Griffin Genealogy

Griffin is
a surname primarily of Irish
It derived from the Gaelic word for gryphon, the
mythical Celtic beast with the head of one animal and the body of
(normally an eagle and a lion). One
powerful warrior was called Griobhan
because he was feared in the same way as a gryphon. That name evolved
as a clan
into O’Griobhtha or O’Griofa. This clan was prominent in SW Ireland. The anglicized version was first Griffey and
then more commonly Griffin.
Griffin might have Welsh origins, a variant of Griffith
from the old
name Gruffydd. Griffin
in the
west of England could have been brought there from Wales, in the east
from Breton settlers

Griffin Resources on

Griffin Ancestry

The principal

in Ireland, first recorded in the early 14th century, were the chiefs
Cinel Cuallachta, a territory
in the southeast part of the barony of Inchiquin
in county Clare. Their fortress was
Ballygriffey castle in Dysart parish.


is still in a fairly good state of
preservation, even though the roof has fallen in and part of the upper
has collapsed. There are many defensive features to be seen – including a shot
hole and an internal wall on the upper floor which could be defended if
attackers penetrated that far into the castle.”

the time of the 1659 English
census, the spelling had become Griffin and they could be found
primarily at
Inchiquin and Bunratty in county Clare. The
name had also spread to Coshma and Limerick city in county Limerick and
to the Kerry
baronies of Corkaguiny and Truaghanacmy

19th century descendant of the Clare Griffins was the writer Gerald
. He

was born and grew up in Limerick.

Coshma in Limerick had its own Ballygriffin hamlet. In Kerry
Murtagh Griffin, the clerk of the Common Pleas in Dublin, purchased
lands near Killarney in 1700. In his will of 1712 he
directed that these lands be sold for his Catholic heirs as they could
not legally inherit them. Michael Griffin was recorded as living
at Rossanean in 1776.

Wales. The Welsh
name Gruffydd
tended to become either Griffith or Griffiths in Wales, not Griffin. Griffin ap Owen was recorded as a Sheriff of
Anglesey in the early 1300’s; and there were Griffins (otherwise
Penngruffwynds) at Penrith in Pembrokeshire in the 1600’s.
But there are few Griffins in Wales

England. The Griffin name
appeared at an early time in the east of England and then later in
numbers in the west of England.

of England. Some think the name was
brought there by Breton settlers.

earliest mention was a knight named Richard Griffin who was resident at
Gomundley in Leicestershire in the mid-1200’s.
His son Sir John married the Favell heiress in Northamptonshire
and their
descendants later held Dingley and Braybrooke in that county:

  • Edward Griffin was created Baron Griffin of Braybrooke in 1688, yet
    died in the Tower of London in 1710. The
    male line then died out thirty years later.
  • but John Griffin, an army officer and later Field Marshal
    who had
    adopted his mother’s maiden name in 1749, began a new Baron Braybrooke
    based at Audley End in Essex.

Griffin name also surfaced in Norfolk.
Gabriel Griffin was recorded at Greenhoe in 1550; while Benjamin
Griffin, the actor and playwright, was born in Yarmouth in 1680.

West of England. The Griffin name here
was first introduced
into the English counties bordering Wales and then spread into

There was a Griffin line
in William Shakespeare, with
his grandfather Richard having married Alys Griffin in Warwickshire in
mid-1500’s. Some scholars have argued
that Alys was descended from a line of Welsh nobility, but there is no
proof to
this assertion.

There were also
Griffins at Fenny Compton in Warwickshire from the 1600’s.
Later Griffins operated a lime and cement
works at Stockton in the 19th century.

The Griffin name appeared in Stroud in
Gloucestershire in 1599 when John Griffin acquired what came to be
known as
Griffin’s mill. It was to stay with his
family for almost two hundred years.
Meanwhile one family line in Somerset dates from around 1575
Griffin was born in West Pennard.

Griffins in Lancashire may have come from Ireland.

