Morgan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Morgan Meaning

Morgan’s originis as an anglicized form of the old Welsh name Morcant. Some believe that the name may also have had Celtic origins, from the Celtic goddess of beauty, Morrigan.

The Welsh county of Glamorgan took its name from Morgan Mwynfawr, the 8th century King of Gwent, and the Morgan princes of south Wales. Glamorgan accounted for 30 percent of all Morgans in Britain in the 19th century.

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Morgan Ancestry

Wales.  The surname traces its origin from a powerful Welsh family, descended from Cadifor Fawr, established around 1330 by Morgan ap Llewelyn who adopted Morgan as a surname.

The Morgans of Tredegar on the outskirts of Newport date from this time. This family was Lancastrian during the Wars of the Roses and Royalist during the English Civil War. William Morgan returned to favor after the restoration and rebuilt Tredegar House to a grand scale. The family owned more than 40,000 acres in Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, and Breconshire by the end of the 18th century.

There were subsidiary branches of the Tredegar family at Llantarnam, Llanrhymney and various other places in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire:

  • Thomas Morgan of Llantarnam was involved in Catholic plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne and had to flee the country.
  • from a cadet branch of Llanrhymney came Sir Edward Morgan, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica in 1661, and his nephew Sir Henry Morgan, the famous Caribbean pirate who was buried in Jamaica.

The Morgans of Tredegar became prominent again for their role in the industrialization of south Wales during the 19th century.  Tredegar itself, thanks to coal and iron ore development, became a boom town at that time. The Morgan line continued into the 20th century with Evan Morgan, a true eccentric who kept a menagerie of animals at Tredegar House. The line finally died out in 1951.

England. The Morgan name in England was mainly to be found in the English border counties. Philip Morgan, for instance, was the Welsh bishop of Worcester in 1419. Richard Morgan, also of Welsh ancestry, represented Gloucester in the 1550’s and was briefly Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.

In more recent times, HFS (Harry) Morgan, the founder of the Morgan sports car, came from a church family in Herefordshire.

Scotland. Morgan (derived from the Gaelic word mor meaning “sea”) was an Aberdeen clan of the 14th century that some believe became the Strathnaver Mackay clan. The Morgan name
did subsequently spread along the east coast of Scotland.

Ireland. The Irish Morgan name may have derived from the Gaelic O’Muireagain.  Muiregain O’Muireagain was the Bishop of Clonmacnoise from 1171 until his death in 1213.  There were also Welsh Morgans who had settled in Ireland, notably the Morgans of Llantarnam in Kildare and Limerick.

Morgans in Ireland today are mainly to be found in Dublin, Cork, Clare, and north Roscommon.

America.  Miles Morgan, born in Carmarthen, had emigrated from Bristol on the Mary to Boston in 1636.  He was a pioneer settler in what became Springfield, Massachusetts.  His memorial there, completed in 1882, is a bronze statue of him in a huntsman’s dress and cocked hat, with a rifle over his shoulder.

Subsequently this Morgan family settled in Holyoke and became wealthy and successful:

  • first through Joseph Morgan, then through his son J.S. Morgan
  • and finally, and most emphatically, through his J.S. Morgan’s son, the great financier John Pierpoint Morgan.

A later resident of Holyoke was William Morgan who invented the game of volleyball in 1895.

James Morgan could be thought of as a brother of Miles Morgan.  Both were found at one time in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Miles departed for Springfield and James set out instead for New London, Connecticut where he settled.  The issue is open.

John Dorian Morgan from Llanrhymney came to Essex county, Virginia in 1680.  His descendants later moved to North Carolina.

Several Welsh Morgans settled in Pennsylvania during the 1700’s:

  • The Rev. James Morgan from Radnorshire arrived in 1691 and settled in Radnor township, Pennsylvania.  It was his grandson James who, starting in 1717, became the ironmaster at the Durham furnace in Bucks county.
  • Thomas Morgan and his family settled in 1718 into what was to become, with his son Jacob, Morgantown in Berks county.
  • Evan and Joanna Morgan arrived in Philadelphia from Wales around 1730.  Their two sons, John and George, both became doctors.  In the 1770’s George became an Indian agent for the Continental Congress.  He has a historical marker near to where his home was at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

James and Eleanor Morgan and their son David had arrived in Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1720 with other Welsh Quaker families.  However, they soon moved onto New Jersey where a younger son Daniel was born in 1736.

Daniel had a falling-out with his family when he was young and decamped to Virginia.  Here he met fought in the French and Indian wars and met up with Daniel Boone.  Later, he was one of the most respected tacticians during the Revolutionary War and many counties – in Virginia and elsewhere – were named in his honor.  It was said that Daniel Morgan’s great great grandfather was the uncle of the Welsh privateer and pirate Henry Morgan.

David’s son Ralph meanwhile also fought in the Revolutionary War moved to Kentucky and was an early settler of Lexington, Kentucky in 1804.

The Confederate General John Hunt Morgan (unrelated) who died in 1864 was commemorated at Lexington four years later by the founding of the Morgan’s Men Association.

