Gregory Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Gregory Surname Meaning

The surname Gregory derived from a personal name that was popular throughout Christendom in the Middle Ages. The Greek original Gregorios came from the word gregorein meaning “to be watchful.”  This Greek name was borne by sixteen Popes, starting with Gregory the Great in the sixth century.

The Crusades of the 11th and 12th century gave the name another boost. It was the fashion for returning warriors from the Holy Land to christen their children with biblical or saintly names, particularly those that were associated with the early church. Gregorie was an early spelling.

Gregory Surname Resources on The Internet

Gregory Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Midlands) and Scotland
  • to Ireland, America, Canada and Australia

England. The Gregory surname was found from early times in the Midlands, notably in Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

Derbyshire.  Henry Gregory was recorded at the village of Eyam in 1295 and the name there has continued until modern times. One line has been traced from John Gregory who married Elizabeth Bishop in Eyam in 1683, having survived the great plague there twenty years earlier.

By that time the Gregory name had spread to neighboring villages in the Derwent Valley such as Calver, Curbar, Froggatt and Stoney Middleton and also to Baslow and Hope. The Gregory mine in Ashover, owned by the Gregory family at Ravensnest farm, was in the late 18th century one of the most productive lead mines in England.

Leicestershire.  Gregorys here, perhaps less numerous, have had a longer and probably more illustrious history. They were recorded as the lords of Asfordby in the late 1100’s and subsequently held manors there and at Freseley nearby in Warwickshire.

Thomas Gregory moved to Coventry as its town clerk in 1528 and the family became sizeable landowners in that area. His son Arthur took possession of Stivichall House in 1563. This house remained with the family until 1909 when Major F.H. Gregory died childless.

A later Thomas Gregory moved to Ireland with Cromwell in the 1640’s and started the Anglo-Irish Gregory line. From another line that had left for Lancashire and then to Nottinghamshire were Henry and Goodie Gregory. Their son John was an emigrant to the New Haven colony in America around the year 1639.

Elsewhere.  The Gregory name in Buckinghamshire dates back to the 1300’s when Richard Gregory held Gregory’s Manor in Beaconsfield. John Gregory, born in Amersham in 1607, was a Biblical scholar who died young. A later Gregory family were millers at Amersham from 1746 to 1863.

Sometime in the 1430’s William Gregory from Mildenhall in Suffolk came to London where he prospered as a skinner. He was its Lord Mayor in 1451 and is remembered today for his written work The Chronicle of London.

“In 1465 William Gregory made his will by which it appears that he had been three times married (his wives being named Joan, Julian, and Joan respectively) and had nine grandchildren, seven by one daughter and two by another.”  

In Cornwall the spelling could be Gregor. The earliest recorded here was John Gregor at Tregew in Fiock in a marriage settlement of 1342. These Gregors in Cornwall rose to some prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries as merchants in Truro. Their principal home was Trewarthenick House which remained with the family until 1909.

There would appear to have been a north-directing trend for Gregorys during the 19th century. By the time of the 1881 census, almost 20% of the Gregorys in England were located in Lancashire. There was at that time a particular concentration in the area around Bolton, in villages such as Westhoughton and Hindley.

Scotland. Gregorius appeared in early 12th century registers, Gregorie in 16th century Aberdeen records. Today the Gregory surname is most prevalent in NE Scotland.

James Gregorie, a saddler, had married Margaret Barber in Aberdeen. Their son John, born in 1598, became a minister at Drumoak and was the forebear of the famous Gregory family of Aberdeen which extended through the generations for nigh on two hundred years. The main lines went through:

  • John’s elder son David who inherited the family estate at Kinairdry.
  • and a younger son James, a famous mathematician who is credited with the discovery of calculus.

The Gregor name in Scotland came from clan Gregor, the MacGregor Highland clan. Some clan members changed their name to Gregory when that clan was proscribed and outlawed in the 18th century.  

Ireland.  Thomas Gregory from Asfordby served with Cromwell in Ireland and his family remained there. His great grandson Robert Gregory went out to India in the 1750’s and made his fortune as an East India Company merchant. On his return in 1768 he purchased the Coole Park estate in Galway.

Robert’s line continued through his third son William, who served as Civil Under-Secretary for Ireland, and William’s grandson Sir William, appointed Governor General of Ceylon. Sir William’s second wife Augusta, Lady Gregory, became more famous than her husband. She embarked on a literary career and was one of the central figures of the Irish literary renaissance. Coole Park was sold in 1927, just before her death.

