Ritchie Surname Meaning, History & Origin
surname Ritchie, coming principally from Scotland, is
a diminutive of Richard, a Germanic name brought across by the Normans
from ric meaning “power” and hard meaning
“strong” or “hardy”).
and Richey are the main surname spellings today.
The Richey variant came from Ireland.
Ritchie Resources on
Scotland. Ritchies were to be
found, according to a late 19th
century distribution of the surname, mainly along Scotland’s East Coast
– from Inverness
in the north to the Border counties in the south. History
divides these Ritchies into two parts
– Highland and Lowland Ritchies.
Highland. Early examples of the name
Rechy recorded in Inverness in 1350
Richie, a King’s messenger in Perth
Duncan Riche, the King’s sheriff at Inverness in 1512.
were thought to have been have been a sept of the Inverness-based
clan. Many of them settled along the
coast north of Aberdeen and were fishermen there. This
was true of one Ritchie family that has
been traced back to the 1720’s in
Pitsligo parish in Aberdeenshire.
Lowland. Lowland Ritchies came later. One early Ritchie line in Fife began with
William Ritchie who was born in Weymss in 1721.
His descendants generally remained in Fife during the 18th and
centuries. John and William Ritchie were
born in 1778 and 1781 respectively in Lundin Mill, Fife where their
a flax dressing business. They went on
to found The Scotsman newspaper in
Edinburgh in 1816.
A Ritchie family has been established at Dundee since the
1700’s and possibly earlier. William
Ritchie was a notable landowner there in the early 1800’s and the head
firm of William Ritchie & Son of London and Dundee, jute spinners
India merchants. Two of his sons did
well in politics:
Ritchie as the
British Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1902-3
James Ritchie as the Lord
Mayor of London in 1903-4.
Ireland. Ritchies from Scotland came
principally to Ulster. Often their
name transformed to Richey.
Many were to be found in county Down. An
early family was listed as Richy at Drumbo. One
Ritchie family was said to have arrived
in the 1640’s. Francis Ritchie, a
descendant, came to Belfast in 1830 and, as an industrialist, engineer,
speculator was influential in the development of east Belfast. James
Ritchie, also from county Down (he had been a land steward at
migrated to Belfast as well and was involved, like Francis, in the
the Queen’s Bridge.
But the most famous
Ritchie in Belfast was William Ritchie, a shipbuilder from Ayrshire who
come in 1791 and started his shipyard at Belfast Lough.
His two brothers Hugh and John followed him
there. William has been called “the
father of Belfast shipbuilding.”
Ritchies and Richeys began emigrating in the 18th century to America
in the 19th in addition to Canada and elsewhere.
America. America had both Ritchies and Richeys from an
had left Ireland in 1727 with his brother-in-law John Caldwell. He landed first in Delaware and then moved to
Pennsylvania for a while. After John
Caldwell had successfully petitioned the Governor of Virginia for land
Scots-Irish families, he made his home in Amelia county, Virginia. Later Richeys migrated to Abbeville, South
Carolina in 1784.
built in Virginia around 1760 and preserved today, was the home of
Ritchie, a prominent Scottish tobacco merchant of the Tidewater area. He died in 1784 when his son Thomas was just
six years old.
Ritchie, editor of the Richmond Enquirer from
1804 to 1845, would become a leading southern journalist of his day.
and aristocratic and
always dressed in the silk stockings and low shoes of the old style, he
manager of most Richmond’s public balls and the leader of Richmond’s
prestigious social functions.”
Other Ritchies had come to Virginia by the time
of the American Revolution. Sizeable
Ritchie numbers from Virginia fought on the patriot side in the
Maryland. William Ritchie,
Scots born, came to Maryland and married Mary Middaghin 1751. Their home in Frederick, Maryland was built
around this time. The first Albert
Ritchie of the line, their grandson, was born in 1803.
He was a notable physician of the town. The
family line extended to a much later
Albert Ritchie who was Governor of Maryland for no less than fifteen
from 1920 to 1935.
Elsewhere. John Richey
and his family came to South Carolina in 1772 as part of the Rev.
shiploads of 1,200 immigrants from Ireland.
