Christie Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Christie Surname Meaning
Christie is a Scottish clan name, originating on Scotland’s east coast.  It is normally thought to be the Scottish version of Christian (meaning Christ-bearing).  Those who suspect a Danish origin of the name in Scotland think that it may have come from the Danish word cruset, meaning “cup.”  Christy is generally the Irish spelling – from the Gaelic criostoir (or Christ-bearing).  Christie made its way from Scotland to Norway.  Christie or Christy in America could be Scottish or Irish or even of Swiss origin or possibly from Denmark (from Christiansen).

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Christie and Christy Surname Ancestry

Scotland.  Clan Christie, said to be a sept of clan Farquharson, was first sighted in Fife in the 15th century. A Christie farming family in Cupar can trace their Fife ancestry to the early 1600’s.  But the main home of the Christies has been further up the coast, in Angus and Aberdeenshire.  John Chrystie was listed as a burgess of Aberdeen back in 1530.

Political and religious tensions in the 17th century caused many
Christies to leave this area, among them being:

  • Andrew Christie to Norway in 1654
  • Alexander Christie/Christy to Ulster in 1675;
  • James Christie to America in 1685
  • and another James Christie who sailed from Leith on the ill-fated expedition to Darien in Central America in 1698.

Christies in Aberdeenshire may have been farmers, such as James Christie of Gallowgatehead:  “Mr. James Christie, who died at the ripe age of 93 and was interred on July 30, 1808 at St. Peter’s cemetery in Aberdeen, farmed on the land of Mr. George Moir of Scotstown for fifty years.  He had three successive leases and just survived the expiry of his third lease.”

They may have been fishermen.  There was a 19th century Christie family at Skateraw up the coast near Stonehaven.  They were captured by the painter George Washington Brownlow in his 1865 picture of them mending their nets.  Family records show some of these Christies tragically drowned at sea.

They could also have been seafarers and merchants.  The ports of Aberdeen and Montrose were linked in trade with the Hanseatic League ports in Norway and the Baltic:

  • Alexander Christie was provost of Montrose in the late 18th century and also a wealthy merchant (unfortunately ruined when the wars with Napoleon halted trade).
  • while his brother William was the first Unitarian minister in Scotland.

Agnes Short’s novels such as The Dragon Seas describe a fictional Christie family of merchants in mid 19th century Aberdeen.

Norway.  Christies from the northeast of Scotland came to Bergen in Norway, most notably Andrew Christie who arrived there in 1654.  This Andrew Christie was the forebear of a notable Norwegian Christie family, from WFK Christie, the first president of the Norwegian parliament, to WH Christie, Norway’s Minister of Health in the 1990’s.  This family maintained their cultural links with Montrose and Aberdeen for many generations.

England.  Christies made it to London, most notably James Christie a former Navy midshipman who founded Christie’s auction house on Pall Mall in 1766.  In 1823 the firm moved under his son James to St. James’s Square where it remains to this day, a leader in its field.

The Christies of Glyndebourne in Sussex of Swiss origin had married into the English landed gentry.  John Christie started the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1934.

Ireland.  Christies were Christys in Ireland, whether they be Scots imports or Irish.

Alexander Christy arrived in Antrim from Aberdeen in 1675 and settled at Moyallan on the river Bann.  He is traditionally regarded as the man who introduced the linen trade to the area. His family, together with other Quaker families of the region such as the Nicholsons and the Richardsons, developed the Lurgan linen industry.

America.  Many Christies from Scotland have emigrated to America over the years.  But the Christies and Christys there do not have that much of a Scottish flavor to them.

James Christie did come from Scotland (as recounted in Walter Christie’s 1919 booklet The Christie Family in America).  But he married a Huguenot in New Jersey and his descendants grew up in the New Jersey Dutch community of Bergenfield.  A line of this family acquired the now historic Campbell-Christie House in New Jersey in 1795.  This was where the inventor Walter Christie, often called “the father of the modern tank,” was born in 1865.

The Christies who arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s were in fact Swiss Mennonites who intermarried with other Swiss German families there.