Canada. George Morgan, an English soldier, arrived in Nova Scotia in 1745. His descendants later settled to farm in Annapolis county.

Morgans, mainly from Scotland, were to be found in Newfoundland from the late 1700’s. Henry Morgan from Fife came out to Quebec in 1844 and, a year later, opened the first Morgan department store in Montreal. Store ownership remained with the Morgan family until 1960.

Australia.  William Morgan departed Bedfordshire for South Australia in 1849.  He prospered in business there, entered Parliament, and became Premier of South Australia in 1878.  However, his business activities then crumbled, he travelled back to England a broken man and he died in 1883.  The whole story is told in James Morgan’s 2011 book. The Premier and the Pastoralist.

James Morgan from a Protestant family in Ireland had gone to Queensland in 1841 and was to leave a longer-lasting impression there.  He became a newspaper publisher of the Warwick Argus and later the town’s mayor, as was his son Arthur.  Arthur became Premier of Queensland in 1903.  A memorial in Warwick commemorates the family.

Patrick Morgan, also from Ireland, brought his family to Niddrie, a suburb of Melbourne in the 1850’s.  Richard Morgan’s 1990 book The Morgan Family of Niddrie recounts the family history.

 

Morgan Miscellany

Morgan Origins.  Dr. T.J. Morgan, co-author of the 1985 book Welsh Surnames, has warned of the dangers inherent in explaining the meaning of a name which was probably in use for many centuries before the time of the first surviving Welsh manuscripts.  However, with that caveat in mind, he has suggested the following as to the origin of the Morgan name:

“The elements of Morgan can be seen in the earliest spelling of Morcant.   Mor is probably from the Welsh word Mawr meaning ‘great’ and cant is ‘hundred’ with a secondary meaning of ‘herd’ or ‘throng.’ ‘Great throng,’ with the suggestion of a battle throng, seemed to have been a typical wishful name to give to a boy.”

Morcant was probably in use from the 8th century.  It became Morgan in the medieval period.  The Morgans of Tredegar began using Morgan as a surname in the 1330’s.

The writer Theophilus Evans had thought that Morgan meant “sea born.”  But this was probably based on the mistaken view that Morgan was derived from “mor-gen-i” (mor being Welsh for “sea” and geni being “to give birth”). 

The Morgans of Tredegar.  The Morgans of Tredegar claimed descent from Cadifor Fawr, lord of Cilsant, who had lived in the 11th century. During their early history, they survived the depredations against the Norman French knights, support for Owen Glyndwr’s revolt against the English Crown, and the turmoils of the Wars of the Roses.

Llewelyn ap Ifor, Lord of St. Clere, had married Angharad, the daughter and heiress of Sir Morgan ap Maredudd, the Lord of Tredegar, in 1334.   According to the Morgan pedigree of 1612, their son Morgan ap Llewelyn was responsible for the adoption of Morgan as a fixed surname. Thomas Wakeman in his notes on the pedigree pointed out that this Morgan was still alive in 1375 as he was a witness to a deed that year. But he was dead by 1387 as his son Llewellyn ap Morgan stood in his place.

Llewelyn’s grandson Sir John Morgan was known as Y Marchog Tewor “the Fat Knight,” according to his bard Gwilym Tew or the “Fat William.”  He was said to have made a journey to Jerusalem where he was made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.  He was a strong supporter of Henry Tudor and ended up in his later years on the winning side at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Sir Henry Morgan the Pirate.  Much about the pirate Sir Henry Morgan has become blurred by myth.  Not even upon his
birthplace can the historians decide.  He was born in 1635 in either Penkarne in Monmouthshire or Llanrhymny in Glamorgan.  He is believed to have spent his childhood in Wales.  Two of his uncles, Edward Morgan and Thomas Morgan, were army officers of some success, although in opposing camps. During the Civil War Thomas was a Colonel for the Royalist cause and his brother Edward was Major-General in Cromwell’s army.

How did Henry Morgan come to the Caribbean in the first place?

One version has it that he was “Barbadosed,” beaten over the head in Bristol and on a ship the next day to America to be sold as an indentured laborer.  Another version has him joining up with General Venables’ troops in 1654 in their mission to attack the Spaniards in the Caribbean.

The Venables expedition turned out to be a disaster. But Henry stayed on in the area and 1662 saw him as Captain Morgan in charge of a ship that raided the Spanish settlement of Santiago de Cuba.

Thus began Morgan’s career as a privateer.  Two years later he returned to Jamaica from his sorties against the Spanish with great riches.  He was to earn a reputation as one of the most ruthless privateers among those active along the Spanish Main and in fact as one of the most notorious and successful pirates in history.

The Morgans of Holyoke.  Miles Morgan was an early settler of Springfield, Massachusetts and there is a bronze statue of him at Court Square in Holyoke.  He had emigrated from Wales in 1636.