America. John Gregory, a shoemaker by trade, had come to the New Haven colony and, around 1655, was a founding settler of the town of Norwalk, Connecticut. His 19th century descendants in Norwalk included:

  • Francis Hoyt Gregory, an officer in the US Navy from the War of 1812 to the Civil War.
  • and Ira Gregory, a physician and state legislator. His son James was Surgeon General for Connecticut in 1882, his granddaughter Alyse a writer and suffragette.

Gregorys in the South.  However, many more Gregorys were to be found in the South. Their numbers included old John Gregory of the Piscataway Baptist church in New Jersey who had moved with his sons south to South Carolina by the 1740’s. Samuel Gregory of this family moved to Georgia in 1799.

Richard Gregory from London had come to Flowerdew Hundred in Virginia sometime in the 1630’s. His descendants stayed in Virginia or migrated to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War. Two other Gregory families in Virginia, unrelated, moved to Union county, South Carolina in the late 1700’s.

John Gregory, born in Virginia, moved to Missouri in the 1830’s and farmed in Lewis county. His son Alexander headed to Texas after the Civil War and then to Oklahoma at the time of the land grab there. Edward Gregory from Virginia meanwhile had settled in Wayne county, Kentucky by the early 1800’s.

Another Gregory line began with the birth of Jesse Gregory in Onslow county, North Carolina in 1791. He moved to Gadsden, Florida in 1824. His son Jason started a tobacco and cotton plantation at Ocheesee Landing in the 1840’s.

“The Gregory House at Ocheesee was started in the fall of 1847 and finished two years later. It faced the river and sat on eight-foot brick pillars to keep it above the water when the river got out of its banks. The house was built in the Greek Revival style, as were many of the plantation houses of the time.”  

After the Civil War Jason managed to keep the plantation going until 1873 when he moved the Gregory family to Gainesville. He and most of his family perished from the yellow fever that struck Florida in 1888.

Canada.  John Gregory from London was a pioneer fur trader in Canada, arriving there in 1773 and soon becoming active in the Canadian West. He joined the NWC trading company in 1790 and lived in some style in Montreal until his death in 1817.

AustraliaJoshua Gregory from Nottinghamshire, in poor health after his retirement from the British army, was an early settler in Western Australia in 1829. He died there nine years later. But he left five sons, two of whom – Augustus and Francis – became famous Australian explorers.

Two Gregory convicts who came to Australia were:

  • Henrietta Gregory from London who arrived in Sydney in 1814, but only lived another five years. Her son Edward, brought up in an orphanage, was the progenitor of the remarkable Gregory cricketing family.
  • and William Greaves alias Gregory from Derbyshire who was transported there in 1833. A resident of Newcastle, NSW after obtaining his Ticket of Leave, he was one of the pioneers of Australia’s Mid North Coast.

Gregory Surname Miscellany

Early Gregorys in England.  H.B. Guppy had the following to say in his 1890 work Homes of Family Names in Great Britain.

“Derbyshire is the great home of the Gregorys, who, however, are also established in different parts of the country, Northamptonshire ranking next to Derbyshire in this respect, but they are rare or absent in the east of England and in the northernmost counties.

In Derbyshire they have been established for many centuries – the Eyam family of Gregory carry their descent back to the times of Edward II.

A Warwickshire family of the name began their pedigree with John Gregory, lord of the manors of Fresely and Asfordby in Leicestershire, in the 13th century. About that time the name was also to be found in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.”

The Gregors of Cornwall.  The family of Gregor came into some prominence during the 16th and 17th centuries as merchants in Truro and their wealth and standing steadily increased. In the early 1600’s Francis Gregor began acquiring property all over Cornwall.  It was his son John who purchased Trewarthenick House in 1640. This was to be the family home for over two hundred years.

His son Francis was a learned man, interested in antiquities and in politics.  He carried on a lifelong correspondence with two of his Cambridge associates – Dr. Stephens of Droxford in Hampshire, a learned clergyman who was deeply interested in classical literature; and Dr. Lombard, who was presented to the living of Lanteglos-by-Camelford and whom Gregor had rescued from a tricky situation in Truro.  This learned German doctor had been searching in vain for the road to Lanteglos, his atrocious pronunciation preventing anyone from understanding where he wanted to go.  The letters between these three scholars still survive.

William Gregor, who was born in Trewarthenick on Christmas Day 1761, was a clergyman who developed an interest in Cornish minerals.  At the age of thirty he was analysing the ilmenite sand from a Cornish beach when he came across a new substance that was unknown to him. He named it manaccanite and it is now known as titanium.