And then there were the Irish Christys, including:

  • Jesse Christy who arrived in America from county Antrim in 1719
  • Samuel Christy who is thought to have come sometime in the 1720’s to Gloucester county, Virginia (his descendants moved onto Kentucky)
  • and Andrew Christy who came with his family in 1762 and settled in western Pennsylvania.

Christie could also be Cherokee Indian.  The starting point was John Christie, an Indian trader in North Carolina in the late 18th
century and his daughter Betsy who married into the Cherokee tribe.  She died in 1838 following the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” removal from their homeland.

Her Cherokee family adopted the Christie name.  Grandson Ned Christie was a Cherokee Nation leader falsely accused of murdering a US marshal who was gunned down by a posse at his home in 1892.

Canada.  Gabriel Christie, the son of a Stirling merchant, had come over with the British Army in the 1750’s, stayed and ended up, through astute property purchases from the departing French, as one of the largest landowners in British Quebec.  His land holdings were analyzed in Francoise Noel’s 1992 book The Christie Seigneuries, Estate Management and Settlement in the Upper Richelieu Valley, 1760-1854.

There was also an early Christie link between Scotland and Canada through the fur trade and the Hudson Bay Company.  Alexander Christie came to Canada and joined the Hudson Bay Company in 1809.  He was governor of their Red river settlement for many years and was considered one of the company’s most important traders.  His sons and grandsons also worked for the Hudson Bay Company.

A number of Christies who arrived from Scotland in the first half of the 19th century went on to make a mark for themselves in their new country:

  • Thomas Christie came with his parents in 1827.  He was a professor at McGill university and helped set up the Lachute academy.  He was also in Parliament through his Quebec constituency.
  • David Christie arrived in 1833.  He later represented Erie, Ontario in Parliament and was a founding member of the “clear grit” movement which advocated republicanism in Canada.
  • William Christie came to Toronto in 1848 and started out working as a baker.  He began his own biscuit-making enterprise which grew to be the largest of its kind in Canada (his business ended up being sold to Nabisco in the 1920’s).

South Africa.   John Christie came to South Africa as a doctor during the Boer War and stayed, becoming a successful businessman and a political figure in Johannesburg.

Australia.  Two Christie stories are characteristic in some ways of Australia’s early history.

Alexander Christie left Edinburgh with his wife Ann for a new life in Australia.  Landing in Port Adelaide in 1839, they were among the early settlers of South Australia.  They made their home down the coast at Cape Jervis and they raised nine children there.

“In 1856 Alexander arranged for Mr. Thomas to build the Christie homestead in Cape Jervis.  Mr. Thomas would go down there every day and work on the house.  It took seven years to build.  There was also a large underground tank built, estimated to hold 30,000 tons of water.  It was said that a dance was held in it when it was completed.”

Alexander farmed and was instrumental in starting the weekly mail service by boat for the inhabitants of Kangaroo island.  In 1883, however, Alexander Christie met an untimely end in his boat.

James Christie came to Tasmania as a convict in 1842.  His convict record there included various offences of being drunk and being “out after hours.”  But he married in 1852, received his conditional release a year later, and he and his wife Anne raised six children at their home just outside Hobart.

Eldest son John, perhaps ashamed of his convict background, left home suddenly for Melbourne in 1876.  He went to the Goulbourn valley to shear sheep and through hard work saved enough money to buy a horse and dray.  He eventually developed a large homestead at Numurkah.   He lived onto 1929, a respected member of his community.

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Christie Surname Miscellany

Christies in Fife.  Christies were farmers at Fostertoun in the parish of Kinglassie in Fife in the 17th century.  They were recorded at that time as follows:

  • James Chrystie and Alison Corrour were married on November 21, 1632 in Kinglassie.
  • Their children were baptized at Fostertoun.  Witnesses at the baptisms were Patrick Corrour, Thomas Chrystie, David Chrystie, George Chrystie elder and younger, and James Chrystie.
  • James Chrystie was buried in March 1652. (his will was registered in Fostertoun, Kinglassie parish on July 21, 1652).  Alison Currour, relict of James Christie and tenant in Fostertoun, Markinch parish, died on January 29, 1675.

