Gregg Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Gregg/Greig Meaning
Gregg and Greig surnames are both diminutives of the
personal name Gregory, from the Greek Gregorios
(meaning “watchful”), which was popularized in Britain after the
and Greig
were names of northern England (Gregg primarily) and
of Scotland
(Grieg primarily), although Gregg did also start to appear in western
after the MacGregor clan name had been banned.
The Scottsh Greig was pronounced “Greeg” and became Grieg when
taken to
Scandinavia. The Grigg and Griggs
surnames, also probably derived from Gregory, were spellings in SW and
England respectively.

Gregg/Greig Resources on

Gregg/Greig Ancestry

Scotland has both Greigs and Greggs, the Greigs on the east coast and
the Greggs on the west.

East CoastThe
best-known Greigs here found fame abroad:

  • the
    line from Alexander Greig of Fraserburgh
    in Aberdeenshire who departed Scotland in 1746 led to a family of
    merchants in Norway.  Edvard Grieg, born
    there in 1843, became a famous composer, known for his adaptation of
    folk tunes.
  • while
    Samuel Greig, a naval officer from Fife, was recruited into the
    Russian Navy in the 1760’s.  He was
    father to Alexey Greig, an admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy, and
    grandfather to SamuilGreig, Russian Minister of Finance in the 1870’s.

had the
largest numbers and the earliest recording.
Patrick Grige was admitted as a burgess of Aberdeen in 1488.

Grieg was born at Banchory Devenick in Kincardineshire in 1775.  James Grieg married Anne Arkle at Damfoord in
1822.  Many of their grandchildren
emigrated to Canada in the 1860’s.

Griegs at Auchterderran in Fife date from the
1730’s.  The Rev. David Greig was
minister there in the 1770’s.  The
Kinghorn church cemetery near Kirkcaldy has the following gravestone:
“On the
east side of this stone lies the remains of Robert Greig who died on
April 29,
1794 aged 56.”  James and Catherine Greig, born there, emigrated
to Boston with
their children in the 1820’s.

West of
.  They were mainly Greggs in western Scotland,
although fewer in number.

The MacGregor clan
name had been banned
in 1603 and a number of MacGregors had taken the name of Gregg or Greg,
that were to be  found at Glenorchy in Argyllshire and at various
places in
Ayrshire.  Many later crossed the Irish
Sea to Ulster.  William Gregg, born in
Ayrshire, was a dance master and fiddle player to the poet Robert Burns
in the
late 1700’s.

Ireland.  Most Greggs or
Gregs in Ireland were of Scottish and probable MacGregor extraction.  Included in their number were:

  • John
    Greg who had come to Glenarm in Antrim
    sometime in the 1640’s and died there.  His
    son William was forced to leave his father’s home for
    Waterford.  William’s son William Gregg, a Quaker,
    departed Waterford for Pennsylvania in 1682. 
  • John Gregg who had moved to Derry fought at
    the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  His
    sword and espontoon at the battle were preserved by the descendants of
    Gregg who left with his brother Andrew for America in 1722. 
  • and John Greg, the son of James Gregg of
    Ochiltree in Ayrshire, who moved to Belfast in 1715.
    He was the forebear of an
    enterprising Greg family
    who prospered in West Indian cotton
    plantations and, through his nephew Samuel, in cotton mills in

Scottish MacGregor line went to the
Greggs of Shantonagh in county Monaghan.
John Gregg, born there in 1867, was the inventor of the Gregg
system which he brought to America in 1893 and met with great success. 

Some Greggs were of English
origin.  This was probably true of
Jonathan Gregg, a landowner at Ennis in county Clare in the late 1600’s.  His descendants included the 19th century
father and son clergymen John and Robert Gregg, both Trinity College
educated.  One was an Anglican bishop, the
other an
Anglican Archbishop.

England.  Gregg is a name principally
of northern

The earliest Gregg reference was a Joan Gregg who founded an almshouse
in her will of 1416 at Posterngate in Hull. This
became the Gregg’s House Hospital in the 1700’s.  John
Gregg was a Hull merchant in the
1450’s.   Another Gregg family was a
Puritan one in the 1600’s in Chester and later at Haywood Hall in

A more recent Gregg
reference is John Gregg who started
delivering eggs and yeast on his pushbike to families in the
Newcastle area in the late 1930’s.  Thus
Greggs the bakers was born.

America.  The arrivals in America, according to
shipping data, were almost equally divided between those from Scotland,
Ireland and England, with the spelling in most cases being Gregg
An early sighting was Thomas Gregg in Northumberland county, Virginia
in 1648.

