Murdoch Surname Genealogy

The name Murdoch comes from the old Gaelic words mur meaning “sea” and murchadh, “sea warrior,” and is
thought by some to indicate Norse origins.  The “ch” sound is not present in English.  When Murdochs migrated
to northern Ireland at the time of the Scottish plantations “Murdoch”
would often become “Murdock.”

Resources on

Murdoch Ancestry

The largest presence of the Murdoch name in Scotland has been in Galloway
in the southwest and, to a lesser extent, Moray in the northeast.

Galloway.  The
Murdochs of Cumloden in Galloway received their land, it is said,
as a grant
from Robert the Bruce

for services the family rendered.  The land stayed with the
Murdochs until 1738 when it was sold to pay
off debts. Their family history was recounted in
T.M.Fallow’s 1904 book, A Short
History of the Family of Murdoch in Cumloden

A Murdoch
family from Dalbeattie in Galloway, starting with James and following
with Samuel, were sea captains in the 19th century.
As death was a constant risk at sea, it became a family rule that at
least one of the men should take a trade ashore.  The last of
these mariners was William Murdoch, First Officer of the Titanic, who
perished with his ship in 1912.

A branch of the Cumloden family in Galloway established itself at
Gartincaber House in Perthshire in the mid-1600’s.  Murdochs
were pistol makers at Doune in the mid/late 1700’s.
Archibald Murdoch drowned in 1774.  His son William, believing
that he lived in the exact center of
Scotland, built a folly – a two-storey octagon tower – on the family
land in

“William scandalized his neighbors by
marrying his housekeeper Sarah Murdoch.  He died in 1805 at the
young age of 48.  His daughter Anne married John Burn of Coldoch.”

Their line became the Burn Murdoch line and they held Gartincaber House
until the 1960’s.  William Burn Murdoch was an intrepid travel
writer and explorer in the early 1900’s.

Murdoch roots are also in Morayshire on the northeast coastline.
The Murdoch name was to be found in the 18th century at Elgin and in
villages along the Spey river.  Alexander Murdoch was a farmer at
Kean farm in Duffus at that time and Peter Murdoch a customs house
officer at Fochsbers (his family later moved south to England).

Ireland.  There may have
been some Irish Murdochs from Murtagh before the Scottish intrusions in
the 17th century.  But most Murdochs (and Murdocks) in Ireland
came from Galloway in Scotland and arrived at the time of the
Protestant plantations in Ulster.

One family line in Forkhill,
Armagh traces itself back to these times.  Other Murdocks were to
be found in Belfast.  And one farming family near Dublin produced
the novelist Iris Murdoch.  Today there are roughly as many
Murdocks as Murdochs in Ireland.

America.  The early
Murdochs in America came mostly from Ireland and therefore had lost an
“h” and gained a “k” in their travels:

  • one Murdock family started
    with John Murdock in Pennsylvania in the 1740’s and later moved onto
    North Carolina.
  • William Murdock from Belfast, who fought in the
    Revolutionary War, died in Pennsylvania in 1791.
  • meanwhile
    Hamilton Murdock
    and his family from Ireland had arrived in Charleston, South Carolina
    in 1768.

There were some Scottish Murdochs.  James
Murdoch was recorded as building a house near Kingston in upstate New
York in 1771.  Thomas Murdoch was a prominent bookbinder in
Philadelphia in the early 1800’s (his son became the well-known actor
James Murdoch).  And William Murdoch, a cabinet maker, came to New
Orleans with
his family in 1846.

These Murdochs in America often became
and combined with the Murdock Irish arrivals, the Murdock name became
the predominant one in America.

Canada.  Both Murdocks and
Murdochs settled in Canada, the Murdochs here somewhat outnumbering the
Murdocks.  Among the Murdock arrivals were:

  • James, John and Ellen Murdock from county Mayo in Ireland to
    Ottawa in the mid 1830’s.
  • Michael Murdock and his family
    from Derry to Dundas county, Ontario in the late 1830’s.

The first Murdoch arrival in Canada was in fact a ship, the Murdoch, which brought 100 German
immigrants to Nova Scotia in 1751.

Just over one hundred years
later (in 1854), two Murdochs arrived in St. John, New Brunswick from
Paisley in Scotland, William Murdoch, aged 31, and George Murdoch (with
his parents), aged just four:

  • William was put in charge of a gas
    works but later made his mark in New Brunswick as a poet.
  • George set off west in his thirties and arrived in Calgary just as the
    railroad was arriving.  He became the first mayor of the new town
    of Calgary.

Australia.  The Murdoch
family in Australia began with the Rev. James Murdoch, minister at
Rosehearty near Aberdeen in Scotland.  Two of his sons, Walter and Patrick, migrated to Australia.  Walter arrived in Melbourne in
1884 and later settled in Perth where he became founding Professor of
English and the Chancellor of the University of Western Australia.

“In 1970, the Prime Minister, on
announcing the new university name in Western Australia as Murdoch
University said: ‘He is a distinguished scholar and a man of
letters.  His name gives dignity to our new university.’  A
few weeks later, at the age of 96, Sir Walter Murdoch died.”

His elder brother Patrick was a Presbyterian minister in
Melbourne.  His son was Keith Murdoch, who founded the
Murdoch newspaper empire, and his son Rupert Murdoch, the international
media mogul.

They were not the only Murdochs who came to Australia.  Others

  • Dr. James Murdoch from Craigow
    near Edinburgh, who arrived in Tasmania with his family in 1822 and was
    followed by three of his brothers.  He was one of its early
    medical practitioners.
  • Gilbert Murdoch from Scotland,
    who came to the Victorian goldfields in the 1850’s.  His son Billy
    Murdoch became a well-known Australian cricketer.
  • James and Sarah Murdoch, who
    came via Derry to Victoria, also in the 1850’s.
  • James
    Murdoch from Stirlingshire
    who came with his family on the Trevelyn to South Australia in 1875.
  • another James Murdoch, who arrived from Aberdeen in 1881 but
    didn’t stay
    long.  Nine years later, he moved to Japan as an advisor there and
    devoted the rest of his life to studying that country’s history.
  • and John Smith Murdoch, who arrived from Glasgow in 1884.
    He became chief arhitect for the Commonwealth of Australia in 1919.

Two Murdoch families from
Glasgow came to Sydney in the 1830’s and 1840’s.  John and his
wife arrived on the Portland in
1838.  John’s life ended prematurely when he drowned near
Delegate, NSW in 1868, aged 48.   His brother George came
with his wife Agnes ten years later, in 1848 on the Castle Eden.   They first
settled in the Hunter Valley but later moved onto Cundle Plains.

Murdoch Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Murdoch Names

Murdoch was a Scottish
engineer and the inventor of gas lighting in the 1790’s.
James Murdoch, born in
Philadelphia, was one of the foremost actors in America in the 19th
Sir Walter Murdoch was a
prominent Australian acadamic and writer after whom Murdoch University
in Western Australia is named.
Dame Iris Murdoch, from a Irish
farming family, was one of the foremost English novelists of the 20th
Rupert Murdoch is the media
tycoon and head of the global media corporation, the News Corp.

Select Murdochs

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous
    in Pennsylvania).
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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