Morrow Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Morrow Meaning
The Morrow surname had Gaelic origins and occurred in both Scotland and Ireland:

  • the Scottish origins were threefold, two in the Highlands and one in the Lowlands.  The Lowland Morrows, derived from the Gaelic Muireadhaigh, were perhaps the most numerous.
  • the Irish origins were also threefold.  The best known were in Wexford and Cork,  Morrow here being derived from MacMurrough and the Gaelic MacMurchadha.

The principal concentration of the name became Ulster in Ireland, probably because of the influx of Scots Irish into that area.  Some Murrays became Morrows there or after emigration to America.  Murray would have been pronounced “Morrah” or ”Morroh,” similar to Morrow, in Ulster.

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Morrow Ancestry


ScotlandClan Morrow was a minor Lowland clan that dated back to the 13th century.  While William Morrow of Bothwell in south Lanarkshire did sign the Ragman Rolls in 1296, Morrow support later switched to Robert the Bruce. A later William Morrow was recorded as the guardian of Edinburgh castle in 1347 and Thomas Morrow the Abbot of Paisley from 1418 to 1444.

Many Morrows left at the time of the Ulster plantations.  By the time of the 1881 census, the Morrow numbers in Scotland were less than 500, mainly concentrated in Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.

Ireland.  The MacMurchadas or MacMorroughs came from Wexford.  Dermot MacMorrough was a famous King of Leinster in the mid-12th century who lost the throne after a dispute with the O’Rourkes of Breifne.  His descendant Art MacMorrough successfully defended his territory against the English in the early 15th century and they held sway for another two centuries.  Over time it is thought that some MacMorroughs became Morrows.

A Morrogh family, descended from the MacCarthy Morroghs, was one of the old Cork families, having been based in the city since the 16th century.

Ulster.  Many Scottish Morrows emigrated to Ireland in the early 17th century, first during the Hamilton-Montgomery settlement when they came from Ayrshire and Lanarkshire and settled in Down and Antrim and then during the Ulster Plantation when they mostly settled in Donegal and Armagh.  By the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century, more than 80 percent of the Morrows in Ireland were recorded in Ulster, the largest number being in county Down.

David Morrow from Ayrshire who settled in Killyleagh in county Down in 1606 was an early arrival.  John Morrow escaped from Scotland to Antrim in 1689.  

“John Morrow’s party was beaten at the Battle of Killicrankie and he was taken prisoner, finally escaping with a fellow prisoner.  They got on board a coalboat off Ayrshire bound for Glenarm in county Antrim.”


His descendants settled in Derry.

Some Morrows from Derry were originally Murray, such as Adam Murray/Morrow, one of the defenders of Londonderry in 1689, and Jeremiah Murray/Morrow, described as “Irish by birth, Scotch by blood, and Covenanter by religion” and grandfather of US Ohio Governor Jeremiah Morrow.

England.  English origins for the name Morrow have been suggested in Lincolnshire and Northumberland.  But not many Morrows may have come from these sources.

There was one pocket of Morrows in Durham.  Morrows in Heworth dated from the 1770’s.  Robert Morrow was a coal miner killed in the mining disaster at High Felling in 1813. John Morrow, born at Low Felling in 1795, emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1813.

There were larger numbers in Lancashire in the 1881 census, but
this may have been due to Irish immigration.

America.  Among the Scottish Covenanters captured and sent as prisoners to Boston on the John & Mary in 1652 were James, John, John again, Jonas and Neile Morrow.  But it is not known whether they left any descendants.  Instead, the main influx of Morrows was into the South. 

Notable Morrow Lines.  The earliest Morrow of note in America was David Morrow who was first recorded in Lower Norfolk county, Virginia in 1651. Some have had him as the progenitor of many of the southern Murrow lines.  But DNA analysis suggests that descendancy was probably limited to his two grandsons David and Daniel Morrow.

Jeremiah Morrow aka Murray from Derry came to Adams county, Pennsylvania around the year 1750.  His grandson Jeremiah Morrow, born there in 1771, headed west and became Ohio’s ninth
Governor in 1822.  A related line ended up in Kentucky where Edwin P. Morrow was Governor of the state in 1919.

