Select Grant Surname Genealogy

Grant is a Scottish clan name.  Its origins here have been disputed and various theories have been suggested.  A Norse origin is now thought to be the most likely.  This had always been part of the Grant oral tradition (with descent claimed from Olav Hemingsson of Norway in the 11th century).  Recent DNA analysis would support a Norse connection. 

The Grant name, according to the Grant tradition, is thought to have come from Sliabh Grianas, the name of a meadow above Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands which was the first land in Scotland to be occupied by the Grants.  Grant appears to have been adopted as the clan name sometime in the 12th century.

The Grant name also appears, probably independently, in England and Ireland.

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Select Grant Ancestry

Scotland.  Members of clan Grant have owned land in the Scottish Highlands in Strathspey, at Stratherrick to the east of Loch Ness, since possibly the middle of the 12th century.  Their support of Robert the Bruce enabled them to secure these landholdings in the 14th century.  Their base, Grant Castle in Strathpey, still stands; as does Ballindalloch castle, the home of the MacPherson Grants.

The Grants were not decimated, as were some other Highland clans, by the convulsions which occurred during the 18th century.  Many Grants had supported the Lowland Covenanters and then took the English side during the Jacobite uprisings (although some did take the other side). 

Clan Grant was one of the few clans not to be affected by the Highland clearances.  The so-called "Good Sir James" Grant built the town of Grantown-on-Spey for the purpose of developing a textile industry in the north and thereby preventing his kinsmen from emigrating.  Some Grants did move elsewhere or leave.  But more than half of the Grants in Scotland were still to be found in the Highlands by the end of the 19th century.

The Grants of Rothiemurchus still hold their lands around Aviemore; and other branches of the family hold lands in Strathpey.  The Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant came from the Rothiemurchus Grants, the actor Hugh Grant from the Glenmoriston Grants.  His James Murray Grant forebears had distinguished themselves in the army, starting in 1856 in South Africa and culminating in 1940 in the retreat from Dunkirk. 

Two Alexander Grants fought on the losing Jacobite side in 1746:
  • one Alexander died at Culloden.  But his son George rose to great prominence in India, as Chairman of the East India Company.  George’s elder son Charles was made Baron Glenelg, his younger son Robert became Governor of Bombay. 
  • another Alexander survived the defeat at Culloden, but had to flee to Banffshire where he was hidden from the English by a clan chief.  His great grandson William Grant founded the Grant Glenfiddich whisky business in the late 19th century.  Grant descendants are now considered the third richest family in Scotland.
England.   The Grants were not exclusively a Scottish name.  Richard le Grand was the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1229.  A Grant family in Warwickshire produced John Grant, one on the Gunpowder plotters. These Grants may have had Norman origins.

By the 18th century, the surname appeared mainly in the south, in Devon (particularly in Diptford) and in Hampshire, and around London.  But there were hardly any Grants to be found in East Anglia or the Midlands where, it had been argued, Norman Grants had migrated north to Scotland. 

Later Grants in England may well have gone the other way from Scotland.  One such example was Robert Grant, an early mentor of Charles Darwin, who had come from Scotland and founded the Grant zoological museum in London in 1827.  

There were also Irish Grants.  Unlike the Scottish Grants, these also seem to have been a Norman implant, they being among the Strongbow invaders in 1170.  The Grants became landowners at Iverk in county Kilkenny.  After the Cromwellian confiscations, they moved onto Tipperary and Offaly. 

The 19th century saw an out-migration, to Canada, America, and Australia.  Many were sent to Australia as convicts.  John Grant narrowly escaped this fate, as the following entry reveals:

"John Grant, a United Irishman, was arrested in 1798 and imprisoned in Geneva barracks, Waterford. His wife Judith petitioned against transportation because they had six small destitute children.  On payment of a £50 fine and the swearing of allegience, his sentence was voided."
Within Ireland, Grants today are mainly to be found around Waterford and in Shinrone in county Offaly. 

.  Matthew Grant arrived from Devon in 1630 and became the town surveyor for Windsor, Connecticut.  His descendants moved, after the Revolutionary War, to Pennsylvania and then to Ohio where Ulysses Grant, Lincoln's General and later American President, was born in 1822. 

Whiskey was said to be his weakness.  When Lincoln heard about Grant's habit, he was reported to have said: "Find out what brand he drinks so I can give it to the rest of my generals."  Grant's funeral in 1885 drew 1.5 million people on its six mile parade through New York City.  He was buried there in Grant's Tomb on Riverside Drive. 

Peter Grant from Inverness was exiled to America by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and ended up living in Berwick, Maine as an indentured servant.  Peter was one of the first Scottish Grants to show up in America and has many descendants living today.  A later Peter Grant left Berwick for Farmingdale, Maine in 1790.  His home there, overlooking the Kennebec river, is still standing.

Later Grant exiles were:  
  • Ludovic Grant, a Jacobite supporter during the 1715 uprising, who was captured, lost his lands, and then was banished from Scotland.  He departed on the Susannah for South Carolina.  There, in the rough-and-tumble of frontier life, he became a successful trader with the Cherokee Indians. 
  • and William Grant who came to North Carolina after the Jacobite defeat in 1745 and married Daniel Boone's sister Elizabeth.
Canada.  There were several Grants from Strathpey who became active in the Canadian fur trade in the 1770's (including Cuthbert Grant, an early trader in the Canadian West).  Captain John Grant, an Empire Loyalist, came to Summerville, Novia Scotia, in 1784.  His descendants lived there until 1866. 

Around that time, another Grant family from Nova Scotia departed for Trinidad in the Caribbean where they started the trading company T. Geddes Grant.  This Trinidad company still flourishes.   

Australia.  Early Grant arrivals had been convicts. 

John Grant had shot a London lawyer in the buttocks and been sentenced to death at the Old Bailey.  His petition that it had been a crime of passion over a woman led to his sentence being reduced to life transportation.  He arrived in New South Wales with a harpsichord in 1803 and was one of the few convicts to record his impressions of the early colony (This Beauteous, Wicked Place: Letters and Journals of John Grant, Gentleman Convict).

Another John Grant, this one from Tipperary, was transported to New South Wales in 1811 for attempting to shoot his landlord's son who had seduced his sister.  After receiving his conditional pardon in 1820, he crossed the Blue Mountains and made his home at Moyne Farm in Hartley where he was one of the early settlers.  Interestingly, there was a family of Aboriginal Grants from a mixed race marriage or union that originated from Hartley.  Who the father was has been a matter of much debate.

Select Grant Miscellany

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

Select Grant Names

Richard Le Grant
was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1229.
Sir Ian Grant, sheriff of Inverness in 1434, was the first authenticated chief of the Grant clan.
Charles Grant, the son of a Jacobite killed at Culloden, joined the British East India Company and rose to be its chairman.
Ulysses B. Grant was Lincoln's General during the Civil War and later American President.
James Grant was the Victorian explorer who with John Speke discovered the source of the Nile.
Cary Grant the actor was born in England Archie Leach.
Eddy Grant, the reggae artist, made his name with the 1983 hit Electric Avenue.
Hugh Grant is the English actor of films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill.

Select Grants Today
  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous in Falkirk)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 42,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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