The Richeys had been impoverished tenant farmers in Antrim and
received land grants on Reyburns Creek in Laurens county.
Later Richeys of this family migrated to
Alabama and Arizona.
Ritchies came to Kentucky:
- John Ritchie
was an early
the 1770’s in eastern Kentucky when it was still part of Virginia. He died in 1814 in what was then Nelson
later arrival was James
Ritchie, also from Virginia, who brought his family to Knox
county in 1813.
Five years later he drowned while crossing Carrs Creek when it
swollen and his family, bar one son, returned to Virginia.
This son Alexander lived to be a hundred (dying in 1878) and was the
forebear of the folk singing Ritchies of Perry county, Kentucky.
Their most famous singer was Jean Ritchie who was born in 1922 and died
20th century, the largest numbers of Ritchies/Richeys were in Texas. Montgomery Ritchie from Boston had
died of his injuries during the Civil War. His
son Jack, an international sportsman, worked for a time at the JA Ranch
the Texas Panhandle. His grandson Monte
took over the management of this ranch in the 1930’s. The Richeys
of tennis fame meanwhile came from Dallas, Texas.
Canada. John Ritchie had come from Edinburgh via Boston
to Annapolis in Nova Scotia in 1774.
There he worked with his uncle Andrew in supplying goods to
forces during the Revolutionary War.
After the war John’s shipping business suffered and he died in
destitute at the young age of 45.
However, his young
family thrived and went on to produce many men of eminence in the legal
profession. One grandson – William
Johnstone Ritchie – became Chief Justice of Canada in 1879.
Australia and New Zealand.
Thomas Ritchie from Perthshire in Scotland was a ship-owner and
who began trading to Australia around 1820. But
he ran into difficulties with the colonial authorities for the book he
possession a book found
to contain in manuscript all of what were considered the best satirical
of the day written for the amusement of the better educated colonists.”
Despite this trouble, he did manage to leave to his descendants
sizeable land holdings in northern Tasmania and a flour mill there at
near Perth. His son David expanded Scone
Mill into one of the leading mills in Tasmania. The
mill continued under the Ritchies until 1973.
Another Thomas Ritchie,
this time from county Down in Ireland, had been lured to New Zealand by
older cousin’s stories. He sold his
horse for £25, pocketed the gift of a further £50 from his father, and
New Zealand in 1863. Locating himself on
Chatham Island, some 400 miles off the coast of South Island, he leased
local Maoris and began the first sheep run there. He
and his brother Robert eventually ran some
16,000 sheep on 55,000 acres of land there.
All told, he lived on the Chathams for close on sixty years.
Ritchies and Richeys Today. The table below shows the approximate numbers today.
Ritchies came mostly from Scotland. The Richey origin, according to old passenger ship records, was mainly from Ireland.
William Rirchie of Pitsligo Parish in Aberdeenshire. William Ritchie
was born at Rosehearty in Pitsligo parish near Peterhead
in Aberdeenshire around the year 1806.
He was the son of George and Mary Ritchie.
He was a fisherman by trade. He
married Janet Galt in Pitsligo in 1834.
was listed as head of household at Rosehearty in the 1851 census. Those recorded in the household were: William
Ritchie, head; Janet Ritchie, wife; William Ritchie, son; George
James Ritchie, son; Mary Ritchie, daughter; Margaret Ritchie, daughter;
Christian Ritchie, daughter.
died soon after. William remarried
Catherine McLeman in
Pitsligo in 1854. But William himself
died two years later.
Ritchie House in Tappahannock, Virginia. Ritchie House, built around 1760 and preserved today, was the home of Archibald Ritchie, a leading
merchant of the Virginia Tidewater area at that time.
The economy then ran on tobacco, most of
which was grown by slaves.
was a British Loyalist and supporter of the
Stamp Act, labelled by patriots as “the
greatest enemy of his
country.” In early 1766 men from
nine Virginia counties gathered at Leedstown to draft the resolutions
Virginians to disobey Parliament. They also made plans to publicly
saw which way the wind was blowing and changed
tack. He would soon become a staunch
patriot himself and a member of the Association of Essex County that
the boycotting of all trade with England after 1774.
His son Thomas Ritchie, editor of the Richmond
Enquirer, would become a
leading journalist of his day.
John Ritchie a Kentucky Pioneer. John Ritchie
had with some other Kentucky pioneers put together a
flotilla of five boats and started down the Ohio and Salt rivers, past
where Louisville now stands and into a wilderness area which they
about three miles and then built a fort, known as Linn’s Fort, on the
brow of a
John built an early whiskey distillery there. His
home, a two room log house built
around 1778, is still standing with the marking “JR 1789” on a rock in
Sometime later John Ritchie
and his companion John Gilkey were out travelling in Kentucky when they
a buffalo coming toward them. Ritchie
fired and killed the buffalo.
juncture three Indians jumped out of the thicket and shot at the white
arrows, at the same time running towards them with uplifted tomahawks. Gilkey who was armed with a good gun, kept
them at bay while Ritchie ran for his life. Then Gilkey who was very
foot would run until he overtook Ritchie.
This mode of procedure was continued until the fort was reached
Indians disappeared and were seen no more.
The creek where Gilkey and Ritchie
started on the race for their lives was called Ritchie’s Run and is
by that name to this day. The
stream where they killed the buffalo was called Bull Run and it flows
the direction of New Haven, emptying into the Beech Fork at Buckman’s
James Ritchie and His Two Sons in Belfast. James Ritchie had been a land steward at the Maxwell estate at Finnebrogue in county Down when he resigned the
position in the
1850’s to go to Belfast. There he was
involved in the building of the Queens Bridge at Belfast and the
Viaduct at Chushendall. He had two
by his first wife, by that time dead.
eldest son James was engaged to be married to his second cousin Agnes
Ritchie. A week before the wedding, when
the ball, James burst a blood vessel which caused his death.
Agnes, though much sought
after, never married.
second son Thomas was threatened with consumption
after serving his time with Henry Black, a great grocer in Warren
doctors ordered him to travel. So he
went to Mauritius where he started a business, Greer Ritchie and Co. His health failed again and then he went to
New Zealand. After a time his health
improved and he went home.
returning to England, Thomas joined the recruits
going to fight Garibaldi in Italy. He was at the battle taking Salerno
made an ensign. As soon as his father could get into communication with
Office, orders were given for him to come home. He came home through
wearing his uniform and received great praise in England. But when he
home in Belfast, his father was so angry that he would not speak to him. So having no money, Thomas went to live with
The Richeys and Tennis. Richard Williams coached his two daughters Venus and Serena in Compton, California in the 1990’s until they both became world-beaters.
the Williams sisters there were the Richeys of Dallas – George, his
and their children Cliff and Nancy.
and Betty would travel almost
everywhere in this country to see their children play.
Although George Richey was a tough little
man, he was afraid of airplanes and had never been in
one. So the Richeys toured the country
in their 1959 Cadillac, carting the kids from tournament to tournament. In the summer they would take their vacation
from the swank Brook Hollow Golf Club where Richey was the tennis pro. “I guess we never had a real
vacation,” Betty Richey said.
“I mean, everywhere we go there is tennis, a tournament or
for Cliff and Nancy there was practice, practice,
practice. It paid off.
were the first brother and sister combination to both be concurrently
the USA Top Ten. They
ranked in the Top Three concurrently in 1965, 1967, 1969 and 1970. Cliff was a member of the US team that won
the 1970 Davis Cup, winning both his singles matches in the final and
voted its most valuable player. Nancy
won two Grand Slam singles
and four Grand Slam doubles titles.
- William Ritchie was a founder of The
Scotsman newspaper in 1816.
- Thomas Ritchie was
a prominent American newspaper
journalist in the first half of the 19th century. His
Richmond Enquirer set the standard for southern journalism at that time.
- David Ritchie was a distinguished Scottish philosopher of the late 19th century.
- Albert Ritchie was the long-serving
Governor of Maryland – from 1920 to 1935.
- Jean Ritchie was a well-known Appalachian folk singer from
- Cliff and Nancy Richey, brother and sister, were top
US tennis players in the late 1960’s.
- Guy Ritchie is an English filmmaker noted for his
crime films. He was married for eight
years to the American singer Madonna.
Select Ritchie Numbers Today
- 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
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