Murray Surname Genealogy

has both Scottish and Irish origins.
Scottish Origins.
Murray clan in Scotland descends from a Flemish nobleman Freskin who
had crossed the North Sea in the 12th century and been granted lands
along the Moray Firth coastline.  His family took the name Moray
which became over time Murray.  The name may have come from the
Pictish word moritreb,
meaning “seaward settlement,” which described the ancient province of
Mormaer in Moray.
Irish Origins.
The Irish Murray dates from an earlier time.  The Siol Muiredhaigh (pronounced Sheel
Murray) was the territorial and dynastic name for clans descended from
Muireadhach Muilleathan (Murray the long-headed) who died around the
year 700.  The name Muiredhaigh,
meaning “lord” or master,” was a fairly common personal name in The Annals of the Four Masters.
Select Murray Resources on The Internet

Murray Ancestry

The early Murrays became the lords of Bothwell in Clydesdale and Andrew
Murray led the Scots in their uprising against the English in
1297.  However, the last of this line died of the plague in 1360
and the Murrays then splintered into various groupings.

The main branch, based in Perth, were the Murrays of
Tullibardine.  They assumed clan leadership in the 16th century,
taking the title of the Dukes of Atholl.  Also from Scone in
Perthshire were the
Murrays of Stormont who later became Earls of Mansfield.

Then on the Scottish
Borders were:

  • the Murrays of Cockpool in
  • the Murrays of Broughton in Wigton
  • the Murrays of
    in Selkirk
  • and the Murrays of Stanhope and
    Cordon in Peeblesshire.

also remained some Murray pockets in the Highlands, at Abercross on the
banks of the river Briona in Sutherland.

The Jacobite
rising of 1745
found the Murrays divided, with the clan
chief supporting the British Government and his son, Lord George
Murray, the Jacobites.  After the defeat at Culloden, many Murrays
fled Scotland, with a number departing for
America.  The American writer William Faulkner was said to have
told a friend: “My great grandfather Murray had his grandfather’s
claymore which he had carried at the battle of Culloden.”

As the 19th century proceeded, the Murray demographics within Scotland
changed, with a greater concentration around Edinburgh and
Glasgow.  Murrays left as well for Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand at this time.

Ireland.  The O’Muiredhaighs or Siol Murrays who
took their name from the ancient Siol
were to be found in
northern Roscommon, as place names there such as Ballymurray,
Cloonmurray, and Kilmurray testify.  The clan seat was at Moate
Park in Ballymurray.  But it was confiscated by the English in the
late 17th century.   The Irish Murray surname has also
appeared in Monaghan and county Down.

Scots Irish.  As
the Irish Murrays were losing their lands, the Scots Murrays were
stepping in.  The Murrays of Broughton obtained a plantation grant
SW Donegal in 1610 and held onto these lands against competing
claims.  They remained mainly absentee landlords.  Later,
another Murray gained some notoreity in the area.  In 1860, a
Scottish land steward
at the Adair estate
, James Murray, was brutally murdered by
tenants who were upset at being evicted from their lands.

Meanwhile, the Murray name was becoming established in Ulster through
Scots Protestant immigrants. County Wicklow was also a Murray
outpost, but of Scots Catholics who had fled Scotland after the defeat
at Culloden.

Some Scots-Irish Murrays had left for America in the 18th
century.  But the emigration really gathered pace as the 19th
century proceeded.  The
following were some of the Murrays who left:

  • William Murray and his brother Richard from Wicklow to Baltimore
    (America) in 1795
  • John Murray and his family from county Offaly to Prince Edward
    Island, Canada in 1818
  • John
    and Jane Murray from county Monaghan to Ontario, Canada in 1832
  • Charles and Susan Murray from county Fermanagh to NSW, Australia
    in 1839
  • Michael Murray from Waterford to
    NSW, Australia in 1860.

England.  The 18th and
century saw an overflow of Scots Murrays into northern England.
Many went to work in the Durham mines, first in the Derwent lead mines
near Hunstanworth and then in the coalfields. William Murray, the son
of a flour merchant, founded the Murray engine works and iron foundry
in Chester-le-Street, the economic mainstay of that town for much of
the 19th century.  Meanwhile, some Irish Murrays made their way to
industrial Lancashire.

London had been receiving Murrays a century or more

  • John Murray, known as Sour John of the Spiceries,
    arrived in the 1590’s and made his money as a spice merchant.
  • William Murray of Stormont came in 1730 from Perth
    and rose to become Lord Chief Justice.  His nephew David was a
    British ambassador at the time of the American Revolutionary War.
  • and John Murray founded the publishing house
    which bore his name in London
    continued under his family for seven generations.

America.  The American
Revolutionary War divided Murrays as the ’45 rebellion had thirty years
earlier. James
for instance, who had arrived in America in the
1730’s as a planter along the Cape Fear in North Carolina, was and
remained a Loyalist.  He departed Boston in 1776 for Nova Scotia
he ended his days in poverty and in exile.

But his nephew John
Boyles Murray, who had arrived in Boston in 1770, cast his lot with the
colonists.  After the war he and his son James prospered in New
York as merchants.   Meanwhile, other Murrays from the Cape
Fear area made the trek in 1769 to Georgia where, according to Alton
Murray’s Kindred Murrays,
they apparently fought on the American side.

