Select Moore Surname Genealogy

If your name is Moore, you could have English, Scottish or Irish roots.  And in each place the derivation of the name is different.

In England, the main derivation is from the Middle English mere, meaning moor or marsh.  Various places took this name, such as Moore in Cheshire and More in Shropshire.  Moore and, to a lesser extent later, More became surnames. 

Moore might also have developed as a nickname from Moor (as in Othello the Moor), denoting someone of a swarthy or dark-skinned complexion.   In addition, the Normans brought the name More (from St. Maurus) with them to England.  However, this particular saint did not seem to have appealed much to the English.

In Scotland, the Gaelic mor signified "large" so that Moore, as this or similar names developed, would probably at one time have been a nickname for a heavily-built man.  The spelling of the name varied around the country:
  • Muir was mostly to be found in Ayrshire and the southwest
  • Moore in the Highlands
  • Moir in Aberdeen
  • and Moar in the Orkneys and Shetlands.
In Ireland, the derivation is different again, Moore being an anglicization of the Gaelic Mordha clan name. Mordha means "proud" in Gaelic.  Ireland did also have some English Moores.   

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England.  William de More appeared in Staffordshire rolls in the 1086 Domesday Book.  Sir Thomas de la More of Northmoor was sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1370 and John More from London held More Hall in Hertfordshire in 1390. 

The More name achieved a national importance during the reign of Henry VIII.  Thomas More, the son of a London barrister, gained renown as the author of Utopia.  He became Henry VIII's Chancellor but incurred the King's disfavor and lost his head in 1535.  Sir Christopher More from Derbyshire fared better in London, making money from the dissolution of the monasteries.  His son William was a trusted advisor of Queen Elizabeth and built his family mansion, Losely House, in Surrey (which still stands today).

The Mores of More Hall were an established family in Lancashire from early times.  They became Moores and the Moore name gradually supplanted More in England over time (as in the case of the Moores of Appleby Parva in Leicestershire). 

By the 19th century, the largest number of Moores were to be found in the north, in Lancashire and Yorkshire.  There were also sizeable pockets in London, the West Midlands, and in Devon

Scotland.  The name Moore and its variants spread around Scotland from the 1300's, particularly in areas where Old Norse was still spoken.  Robertus More, for instance, became a burgess of Aberdeen in 1317. 

The most notable of these families was the Mures (later Muirs) of Ayrshire who held sway at Rowallan castle from 1300 to 1700.  One of these Mures was called the Rud of Rowallane, being large in stature, very strong and prone to pugilism (as befitting a mor).

Ireland.  The Ua Mordha (O'Mores) were the leading clan of the seven septs of Leix.  They were for many centuries thorns to the English invaders.  In 1609 the English transplanted the remnants of the clan to county Kerry in the hopes that the clan would die out.  Rory O'More led the last hurrah, being one of the key figures in a plot to capture Dublin in the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

His name is commemorated today in the Rory O'More bridge which spans the Liffey in Dublin.  His name also appears in a popular Irish folk song which begins as follows:

"Young Rory O'More courted Kathleen Bawn
He was bold as a hawk and she soft as the dawn
He wished in his heart pretty Kathleen to please
And he thought the best way to do that to tease."

Another O'More song, Kathleen O'More, is a ballad narrated by an unidentified man lamenting the death of his sweetheart.

There were English Moores in Ireland as well.  The Moores of Barmeath arrived in the 14th century, the Moores of Barne in Tipperary in the 1600's.  But the most well-known of these Moores were the Moores of Moore Hall in county Mayo.  Their wealth came from a trading business out of Alicante in Spain.  Later generations were  prominent as historians and writers. 

Today the largest clusters of Moores in Ireland are in the Ulster counties of Antrim and Down.
America.  Thomas Moore from Suffolk was one of the first arrivals in New England, reaching Salem in 1630.  oores arrived as well into Virginia and later spread south:
  • William Moore, for instance, purchased land in the 1650's along the Nansemond river and his descendants were to be found in North Carolina.  
  • James Moore was the colonial Governor of South Carolina in 1700 (there is a belief among historians that he was the son of the Irish rebellion leader Rory O'More).  His grandson Robert Moore was an American general in the Revolutionary War. 
  • while Augustine Moore was a highly successful tobacco entrepreneur in Virginia in the early 1700's who built his Chelsea plantation near Yorktown.  The attempt to link him to the English statesman Sir Thomas More was based on forged documents.      
Robert Moore migrated from Georgia to Blount county, Alabama in 1865 and the town of Susan Moore there was named after his family.

Two later Scottish Muir immigrants later made lasting contributions to their new countries:
  • John Muir came to Wisconsin with his parents in the 1850's.  He spent his life in the unspoilt terrain of the West and became an advocate for forest conservation.  He was responsible for the establishment of the Yosemite National Park and was the first president of the Sierra Club.   
  • Alexander Muir who immigrated to Canada as a child in the 1840's wrote the song The Maple Leaf Forever.
Canada.  Early Moore settlers in Canada were Empire Loyalists.  The Quaker Jeremiah Moore had been "a great sufferer during the American War on account of his attachment to Great Britain," according to his 1795 petition for land.  He settled in Pelham township, Ontario.  Other Moores headed for Hull, Quebec.  David Moore became a lumber baron there in the mid 19th century. 

Australia.  Edward Moore and his wife Elizabeth were convicted in Manchester for forgery and transported to Australia in 1818 for forgery.  On release they began farming at Camden near Sydney and prospered.  Their seven children raised large families and contributed to the rapid development of the Camden region. Descendants are scattered across Australia, the most prominent being the fourth generation Tom Inglis Moore, a Professor of English Literature and a pioneer in the study of Australian literature. 

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

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Sir Thomas More was the English lawyer, author of Utopia, and the statesman beheaded by Henry VIII in 1535.
Francis Moore, the court astrologer, came from a poor family in Shropshire.  He first produced Old Moore's Almanack in 1697.  It is still published today.
Thomas Moore is an Irish 19th century poet from Kerry best known today for his Irish Melodies.
John Muir, an early advocate of conservation in America, was the founder of the Sierra Club.
Marianne Moore was a 20th century American poet.
Henry Moore was the acclaimed English sculptor of the 20th century.
Bobby Moore was the English football captain who lifted the 1966 World Cup.
Dudley Moore, one of the performers in the comic stage review Beyond The Fringe, went on to star in movies in the 1970's.
Demi Moore is a well-known American actress.

Select Moores Today

  • 144,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 263,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 95,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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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