Alexander Morrow arrived with his family from Ulster in 1793 and eventually settled in Brooke county, West Virginia.  George Morrow’s 1993 book Alexander Morrow and His Descendants covered this line.  One line from Alexander ran as follows:

  • James E. Morrow, born in 1837, who was the principal at Marshall University
  • Dwight W. Morrow, born in 1873, a classmate of President Calvin Coolidge who later appointed him ambassador to Mexico.  He was subsequently the US Senator for New Jersey.
  • and Anne Lindbergh nee Morrow, born in 1906, who was an acclaimed author in her own right before she married the aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Other Lines.  John Morrow, it was said, was one of three brothers from Antrim who came to Pennsylvania in the late 1730’s and settled with his wife Mary in Franklin county. Their sons Thomas and John had moved to South Carolina by the time of the Revolutionary War and afterwards, towards the end of their lives, settled in Tennessee and Georgia respectively.

William Morrow’s origins are uncertain, but he was apparently fleeing religious persecution when he arrived in Pennsylvania around the year 1750.  “Family tradition has it that William Morrow baked a Bible in a loaf of bread to prevent it being destroyed by persecutors.  The bread was then removed when he had arrived safely in America.” 


By 1767 he had moved with his family to Orange county, North Carolina. 
His line there was called the Crossroads/Oaks Morrows to distinguish them from the Flat River Morrows nearby.

David and Mary Morrow came from Baltimore to the Fishing Creek area of Chester county, South Carolina in 1765 where they had land grants next to David’s brother Samuel.  Son Robert who fought in the Revolutionary War moved to Kentucky and then to Alabama.  Samuel’s line was traced in J.T. Morrow’s 1979 book The Morrows and Related Families.

The roots of Ed Murrow the famous broadcaster were in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He descended from John Murrow, a Quaker who had settled in Guilford county in 1820.  John’s son Andrew was active in helping runaway blacks escape slavery by fleeing across the Ohio river. 

From CanadaOne Morrow family in America was French Canadian, descended from Pierre Morin who had come to Quebec from Normandy in the 1670’s.  They remained in Quebec until the 1840‘s when Jean-Baptiste Morin crossed the border into Wisconsin and assumed the name of John Morrow.  His son Alexander Morrow who died in 1925 was a prominent pioneer of the town of Sevastopol, Wisconsin.

Canada.  John Morrow departed Durham for Nova Scotia in 1813 and found work at Halifax for shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, as did his younger brother Robert.  His son James later became a partner at Cunard.

George Morrow arrived from Ireland in 1819 and settled in French Lake, New Brunswick.  There he had married the daughter of a lumberman and engaged in the lumber trade himself.  His son David, born in 1834, served in the local Oromocto council and later in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly.

William and Mary Morrow, also from Ireland, had come to New Brunswick in the 1840’s and made their home at St. John where William worked in a brick yard.  Their sons James and William moved to Kennebasis Island in 1880 where they farmed.

Australia and New Zealand.  Among the Morrow settlers from Ireland were:

  • the sons and daughters of Henry Morrow of Magheraculmoney, Fermanagh who came to Sydney in stages between 1841 and 1854.
  • James Morrow from Tyrone who arrived in Melbourne as a young boy in 1852.  He patented his invention for a grain harvester in 1884 and worked hard to make it successful, but without much reward.
  • and Arthur Morrow from Longford who came to Auckland on the Mersey in 1861.  He joined the British army and fought with distinction in the Maori wars of 1863-5.  Colonel Morrow, as he later became, died in Auckland at the good old age of ninety-five in 1937.

Morrow Miscellany

Scottish Origins of Morrow.  There have been three recorded origins for the Morrow name in Scotland.

The first is from the Highland area of Lochalsh that is
opposite the isle of Skye.  Here the name
came from Murchadha and was akin to the minor clan of
Murchison.  In Lochalsh the name took the
form of Morrow, Morrowson and MacMorrow.

The second, also Highland, was in Moray where the name came from the Gaelic name Moireach or Moireabh meaning
“a sea farer” or “a settlement by the sea.”
Variations here included Morow, Murrow and Morrewe, the last named being found on the Ragman Rolls of 1296.  This
branch was mostly found in Banffshire
and Morayshire.  This was the family that
the 14th century architect John Morrow was from.

The third origin was Lowland, from Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Stirlingshire, and came from the Gaelic name Muireadhaigh. It was anglicized as MacMorrow, MacMurray, Murrow and Morrow.

Irish Origins of Morrow.  The Irish Morrow came from Murchadh (muir and cath) meaning “sea battle” or “sea warrior.”  This anglicized as Morrogh, Murrow, Moroghoe and Morrow. There have been three distinct Irish origins for Morrow.