The death of Charlotte Anne Gregor in 1825, at the early age of 24, brought to an end the direct line of these Gregors.  Inheritance passed to a relative, Loveday Sarah Gregor, and her husband assumed the name and arms of Gregor.  This line ended, as did the ties with Trewarthenick House, in 1909.

The Gregory Family in Aberdeen.  The Gregory family papers kept in Aberdeen relate to the distinguished family of academics, who descended from John Gregorie, a minister of Drumoak in Aberdeenshire, and his wife Janet Anderson in the early 17th century. They had five children, Alexander, David, Margaret, Isobel and James.  The main lines came from David and James.

Their eldest son Alexander was murdered in 1664 without issue and was succeeded by his brother David to whom he left his estate of Kinairdry.

David, a doctor, married twice and was reputed to have had 29 children.  Three of them –  David, James, and Charles –  went on to hold distinguished academic careers at the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Oxford.  David’s son David became Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford and Charles’s son, also David, succeeded his father to the Chair of Mathematics at St Andrews.

John’s son James was a mathematician, credited with the discovery of calculus, and was a contemporary and friend of Isaac Newton.  His son James was a Professor of Medicine at King’s College in Aberdeen, the first of several medical professors that descended from this side of the family.

Robert Gregory and His Three Sons.  Robert Gregory went out to India in the 1750’s and made his fortune as an East India Company merchant. On his return in 1768 he purchased the Coole Park estate in Galway.  He had three sons:

  • the eldest Robert followed in his father’s footsteps and took up a position with the East India Company. Unfortunately, his passion for cock-fighting earned him his father’s enmity and in 1784 he was disinherited.
  • the second son Richard served in the army but was brought up on charges of cowardice when his troops deserted during the Valenciennes campaign in 1793. He withdrew from society and later suffered a stroke.  The animosity between Richard’s young wife – a schoolgirl who he had married secretly and then kept in a separate house disguised as a sailor – and the wife of Robert Gregory’s third son, William, led to his complete alienation from the family.
  • and it was only this third son William who did well, serving as Civil Undersecretary for Ireland from 1812 to 1830.

The Gregory line continued through this third son William.

The Gregorys of Union County, South Carolina.  There were two Gregory families that made their home in Union county, South Carolina in the 1770’s, both coming originally from Virginia and neither apparently related.

One line descended from Isaac and Alse Gregory of Mecklenburg county, Virginia who moved via the Piedmont trail to Union county in 1767.  Another line came via Surry and Isle of Wight counties, Virginia along the coast to Union county.

Both of these lines had large families. At one time it was said that you could stand on any part of Main Street in Union and throw a stick.  No matter the direction or how far you threw, it would hit a Gregory. 

The Gregory Cricketing Family in Australia.  In 1813 Henrietta Gregory, a servant, was convicted at the Old Bailey in London of being in possession of a forged banknotes and sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia. She departed in 1814 on the convict ship Broxbornebury with her four young

She was only to live another five years, dying in Sydney at the age of 45.   Her three sons entered a male orphan school by the Tank Stream.

Edward her eldest son became an apprentice shoemaker and excelled at his work.  He was listed as a shoemaker with his brother George on Castlereagh Street in Sydney in the 1828 census. He and his wife Mary Ann raised seven sons – Edward, Walter, David, Charles, Fred, Albert, and Arthur – all of whom played cricket and five of whom represented New South Wales.

The greatest of the seven was David who captained the first Australian XI to defeat an All-England team in Australia in 1877.  He also captained the first Australian team to tour England in 1880.  He was a man of striking appearance. According to one observer, he “looked like an Old Testament prophet not long out of training college.”

His brother Edward or Ned played in the first recognized Test match between Australia and England in Melbourne in 1877.  Ned’s son was Syd Gregory, another famous Australian cricketer. And Syd’s brother Charles was father to Jack Gregory, the fast bowling allrounder for Australia in the 1920’s.

Gregory Names

  • William Gregory was Lord Mayor of London in 1451 and is remembered today for his The Chronicle of London.
  • James Gregory was a 17th century Scottish mathematician, credited with the discovery of calculus. He was a contemporary and friend of Isaac Newton.
  • Olinthus Gregory was an English mathematician, author and editor in the early 19th century. He was one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society. 
  • Augustus and Frank Gregory were intrepid explorers of the Australian outback in the mid-19th century. 
  • Dick Gregory was an African-American comedian and civil rights activist prominent in the 1960’s.

Gregory Numbers Today

  • 39,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 34,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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Written by Colin Shelley

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