Edgar Surname Meaning, History & Origin
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.
The Edgars Departing Wedderlie. An apocryphal
story was told of the departure of the Edgars of Wedderlie from their ancient
inheritance after falling on hard times.
auld laird and leddy drove out in their carriage and four horses at
mid-day; but the young laird (their only child) was broken-hearted at
thocht o’ leaving the auld place and he waited till the darkening; for
the sun should na shine when he left his hame.”
The preserver of this anecdote was a very
aged woman named Eppy Forsyth who died about 1840. She
remembered seeing the young laird riding
down the avenue alone and she said: “it was a dark nicht when the last
rode out of Wedderlie.”
John Edgar the Fugitive. After the defeat at Cullodon in 1746, John Edgar arrived, a fugitive, at Keithock; and by
a curious coincidence sought the protection and aid of the very same
who, thirty years before, had facilitated the escape of his uncle. To
surprise he was told that he should be accommodated with the identical
in which his relative had found safety.
A kind-hearted Presbyterian minister who was proceeding to
generously allowed the fugitive to ride behind him as his servant.
length he succeeded in reaching
London. After many unsuccessful attempts
he gave up the idea of escaping to the Continent as all the ports were
strictly watched. He therefore
determined on joining his uncle Thomas who had emigrated to New Jersey
1725. Accordingly, without difficulty,
John Edgar embarked on a vessel for America.
were scarcely halfway across the Atlantic when they were chased by
a French privateer. Everyone else on
board hoped to escape. But John Edgar
had other thoughts. When they were
ultimately captured, he declared his predicament to his captors and,
being carried into a French port, he was immediately released. He proceeded at once to Paris where he found
many of his Forfar neighbors and later joined his uncle James in Rome.
Edgars of Riddings in Cumberland. An Edgar family was long established at Riddings in Cumberland. Two tombstones in Arthuret churchyard,
bearing the lion rampant within heraldic shields, have inscriptions for
Edgar, died in
1654 aged 53; and his wife Ann Edgar, died in 1676; and, with Ann,
died in 1691 aged 53, presumably her son.
William Edgar, born in 1791 and died in 1869
Armstrong, descendant of the famous
“Kinmont Willie” of ballad fame, married a David Edgar of
Riddings. They had a son, David Edgar,
whose eldest son, David Edgar, was described in 1865 as a mariner.
Edgars from Ireland to Canada. The story
in the family is that Charles Edgar came to Quebec in about 1818 with
sons, James and Robert. They cut down
sufficient trees to build a ship, filled it with lumber, and sailed it
Ireland. There, they sold the lumber,
including the ship, and used the proceeds to make their way back to
the rest of the family. Around 1820,
Charles bought acreage from Charles Wesley at Wesley’s Point near
Son James was apparently struck
down and killed by a freight train as he walked down the Grand Trunk
his home. He was quite deaf and didn’t
hear the approaching train.
David Edgar’s Early Days in Australia. David Edgar was the first of the Moffat Edgars to come
to Australia. He left Leith in Scotland on the North Briton and arrived
Australia in late 1838. After working on
several properties in the Portland Bay district of Victoria, he took up
squatter licenses there in 1842 and purchased an interest in the Bush
where he was to stay for the next seven years.
John Dunmore Lang wrote of his visit to the Bush Inn in 1846 as
a bumpy journey by mail coach, we were
therefore ready for light refreshments on reaching our first halting
place at a
Bush Inn, kept by a respectable Scotsman by the name of Edgar some
north of Portland. A Bush Inn in such a
situation is a sure fortune to a man of steady habits and I should say
Edgar is, in a worldly point of view, a thriving man.”
David prospered and was responsible for
encouraging and helping a number of other Moffat Edgars to come to
Sir Edward Edgar. A Canadian by birth, Sir Edward Edgar made his first fortune by
big hydro-electric combines. Coming to
London, he carried through even larger deals in cotton, iron and steel,
For him finance was always a game.
As he said on one occasion, “the greatest game in the world,
fighting with millions at stake.” He will
long be remembered as a big gambler. When
he was flush with money, he showered
costly gifts upon his friends and his hospitality was unbounded. But he did no real service in return for the
immense sums of money which he took from the public.
In the post-war boom he made more than one
fortune. But he suffered huge losses as
day came when his luck turned and in 1925 he was
unexpectedly declared bankrupt. The
City of London had not forgotten his ill-advised boasting during the
years of plenty and it did not forgive nor forget Edgar.
The shock to his credit proved too great and he was henceforward
a spent force. He was obliged to give up
his home in Park Lane, and his country house in Thetford.
Sir Edward said of the City of London in a
moment of insight:
you’re marvellous and you will have friends standing in a queue a mile
long. If you lose, it means facing the
punishment – or death.”
prophetic pronouncement was made by Edgar in 1927 when he learned that
time friend and associate Jimmy White, had poisoned himself after a
Broken in health and utterly disillusioned, Sir
Edward Edgar, the “man with a load of millions,” passed away in a tiny
in the Buckinghamshire village of Chalfont St Giles in 1934. His only son had been killed in a motor
accident. So there was no heir to the
baronetcy which he had received in the height of his power.
- Richard Edgar became the first lord of Wedderlie in Berwickshire in 1327.
- 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 Edgar Numbers 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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