Patterson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Patterson Meaning
Scottish Patterson and
Paterson surnames are both patronymics from Pate, a shortened version
of the
first name Patrick. The earlier Gaelic
version had been MacPhadraig
Why the two surnames – Paterson and Patterson? Here is one

to a
story that has come down from the 16th century, the Pattersons all
spelled the
name with one ‘t’ before Queen Elizabeth set about marking those of her
subjects who left the ancient Catholic faith and cast their lot with
the Church
of England. She insisted that all the Protestant Pattersons take to
a second ‘t’ and since that time many have followed that mode of
spelling the name.”

Patterson Resources on

Patterson Ancestry

Scotland. There was said to
been a
on the northern shores of Loch Fyne in
Argyllshire in the 13th century. Patersons
were later linked to the MacLarens in the Highlands, coming in Gaelic
forms such
as MacFater, MacFeat, MacPatrick, and MacPhater.
earliest specific
reference to a Paterson was to Duncan Paterson who was implicated with
MacLarens in the killing of the vicar of Balquhidder in Stirlingshire
in 1532.

By the 16th century a dynasty of Patersons were also landholders
in Fife. Hew Paterson of this line became
a writer in Edinburgh and his son, also Hugh, became the first Baronet
of a
line of Jacobite sympathizers who entertained
Bonnie Prince Charlie
following the battle of Falkirk in early

in Dumfriesshire on the Scottish borders included William Paterson who
was one
of the main proponents of the disastrous Darien colonization scheme in
1690’s. Castle Huntly in Perthshire was acquired by George
Paterson of the
East India Company in 1777 and it remained in his descendants’ hands
until 1946.
is the predominant spelling in Scotland.

The Paterson/Patterson divide was
approximately 85/15 in 1891, with the Patterson spelling generally
along the east coast. There were both the
Patterson and Paterson spellings at Knnettles in Angus. William
left Kinnettles for Australia in 1791 and rose to
be Lieutenant Governor of the colony; while James Paterson, a merchant,
built a mansion house there, now called Kinnettles Castle, in

England. The Patterson line down the east coast
extended into England where the main numbers were in the
northeast, in Northumberland and Durham. The spelling here
could be Pattison or Pattinson.

early record in Northumberland was a Thomas Patterson,
recorded as a doctor of divinity in 1525. Some
of the Pattersons had come south from
Scotland. Peter Patterson, who died in
in 1770, had been born and brought up in Scotland. The
family of Robert Patterson of Croft House in
Alnwick was also of Scottish origin. Son
John Brown Patterson became a Church of Scotland minister in the 1820’s.

During the 19th century there were Pattersons recorded at Seahouses and
Holy Island (Lindisfarne) near Alnwick. James Patterson, born at West Link Hall Cottage
just north of Alnwick, emigrated to Australia in 1852 to seek his
fortune in
the Victorian goldfields. He ended up in
politics and became the Premier of Victoria in 1893.

Scottish Paterson generally became Patterson in Ulster.

the plantation era of the 17th century,
some Pattersons settled in the Coleraine district of county
Derry. Robert Patterson from here set up
a small mill furnishing business in Belfast in 1786, which was the
basis for the
family’s later fortunes. It was also a
springboard for a century of naturalists within the family.

Patterson came to Bush Hills in county Antrim in 1640.
He is believed to have been one of the
survivors of the siege of Londonderry in 1689.
Many of his descendants departed for America in the 1700’s.

In Galway and nearby Clare, some Irish
Cussanes (from the Gaelic O’Caisin) were
said to have adopted the Patterson name
. Johnny
, born in Clare, was a singer and circus
entertainer who toured America in the 1870’s and made a fortune.

America. Most who came to America in the 18th century were
Scots Irish and most were spelt Patterson.

One who wasn’t was William Paterson who arrived as a young boy from
county Antrim and settled in New Jersey. He was the New Jersey
signer of the US Constitution and served as the second Governor of the
state from 1790 to 1793. Paterson in New Jersey was named after

William Patterson who arrived from Donegal in 1766 had a more
adventurous war, being a gun runner for the Continental Army. He
later settled in Baltimore and was the founder of the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad. He was reputed to be the second wealthiest man in

  • his
    daughter Betsy, the belle of Baltimore, married – against her father’s
    wishes – Jerome, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1803 and was
    outcast. However, she outlasted all her other siblings and
    returned and died in Baltimore in 1879 at the age of 94.
  • while
    it was his son George Patterson who took over
    the family estate and plantation at Springfield on William’s death in

Patterson arrived in Pennsylvania from county Antrim around the year
1730. Son William moved to Pattersons
Mills in
Pennsylvania and grandsons Thomas and John were US Congressmen for
and Ohio.

