BY NATASHA GREGG
So as one of the administrators, I was commissioned to write a brief history of the Gregg name. So without further adieu:
What is in a name? A simple question, yet so many intricate answers. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines NAME as a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing.
A name can be a variation, combination or derivative of many things, such as flora, fauna, tools, an occupation, a foreign language translation, mythology and so on. A name can be an alias or codename that signifies something horrific or honorific. A name can also be used to emphasize a familial relationship. This is primarily true in the Nordic/Scandinavian countries. For example, the Scandinavian name Larsson literally means, son of Lars. A name can also be used to underscore ownership. A name can be a source of great pride and identity. A name can highlight respect and dignity for one’s culture and heritage. There are no doubts that a name can hold deep and significant meaning as we navigate this thing called life.
What automatically goes through your head when someone asks you for your name or names? Do you often wonder why you were given the name you were? Do you often wonder as to where your name came from? For me, my interest in my many names, that is my two Christian names and the slew of surnames belonging to my parents, began when a high school teacher assigned us to research our family tree and history. Frankly, I have never given it much thought until then. Until then, all I always thought was that my father blessed me with my first name and my mother, my middle name. As for my surname Gregg, it was a source of annoyance for me growing up as I have always been teased about it, being called “egg” or “leg” in school. But the thought that always got me over that annoyance was that it is my father’s surname, one that was handed down to him by his mother. As I got more into the school assignment, I started to wonder, who was the one to hand down the name Gregg to my grandmother and who before her?
This quickly became a source of intrigue for me and I have spent a considerable amount of time after that school assignment to wrap my head around the surname GREGG. As I grew older and the more I learned about this name, the more I came to appreciate it for what it was, a powerful name.
History identifies the surname GREGG as having English or Scottish origins. In regards to the English origins, the first record of the name was GREGGE (Old English variation) in 1234 during the reign of Henry II, within the Liber feodorum more aptly called the Book of Fees. Another instance of the name was in 1306 contained within the Feet of Fines, which was an archival copy of an agreement between two parties in an English lawsuit over land.
As for the Scottish origin, the name GREGG is a variant that emerged from the Highland Scottish Clan MacGregor. The MacGregors were direct descendants from an ancient Celtic royal family through the Abbots of Glendochart, hence the clan’s motto “My race is royal.” The Clan MacGregor was constantly embroiled in conflicts. None more so than the Battle of Glen Fruin which began on February 7, 1603 between clan MacGregor and Clan Colquhoun. The war was waged after two MacGregor clansmen were ordered executed by the chief of the Clan Colquhoun.
Two months after the Clan MacGregor’s slaughter of the Clan Colquhoun, an edict was issued by King James VI of Scotland and the Privy Council, which declared the name of MacGregor as altogidder abolisheed. In other words, anyone who bore the name must surrender it or be put to death. The MacGregor chief and eleven of his chieftains were executed in 1604 because they refused to renounce their name. Consequently, the Clan Gregor dispersed, with man adopting other names such as Murray or Grant.
In 1617, an Act of the Scottish Parliament ordered that the name MacGregor be abolished and anyone with that name had to renounce their name and adopt a different name. In essence, having the name MacGregor and its variation Gregor became illegal and anyone not adhering to the law would be executed. As a result, many adopted the surnames Murray, Graham, Stewart, Grant and Campbell.
The oppression and cruelty directed to clan MacGregor did not end until 1774, when the laws against them were abolished and the surname was fully restored. However, by that time, many of the people bearing that name had fled their homeland escaping persecution, scattering across Europe and the Americas. As they dispersed, they either adopted completely new names or variations of their original name MacGregor. Many of the arrivals in the Americas chose the name GREGG. Arriving to the New World, they primarily settled in the British’s main colonies, America, Jamaica and Barbados. As the other islands became more colonized, the GREGGs branched out, leaving a lasting impact and legacy.