America. Some
claim that the brothers Edward and John
Griffin who arrived in America in the 1630’s were from Wales. But this has not been substantiated. Edward who came on the Abraham
ended up in Flushing, New York, John on the Constance
in Simsbury, Connecticut. Edward
had the more hair-raising experiences.

bound for Virginia
landed east of Chesapeake Bay and settled on Palmer Island. In 1638 armed emissaries of Lord
attacked the settlement and took Edward captive. However,
he managed to escape to the Dutch
colony at New Amsterdam. When the Dutch
authorities determined the truth of his captivity, they allowed him to
stay in
the colony.”

He made his home in Flushing, Long Island. His
descendants migrated to Westchester and
Dutchess counties in upstate New York in the 1700’s.
Paul Griffin’s 1995 book Annotated Bibliography of
the Griffin/Griffen Family
covered this

New England. Unproven Welsh
connections have also hovered around other early Griffin arrivals in

  • Hugh
    Griffin from London who was an early settler in Sudbury in 1639.
  • Humphrey
    a butcher, who came to Ipswich in 1641. Later Griffins migrated
    to New Hampshire.
  • and
    Matthew Griffin who
    came to Charlestown around this time. His
    kinsman Richard had settled in Concord.

A notable early line was that of Thomas Griffin, the son of a London
merchant family, who had reached Virginia via Barbados in the early
1640’s. His son Leroy became a large landowner in Richmond
county. The line led to Judge Cyrus Griffin, the last President of the
Continental Congress in 1788, and to his son John, an early judge in
Michigan territory.

William Griffin, possibly related, had come to Virginia as a young boy
in 1638. Some of his descendants settled in South Carolina in the
mid-1700’s. One line via William S. Griffin migrated to Tennessee
in the early 1800’s and then to Arkansas.

Griffins in the South.
There were more Griffin numbers further south in the 19th century – in
Carolina, in Georgia, and in Mississippi in particular.

The Peter Griffin born in Ireland who married Elizabeth Owens in South
Carolina in 1770 was the grandfather of Lewis Lawrence Griffin, a man
from humble beginnings in Georgia who made a fortune with the Monroe
railroad, lost it in 1840, and then made another fortune in Aberdeen,

John Thomas Griffin came to Georgia with his family in
1792. He was, as his son Thomas called him, a “dry-footed
Baptist,” one who said “go down to the water” but never went there
himself. The son Thomas Griffin was an early circuit
preacher who rode the Mississippi territory along the Tombigbee

Griffin departed North Carolina, taking his young wife and family by
boat, and settled in the Walnut Hills area of Mississippi territory in
. His son Francis purchased land on a high ridge
bordering the Mississippi river in 1831 and established his plantation
there. The family history here was recounted in Mary Halloran’s
2009 book The Griffins of
Magnolia Terrace

William Griffin, born in Georgia, came to Moss Point, Mississippi in
the 1850’s where he built a sawmill and became one of the wealthiest
men in Jackson county. He sold his sawmill to his son-in-law in
the 1870’s. His grandson Wyatt became the owner twenty years

Canada. Two Griffins of
Dutchess county, New York – descendants of immigrant Edward Griffin –
were Loyalists at the time of the Revolutionary War. Thomas and
Obadiah Griffin escaped to Nova Scotia where they received land
grants. Obadiah moved to Smithville, Ontario in 1814 where other
Griffins from Dutchess county had previously settled. Justus
Griffin’s 1924 book Ancestors and
Descendants of Richard Griffin of Smithville
covered the family
line here.

Griffin Miscellany

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

Griffin Names

Sir Thomas Griffin was
an English knight of the shires in the 14th century.
Cyrus Griffin served as the
last President of the Continental Congress in 1788 prior to American
Gerald Griffin was a notable
Irish novelist of the early 1800’s.
hosted the Merv
Griffin Show
on American TV from 1965 to 1986.

Select Griffins Today

  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 69,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)



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