His great grandson Captain Joseph Morgan fought against the French in the 1750’s and suffered a head wound during an attack on Fort William.  He returned home and married Experience Smith in 1765.  They had one son and six daughters.  A Morgan family history remarked about him: “In character as well as in physique he was reckoned to be one of the staunchest men in western Massachusetts.”

The Captain’s great grandson was John Pierpont Morgan, the famous financier.  He gave $10,000 towards the building of the Holyoke Public Library, a donation he could well afford. 

Morgans in Virginia and North Carolina.  The forebear of these Morgans was John Dorian Morgan from the Llanrhymney Morgans in Glamorgan.  He was born about 1648, the youngest child of Edward Morgan. In the 1680’s he emigrated to Essex county, Virginia where he settled with his wife Hannah.  They had a son named John Morgan who married Ann Barbee and settled on Occypacia Creek in St. Ann parish in Essex county.

After John’s death, Ann married Dr. Thomas Caruthers who then sold all her property rights.  Ann moved to Onslow county in North Carolina where she died.  Her sons had to start over in acquiring their own property.

Son Joseph became one of the first judges of Onslow county, his brother William the county constable. Another brother Nathan opened a trading post in the wilderness, mostly trading with the Indians, and a fourth brother Mark moved to Bladen county where he had bought land.

Mark Morgan had a remarkable daughter named Nancy. She defied the Tories during the Revolutionary War. She stood six feet tall and had flaming red hair. She was renowned for her marksmanship with a musket. The neighboring Indians called her Wahatchee, meaning “War Woman.”

Morgan’s Men Association.  The Morgan’s Men Association was formed originally at Lexington, Kentucky, at the re-internment of General John Hunt Morgan, on April 17, 1868.  After serving as the funeral escort for their leader, the surviving members of Morgan’s command met at the Phoenix Hotel and created the association.  Through this association his memory lived on for a long long time in Confederate hearts.

Morgan’s Men met annually at least through 1883 when the reunion was held in Woodland Park in Lexington before a crowd of over 1,200 veterans and friends. Prominent Morgan’s Men who led the reunion included Kentucky Governor James McCreary and Brigadier General Basil W. Duke.  The guest of honor was General Morgan’s only surviving child, Johnnie Hunt Morgan Caldwell.

In 1903, at Parks Hill in Nicholas county, Kentucky, the group was reorganized with a membership of 260 veterans. However, after that date the number of members slowly diminished as death took its toll.  At the 1916 reunion it was noted that only 167 of the veterans who met in 1903 were still alive.

In 1932 the Confederate Veteran magazine reported that just nine of the members were able to attend that year’s meeting in Lexington.  Although no formal records remain, it is assumed that the 1932 meeting was one of the last.  Incredibly it was not until 1953 that the last surviving member died.

Harry Morgan and the Morgan Sports Car.  When he was born in 1881, HFS (Harry) Morgan was the son and grandson of Anglican vicars from Herefordshire.  He chose not to pursue the pulpit and instead set about on a career in engineering.  He worked first in the railways before meeting up with some early auto enthusiasts.

What emerged in 1909 was the first Morgan sports car, a three-wheeler with the engine mounted transversely at the front and a single rear wheel driven by a chain through dog clutches.  These three-wheelers were to define Morgan for the next quarter-century, achieving success in both small-bore racing and in hill climbs.  Their first four-wheeler was introduced in 1936.

Harry Morgan died in 1959, leaving his son Peter to carry on the business.  Morgan owners revere their cars the firm has remained unflinchingly steadfast in hewing to tradition. The Morgan Motor Company is still located in Malvern Link, still builds traditionalist sports cars by hand in tiny quantities (647 in 2007) – with most now destined for U.S. buyers.  Among their enthusiasts, Morgans are affectionately known as “Moggies.”

 

Morgan Names
  • Morgan ap Llewelyn in the 14th century was the first to adopt Morgan as a surname.
  • William Morgan, bishop of Llandaff, made the first translation of the Bible into Welsh in 1588.
  • Sir Henry Morgan was a notorious Welsh pirate on the Spanish Main in the 17th century.
  • Daniel Morgan was a successful battlefield commander for Washington during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Justin Morgan pioneered the Morgan horse breed in the
    United States in 1789.
  • Henry Morgan founded the first department store in Canada, Henry Morgan, in the 1860’s.
  • John Pierpoint Morgan the American financier whose House of Morgan dominated corporate finance at the turn of the 20th century.
  • HFS (Harry) Morgan founded the Morgan sports car company in 1911 and was its Chairman until 1959. 
  • Cliff Morgan was a Welsh rugby footballer of the 1950’s and later a TV rugby broadcaster.
Morgan Numbers Today
  • 150,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glamorgan)
  • 106,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 51,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Morgan and Like Surnames

From our selection, these are the surnames of those who have made their business mark in America – as pioneers, inventors, developers, or corporate leaders – over its long history from colonial to modern times.

AstorFordHiltonReynolds
BellFranklinMcCormickRockefeller
BuschGatesMellonSinger
CarnegieGoodyearMorganVanderbilt
DowHearstMurdochWalton


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