Carnegie Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Carnegie Surname Meaning

The surname Carnegie derived from the place-name Carnegie near Carmyllie in Angus.  It probably came from the Gaelic cathair an eige, meaning “fort at the gap.”

Carnegie Surname Resources on The Internet

Carnegie Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Angus)
  • to Sweden, America, Australia and New Zealand

Scotland.  Carnegie in Scotland has generally been a name localized in and around Angus in the northeast of Scotland.

The family who assumed this name, however, was originally known under an earlier place name of Balinhard, also in Angus.   John of Balinhard was the first to take the name of Carnegie in 1358.  Early Carnegies, first of this family and then of Kinnaird in Brechin, adopted the title Carnegie of that Ilk.

Two brothers of that name, David and John, made reputations for themselves by supporting the Royalist cause during the Civil War. They were created the Earls of Southesk and Northesk respectively (the names coming from the Esk river in Angus).  Both earldoms have continued to the present day.

The 5th Earl of Southesk, commemorated in the song The Piper o’ Dundee, lost his lands following his support for the Stuarts in the 1715 Uprising, and died in France.   The 12th Earl assumed through his mother the title of Duke of Fife and a connection with the royal family.  The Southesk home has been Kinnaird castle near Brechin since the 15th century.

There were other Carnegies in Angus.   George Carnegie of Balnamoon (from the Northesk side of the family) had fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746. After the defeat he fled with his brother James to Sweden where he prospered as a merchant in Gothenburg.  He returned to Scotland as the Laird of Pitarrow a wealthy man.  Another Carnegie line has been traced back to Colin Carnegie who married Isabel Grieg in Brechin in 1772.

Meanwhile Andrew Carnegie, the son of a handloom weaver in Dunfermline, Fife, left with his parents for America in 1848. This Andrew Carnegie was to be the most famous bearer of the Carnegie name.

Sweden.  David Carnegie, the son of George Carnegie of Balnamoon, arrived from Montrose in 1803 and began the trading firm of D. Carnegie & Co. in Gothenburg.  It was his nephew David, coming as a young man in 1830, who acquired a brewery for making porter and established the Carnegie Porter brand.  

America.  Andrew Carnegie had arrived in Pittsburgh at the age of thirteen and immediately started working as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill.  He was to earn most of his fortune in the steel industry.  In the 1870’s, he founded the Carnegie Steel Company, a step which cemented his name as one of America’s “captains of industry.”

By the 1890’s the company had become the largest and most profitable industrial enterprise in the world.  He sold it in 1901 to J.P. Morgan.  Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy.  In his The Gospel of Work of 1898 he wrote: “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, was born Dale Carnagey in Missouri in 1888, the son of a poor farmer James Carnagey whose grandparents were from Kentucky.

Australia.  David Carnegie, the youngest son of the 9th Earl of Southesk, departed England for Australia in 1892. At first he got caught up in the Western Australian gold rush.  Finding no gold, he led an expedition from Coolgardie through the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts to Halls Creek and back again.  Moving to Africa, he died in Nigeria at the early age of 29.

New Zealand.  Alexander Carnegie left Brechin with his family for New Zealand sometime in the 1860’sHe died in Waipukarau in 1882.  Some of his descendants are in New Zealand, other relatives are to be found in Australia and Canada.  

Carnegie Surname Miscellany

Early Carnegies.  The Carnegie name first appeared in records in Angus as early as 1230. John, the 1st of Carnegie, died in 1370 and he was  succeeded by John Carnegie of that Ilk.  The direct line of the family died out in the mid 16th century and the lands of Kinnaird were acquired by a cadet branch, the Carnegies of Kinnaird in Brechin, who restored for themselves the title of Carnegie of that Ilk.

John Carnegie of Kinnaird was killed at Flodden in 1513 and his son Robert captured fighting against the English in 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.  Robert was knighted on his release and he was made Ambassador to France in 1556.  Two later brothers of this family, David and John Carnegie, supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War and were created the Earls of Southesk and Northesk respectively (the names coming from the Esk river in Angus). 

Carnegie and The Piper o’ Dundee.  The Piper o’ Dundee was one of those songs that commemorated those who fought in the Jacobite uprisings.  The following verse contains the Carnegie reference.

