graham of Chester County, South Carolina

The evangelist Billy Graham is believed to have come from Scottish
roots.  His Graham ancestry has been traced to an Archibald
Graham, born in South Carolina in 1806.

Another Archibald Graham, born in North Carolina in 1879, was descended
from a Graham family from Scotland that had disembarked in Charleston
in 1780.  His nickname was “Moonlight” and he appeared briefly as
a professional baseball player.  He was later immortalized in the
1999 film Field of Dreams.
His brother Frank was president of North Carolina University and
for a short time senator for the state.   John Graham from
South Carolina migrated
to Mexico
during the 19th century.

Caribbean.  Grahams were
also to be found in the Caribbean.  Jacob
Graham from Cumberland moved out to Jamaica in 1746 and owned
plantations in St. James.  James Graham from Airth in
arrived there in 1783, working for the Stirlings of Keir.

Canada.   An Irish
Graham family had originally settled in upstate New York in the early
1800’s.  Many of them belonged to a small Quaker sect, the
Children of
Peace.  They moved to Ontario and formed a musical band which
toured the country from the 1850’s to the 1880’s.

Another Irish immigrant to Canada was Francis Graham.  He
arrived with his parents in 1845 and was a member of Ottawa’s first
professional fire department.  Sadly he died in the line of duty
in 1877.  But his son John carried on the family’s fire-fighting

South Africa
.  John
Graham, from the Fintry Grahams in Forfarshire, came to Cape colony
with the British army in 1806.  He pushed the Brtiish line
eastward and established the Grahamstown fortified settlement.  He
it was who tried to encourage Highland emigration to South Africa.

India.  There have been a
number of Graham connections in India.  John Graham, a botanist,
went out to Bombay in 1826 and was the superintendant of the botanical
gardens in Bombay until his early death in 1839.  Birchall Graham
had been with the British Army in India.  In 1872 he used his
savings to start tea cultivation.  The Graham family
is now in its fifth generation of tea planters in Darjeeling.

  John Graham was a convict and “wild white man”
from Ireland who had escaped into the bush in 1827 and stayed at large
for six years by living with aborigines.  His kinship with them
would later prove useful to the authorities.  In 1836 he was able
negotiate the release of the captain’s wife and crew after they had
been taken by aborigines from a ship wrecked off the Queensland
coast.  The captain’s wife, Eliza Anne Fraser, became
famous.  He was given a ticket of leave and disappeared from

Another convict wild man was William Graham.  He managed to escape
from Freemantle jail in 1867 with two accomplices.  Graham stayed
at large for several weeks, even managing to elude a police ambush,
before – wounded and bleeding – he was finally recaptured.

New Zealand.  Early
Grahams in New Zealand proved to be friends of the Maoris.  George
Graham had come from England as a colonial administrator in 1840.
His support for the Maori cause in the ensuing conflicts earned him the
honarary title of Hori Kereama.

“The leading chiefs entertained a great
deal of esteem for Mr. Graham and it was his influence that eventually
succeeded in bringing the warrior chief Wirenu Tamehana to Waiharoa to
sign a peace bond.”

In 1842 Robert Graham arrived in Auckland from Glasgow with his brother
David.  He was more of a wandering type (he tried gold mining for
a while in Australia and California), but eventually returned to
Auckland and, using his influence with the Maoris, helped to pioneer
the tourist development of New Zealand’s mineral waters and thermal

In 1862 Isabella Aylmer published Distant
Homes: The Graham Family in New Zealand
.  This was,
however, a work of fiction rather than of fact.  John Graham
arrived to farm at Hokitika along the west coast of South Island
in 1867.  He became a large landowner in the area and his
descendants are still to be found there. Peter and Alex Graham grew up
nearby at Okarito.  They became in the early 1900’s New Zealand’s
first mountaineers and guides.  Peter Graham was awarded an MBE
for his
services to mountaineering in 1956.

Graham Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Graham Names

Sir John de Graham was a 13th
century Scottish knight who fought and died alongside William Wallace
in the
struggle for Scottish independence.
John Graham of Cleverhouse was
a persecutor of the Scots Covenanters in the 17th century who later
took up the cause of the Highland clans.
George Graham from Cumbria was
a celebrated London clockmaker of the early 18th century.
Rev. Sylvester Graham was the
19th century American dietary reformer who devised the Graham cracker.
Kenneth Grahame was the
Scottish writer
of The Wind in the Willows,
one of the classics of children’s literature.
Billy Graham is the well-known
Christian evangelical preacher.
Katharine Graham was the
proprietor of The Washington Post newspaper
during the Watergate years.

Select Grahams

  • 80,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 76,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 48,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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