Guthrie Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Guthrie Meaning

The Guthrie surname derives from the Scottish place-name
of Guthrie, a barony known as “the lands of Guthrie” in Angus in NE
Scotland. The root of the name is a
Gaelic word meaning “windy place” or “arrows in the
wind.” The Guthrie place-name gave
rise to the Guthrie clan. There are other theories about the Guthrie
but they do not have much credibility.

Guthrie Resources on

Guthrie Ancestry

The Guthries of Guthrie received their estates by a
charter from King David II sometime in the mid-14th century. The clan came to prominence in 1461 when Sir
David Guthrie of Guthrie, Armor-Bearer to the King, was appointed Lord
Treasurer of Scotland. He obtained a
warrant to build Guthrie castle
Forfar in Angus, which remains standing to this day.

It seemed that the
clan had four main branches. A rhyme of
the 17th century quoted them as follows:

o’ Guthrie and Guthrie o’
Guthrie o’ Taybank an’ Guthrie o’ Craigie.”

Some Guthries supported the
existing religious order, others

were converts to Presbyterianism. The
Covenanter James Guthrie, referred to by
Oliver Cromwell as “the little man who refused to kneel,” was
executed for his beliefs in Edinburgh in 1661.

Thomas Guthrie grew up in Angus in the
early 19th century. He was one of the
most popular preachers in Scotland of his day and was associated with
forms of philanthropy – especially temperance and the Ragged Schools,
of which
he was a founder. His son Charles, a friend of Robert Louis
Stevenson, became a
judge and Lord Guthrie; his grandson Tyrone Guthrie (who inherited the
Guthrie genes and the Irish Tyrone genes) an English theatrical
director whose
ambition spanned the Atlantic.

The Guthrie name did spread into the Scottish Lowlands and Border
areas. One
Guthrie line in the Scottish borders traces itself back to Robert
Guthrie of
Eyemouth, Berwickshire in the mid-1600’s

Ireland. The
Scots came to Ireland in the 17th century either to take up plantation
land or as
a refuge from persecution. Most Guthries
seem to have come under the latter category.
Many stayed in the Derry area before embarking for America. Those who remained were mainly to be found in
Antrim, Down, and Derry.

Guthrie can
also be an Irish name. Guthrie here
seems to have been an English corruption of the name Lahiff, from the
Gaelic O’Laithigh, found in county Clare around
Corrofin. A Guthrie family in Clare
traces itself back to Denis Guthrie who was born in Kilnaboy in 1840. The 1901 census listed three Guthrie families
in Kilnaboy, as well as eighteen other Guthrie families in the county.

America. Enterprising
Scots and Scots Irish, including Guthries, discovered America in the
18th century,
arriving there from Philadelphia in the north to Charleston in the
south. The most complete account of these Guthries is the rather
dated but still valuable 1933 book American
and Allied Families
by Lawrence Guthrie.

the early Guthries in Pennsylvania in fact came from Ireland and from
Londonderry in particular:

  • James
    Guthrie came to America with his wife in 1730
    and settled in Chester county, Pennsylvania. His father was a

    who had escaped persecution by fleeing to Ireland.
  • Another
    James Guthrie came
    and his wife Elizabeth in the
    1760’s and they later settled in North Carolina. He
    too was descended from a Covenanter. Family
    legend has it that two of their sons
    were married to two sisters and they travelled on horseback over the
    to settle in Tennessee.
  • and
    Robert and Bridget Guthrie arrived sometime
    in the 1740’s. After a brief period in
    Philadelphia, this couple lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
    Robert was a carpenter and cabinetmaker (the organizer of
    the Carpenters’ Guild of Carlisle), trades that were followed by his

Adam Guthrie
had come from
Cork in Ireland to Augusta county, Virginia in 1774. By the late
1700’s, there was a
cluster of Guthries in Halifax county, Virginia – three apparently
unrelated families of same name. Descendants of Thomas Guthrie, who
died there in 1786, were to be found
in Rockingham county on the border with North Carolina.

Guthries South and West.
Guthries moved South and West as the 19th century progressed.
Adam Guthrie, an early frontiersman, crossed the Cumberland mountains
in 1808 and settled in
Kentucky. His son James
became a Kentucky Senator and later served as the US Secretary of the

, in Kentucky, Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma for
showed where some of these Guthries had moved to. John Guthrie from
Tennessee came via Alabama to Texas in 1835, settling in Washington
while Shadrach Guthrie from Kentucky came via Mississippi to Lavaca
Texas in the 1850’s.

