THE GREGG SURNAME

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THE ANCIENT HISTORY

OF THE 

DISTINGUISHED SURNAME GREGG

 

The ancient Pictish-Scottish name Gregg comes from a diminutive form of the personal name Gregory. The Gaelic form of the name was Griogair, which was borrowed from the Latin name Gregorius. This, in turn, came from the Greek name Gregorios, a derivative of the word “gregorein,” which means to be “awake” or to be “watchful.”

The Pictish race, one of the founding races of the British Isles, arrived in Scotland from Brittany about the 5th century B.C. The bearers of the surname Gregg are believed to be descended from this race. Migrating from northwest France they sailed northward to Ireland where they were refused permission to land, but they were allowed by the Kings of Ireland to locate in the eastern part of Scotland with the proviso that all their Kings marry an Irish Princess. According to the Venerable Bede, England’s oldest historian, this established the matriarchal hierarchy, rare in the annals of British history.

Netchtan was a Pictish King, in about 720 A.D.; according to Roman history, many Pictish kings before him had fought gallantly at Hadrian’s Wall against the Roman invasion many centuries before. Their rivals to the west, the Dalriadans or the Highlanders of the Western Isles, were their constant foes in the battle for supremacy for power over all Scotland known then as Alba, or Caldonia.

Nechtan was finally expelled from Pictland by Alpin, half Dalriadan, half Pict, the result of political marriage. Alpin’s son Kenneth McAlpin, son of Alpin, became the first recorded King of Scotland as we know it today. The Picts, compressed by the northern invasion of the Orcadian Vikings from the north who penetrated as far south as Caithness, were left with the territory on the eastern coast of Scotland from Aberdeen, south to Edinburgh.

Among the many sources that researchers examined were such documents as the Inquisitio, 1120 A.D., the Black Book of the Exchequer, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, Yorkshire where they held a family seat from early times.

The spelling of the surname Gregg was found in many different forms. Gregg was found in many references, the surname was also spelled Gregg, Greig, and some of these versions are still used today. These changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. For instance, one clanswoman was recorded being born as Moffit, married as Moffit, and the spelling Moffett appeared on her headstone. Preferences for spelling variations usually either stemmed from a division of the family. had religious reasons, or sometimes patriotic reasons. Scribes and church people frequently selected their own version of what they thought the spelling should be.

The family name Gregg emerged as a Scottish clan or family in the territory. More specifically they developed in their original territories of Yorkshire. The Gregg or Greig surname is closely associated with that of the great ancient clan, the McGregors, descendants fro Prince Gregory, son of Alpin, King of Scotland. The name was also found in England from about the 12th century in Yorkshire and Lancashire. The Greggs of Norcliffe Hall in Chester, the senior English group claim this decent. Simon Gregg held lands and estates in Yorkshire in 1273, and in 1379 John Gregg was included in a census of wealthy landholders in Yorkshire. The name quickly moved south in England and by the 17th century, the Greggs held lands in Derbyshire, Middlesex, and London. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Gregg surname was first recorded in the eastern county of Fife in 1214 when Walter Gregg witnessed a charter by Malcolm, the Earl of Fife. The family quickly spread to the surrounding counties and in 1488 Patrick Gregg was appointed the Burgess of Aberdeen. In 1502 John Gregg served on the county council in Scotland, the McGregors of Argyll and Perthshire was forbidden to use their name and many of the clan temporarily adopted the Gregg family name. The Norwegian family who produce the famous composer Edward Greig, are descendants of the Fraserburgh in Aberdeen. Many of his concertos are dedicated to the McGregor clan.

Notable amongst the clan at this time was Gregg of Yorkshire.

During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries Scotland was ravaged by religious conflicts.The newly found passionately fervor of Presbyterianism and the church of Scotland all who could not pass “The test” of taking an oath of belief in the church. Those failing the “Test” were frequently hanged, drawn and quartered in the High Street or, more kindly, banished to the colonies to Australia or to the Carolinas.

