Ogilvie Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Ogilvie Surname Meaning

Ogilvie is a place-name near Glamis in the former county of Angus on the east coast of Scotland. It was first recorded around the year.1205 in the form of Ogilvin. The name is thought to have derived from a Celtic word ugl meaning “high” and ma “place.”  

The resulting surname has generally been Ogilvie, although the first Ogilvies who took the name and a few others have continued to style themselves OgilvyBy the time of the 1891 census 53% of Ogilvies in Scotland were still in Angus. They had spread elsewhere in Scotland. But larger numbers had moved overseas.

Ogilvie Surname Resources on The Internet

Ogilvie and Ogilvy Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Angus)
  • to England, America, Caribs (Antigua and Jamaica), Canada, Australia and New Zealand

ScotlandIn Pictish times Angus was ruled by a mormaer who was one of the ancient Celtic nobles of Scotland who became the first earls. The Mormaer of Angus title became the Earl of Angus and Gillebride, Earl of Angus, gave the Ogilvie lands to his son, Gilbert, around 1172. He assumed the surname of Ogilvy.

Ogilvy.  Patrick de Ogilvy appeared on the Ragman Rolls swearing fealty to King Edward I in 1296. But his two sons both supported Robert the Bruce in the Wars of Independence. Sir Walter Ogilvy was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425 and his grandson James named Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491. These Ogilvies adhered loyalty to the Stuart cause throughout the troubled times from 1640 to 1745, from the English Civil War to Culloden. Lord and Lady Ogilvy escaped to France after Culloden, but were later pardoned.

Today the principal Ogilvy seat in Angus is at Cortachy. They still hold Airlie castle which was rebuilt as a mansion in 1793 after the Campbells had destroyed the castle in 1640.

Ogilvie.  Cadet branches of the Ogilvys, who styled themselves Ogilvie, became the Earls of Findlater in 1638 and Seafield in 1701. Patrick Ogilvie, born in 1623, was the first of the Ogilvies of Auchiries near Aberdeen.  They were Jacobite supporters during the 1745 Rising.  Subsequently Charles Ogilvie departed for South Carolina where he prospered as a merchant.

There were other Ogilvie lines in and around Angus and other Ogilvie personages:

  • John Ogilvie, born in 1579, was the son of a wealthy laird at Keith in nearby Banffshire. He became a Catholic priest, but was captured, tortured and hanged in 1615. John Ogilvie was canonized by the Catholic church in 1976.
  • and William Ogilvie of Pittensear, who claimed descent from the Pict Gillebride, was known as the rebel professor. He was author of the influential treatise An Essay on the Right of Property in Land that was published in 1781.

One Ogilvie family established itself on the Scottish borders in the 18th century where they managed estates for the country gentry there. They made their own home at Holefield near Kelso in Roxburghshire. Will Ogilvie of this family departed for Australia in 1889 and spent twelve years in the Australian outback where his prose and poetry written there captivated an audience back home.

England.  Ogilvies in England were generally transplanted Scotsmen, the best-known being David Ogilvy, the advertising guru, who was born near London in 1911.

His father Francis had been a Gaelic-speaking Scotsman who was both a classics scholar and a stockbroker. His family had originally come from Edinburgh, moved to Inverness, while Francis himself had been born in Argentina where his father had temporarily settled.

America.  The Ogilvie numbers that emigrated to America have not been that large.

An early Ogilvie was the Rev. John Ogilvie, born in New York in 1724, and the son of a British army officer there. William Ogilvie came to New York from Scotland in 1745. A descendant was Judge Peter Ogilvie, a general in the War of 1812. A later descendant was the Hudson river painter Clinton Ogilvie.

After the Culloden defeat in 1745 Charles Ogilvie from the Auchiries line migrated to South Carolina where he was a member of the Charleston firm of Ogilvie & Ward which exported rice to Europe. He also ran his own plantation at Myrtle Grove. He was a Loyalist who departed Charleston after the defeat in 1783 (although his children did return to settle).

Caribbean. Several Ogilvies established themselves in the Caribbean in the late 18th century, including Sir John Ogilvie of Inverquharity who owned plantations in Antigua. His son Adam was foully murdered there in 1799.

It was said that two Ogilvie brothers travelled to the Caribbean from Scotland, one settling in Jamaica and the other in Grenada. George Ogilvie, who died in 1791, did own a sugar plantation called Langley’s in Jamaica. Another George Ogilvie was born in Grenada in 1806 and there are Ogilvie descendants there.

George Robertson Ogilvie settled in Falmouth, Jamaica some time in the early/mid 19th century; and Daniel Ogilvie wrote a history of Trelawny parish, Falmouth in 1954.  Meanwhile Dr. James Ogilvie was mayor of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1870’s.