  • It’s somegat swords and some gat nane
  • And some were dancing mad their lane
  • And mony a vow o’ weir
  • Was ta’en that night at Amulrie
  • There was Tillibardine, and Burleigh
  • And Struan, Keith, and Olgivie
  • And brave Carnegie, wha’ but he,
  • The piper o’ Dundee.

  • And wasna he a rougey, a rougey, a rougey
  • And wasna he a rougey, the piper o’ Dundee.

Susan Scott Carnegie of Pitarrow.  Susan Scott was born into a wealthy family with influential friends in many walks of life.  Her father was the Treasurer of the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.  In 1769 she married George Carnegie of Pittarrow, a man who had become wealthy in Sweden and bought an estate at Charleton. They started married life at Charleton House and had nine children.

Susan’s father made sure she had property settled on her and this gave her power to help others.  Women were not expected to live a public life at that time but Susan was determined to put her money and influence to good use.  Her strong practical mind saw that the organization of the Church relief to the poor could be better organized and managed.  The Kirk Session had to give out badges to permit begging in times of famine and distress.

In those days, the mentally ill and insane were herded together in the Tolbooth at the back of the Town House, Montrose. They were kept behind bars, like animals in a cage.  Some were chained, lying in straw. There was no lighting, heating or glazing.  People fed them through the bars.

Susan worked with Provost Alexander Christie to get subscriptions going for a proper asylum. Not everyone was keen on the idea but Susan’s printed pamphlets and constant letter writing brought money from as far away as India.  By 1781 the first asylum in Scotland was built in the Links in Montrose.

In 1815, with the help of the Church, Susan Carnegie set up a Savings Bank as an idea for self-help and independence. Usually she got up about 5am to deal with all her correspondence and good schemes.  At the same time she often undertook the fostering of orphans or friends. Her life was completely dedicated to the good of others less fortunate than herself.

David Carnegie and Carnegie Porter in Sweden.  David Carnegie Jr. came to Gothenburg as a young man in 1830 to work at his uncle’s company, at that time one of the biggest export companies in the wood and iron industry.  Soon after his arrival he acquired a porter brewery at Klippan and the Lorent sugar mill that in a short time was developed to be the most modern sugar  refinery in Sweden.  They were Gothenburg’s largest industries at the time.

David proved to be a benevolent employer.  The workers had  unusual benefits for the time, such as free medical treatment, a half day’s pay when ill and also three bottles of strengthening porter each day.  Near the brewery were workmen’s dwellings, baths, a school and a church.

Carnegie porter is the oldest registered trademark still in effect in Sweden, having been established as far back as 1836.  The porter had its most popular days in 1916 when the Carnegie brewery produced 5.5 million liters of porter.  Most of it was consumed in Sweden, but the porter also made its way across the Atlantic to  New York and Brazil.  Production of porter continued at the Carnegie mill until 1976.

Carnegie as a company in Sweden lived longer, although the company’s banking arm became insolvent in 2008.

Andrew Carnegie’s Antecedents.  Andrew Carnegie, the famous steelman and philanthropist, was born in Dunfermline, Fife in 1835.  His family line goes back to James and Charlotte Carnegie who were married there in 1759.  They were Andrew’s great grandparents.  Their son Andrew was born in 1769.  He married Elizabeth Thoms in 1792 and they had two sons, William and Andrew.

William Carnegie was a handloom weaver.  But times were hard and he decided to leave Scotland for a new life in America.  He took his wife Margaret and their young son Andrew, aged 13, to Pennsylvania in 1848.

Andrew Carnegie’s Descendants. Unlike other successful entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age, Andrew Carnegie did not leave his fortune to his descendants.  On his death in 1919 he donated the bulk of his wealth to worthy causes.

He left his wife Louise her personal assets, a small cash gift, and their property – a Manhattan townhouse and a holiday home in Scotland.  His only daughter Margaret received a small trust and eventually had to sell the Manhattan townhouse because of its costly upkeep.

None of his descendants through his daughter Margaret – who are now in the fifth and sixth generations – bear the Carnegie name and have any inherited wealth.

Carnegie Names

  • David Carnegie established the Carnegie Porter brand in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1836. 
  • Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, made his fortune as a steel-maker in America.
  • Dale Carnegie was the American author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, a massive best-seller when it was published in 1936.

Carnegie Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Angus)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Carnegie and Like Surnames

From our selection, these are the surnames of those who have made their business mark in America – as pioneers, inventors, developers, or corporate leaders – over its long history from colonial to modern times.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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