The Murray Quaker family of New York, after whom the
Murray Hill neighborhood in Manhattan is named, was another family
Some were known for their support for the
patriots; whilst others, including the eldest son Lindley, were led by
their loyalist sympathies to return to England.  Lindley, however,
had the last laugh.  His
English textbooks later became bestsellers in America.

Meanwhile, on the sea islands of South Carolina, James Murray was,
according to the family tradition, “killed by the explosion of a cannon
while defending the island from the British enemy, leaving one
child.”  That child, Joseph James Murray, was the forbear of the
Murrays still living on Edisto island (including the writer Chalmers Murray).
Their family history is recounted in J.G. Murray’s 1958 book, The Murray Family of Edisto Island.

The Scots-Irish Murrays had been tobacco planters at Cross Roads in
North Carolina since the 1740’s. Andrew Murray of this family became
well-known after the publication of Alex
Haley’s book Roots.  It
transpired that Haley’s great grandfather, a slave and blacksmith
on his plantation, had taken his Murray name.

African Americans
The Murray name has been more evident as an African American name in
Maryland.  Perhaps the presence of William Murray and his family
in Cambridge, Dorchester county, a place where there had been a
thriving slave market, was a contributing factor.  In any case the
state of Maryland produced:

  • Anna Murray, the freed slave who married the abolitionist
    Frederick Douglass
  • Daniel Murray, the son of a freed slave who became an authority
    on African American affairs in Washington
  • Donald
    Gaines Murray, the first African American to gain admittance to the
    University of Maryland’s law school (after a protracted legal battle in
    the 1930’s)
  • and Pauli Murray, an early civil rights campaigner.

It was therefore appropriate that the Baltimore Orioles should be the
home of Eddie Murray, the best switch-hitter of his generation, for
most of his baseball career.

Canada.  Alexander Murray,
a Scots army captain based in Nova Scotia, made a decisive early
contribution to the development of the colony.  In 1755 he
superintended the evacuation of the Acadian population.

Later came
Murray settlers, mainly Highlanders it would appear.  Walter and
Christian Murray arrived in Pictou county on the Hector in 1773.  Peter and
Elizabeth Murray who came in 1819 settled at Spiddle Hill.  The
present-day Canadian songstress Anne Murray hails from a small town in
Nova Scotia.

Three Murray brothers set out from Glasgow in 1840 to seek their
fortunes in Canada.  History records only one of these brothers,
Alex.  He joined the Hudson Bay Company and established a fur
trading post at Fort Yukon in what was then Russian territory.
His sketches of the trading post and the people who frequented it
provide an interesting souvenir of that time.

Two other Murray brothers,Thomas and William, were the sons of Irish
immigrants in Goulbourn township, Ontario.  They are best
remembered today for the nickel deposits in the Sudbury region known as
the Murray mine.

South Africa.  Murrays
were early settlers in what was then Cape Colony:

  • John Murray had
    arrived from Scotland in 1807 to assist his brother Samuel in a store
    he ran on Strand Street.  He and his wife Martha had nine children
    and there are many descendants of this family in South Africa
  • and another Murray
    family, Alfred and Mary, arrived from England in the 1830’s.
    Alfred was not born a Murray but, strangely, had adopted the Murray
    surname for some reason on his wedding register.

John Murray from Scotland was one of the earliest explorers of the
coastline of Australia.  In 1804 he discovered Port Philip, the
bay on which the city of Melbourne was to be sited.  Then came
Murray convicts, mostly from Ireland the records would

Early Murray settlers were from both Scotland and

  • Alexander Murray from Dumfriesshire was a pioneer
    sheep-breeder in South Australia.  Together with his brother John,
    he founded the famed Murray Merino flocks.  His son George rose to
    be Chief Judge of the state.
  • meanwhile Terence Murray came via
    Ireland and the Army to raise sheep at Yarralumla near Sydney.  He
    later became active in New South Wales politics and married into the
    Anglo-colonial establishment.

New Zealand.  Two Murray
brothers, George and James, left Scotland in 1863 to start a
new life as farmers in New Zealand.  It was said, once in New
Zealand, “that one gave up the porridge and the other the Bible.”
A third son, John, rose to be head of the Bank of New Zealand.

Murray Miscellany

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

Select Murray Names

Andrew Murray of Petty and
Bothwell led the Scots army against the English at the battle of
Stirling Bridge in 1297.  He died of his wounds after the victory.
Donogh O’Murry of the
Roscommon sept in Ireland was the Archbishop of Tuam in the late 15th
Lord George Murray
Tullibardine was the Scottish Jacobite general who fought against the
English in the 1745 campaign.
John Murray from Edinburgh
founded the London publishing house which bore his name in 1768.
It continued under his family for seven generations.
Sir John Murray was a
pioneering Scots-Canadian oceanographer and marine biologist of the
late 19th century.
John Middleton Murry was an
early 20th century man of letters, married to the novelist Katherine
Arthur Murray founded his
Arthur Murray dance studio chain in America.  He had been born
Moses Teichman in Hungary and changed his name during the First World
was a popular singer in Britain during the 1950’s.
She hailed from Belfast.
Bill Murray is a well-known
American comedian and actor, best known for his performances in Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.  He was born in
Chicago of Irish stock.

Select Murrays Today

  • 77,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 67,000 in America (most numerous
    in Florida).
  • 100,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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