Ross Surname Genealogy

Ross is a Scottish Highland clan name and also describes
the territory in NW Scotland that was once called Ross-shire and is now
and Cromarty. The name is thought to have come either from the
word ros, meaning “headland” or “promontory,” or
(less likely) from the Norse word hross or “horse.”
The Ross
name could have different roots outside of the Highlands:

  • from an Anglo-Norman de Ros family which
    settled in Ayrshire
  • from the Welsh rhos, meaning “moor” or
  • or from the Middle English rous or

Ross in Ireland may denote the O’Donoghue Mor sept
who built Ross castle in county Kerry in the late 1400’s.
And there were some Rosses from Ross-in-Wye
in England. However, in all of these cases the Ross numbers were
not that

Ross Resources on

Scotland. Easter Ross in Ross-shire emerged as the stronghold
for the Earls of
Ross and clan Ross
in the 12th century. The first Earl
of Ross may have been Malcolm MacAedth around 1155. The first
recognizable clan chief was Fearchar who supported the
Scottish king in 1214 in dealing with rebellions in Ross-shire.

The title of the Earl of Ross and Ross clan leadership went
together until clan leadership passed to the Ross lairds of
Balnagowan in 1372. They adopted the Ross surname but they were
no longer the Earls of Ross.
From their base at Balnagowan castle
(now the
home of former Harrod’s boss Mohammed Al-Fayed), they
did hold onto the Ross clan leadership for more than three
years. Feuds
with the neighboring MacKay and
Sutherland clans were to characterize much of that time.

Ross, the 12th Laird of Balnagowan,
incurred a heavy debt when he raised a regiment of clansmen in support
Charles II. It all ended in
disaster. He took
a thousand clansmen to fight with him at the Battle of
Worcester in 1651. After the defeat he was
taken prisoner and
died in the Tower of London, while many of the surviving clansmen were
transported to the colonies.

The next
Laird died childless and even further in debt and the
estate had to be sold:

  • first to the Ross family of Hawkhead, an unrelated Norman de
    Ros family from Renfrewshire in the Scottish Lowlands
  • and then in 1745 to the
    Lockhart family of Carstairs in Lanarkshire who adopted the name of
    Lockhart-Ross. These Lockhart-Rosses
    became noted for their eccentricities. The line lasted until 1942.

The Highland defeat at Culloden in
1746, followed by the clearances, really marked the end of the Highland
way of
life for the Rosses of Ross-shire. Malcolm
Ross led the protests in
1792 when sheep were first introduced into the Ross lands.
Atrocities began with the clearances at Glencalvie in 1845.

“In 1845 Ann Ross was
forty. She was beaten up while she laid
on the ground at Strathcarron. She was
later charged with ‘mobbing and rioting, breach of the peace, and
assault on
officers.’ She was sentenced to twelve

The atrocities culminated
in the slaughter of Ross women, the massacre of Rosses, at
Strathcarron in 1854. Then
were the
Ross-shire sheep riots in 1872.

The Highlands still accounted for over half of
the Rosses in Scotland in the 1891 census. But the 18th and 19th
centuries had
witnessed a Ross and Highland dispersal – south to lowland Scotland
to England,
and more overseas.

America. The
Rosses of Philadelphia were unlikely Revolutionary heroes, but became
so. The Rev. George Ross, the Anglican
who had come to New Castle in Delaware in 1705, was the son of
Blair, the Laird of Balbair in Ross-shire:

  • his son George Ross was Tory for much of
    his life. However, disgusted with British intransigence, he changed
    his views and was one of the last
    signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
  • while his
    granddaughter-in-law Betsy Ross is widely
    credited with having made the first American flag, supposedly at the
    request of
    George Washington.

Another patriot at this time was John
Ross of Tain in Ross-shire who had come to Philadelphia as a merchant
in 1763
and later espoused and helped finance the American cause.
George Washington and other leading
personalities of the time came to dine at his home at Grange Farm

A notable John Ross of the next generation was Chief of the
Cherokee Nation from 1828 to 1860. He
was in fact only one-eighth Cherokee, being the son of a part-Cherokee
and a Scottish father, Daniel Ross, who had come to
Cherokee country in
1780’s from Baltimore to trade.

More recently, Ross in America can be a Jewish adopted

  • Barney Ross, from New York Jewish roots, was
    world boxing champion at
    various weights in the 1930’s
  • while Steve Ross, the CEO of Time Warner,
    also came
    from a New York Jewish family; and Stephen Ross, the real estate
    developer and
    owner of the Miami Dolphins, was born into a Jewish family in Detroit.

Ross, born in Morayshire, came to Canada in 1805, became a fur trader
headed west with the North West Company.
By the 1840’s he had settled in the 1840’s in the Red River
colony in
present-day Manitoba where he authored a number of books about the

Indian Ocean. The Ross name was attached to the Cocos islands in the Indian
Ocean. John Clunies
arrived there in 1825 and he and his descendants were running the
islands and
trading their copra for the next one hundred and fifty years

Ross Miscellany

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

Ross Names

Hugh Ross, the first laird of
Balnagowan, was in 1372 the first chief of the Ross clan to adopt the
name Ross as his surname.
Betsy Ross is credited with having
sewn the first American flag in 1776.
John Ross, also known as
Guwisguwi, was chief of the Cherokee Indian nation from 1828 to 1860.
Sir John Ross and his nephew Sir James Ross were 19th century
Arctic explorers, the latter leaving his name to Ross Sea in
founded the New Yorker
magazine in New York in
Diana Ross emerged as the lead
singer with the Supremes and then as a
best-selling solo artist.

Select Rosses Today

  • 60,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Aberdeen)
  • 96,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 55,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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