Christies and Christys.  Christies are from Scotland, Christys from Ireland.  However, the main Christy presence today seems to be in America.  The table below shows the numbers of Christies and Christys.

Numbers (000’s) Christie Christy Total
UK  20    1  21
Ireland    1    1
America    6    5   11
Elsewhere   15   15
Total   42    6   48

The Christies and Norway.  The connection between Norway and the northeast of Scotland began with the Vikings who held sway from the late 8th century until the end of the 11th century.  Scotland has since returned the flow. Famous Norwegians such as Grieg and Christie have Scottish roots. Grieg in fact married a daughter of the magistrate W.F.K. Christie.

The Christie name is to be found in Stavanger, Bergen, Oslo, and other Norwegian towns.  The earliest known of these Christies was Edward Christie, who died in Bergen in 1599.  He had only one daughter.  So there are no Christies from him in Norway.

An Andrew Christie from Montrose in Scotland came to Bergen in 1654.  He and his wife Anna were the forerunners, via a postmaster and merchant in Kristiansund  of a number of famous Norwegian Christies.  The members of this family ran as follows:

Johan Koren Christie (1745-1823), Kristiansund postmaster and merchant.

  • son Edvard Eilert Christie (1773-1831), Kristiansund  customs officer and merchant.
  • Edvard Christie (1812-1896)
  • Sara Stockfleth Christie (1857-1948), an educator and politician
  • Johan Koren Christie (1814-1885), a writer in the Norwegian nationalist cause.
  • son Wilhelm Frimann Christie (1778-1849), first president of the Norwegian parliament
  • nephew Werner Hosewinckel Christie (1785-1872), a customs officer
  • Hans Langsted Christie (1826-1907), a jurist and politician
  • Johan Koren Christie (1827-1907), an engineer
  • Werner Hosewinckel Christie (1877-1927), a professor of agriculture
  • Johan Koren Christie (1909-1995), a general in the Norwegian air force
  • Amalie Christie (1913-2010), a pianist
  • Werner Hosewinckel Christie (1917-2004), a general in the Norwegian air force
  • Werner Hosewinckel Christie (born in 1949), Norway’s first Minister of Health
  • Eilert Christian Brodtkurb Christie (1832-1906), a noted Norwegian architect
  • nephew Hartvig Caspar Christie (1788-1869), a naval commander
  • Hartvig Caspar Christie (1826-1873), a mineralogist and physicist
  • Harvig Caspar Christie (1893-1959), a priest and politician
  • Erling Christie, who died in 1996, was a Norwegian modernist poet, inspired – it has been said – by T.S. Eliot.

James Christie the Auctioneer.  Christie’s company literature states that their founder James Christie conducted his first sale in London in December 1766 and that the earliest auction catalog dates from this time.  Two years later Christie took over two houses in Pall Mall and built in the gardens in the rear a “spacious and lofty” auction room.

Christie was by all accounts a charming and persuasive advocate of his trade.  He was a close friend and neighbor of Thomas Gainsborough who painted his portrait.  Gainsborough depicted the auctioneer leaning on one of the artist’s own landscape paintings and holding a piece of paper in his right hand, perhaps an auction list.  Christie wore a sober brown frock suit, a white linen shirt, and a formal wig.  On the little finger of his left hand was a signet ring.  Two pendant seals dangled from watches worn about his waist.  His dress and jewelry befitted a cosmopolitan English gentleman of the 1700’s.

Gainsborough’s picture hung in Christie’s auction room.  Some forty years after James Christie’s death, Christie’s auctioned it.

The Christies of Glyndebourne.  These Christies were of Swiss origin.   Daniel Christin had wasted his money there and sought his fortune by enlisting in the East India Company.  He changed his name to Christie on joining the Bombay engineers, rising there to the rank of major. Chivalrously, he prevented a contingent of British soldiers from robbing the ruler’s harem of their jewelry.  The ruler in gratitude – fearing a different intent on the part of the soldiers – gave the gems to Christin.  He was rewarded by the Sultan with a fortune of about £20,000.