There were Guthries from Texas who had moved to
Oklahoma in the early 1900’s, which is where Woody Guthrie, the
folksinger and author of This Land is Your Land,
was born. Texas has the
largest numbers of Guthries in America today.

Australia. Thomas Guthrie from
Berwickshire came to Tasmania
in 1847at the tender age of 14. He worked
as a station hand there before following the gold rush to
Victoria in the early 1850’s. He made
his money as an auctioneer and invested in the Rich Avon sheep grazing
near Bendigo in 1864. The land remains
with Guthrie descendants today. Tom
Guthrie’s 2014 book The Longest Drive
recounted the early history


Guthrie Miscellany

Alternative Origins of Guthrie.  One theory is that Guthrie is a corruption of Guthrum, the name of a Scandinavian

Then there is an old story which
tells of one of the early Scottish Kings who had taken shelter, along
with two
attendants, in a fisherman’s hut. The King, knowing his attendants
would be
hungry, asked the fisherman to prepare two fish for them.
But the fisherman offered to feed the king as
well and “gut three;” and so, the legend insists, the Guthrie name
stuck.  Neither theory has much
credibility, however.

Guthrie Castle.  Guthrie castle, located near Forfar in Angus, was built in
1468 under a warrant granted by King James III of Scotland to his
Sir David Guthrie.  It originally
consisted of only the square tower and a yett (entrance gate).  The yett was a symbol of trust in an era when
the King wasn’t anxious for his subjects to be heavily fortified.  But the tower had walls 14 feet thick, thick
enough to discourage invaders at the time.

It is believed that the family
stopped living in the tower and built a house close by around
1760.  In 1848
John Guthrie, with the help of architect David Bryce, connected the
tower and
the house and subsequently undertook major renovations.
Later, the railroad which ran from Forfar to
Guthrie actually had tracks passing along the top of the main gate.

The castle has a reputation of being
haunted.  The ghost was last seen there
by one of the present members of the Guthrie family when she was a
little girl.

the death of Colonel Ivan Guthrie in 1983, Guthrie Castle was sold to
the American
Pena family. They restored the place and
added a golf course to the estate.  After
19 years as their private residence, the Penas then opened the castle
for public use.

Thomas Guthrie and the Guthries of Pitforthie.  The
patriarch of this family,
based at Pitforthie near Brechin in Angus, seems to have beenthe James
who married Janet Lyon around 1620.  They
raised five children, four of whom became Presbyterian ministers.

The eldest son, the Rev. William Guthrie, made
over the estate later in life to a younger brother in order to
concentrate on
his ministry.  But the brother died and
in 1665 William returned to Pitforthie to sort out his affairs.  He died at that time at his sister’s
home.  According to one account, the male
line of Guthries at Pitforthie later died out in 1690.

It is not quite clear what
Guthrie line continued in and around Pitforthie, but one clearly did
and one
still connected to the church.  The line
perhaps ran from William’s younger brother David to the Rev. Thomas
Guthrie, that
great preacher and reformer of the 19th century.

However, Thomas painted a different story of
his forebears in his autobiography.

grandfather, on my
father’s side, was a farmer, as his father had been before him.  The latter was a tenant of that Earl of
Panmure who lost both title and estates for taking part in the
Rebellion of

worthy ancestor, accounting his lease too dear, saw in the rebellion a
favorable opportunity to get rid of a bad bargain.
So, when Panmure mustered his men, be
appeared among them on horseback, booted, spurred, and armed for battle.  But he was foiled.”No,
no!” said
the Earl, dismissing him to more peaceful toils, “go you home, David,
attend to your farm.””

The Thomas Guthrie Memorial.  A fine statue in Portland stone to Thomas Guthrie stands
on Princes Street in Edinburgh, facing Castle Street, by the sculptor
F. W.
Pomeroy.  It was erected in 1910 and
bears the following inscription:

eloquent preacher of the gospel.  Founder
of the Edinburgh Original Ragged Industrial Schools, and by tongue and
pen, the
apostle of the movement elsewhere.  One
of the earliest temperance reformers.  A friend of the poor and of

A Covenanter and An Emigrant to America.  According
to family lore, their Guthrie ancestor John
Guthrie was an ardent Covenanter. So devoted was he to that cause, so
active in
his opposition to the efforts of the Crown to force Prelacy upon
Scotland, that
Claverhouse, the Arch-Persecutor, set a price upon his head and hunted
him from
place to place.

