Edgar Surname Genealogy
meant richness, happiness or prosperity and was the prefix for a number
of common Anglo-Saxon names:
- Edward (ead and ward), meaning “prosperity guard.”
- Edmund (ead and mund), meaning “prosperity
- Edwin (ead and wine), meaning “prosperity friend.”
- and Edgar (ead and gar), meaning “prosperity spear.”
These names started turning up in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles from about
AD 800. Edgar the Peacable was king of England during the 10th
century and Edgar the Etheling, who lived at the time of the Norman
Conquest, was the last member of the Anglo-Saxon royal house in England.
Edgar lost out as a name after the Conquest when it became politically
correct to adopt French names. But Edgar did become established
as a surname on the Scottish borders. This Scottish origin and
history was first recounted in J.W. Lawrence-Archer’s 1873 book An Account of the Surname Edgar.
Edgar Resources on
- The Society of Edgar Newsletters. Edgar genealogy.
- The History of the Name Edgar. Scottish Edgar branches.
- John Edgar’s Scottish and Australian
David Edgar in Australia.
The Edgars held land at Wedderlie (near Westruther) in Berwickshire and
on Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire on the Scottish borders. They owned
their ascent for their backing of Robert the Bruce in his rise to
power. Richard Edgar, a witness to Robert the Bruce’s second
marriage, became the first lord of Wedderlie in 1327. Legend has
it that the Twin Cairns of Wedderlie were constructed in
honor of two Edgar brothers.
ancient Scottish chief. One was kidnapped at an early age and
raised by a Saxon general. Years later the two met in battle and
the ‘kidnapped’ son was felled by his unknowing brother at this
By the 18th century the family had fallen on hard times and John Edgar
was forced to
sell Wedderlie in 1736. Today there are no Edgars
But Edgars remain in substantial numbers in Dumfriesshire. Moffat
Edgars from Troloss date from the early 1700’s; while Caerlaverock is
an area on the coast where Edgars were to be found from the 16th
century. William Edgar and Janet Dickson were married there in
1773. John Edgar died there in 1801 at the advanced age of one
hundred. His grandson John, born in the same year, made his
living as an engineer and bought the Midlocharwoods estate.
Another Edgar branch, the Edgars of Keithock, were to be found in Angus
in NE Scotland in 1620. A 19th century guidebook described
Keithock as follows:
comfortable edifice, pleasantly situated, with a good garden, fine
lawn, and thriving shrubbery. It stands a little to the west of
the highway from Brechin and Edzell. In the old days Keithock was
a barony and had its gallows hill.”
These Edgars were Jacobite in 1715 and again in 1745. James Edgar
had to flee the country in disguise in 1715, as did his nephew John
Edgar was also a fugitive thirty years later.
England. The Edgar name extended southward across the
border into northern England, in particular into
Cumberland. One Edgar family of Riddings dates
William Edgar was born in Longtown near Carlisle in 1791. His
brother John had become a grocer in Carlisle (he later drowned in the
river Petteril). But William headed south to London where he
helped found the department store Swan & Edgar which flourished
through the Victorian age.
in 1841. Mr. Edgar was a familiar sight then riding his horse to
work from his home at Kingston Hill. He was always asked to be on
hand to personally help when Queen Victoria’s family visited the store.”
Other Edgars from Longtown emigrated to Long Island in America in the
Ireland. Scots Edgars
came to Ulster, in particular to county Down. Some 40 percent of
the Edgars who signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912 were from that county.
James and William Edgar were recorded as freehold farmers in Kilkeel in
the 1690’s. An Edgar family were ropemakers in Newry in the late
1700’s. Another Edgar family were Presbyterian ministers, first
in Ballynahinch in county Down and then in Belfast. The Rev. John
Edgar was a leader of the temperance movement there in the mid 19th
Many Edgars subsequently made the reverse journey in the late 19th
century – from Ulster to Scotland (because Glasgow and its environs
were where the jobs were).
America. Thomas Edgar of
the Keithock Edgars emigrated from Scotland to New Jersey in
1718. He settled in what became Edgartown. The family of
his three sons – David, Alexander and William – were known as the Short
Hills, Woodbridge, and Rahway Homestead Edgars. From these three
Edgars came a large number of descendants.
John Edgar, born in Ireland, defected from the British Navy in 1780 and
an early settler in Illinois. A wealthy merchant, he had many
large land claims around the state. Edgar county in Illinois was
named in his honor. Although he probably never went there, there is an
old story that he once bought and then sold the county.
Canada. Canadian Edgars
were also a mixture of Scots and Irish.
Robert Edgar had been a sailor on HMS
Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1822 he and his
family left their home in Ireland for Canada. They settled to
farm in Sherrington near Montreal. Another Irish emigrant
bought land at Wesley’s Point near Lancaster in Ontario
at around the same time.
James Edgar departed Scotland for Canada in 1840. He bought land
near Sherbrooke in Quebec which he called Keithock after the family
estate in Scotland. His son James was a politician and Speaker of
the Canadian House of Commons in 1896.
Australia. David Edgar,
Moffat Edgar, moved to Australia in 1838 and became a prosperous sheep
rancher in the Western District of Victoria. The Pine Hills
homestead that he built in
the 1850’s remained with his family until 1936.
William Edgar from county Down arrived in the 1850’s, drawn by the gold
discoveries in Victoria. He later tried his luck in New Zealand
as well, but with no success. He returned to Victoria and trained
as a civil engineer, settling in St. Arnaud outside Melbourne.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Richard Edgar became the first lord of Wedderlie in Berwickshire
William Edgar founded the Swan
& Edgar department store in London in the early 1800’s.
Sir Edward Edgar
was a Canadian
banker who made his fortune in London in the early 1900’s. He was
known in the 1920’s as “the biggest and bravest gambler in London.”.
Select Edgars Today
- 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
in Scottish borders)
- 4,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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