How he came to meet and woo the daughter and heiress of Sir Patrick Langham of Glyndebourne in Sussex and Tipeley in Devon is not recorded.  But it was their grandson, William Langham Christie, who combined the two estates.

John Christie of this family would found the Glyndebourne Festival Opera at Glyndebourne, it was said, for the woman that he adored, the opera singer Audrey Mildmay.  She had come to sing in an otherwise amateur production in the organ room of the main house.   John afterwards, much smitten, opened the door to one of the bedrooms and said: “This is where we shall sleep when we are married.”

The monument to their musical marriage was opened in 1934 and lasted sixty years until it was replaced by their son with today’s modern opera house.

In 2009, the Christie family put up for sale a 17th century Italian
painting of Saint John the Evangelist known as Il Domenichino.  It had been in their possession for more than a hundred years.  The painting was of course auctioned by Christie’s.

The Dragon Seas.  In Agnes Short’s novel The Dragon Seas, the Christie family have moved from being simple fishing folk to prosperous traders, carrying goods to Europe and the Baltic.  But now a new venture is occupying their minds, the China tea-trade.  Ships from Aberdeen are making the long voyage from cold grey northern waters to the silky, warm seas of the East.

The Dragon Seas splendidly evokes the cool, bright, bustling world of Aberdeen in the mid 19th century, with its merchants, its doctors, its seafarers and its shipbuilders now absorbed in the arguments of steam versus sail.

Samuel Christy and His Two Sons.  Samuel Christy had come to Virginia sometime in the 1720’s and settled to farm near the mouth of the York river in Gloucester county.  He died without leaving a will.  According to the old English law, it was the oldest son Samuel who inherited all of his father’s lands, as well as his slaves.

Shortly thereafter, however, Samuel’s entire family and all but one of his slaves died from smallpox.  The next son Julius, who had recently been apprenticed to a man named James Booker to learn the carpenter’s trade, was away from home at the time and fortunately did not catch the fever.  The one surviving black was subsequently inherited by Julius and worked for him as a carpenter’s assistant.

The Death of Alexander Christie.  Alexander Christie was an early settler into South Australia, having arrived there from Edinburgh in 1839. After an eventful life, he met his death one day in a small boat after the wind had got up.  Kathleen Mitchell described the accident in The Christie Family Histories as follows:

“In February 1883, Alexander Christie took his dinghy from the boat harbor and went up the gulf about due north, fishing as usual.  He went to what was known as the snapper ground, about a mile out from Morgan’s Beach and nearly two miles from the boat harbor.

After fishing for several hours the wind rose to quite a strong breeze from the south, so Mr Christie, in making for home, had to pull his boat right against the wind and of course made very slow progress. His people watched him from land and could see that he was exhausted but could render no assistance.  His son Maxwell and his son-in-law, Tom Jones, were on the edge of the channel that led into the harbor, waiting to give any assistance that they could.

Mr. Christie pulled his boat to within a few yards of the channel or entrance to the harbor and then stopped, thinking no doubt that the rush of water would carry him through.  But unfortunately it didn’t.  It turned the boat broadside on and in a second it was upside down.  Mr. Christie was thrown into the water, almost inside the boat harbor.

His son Maxwell dashed into the water and brought him quickly to land and, with the assistance of the Lighthouse staff and others, they tried for more than an hour to resuscitate him – but all to no avail. Alexander Christie died, on February 27 1883, at the age of 67.”

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Christie Names
  • James Christie founded Christie’s auction house in London in 1766.
  • Alexander Christie was a fur trader in Canada and one of the leading figures of the Hudson Bay Company in the first half of the 19th century.
  • WFK Christie was the first president of the Norwegian parliament.
  • EP Christy was the founder of the blackface minstrel group Christy’s Minstrels that toured America in the mid 19th century.
  • Agatha Christie was a famous English crime writer.  Her works featured the detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple.
  • John Christie was the founder of the Glyndebourne opera festival in Sussex.
  • Julie Christie was an award-winning English actress of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
  • Linford Christie, an athlete born in Jamaica, won the Olympic 100 meter title in 1992.

Christie Numbers Today
  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

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