making his way to the west coast of Scotland, he and
some of his followers found a hiding place in a cave, whence, seeking
escape to
Ireland, a sharp outlook was kept for passing vessels.  At length
a French ship
was sighted, hailed, and as she hove to, the hunted men put out to her
in a
rowboat.  Just at this juncture Chaverhouse with some of his
troopers came
galloping up and fired a volley at the escaping party. Fortunately they
gained a distance from the shore out of musket range, and so,
uninjured, made
their getaway, landing in due time on the coast of Ireland.

son John, born
in Northern Ireland in 1708 married Ann and they emigrated to America,
in the same boat with the Gilkesons and Stewarts whose descendants
intermarried with theirs. They settled on the east side of the Octoraro
a stream forming a part of the boundary between Chester and Lancaster
counties in Pennsylvania.

Adam Guthrie, Early Frontiersman.  Adam
Guthrie, born in Cork, was said to have been
descended from the Scottish martyr James Guthrie.  He
came as a young man with his parents to
America in 1774, but lost both of them during the passage across. He found a home in the Scots Irish outpost in
Augusta county, Virginia.

He was one of
America’s early frontiermen.  He left
Virginia in 1784 and established himself in what was then the Southwest
Territory (now East Tennessee).   Adam
remained here until about 1809 when he removed himself with his family
Cumberland county, Kentucky.  The family
crossed the Cumberland mountains and settled along Illwill Creek in the
of the Upper Cumberland river.  Adam
remained in Cumberland county, developing a large plantation
there, until
his death in 1827.

A later description of
him went as follows:

was a farmer
and planter by way of occupation and a pioneer in the truest sense.  His journey which began with the dangerous
voyage to America in the 18th century and ended across the Appalachian
Cumberland mountains during the frontier period is a feat worth taking
note of.
Also of note is the fact that Adam
Guthrie was in Tennessee with family less than twenty years after
William Bean
who is noted as being the first white settler to permanently live and
farming in extreme East Tennessee along the Watauga river.”

Guthries in America.  There are
Guthrie towns in America named after noted and obscure 19th century

  • Guthrie county in Iowa was
    formed on 1851. It was named after Captain Edwin B. Guthrie who had
    died in the
    Mexican-American War.
  • Guthrie,
    Kentucky was named after Kentucky Senator James Guthrie who was also
    President of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad when the town was
    incorporated in 1867.
  • Guthrie, Texas began in 1883 when the Louisville Land
    and Cattle Company purchased several hundred acres there for
    development in
    what later became King County.  The place
    was named after Louisville Land and Cattle stockholder W.H. Guthrie.
  • and Guthrie,
    Oklahoma originated in 1887 as a railroad station on the Southern
    Railway.   The name was later changed
    Guthrie, named for jurist John Guthrie of Topeka, Kansas.
    Guthrie was the territorial and first state
    capital for Oklahoma.

This Land is Your Land.  This Land Is Your Land is probably
Woody Guthrie’s most famous song.  Its
lyrics were written by him in 1940 based on an existing melody, in
response to Irving Berlin’s God
Bless America
which Guthrie considered
unrealistic and complacent.  Guthrie first
recorded the song in 1944.

“This land is your land,
this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood
Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was
walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me
that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and
I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all
around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun
came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust
clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made
for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to
the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land
was made for you and me.”

The song was brought back to life by the folk movement
in the 1960’s.


Guthrie Names

  • Sir David Guthrie of Guthrie was Lord Treasurer of
    Scotland between 1461 and 1467 and subsequently
    Comptroller of the Exchequer. 
  • James Guthrie was a Scottish
    Presbyterian minister hanged for his faith in 1661 in Edinburgh. 
  • Thomas Guthrie was a Scottish 19th century
    preacher and philanthropist known for his advocacy of temperance and “ragged
    schools” for children (of which he was a founder). 
  • Woody Guthrie was a
    famous American singer/songwriter and folk musician.
    Many of his songs are about his experiences
    in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when Guthrie traveled with
    migrant workers from Oklahoma to California. 
  • Tyrone Guthrie was a 20th century English
    theatrical director instrumental in the founding of theaters in Canada, America, and Ireland.

Select Guthrie Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Guthrie and Like Surnames 

These surnames originated from the northern part of Scotland, either the northeast of the country, the Scottish Highlands, or in one case (the surname Linklater) the Orkney isles north of Scotland.




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