Robert Patterson was born
in 1753 in Bedford county, Pennsylvania, the son of Scots Irish
Francis Patterson. Robert was a
settler on the western frontier, first moving to Kentucky in 1775 and
settling in Dayton, Ohio in 1802 where his family operated a farm and
mill. John Henry Patterson, born in
Dayton in 1844, was the founder of NCR (the National Cash Register
Company). His name is perpetuated in the
Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton.

Another Francis Patterson from
county Tyrone
came to Pennsylvania later, in 1799.
His son Robert and grandson Francis were both
Union generals during the Civil War.

Samuel Patterson meanwhile came from Ireland sometime in the 1750’s and
Martha Ledgerwood in Augusta county, Virginia.
These Pattersons were later planters and local politicians in
county, Virginia and in Salem, North Carolina where they founded a
series of
paper mills. Rufus L. Patterson became
head of American Machine and Foundry, an offshoot of American Tobacco,
and was
in 1935 one of the eight highest-paid executives in the country.

Patterson records in America have been
collated by Norman Patterson in his 1963-67 booklets The
Patterson and Pattison Family Association

Canada. The
settlement of Pictou in Nova Scotia had two prominent Pattersons in its
days, Robert Patterson who came as a surveyor from America in 1767 and
Patterson who arrived on the Hector
with other Scottish migrants in 1773.

Patterson was known as Squire
Patterson to distinguish him from John or Deacon Patterson who was the
venerable settler who presided over the others.”

Robert left no legacy in
Pictou. But John is generally considered
as the father of the town and his sons and grandsons were also
prominent there
(including George Patterson who was the local historian).
Frank Patterson’s 1955 book was John Patterson, the
Founder of Pictou

James Paterson and his
family from Roxburghshire arrived in Ontario in 1820 and settled in
what is now Mississauga. His grandson Hugh
worked as a grain merchant in Oshawa and headed west in 1871 to
Manitoba as that was where the grain came from. His
son Norman, born there in 1893, developed
the vast
grain elevator operation and Great Lakes shipping fleet that became
. It remains
family owned

Australia. Scottish
Patersons have made their mark on Australia – from Colonel William
Paterson who
surveyed the Hunter valley in NSW in 1801 (and after whom the Paterson
river was
named) to Banjo Paterson
who wrote
most popular song, Waltzing Matilda,in

Some of these Patersons became
Pattersons in Australia, such as David Patterson who was an early
arrival in
1829 at the Swan river settlement in Western Australia.
He later was to try his luck in the Ballarat

Patterson Miscellany

The Patersons and Bonnie Prince Charlie.  A celebrated episode of the Paterson family was
during the Jacobite rising of 1745 when Sir Hugh Paterson, the 2nd
Baronet of
Bannockburn entertained Bonnie Prince Charlie in early 1746.  His niece Clementina Walkinshaw became Prince
Charlie’s mistress.  She followed him to
France in 1751 and bore him a daughter Charlotte, styled the Duchess of

Bannockburn House still stands today as it
was when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited it.

The Patersons of Castle Huntly and the Paterson Ghost.  George Paterson, who was born in Dundee and trained in Scotland as a doctor, went out to India in the 1750’s to act as a
secretary for
the East India Company.  There he made
his fortune.  He returned to Scotland a
rich man.  He purchased in 1777 for £40,000
Huntly in Perthshire, which was to stay
with the Paterson family until 1946.

the grounds of Castle Huntly was the famous Wallace Cottage and the
green stone
where William Wallace was said to have rested while fleeing from Dundee
the wars for Scottish independence.

castle left the family after the death of Colonel Adrian Gordon
Paterson when
his widow sold the castle to the Government.
The Government also apparently acquired a ghost.
This ghost was a young boy dressed in a
double-breasted sailing jacket. It was thought to have been the son of
Adrian Gordon Paterson. The Colonel’s only son Richard had drowned in
1939 in a
yachting accident on the Tay river.

William Patterson from Kinnettles.  William
Patterson, born in 1755, was a gardener’s son
but one who had the good fortune to receive the patronage of Lady Alary
Lyon of
Glamis, by whom he was educated.  He
retained an interest in plants which encouraged him to go overseas and,
abroad, he would frequently send plant specimens to that eminent
botanist Sir
Joseph Banks.

He joined the NSW Corp in
Australia in 1791 and rose to be Colonel of the 102nd Regiment and
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales.

Unfortunately the latter period of his life
was characterized by alcoholism and ill-health.
In 1810 he attempted to return to Scotland, but died on the Dromedary as it was rounding Cape Horn.  A
cenotaph, with a suitable inscription
containing an account of his services and abilities, was afterwards
erected in
Kinnettles churchyard.

Pattersons along the UK East Coast.  The table below shows the line of Patterson numbers in the 1881 census along the east coast – running from
Angus in Scotland to Yorkshire in England.