Scots Irish.  The
main subsequent Gregg lines were Scots Irish.

William Gregg the Quaker from Waterford came in 1682 and
settled in New Castle county, Delaware.  Later Greggs spread to
Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas.  There were
some notable descendants:

  • Jacob
    a silversmith and watchmaker in Virginia
  • and
    his nephew William Gregg,
    born in 1800,
    has been called “the
    father of the textile industry in the South.”  His
    textile mill helped to establish the town
    of Graniteville, South Carolina

Hazel Middleton’s 1944
book The Descendants of William Gregg
covered the various lines.

Captain James Gregg from Antrim was one of the first sixteen
settlers of Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1719.  He built a grist
mill and was a leading citizen there:

  • he
    was the forebear of the Greggs of Nashua, New Hampshire.
    David Gregg probably established the family’s
    fortunes with the businesses he set up in Nashua in the 1870’s.  His grandson Hugh was Governor of New
    Hampshire in the 1950’s; and his great grandson Judd later held
    the posts of Governor and Senator of New Hampshire.
  • while
    another line led
    southward to Sullivan county in east Tennessee where Nathan Gregg was
    born in
    1794.  He settled in Alabama.
    His son John was a distinguished politician,
    judge, and Confederate general, but was killed during the fighting in
    1864.  John Gregg from Sullivan county
    settled in
    Indiana.  His son John fought on the
    Union side in the Civil War and survived.

David and Andrew Gregg from Derry came to Boston in 1722.
David settled in New Hampshire.  Andrew’s descendants made their
home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  A later Andrew Gregg was the US
Senator for Pennsylvania from 1807 to 1813.  Two of his grandsons
John and David were Union generals during the Civil War.

a Gragg family, beginning probably with John Gragg, was to be found in
county, Virginia by the 1750’s. His son
Robert later settled in Greene county, Tennessee.  Other
Graggs made their home in Kentucky and
in Caldwell county, North Carolina where there is a Gragg Creek and a

and New Zealand
Griegs from the east
coast of Scotland were 19th century arrivals there.
James Grieg and Catherine Cock from
Midlothian were able to obtain a free passage on the Dumfries
and arrived in South Australia in 1839.  They
made their home at Cairn Hill near
Riverton.  Daniel Grieg and his family
from Dundee came to Wellington, New Zealand in 1874.
His son William was a prominent civic leader
in nearby Upper Hutt.

William Gregg from
county Antrim, drawn by gold, ventured first to Ballarat in Victoria in
1850’s and then to Dunedin in New Zealand.
He was a coffee and spice manufacturer and made his mark in New
with his Gregg’s Club Coffee.


Gregg/Greig Miscellany

Greggs and Greigs Today

‘000’s Gregg Greig Total
England    4    2    6
Scotland    1    6    7
Ireland    1    1
America   11    1   12
Elsewhere    2    5    7
Total   19   14   33

MacGregor and Gregg.  The MacGregors were an ancient
Scottish clan based at Glenorchy, Argyllshire in western Scotland.  Their early history was fairly lawless and in
1588 they were involved in the killing of John Drummond, the King’s
forester.  Further atrocities ensued and
this resulted in King James VI of Scotland decreeing in 1603 that the
name of
MacGregor should be abolished.  All
who bore the name must renounce it or die.

year Alasdair MacGregor and eleven of his men were captured
and hung
outside St. Giles kirk in Edinburgh by the tollbooth.  Anyone
answering to
the name was executed on the spot, with women and children sold into
slavery in
the American states.

proscription of the name, some MacGregors sought
the protection of neighboring clans,
taking on their names; some moved away from the Highlands; and others
took on a
similar-sounding name such as Gregg.
Many of these Greggs were to be found in Ayrshire.

The Enterprising Greg Family.  The Greg family had
originated in Ayr in Scotland.  But John
Greg relocated to Belfast in 1715.  With
his younger son Thomas he was involved in provisioning the West Indies

During the Seven Years War (1756-1763), they engaged in
privateering.  Afterwards they invested
in land and plantations on the island of Dominica.
John Greg the younger was resident in
Dominica from 1765 and was the first Government Commissioner following
island’s secession to the British in 1763.
He owned the Hertford and Hillsborough sugar estates.

The Greg family was
heavily involved in the slave trade.
Enslaved people on Hillsborough plantation rose up during the
Maroon War in 1814. Their punishments were brutal and included both
and transportation.  The family owned the
Hillsborough estate until 1928.