The first and most well-known was from Wexford and Cork where the name was recorded variously as O’Morrow, McMarrowe, Morrogh, Morrowe and Morrow in Petty’s census of 1659.  All here stemmed from the Gaelic names MacMurchadha and Ó Murchadha.

The second was from Leitrim where the name came from MacMuireadhaigh and became MacMurray, MacMorrow, Murray and Morrow.

The third was from Fermanagh where they were said to have been a branch of the MacGuires.

Morrows in Griffith’s Valuation

County Number Percent
Ulster
Antrim   100
Armagh    49
Derry    34
Donegal   109
Down   169
Fermanagh    20
Tyrone    46
Sub-Total   467    81
Elsewhere 107    19
Total Ireland   574   100

English Origins of Morrow.  The Victorian author Charles Bardsley claimed an English origin for the Morrow name, from the lost village of Morrowe near Wisbech in Lincolnshire.

And, by tradition, the Morrow name was said to have come from Northumberland where a group of people who lived in a row of houses on the moor were known as “the people from the moor row” – later contracted to Morrow.

David Morrow and His DNA Descendants.  Much research has been undertaken to indicate that a large proportion of the Morrows with Southern roots in America were descended from David Morrow of Lower Norfolk county, Virginia.

This David Morrow had showed up there on a land patent deed of 1651 with headright.  The land he settled on was at the mouth of the James river on Chesapeake Bay.  David may have already been living in Virginia before 1651 as headrights were only allowed for persons living in Virginia who had paid for or had sponsored immigration of others to Virginia.

Many of these lines of connection to David Morrow are probably not correct.  The Morrow DNA project has shown that descendants from a number of these various lines are genetically not related to each other at all.

There is one group of southern Morrows that is believed to have been descended from David Morrow. David named his son Alexander in his 1792 will.  Two men, David born around 1690 and Daniel born around 1708, were both born in Virginia and were both believed to be sons of Alexander.  They have descendants in the DNA project.  DNA results for those descendants indicate they are related to each other. 

Reader Feedback:  Where was David Morrow of Virginia from? Some of our ancestors migrated from the Carolinas through Tennessee and Kentucky to Missouri. I have traced back to the East Coast and all close relative believe the European origin was Ireland.

Based on my research, I believe they were among the Scots who migrated to Ulster and then America, but I have not been able to verify this or identify who from Ireland we are descended from.

Wayne Morrow (waynesmorrow@yahoo.com)

The Flat River Morrows of Orange County, North Carolina.  Benjamin Morrow settled on the north fork of the Flat river in the early 1750s.  He died there around 1758.  After that time there were several generations of Morrows living in and around the north and south forks of the Flat river near Richland Spring Creek and Deep Creek.

However, many of the Morrow descendants had migrated westward out of the Flat river area prior to 1800.  William Morrow, born in 1750, died in Tennessee; John and William Morrow, born a decade or so later, in Missouri.

John Morrow – from Durham to Nova Scotia.  John Morrow had worked as a clerk for a local newspaper in Durham, but then was dismissed from his job.  However, he was able to secure a new clerkship with a Mr. Bain in Nova Scotia. He left for Nova Scotia in 1813.

On the ship was another fellow clerk by the name of John Duffus whom he befriended.  Later he was introduced to one of his sisters Mary Ann Duffus who eventually became his wife.  This connection was important because Mary Ann’s sister was Susannah, the wife of Canadian shipping magnate Samuel Cunard.

John later worked for Samuel Cunard in Nova Scotia, as did his younger brother Robert. He left Cunard’s service in 1833 to take up the position of US Consul for Nova Scotia, a position he held for about ten years until it was decided that only Americans could hold that post.  He later worked on the railways.

His son James Bain Morrow would become a partner at Cunard.



Morrow Names
  • Dermot MacMorrough was a famous King of Leinster in the 12th century who lost his throne after a dispute with a rival clan. 
  • Jeremiah Morrow served as Governor of Ohio in 1822. 
  • Dwight Morrow was US Ambassador to Mexico and Senator for New Jersey in the 1920’s. 
  • Edward R. Murrow was an American broadcast journalist, famous for his live radio broadcasts during World War Two and for his TV broadcasts in the 1950’s critical of McCarthyism.

Morrow Numbers Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northern Ireland)
  • 21,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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