Canada.  Alexander Ogilvie came to the Montreal area from Stirling in Scotland in 1800 and soon built for himself a small grist mill. That enterprise – which was passed onto his sons Alexander, John and William – marked the start of his family’s long association with the Canadian milling industry.

By the 1870’s they were dominating the grain milling business of the newly-developed Canadian prairies. The dynasty ended with the death of two of the brothers in 1900 and 1902. The 1904 book The Ogilvies of Montreal by John Gemmill narrated their family story.

A later Montreal arrival, James Ogilvy from Angus, started a small dry goods store there in 1866. The store thrived and stayed in family hands until 1927. It remains today in Montreal as La Maison Ogilvy. William Ogilvie, the son of Scots Irish immigrants, was an important figure in the Canadian West, being at various times between 1870 and 1900 land surveyor, explorer, and commissioner of the Yukon territory.

Australia.  David Ogilvy – born in Edinburgh, a budding lawyer, and an acquaintance of Sir Walter Scott – emigrated to Australia in 1839 and settled at South Yarra near Melbourne where he practiced as a lawyer. He called his home Airlie and grew grapes there.

Yulgibar castle in the Clarence valley in NSW was built by Edward Ogilvie, a cattle grazier who had established his ranch there in 1840. It took Ogilvie and his German builders six years to build this grandiose 40-room structure. At the time it was completed the station had its own vineyard, stables, school house, and gateway cottage. Edward lived in the castle until his death in 1896. He was the son of William Ogilvie who had arrived in Sydney from London in 1825.

New Zealand.  Charles and Edith Ogilvie came to New Zealand via Australia in 1914. Their family history, plus the earlier history of the Ogilvies, was put together by a descendant Gordon Ogilvie in his 2002 book Picts and Porridge.

Ogilvie Surname Miscellany

The Ogilvys During the Civil War.  Sir Thomas Ogilvy raised his own regiment to fight for the Royalists, but he was killed at the Battle of Interlochy in 1645.  His eldest son Lord Ogilvy fought at the Battle of Philiphaugh in the same year when the Royalists were surprised by a strong force of Covenanter cavalry.

Ogilvy was captured and was awaiting execution at St. Andrew’s Castle when his sister visited him and managed to exchange clothes with him. He passed out of the castle unnoticed by the guards.  Ogilvy lived to see the Restoration. 

The Ogilvys After Culloden.  Young David Lord Ogilvy, just twenty, joined the standard of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Edinburgh in 1745 at the head of a regiment of six hundred men, mostly of his own clan and name.   After the defeat at Culloden, he effected his escape to France. There he rose to the rank of lieutenant-general and had the command of a regiment called “Ogilvy’s own.”

Meanwhile, after Culloden, Margaret Lady Ogilvy was lying a prisoner under sentence of death in the castle of Edinburgh. Fortunately she was not so strictly and closely confined in her prison cell.  Many of her friends and acquaintances were allowed to visit her in prison.

An ugly deformed old woman, with an ungainly hitch in her walk, also came to the prison once or twice a week to clean her linen.  Lady Ogilvy kept practicing her step until she became quite proficient in it. She then communicated to her friends her design of using it and the poor old woman’s clothes to effect her escape.   One evening, taking up here basket, she assumed the old washerwoman’s limping gait and walked past the sentinel on guard and escaped the castle precincts.  And she, like young David Ogilvy, escaped to France.

The Rev. John Ogilvie of New York.  The son of a British army officer from Scotland, John Ogilvie was born in New York City in 1724.  He graduated from Yale University in 1748 and was ordained in London in 1749.

He served as rector at St. Peter’s Anglican church in Albany from 1749 to 1760.  This period coincided with the Seven Years War against the French, during which time he served as chaplain to the British army. His Albany home was a gathering place for English speakers while he instructed more than a hundred Dutch-speaking local children.  He kept a diary of that time and also some poetry which have been handed down.

For the next few years he served as a missionary to the Mohawk Indians at Fort Hunter and at Niagara in Canada.  In 1764 he was named rector of Trinity church in New York City.  He died there in 1774 and was buried in the family vault in Trinity churchyard.

David Ogilvy in South Yarra.  David and Elizabeth Ogilvy and their family attended their local Presbyterian church in South Yarra, Victoria every Sunday.  It was a custom that David never used his carriage and coachman on a Sunday, saying it was a day of rest.  So the family would walk down Punt Hill to the Yarra river to take a punt across.  If going to church, the punt man was not permitted to charge passengers, but David insisted on paying.

David Ogilvy was a much respected member of the community.  He died in 1871 and there is a plaque in the church which reads:

“To the memories of David Ogilvy esquire, an old colonist, eminent for his natural gifts and spiritual graces; revered by all relations of life, a husband and father, wise, tender and affectionate, as a lawyer, as a citizen, foremost in every good work, as an elder of this congregation and of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, distinguished by scrupulous attention to every duty, by prayerfulness and self=denial, by humility and meekness, by a ready and generous liberality, by zeal for the glory of god, by compassion for the souls of men.  To him, to live was Christ, to die was again.”