Meanwhile, the Roman church still fought to retain its status. Many Clansmen were freely “encouraged” to migrate to Ireland. From 1603 to 1790, Scottish Clans and families were recruited from the England Scottish border and north of Edinburgh to populate northern Ireland with protestants stock faithful to the new religion of the crown. Many heads of families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during this period. In 1890, a birth census of Scottish families in Ireland was taken. From that census, it was estimated that they were over 1,299 people bearing the surname Gregg throughout Ireland, about 72% were living in the province of Ulster where the families were found in Antrim and Down.

The migration or banishment to the New World also continued, some went voluntarily from Ireland, but most went directly from Scotland, their home territories. Some also moved to the European continent. They sailed to the New World across the stormy Atlantic aboard the small sailing ships known as the “white sails.” These overcrowded ships, sometimes spending two months at sea, were racked with disease, sometimes landing with only 60% of their original passenger lists.

In North America, early immigrants who bear the Gregg family name, or one of its spelling variations were James Gregg who landed in New Hampshire in 1718; Hugh Gregg settled in Charles Town [Charleston], South Carolina in 1760; Alexander Gregg settled in South Carolina in 1820, and another Alexander settled in New York in 1822; Daniel, Edward, Fenton, James, John, Patrick, Robert, Thomas and William Gregg, all settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1851 and 1856. Mary Gregg settled in Canada in 1839.

In later years the immigrant to North America would move westward settling the regions from the middle west to the prairies to the west coast. During the War of Independence, allegiances were divided. Some remained American, whilst others became United Empire Loyalists and moved north to Canada.

Bearers of this name have made their mark in the arts, science commerce, and the professions. Prominent bearers of the Gregg surname in recent history include Sir Norman McAlister Gregg (1892-1966) Australian ophthalmologist; Second Lieutenant Stephen Raymond Gregg Sr. (1914-2005) awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944. Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg (1892-1978) Canadian Member of Parliament, cabinet minister,academic, soldier, diplomat,and recipient of the Victoria Cross; Hugh Gregg (1917-2003) American Governor of the State of New Hampshire for 1953 to 1955; Judd Gregg (b. 1947) American politician, US Senator for New Hampshire; William Gregg (1800-1867) American Industrialist, known as the “father of South cotton manufacturer”; William (1890-1969) English soldier recipient of the Victoria Cross for bravery in 1918; Milton Gregg (1892-1978)Canadian soldier, diplomat, politician, administrator and university president; and Donald Gregg, American Research Physiologist, Notanles bearing other spellings of this name include: Andrew Greig (b. 1951) Scottish poet; Brian Greig (b. 1966) Australian politician Charlotte Greig (b. 1954) Maltese journalist, singer and songwriter; Doug Greig (1928-2003) Canadian soccer player, inductee into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame; Flos Greig (1880-1958) the first female barrister and soliiter in Australia; Geoffrey Greig (1897-1960) English cricketer, John Greig MBE (b. 1942) Scottish winning British actress, John Greig (1838-1920) New Zealand astronomer, Stanley David Greiggs (1939-1989) former NASA astronout with over 6 days in space, Andrew Tyler “Andy” Greiggs (b. 1973) American country music artist; William Middleton Greiggs Ameican doctor considered a world authority on trauma and disaster medicine; Hohanna Leigh Greiggs (b. 1973) former swimmer and current television  presenter from Australia; John William Greiggs (1849-1927) American Republican Party politician, who served as the 29th Governor of New Jersery, and Nigel Greiggs (b. 1949) British professional musician.

In researching the family name Coat of Arms we traced the most ancient grant of Arms to the family name. However, other grants were made to different branches of the family which may be equally appropriate.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:

A gold shield with three black trefoils between two black chevronels.

The Crest was.

A stark’s head divided perpale silver and black with a black trefoil in its beak

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