Grant Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Grant Meaning
Grant is a Scottish clan name. Its origins here have been
disputed and various
theories have been suggested
. A Norse origin
is now thought to be the most likely. This had always been part
of the Grant
oral tradition (with descent claimed from Olav Hemingsson of Norway in
the 11th century). Recent DNA analysis would support
a Norse connection.
The Grant name,
according to the Grant tradition, is thought to have come
from Sliabh Grianas, the name of a meadow above Aviemore in the
Scottish Highlands which was the first land in Scotland to be occupied
by the Grants. Grant appears to have been adopted as the clan
name sometime in the 12th century. The Grant name also appears, probably independently, in England and Ireland.
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Grant Ancestry

Scotland.
Members of clan Grant have owned land in the
Scottish Highlands in
Strathspey, at Stratherrick to the east
of Loch Ness, since possibly the middle of the 12th century.
Their support of Robert the Bruce enabled them to
secure these landholdings in the 14th century. Their base, Grant Castle
in Strathpey,
still stands; as does Ballindalloch castle, the home of the MacPherson
Grants.

The Grants were not decimated, as were some other Highland clans, by
the convulsions which occurred during the 18th century. Many
Grants had supported the Lowland Covenanters and then took the English
side during the Jacobite uprisings (although some did take the other
side).

Clan Grant was one of the
few clans not to be affected by the Highland clearances. The
so-called “Good Sir James” Grant built the town of Grantown-on-Spey for
the purpose of developing a textile industry in the north and thereby
preventing his kinsmen from emigrating. Some Grants did move
elsewhere
or leave. But more than half of the Grants in Scotland were still
to be found in the Highlands by the end of the 19th century.

The Grants of
Rothiemurchus still hold their lands around Aviemore; and other
branches of the
family hold lands in Strathpey. The
Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant came from the Rothiemurchus Grants, the
actor
Hugh Grant from the Glenmoriston Grants.
His James Murray Grant forebears had distinguished themselves in
the
army, starting in 1856 in South Africa and culminating in 1940 in the
retreat
from Dunkirk.

Two Alexander Grants
fought on the losing Jacobite side in 1746:

  • one Alexander died at Culloden. But
    his son George rose to great prominence
    in India, as Chairman of the East India Company. George’s
    elder son Charles was made Baron
    Glenelg, his younger son Robert became Governor of Bombay.
  • another Alexander survived the defeat at
    Culloden, but had to flee to Banffshire where he was hidden from the
    English by
    a clan chief. His great grandson William Grant founded the Grant
    Glenfiddich
    whisky business in the late 19th century. Grant
    descendants are now considered the third richest family in
    Scotland.

England. The
Grants were not exclusively a Scottish
name. Richard le Grand was the Archbishop of Canterbury in
1229. A Grant family in Warwickshire produced John Grant, one on
the Gunpowder plotters. These Grants may have had Norman origins.

By the 18th century, the surname appeared
mainly in the south, in
Devon
(particularly in Diptford) and in Hampshire, and
around
London. But there were hardly any Grants to be found in East
Anglia or the Midlands where, it had been argued, Norman Grants had
migrated north to Scotland.

Later Grants in England may well have
gone the other way from Scotland. One such example was Robert
Grant, an early mentor of Charles Darwin, who had come from Scotland
and
founded the Grant zoological museum in London in 1827.

Ireland. There were also Irish Grants. Unlike
the Scottish Grants, these also seem to have been a Norman implant,
they being
among the Strongbow invaders in 1170.
The Grants became landowners at Iverk in county Kilkenny.
After
the Cromwellian confiscations, they moved onto Tipperary and
Offaly.

The 19th century saw an out-migration, to Canada, America, and
Australia. Many were sent to Australia as convicts. John
Grant narrowly escaped this fate, as the following entry reveals:

“John Grant, a United Irishman, was
arrested in 1798 and imprisoned in Geneva barracks, Waterford. His wife
Judith petitioned against transportation because they had six small
destitute children. On payment of a £50 fine and the swearing of
allegiance, his sentence was voided.”

Within Ireland, Grants today are mainly to be found around Waterford
and in Shinrone in county Offaly.

America. Matthew Grant arrived from Devon in
1630 and became the town surveyor for Windsor, Connecticut. His
descendants moved, after the Revolutionary War, to
Pennsylvania and then to Ohio where Ulysses Grant, Lincoln’s General
and later American President, was born in 1822.

Whiskey was said to be his weakness. When Lincoln heard about
Grant’s habit, he was reported to have said: “Find out what brand he
drinks so I can give it to the rest of my generals.” Grant’s
funeral
in 1885 drew 1.5 million people on its six mile parade through New
York
City. He was buried there in Grant’s Tomb on Riverside
Drive.


Peter
Grant
from Inverness was
exiled to America by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and ended up living in
Berwick,
Maine as an indentured servant. Peter was one of the first
Scottish Grants to
show up in America and has many descendants living today.
A later Peter Grant left Berwick for
Farmingdale, Maine in 1790. His home
there, overlooking the Kennebec river, is still standing
.