Thomas Greg’s son Samuel settled
at Quarry Bank near Manchester where he
started a cotton spinning mill in 1782 based on slave-produced
cotton.  He became a
prosperous and enlightened merchant of
his time and his family one of the great names of Manchester in
the 18th
and 19th centuries.  It
would perhaps have been interesting
to learn more of his attitude to his family’s West Indian estates
during the
last days of slavery.  He did supply the enslaved Africans on the
estate with clothing and blankets made at the Quarry Bank mill.

of his sons were notable – Samuel Greg, mill owner and philanthropist;
Hyde Greg, economist and antiquary; and William Rathbone Greg,
political and
philosophical writer.  The last was named after William Rathbone,
merchant and
reformer.  The Greg and Rathbone families
were close friends and Samuel Greg’s daughter Elizabeth married William
Rathbone junior.  Their grand-daughter
was Eleanor Rathbone M.P.

William Gregg the Quaker.  William Gregg was known as the Immigrant Friend.  He had met William Penn in the lead mines of
Ireland when Penn was visiting Waterford in Ireland in 1678.  Penn converted many Scottish-Irish settlers
to the Society of Friends, including Gregg.

William and Ann and their
four children came to America sometime after October 1682 with the
Friends Group.  He made the voyage on the
ship Caledonia, arriving at Upland,
now Chester, in Pennsylvania.  He had
with him the silver-studded, ivory-headed cane inherited from his
William Greg.

William went down the Delaware River to Centerville between the
Brandywine and Red Clay Creeks. He was granted 200 acres of land in
1683.  William is known to have built a log
cabin on
a location called Strand Mills in 1684.
He died three years later when he was about forty five.  He was buried on his own plantation near
Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware.

William Gregg and His Two Mentors.  William Gregg has been called “the father of the textile industry in the
South.”  His textile mill helped to
establish the town of Graniteville, South Carolina.
He had two principal mentors in his life, his
uncle Jacob Gregg and his early employer Asa Blanchard.

was born in Virginia in
1800, the son of William and Elizabeth Webb Gregg.
However, his mother died when he was four
years old and he was reared by a neighbor woman until he was about ten.  He was then sent to live with his uncle,
Jacob Gregg, a successful watch and spinning-machine maker in
Virginia.  A few years later, his uncle
established a cotton mill in Georgia, one of the South’s first.  But the mill did not survive the War of

the war Jacob
encountered economically tough times and could no longer support the
William.  He apprenticed William under
his friend Asa Blanchard.  Mr. Blanchard
was from Lexington, Kentucky and, like Jacob, had skills as a
watchmaker and

time spent with Mr.
Blanchard was exceptional and the two shared an extremely strong
and friendship which would stay with William Gregg throughout his
life.  While revisiting Mr. Blanchard in
Kentucky, Gregg constructed a silver pitcher out of the first coins
which he
had earned individually.  This pitcher
began to serve as an heirloom to the Gregg family and was passed down
first son to first son.

William Gregg of Gregg’s Club Coffee.  Irish-born
William Gregg arrived in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1861 and set up shop
there at Moray Place.  Primarily
a merchant who also roasted and ground coffee, he developed a growing
line of
products.  Gregg’s Eagle Starch and
Gregg’s Club Coffee became household names in New Zealand.
Eventually his enterprise was shifted to
Forth Street, the current site of the Dunedin factory.

However, his speculation
in gold shares and slap-dash accounting bankrupted him in 1894.  He had ‘too many irons in the fire,’ such as
buying land up and down the country, running a chicory farm, and
starch, wax vestas, and sulphates.

Undaunted, he somehow managed to repurchase
the slimmed-down firm and even persuaded the Australian firm of Robert
to extend him credit.  It became an
company in 1897 with Gregg as managing director.

In his final years he struggled
with sickness, eventually dying of apoplexy at the age of 65 in 1901 at
residence in York Street.



Gregg/Greig Names

  • John Greg, Scots Irish,
    was the progenitor of an 18th century West India merchant family that
    were later cotton mill owners in Manchester.
  • William Gregg pioneered the
    development of cotton mills in the American South in the first half of the 19th century.
  • Aleksey Greig became
    an Admiral in the Russian navy in the 1820’s.
  • Edvard Grieg, from Scottish
    roots, was a Norwegian composer of the late 1800’s, one of the leading Romantic composers of his time.
  • Tony Greig, born in South Africa of Scottish parents, was the English cricket captain in the 1970’s and subsequently a cricket commentator in Australia.

Select Gregg/Greig Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Aberdeenshire)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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