Reader Feedback – George Ogilvie in Jamaica.  I have been researching the family of a George Ogilvie who owned the Langley Plantation in Jamaica.  This man who owned the plantation and a house in Angus called Langley House married Barbara Dundas in 1785 and then died in 1791 leaving his fortune to his fourteen year-old niece.  Quite a long and intriguing story that I have been digging into for the last few years.

Chris Hicks (chrishicksbookbinder@btinternet.com)

Reader Feedback – George Robertson Ogilvie in Jamaica.  I was shocked to see the mention of my great great grandfather, George Robertson Ogilvie.   My cousin and I have had a difficult time trying to find supporting evidence that George Robertson Ogilvie was born in Scotland or Jamaica.

Our family story was there were three brothers who left Scotland for Jamaica, Grenada and Canada.  The earliest information we have is George Robertson Ogilvie and his wife, Catherine Campbell died in Trelawny, Jamaica in 1859.

We have searched high and low for information pertaining to when George Robertson Ogilvie was born, the location of his birth, and who his parents were and his siblings.  Also, we have had the same difficulty with his wife, Catherine Campbell.  When she was born, the location of her birth and who her parents were.

If you can provide me with any information about George Robertson Ogilvie it would be greatly appreciated.

Yvonne Ogilvie (yvonneogilvie@ymail.com)

Reader Feedback – William Ogilvie in Jamaica.  I am trying to find information about my great great grandfather, William Ogilvie. I understand he was Scottish but moved to Jamaica.  Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Junior Walters (mrjmw@hotmail.com).

Reader Feedback – Louisa Ogilvie in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica.  I am trying to find out more information about my great-great grandmother Louisa Ogilvie. She was married to my grandfather John H McFarlane and likely they lived in Trelawny for some time, as that is where my great grandfather, John Hugh Montrose McFarlane was born and passed away.

Born:11 Oct 1875 Falmouth, Jamaica.  Died: 16 Dec 1926, Sharpe Street, Falmouth, Trelawny, Jamaica.

Alexandra Yallop (aliellowork@gmail.com).

William Ogilvie in the Yukon.  William Ogilvie first came to the Yukon in 1887, leading a small team to survey Canada’s border with Alaska.  Buzz about possible gold in the Yukon began to build and eventually Ogilvie recommended that Ottawa step up its presence there.  In 1895 twenty policemen were stationed at Forty Mile and Ogilvie returned to the Yukon to continue surveying the Alaska border.

When the Klondike Gold Rush broke out in 1896, prospectors descended on the Bonanza and Eldorado creeks in a chaotic scramble for gold. They measured out and marked their own claims through the thick bush – an inevitably hasty and haphazard process – and soon the boundaries of the Klondike claims were a complete mess.   It was up to William Ogilvie to set things straight.

When Ogilvie surveyed the claims, he found an overwhelming number – roughly three quarters – inaccurately marked.  The stakes and the tensions were high.  With such rich deposits below, fortunes were to be gained and lost as Ogilvie went about straightening the boundaries of the claims.  Pros­pectors and miners trust­ed Ogilvie, a res­pect­ed official known for his fastidious work as well as for his honesty and impartiality, which al­lowed a surprising level of calm and order to reign over the gold fields.

Ogilvie may not have made a mint.  But he played a vital role in the Klondike before, during and after the gold rush. He installed law and order in the gold fields, surveyed the jumbled town-site of Dawson City, and from 1898 to 1901 was commissioner of Yukon. 

John Ogilvie’s Canonization in 1976.  John Ogilvie’s canonization in Rome in 1976 made him the first Scottish saint since Queen Margaret of Scotland in 1250.  He had been beatified and given the title of Blessed in 1929. The campaign to have him raised to the sainthood was successful after the recovery from cancer of a 63-year-old Glasgow docker, John Fagan, in 1967 was declared a miracle and attributed to John Ogilvie.

Given only a short time to live, he was unable to eat because of stomach cancer and his weight dropped to five stones. Then one morning he woke and startled his wife by saying: “I’m hungry.”  To the astonishment of his doctors, Mr. Fagan went on to make a full recovery and was present at the canonization at the Vatican.

John Fagan’s parish in Glasgow was named after John Ogilvie and the Catholic school in the Burnbank area of Hamilton in south Lanarkshire was named the John Ogilvie High School.

Ogilvie Names

  • Sir Walter Ogilvy was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425.
  • Alexander Ogilvie was the founder of the Ogilvie grain milling empire in Canada in the 19th century.
  • David Ogilvy was the advertising executive, the head of Ogilvy & Mather, who has been widely hailed as the father of advertising.

Ogilvie Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Angus)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Ogilvie 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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