Later Grant exiles were:

  • Ludovic
    Grant
    , a Jacobite supporter
    during the 1715 uprising,
    who was captured, lost his lands, and then was banished from
    Scotland. He
    departed on the Susannah for
    South Carolina. There, in the rough-and-tumble of frontier life,
    he became a successful trader with the Cherokee Indians.
  • and William
    Grant who came to North Carolina after the Jacobite defeat in 1745 and
    married Daniel Boone’s sister Elizabeth.

Canada. There were
several Grants from Strathpey who became active in the Canadian fur
trade in the 1770’s (including Cuthbert Grant, an early trader in the
Canadian West). Captain John Grant, an Empire Loyalist, came to
Summerville, Novia Scotia, in 1784. His descendants lived there
until 1866.

Around that time, another Grant family from Nova
Scotia departed for Trinidad in the Caribbean where they started the
trading company T. Geddes Grant. This Trinidad company still
flourishes.

Australia. Early
Grant arrivals had been convicts.

John Grant had shot a London
lawyer in the buttocks and been sentenced to death at the Old
Bailey. His petition that it had been a crime of passion over a
woman led to
his sentence being reduced to life transportation. He arrived in
New South Wales with a harpsichord in 1803 and was one of the few
convicts to record his
impressions of the early colony (This
Beauteous, Wicked Place: Letters and Journals of John Grant, Gentleman
Convict
).

Another John Grant, this one
from Tipperary, was transported to New South Wales in 1811 for
attempting to shoot
his landlord’s son who had seduced his sister.
After receiving his conditional pardon in 1820, he crossed the
Blue
Mountains and made his home at Moyne Farm in Hartley where he was one
of the
early settlers. Interestingly, there was a family of Aboriginal
Grants from a
mixed race marriage or union that originated from Hartley.
Who the father was has been a matter of much
debate
.

 


Select Grant Miscellany

Alternative Grant Origins.  Grant is a Scottish clan name.  Grants themselves believe (and
there is DNA evidence supporting this belief) that they are of Norse
origin.  But others have suggested that the Grants may have been
of Norman origin, having
moved north to Scotland from England in the 13th century.The Grant name would then have had a French connotation, from a
French-type root such as “grand” or “le grand,” meaning tall or
large.  The Anglo-Saxon grant,
meaning crooked or
bowed, has also been suggested.   In old Irish, grandha
signified ugly or ill-favored, grande
dark or swarthy.

The Grant Name and Its Pronunciation.  The
pronunciation of Grant was not as it is today (i.e. like the word
“dance” is pronounced).  Rather it was closest to today’s
“ground,” but with a “t” instead of a “d”.  Everyone seems to
agree that the earliest Grants in the
13th century pronounced their names in the Gaelic fashion.

Grant tradition suggests that the Grant name has come from sliabh grianais
the moor above Aviemore – which was held, also by tradition, to be the
first land in Scotland occupied by the Grant progenitors.  This
tradition has been questioned.  How is it possible that grianais could mutate into
Grant?  Then, it is argued, Stratherrick was the first Scottish
land to be held by the Grant family.

In his Place Names: Highlands and
Islands of Scotland
, Alexander MacBain had this
to say:

Granish
(Duthil) G Grèanais
(Grèn-), for older Gràniais,
apparently from gràin, abhorrence; but likely Pictish, denoting ‘rough
place’, from the same root and stem.”

Thus tradition tells us that the name Grant should mean “gravelly” or
“gritty.”  However, the name Grant, in early documents, is
very often spelled Graunt or Grawnt.  This ties in with the Old
Celtic (Pictish) of the grianais
above.  Thus the connection with grianais
is not a matter of pronunciation, but one of meaning.

Grant Castle.  Grant Castle was the center of all clan activity, as it was the primary
residence of the Chief of Grant. Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus gave
an interesting account of the castle in her Memoirs of a Highland Lady:

“Our great house then was Castle Grant,
the residence of our Chief.  It was about twenty miles off down
Speyside.  My father and mother were much there when they were
first married.  My Aunts Mary and Lizzie delighted in the gaiety
of a scene so new to them.

Generally about fifty people sat down to dinner in the great hall, in
the shooting season, of all ranks. There was not exactly a “below the
salt” division so marked at the table, but the company at the lower end
was of a very different description from those at the top, and treated
accordingly with whisky punch instead of wine.

Neither was there a distinct “yellow drawing room” party, though a
large portion of the guests seldom obtruded themselves on the more
refined section of the company unless on a dancing evening, when all
again united in the cleared hall.