Scotland (000’s) England (000’s)
Angus   0.4 Northumberland   1.8
Roxburghshire   0.3 Durham   1.4
Berwickshire   0.3 Yorkshire   0.5

Francis Patterson in County Tyrone.  Francis
Patterson of county Tyrone had like other Scots Presbyterians been
attracted to the radical politics of the Society of the United Irishmen.  He was thus  united with his fellow
in the Rising of 1798 – a bloody but failed revolt which attempted to
found an
Irish republic but which was ruthlessly crushed after three
outbreaks in Leinster Ulster and Connacht in the summer of that year.

While not
captured, Francis Patterson obviously was known to be a participant and
had a
price on his head.  What to do?   He had to get out of Ireland before the
sheriff arrived, which is exactly what hes did
He took with him his wife Ann  and
their son Robert, later to become a famous US general.

The Irish network looked
after him well in America and he was able to find a home in
Pennsylvania and
engage in the cotton brokerage business.

George Patterson and His Sorrow.  By
the time William Patterson died in 1835, George
had already taken over at Springfield and would run the huge
dependent on the labor of some 40 slaves, for some 35 years. A letter
years later describes his plantation as “one of the finest in the state
of some
twenty-six hundred acres.”

A born farmer, he was described as one of the
first agriculturists in the country.  But
he had never been an outwardly friendly man and in his later years he
was even
less so, walking his vast estate with two large dogs and seldom
speaking with
anyone.  “Of strict probity, he was yet
brusque in speech, dictatorial in manner, and cared not a whit for the
pomp of

married just after his
father died.  He was over 40 at the time
Prudence Brown was not his first choice.
Prudence was 21 years younger than the man she married and a
member of a
prominent local family.

Their son George was born
in 1844.  He was the pride and joy of his
father, “the
companion of his father from the time he could speak and walk.”  But he only lived five years, three months,
and 12 days, before dying of a long unidentified illness four days
short of

the father never got over his grief.  Patterson
lived another twenty years with his
wife, his daughter, and the memory of his son, and died in November 1869. 

Johnny Patterson, Singer and Entertainer.  Johnny
Patterson worked with a number of circuses in
Ireland before crossing to England. where he performed with Pablo
Fanque, the
black English circus proprietor, who saw his real talent.  John Nee, an Irish actor who portrayed
Patterson in a 2010 stage production about his life, said:

“His talent for singing, clowning, and
engaging with an audience was immense.  He
was talent-spotted by Pablo Fanque who the Beatles sing about in ‘Mr Kite.’  He was a famous black Yorkshire showman.  He
saw Johnny in Cork, loved him, and brought
him to England.”

In Liverpool he met and
married a circus bareback rider, Selena Hickey.  Around
this time he composed the song The
Garden Where the Praties Grow.
fame grew until he was offered a contract in America in 1876. In the United States he became one of most
famous and highest paid entertainers at the time.

political opinions expressed in a song (he
wanted Protestants and Catholics to live together peacefully) caused a
fight at
one performance.  Patterson was hit on the head by an iron bar and
was kicked.
He died from his injuries at Tralee in county Kerry in 1889.  He was 49.

1985 the Irish Circus Fans Association paid
for a memorial to be placed in Tralee graveyard to commemorate his

Banjo Paterson.  The man who wrote Australia’s most popular song, Waltzing
Banjo Paterson grew up
on his family’s property beyond Yass, NSW and drew a lifelong
inspiration from
the Australian bush and its characters.
In 1895 his collection of ballads, The
Man from Snowy River
, was published.
It became an immediate hit. Waltzing
appeared soon

Banjo served as a war correspondent during the Boer War in
Africa and later in China.  He came to
Europe on the outbreak of war in 1914 and drove ambulances for the
Voluntary Hospital. Experienced with
horses, he later commanded the Australian Remount Squadron in the

He eventually returned to Australia and to journalism and
writing there.
He was a national celebrity until his death in 1941. Throughout his
life he was
a living part of the legend of the Australian horseman, bushman, and
soldier of
whom he wrote so fondly.


Patterson Names

  • William Paterson was a founder of the Bank of England, but was also remembered as the architect of
    the disastrous Darien colonization scheme. 
  • William Paterson was a signer of the US Constitution who served as the second Governor of New Jersey in 1790. 
  • Banjo Paterson wrote Australia’s most popular song, Waltzing Matilda.  
  • Russell Patterson was a celebrated art deco designer of the 1920’s and 1930’s which promoted the style known as the flapper.
  • Floyd Patterson became heavyweight champion
    of the world in 1956
  • PJ Patterson was Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1992 to 2006.

Select Patterson Numbers Today

  • 51,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Northern Ireland)
  • 77,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 35,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply