Ritchie Genealogy

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

Ritchie Ancestry

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
here were:

  • Michael
    Rechy recorded in Inverness in 1350
  • Duncan
    Richie, a King’s messenger in Perth
    in 1505
  • and
    Duncan Riche, the King’s sheriff at Inverness in 1512.

(and MacRitchies)
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
father had
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
of the
firm of William Ritchie & Son of London and Dundee, jute spinners
and East
India merchants.  Two of his sons did
well in politics:

  • Charles
    Ritchie as the
    British Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1902-3
  • and
    James Ritchie as the Lord
    Mayor of London in 1903-4. 

Ireland.  Ritchies from Scotland came
to Ireland,
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
, also from county Down (he had been a land steward at
migrated to Belfast as well and was involved, like Francis, in the
building of
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
early time. 

Virginia.  Alexander
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. 

Ritchie House,
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
was the
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
years –
from 1920 to 1935.

Elsewhere.  John Richey
and his family came to South Carolina in 1772 as part of the Rev.
Martin’s five
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. 

Some Scottish
Ritchies came to Kentucky:

  • John Ritchie
    was an early
    arrival in
    the 1770’s in eastern Kentucky when it was still part of Virginia.  He died in 1814 in what was then Nelson
  • a
    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
    in 2015.

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

CanadaJohn 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
1790 almost
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

“Ritchie had in his
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
left for
New Zealand in 1863.  Locating himself on
Chatham Island, some 400 miles off the coast of South Island, he leased
land from
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.

Ritchie Miscellany

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

Ritchie Names

a founder of The
newspaper in 1816.
Thomas Ritchie
a prominent American newspaper
journalist in the first half of the 19th century.  His
set the standard for southern journalism at that time.
was a distinguished Scottish philosopher of the late 19th
 was the
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
an English filmmaker noted for his
crime films.  He was married for eight
years to the American singer Madonna

Select Ritchies Today

  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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