Sir James Grant was hospitable in the feudal style.  His house was
open to all; to each and all he bade a hearty welcome, and he was glad
to see his table filled, and scrupulous to pay fit attention to every
individual present; the Chief condescending to the Clan, above the best
of whom he considered himself extremely. It was rough royalty too, plenty, but rude plenty.  A footman in
the gorgeous green and scarlet livery behind every chair, but they were
mere gillies, lads quite untutored, sons of small tenants brought for
the occasion, the autumn gathering, and fitted with the suit best
filled.”

Grants in Devon in The 18th Century

Year
of Birth
Grant Place Event
1693 Nicholas Diptford Marriage to Elizabeth Shute, 1728
1704 John Diptford Marriage to Agnes Harvey, 1732
1729 Elizabeth Diptford Birth
1730 Nicholas Diptford Marriage to Sarah Turtley, 1756
1733 Mary Diptford Birth
1734 Henry Diptford Birth
1736 John Diptford Birth
1738 Andrew Diptford Birth
1740 Henry Diptford Birth
1743 Agnes Diptford Marriage to William Horswell,
1768
1750 Peter Ugborough Marriage to Mary Andrews, 1771
1751 Sarah Eemington Birth
1766 Henry Churston Ferrers Birth
1768 Arthur Churston Ferrers Birth
1771 Ann Churston Ferrers Marriage to John Hannaford, 1797
1775 John Ugborough Birth
1779 Hannah Ugborough Birth
1783 Elizabeth Ugborough Birth
1785 Mary Ugborough Birth

Peter and Joan Grant in Maine.  In 1664 Peter Grant was
in Berwick court for living as husband and wife with a young widow
named Joan
Grant.  Her husband James Grant had apparently died, and she was
“big with
child.”  It is thought that James was in fact Peter’s brother, so
that
would have been even more of a scandal.

Peter,
whose first wife was supposed to be still alive (presumably in
Scotland), was
sentenced to £10 or ten lashes on the bare skin and ordered to
“maintain the
child of the said Joan Grant so soon as she is delivered.”   After a prescribed period of separation, the
couple were allowed to marry.

Peter and Joan Grant eventually raised eight
children together on their farm along the Newichawannock river.  But although the oldest child Elizabeth was
probably raised in the household, Peter Grant always insisted that he
was not
her father and explicitly did not name Elizabeth in his will.

A Grant from the Highlands To South Carolina.  Ludovick Grant was was sometimes called the “Highland King.”  He was appointed a colonel and then a sheriff of Inverness in 1694  He
had almost the status of royalty.

However,
this family position was all lost after the Grants had backed the
Jacobites in 1715.  His grandson Ludovic, the 2nd Baron of Dalvey,
was captured after the Jacobites had lost at Preston.  After his
capture his lands were confiscated and his title revoked.  He was
then banished to “the American plantations” and was sent from Liverpool
in May 1716 on the Susannah
to the colonies.

He made
a name for himself in South Carolina.  By 1725 he was an
established trader in the Cherokee Nation where he had married a full
blooded Cherokee of the Longhaired clan.  Being of “good” family
and well educated, he became the agent and correspondent for the
Governors of South Carolina.  He was one of the few traders who
were honest and well respected with whites and with the Cherokees.

Ludovic
Grant lived onto 1768 and died in Tellico, Tennessee.

Grant’s Glenfiddich Whisky.  It was recorded that three Grant brothers fought in the 1745
Jacobite rebellion and only one, Alexander Grant, survived the defeat
at Culloden.  But he had to flee to Banffshire where he was hidden
from the English by a clan chief.

Alexander’s great grandson, William Grant, was born in Dufftown in
1839.  When he was seven he began herding the family cattle in the
hills.  He then worked as an apprentice shoemaker and a limeworks
employee.  He did, however, receive a good education.
Consequently, in 1866 he became a bookkeeper at a local distillery
where he gained an appreciation for the production of whisky.

He saved and saved to set himself up as a distiller.  In
1886 he quit his job, purchased the necessary land, materials and
machines, and built the Glenfiddich distillery with the help of his
nine children.  On Christmas Day in 1887, his distillery began
operation, pioneering the single malt Scotch whisky.

By 1914, William Grant & Sons had established distribution
networks in 30 countries and now the company exports to 180
countries.  William Grant himself died in 1923.  His family
is today ranked the third richest in Scotland.

 

 

Select
Grant Names

Richard Le Grant was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1229.
Sir Ian Grant, sheriff of
Inverness in 1434, was the first authenticated chief of the Grant clan.
Charles Grant, the son of a
Jacobite killed at Culloden, joined the British East India Company and
rose to be its chairman.
Ulysses
B. Grant
was Lincoln’s General during the Civil War and later
American President.
James Grant was the Victorian
explorer who with John Speke discovered the source of the Nile.
Cary Grant the actor was born
in England Archie Leach.
Eddy Grant, the reggae artist,
made his name with the 1983 hit Electric
Avenue
.
Hugh Grant is the English
actor of films such as Four Weddings
and a Funeral
and Notting
Hill
.

Select Grant Numbers Today

  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Falkirk)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 42,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

 

 

 

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