Select Morrison Surname Genealogy

The Morrison surname derived ifrom the personal name Maurice that was popular during the Middle Ages. Maurice, the name of some early Christian saints, was the learned spelling of the name.  Morice or Morris was its more common form.  The patronymic Morison or Morrison ("son of Morris") cropped up as a surname in England, in Scotland, and in Ireland. 

The Morrison clan that was centred on Lewis in the Western Isles derived their surname from the Gaelic name MacGilleMhoire; and the Morrisons on the Isle of Man came from Myvorrey or Mylvorrey. MacMuiris was the Irish version of Morris.  But most Morrisons in Ireland were of Scots origin.

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Scotland.  Morrisons, from the Gaelic MacGilleMhoir, first appeared in the islands of the Outer Hebrides.

Outer Hebrides.  Legend has it that they were descended from the son of a King of Norway who was shipwrecked off the shores of Lewis.  He married the heiress of Pabbay castle off Harris and it was from this union that the Morrison clan was said to have begun. 

The Morrison hereditary judges or brieves on the isle of Lewis were generally recognized as the chiefs of the clan until the early 1600’s. 
A number of these Morrisons were forced to flee at that time, crossing over to the mainland and settling at Durness in Mackay country. 

"According to tradition, Aodh Mac Thormoid married a daughter of the Bishop of Caithness who bestowed on the couple the whole of Durness.  Aodh then brought over a colony of about 60 families, mostly of his clan." 

In 1861 the Morrisons of Lewis numbered 1,400, while the Morrisons of Harris amounted to 530.  The Morrisons on Harris may have been related to Lewis.  More likely, they descended from the bardic O'Muirgheasáin clan who arrived there from county Donegal in the 1500’s.   The Morrisons of Ruchdi in North Uist were descendants of the Morrisons of Pabbay in Harris and in 1965 were invested as the chiefs of "clan Morrison."

Elsewhere.  Morrisons in Scotland have origins other than the Outer Hebrides.  The Morisons of Bognie in Aberdeenshire have been in fact a leading Morrison family.  This family first gained their Bognie estate in 1635 and it remained in their hands for the next three hundred years.

"A younger son James Morison achieved wealth and notoreity in the 1820's as the inventor and purveyor of Morison Pills.  These were purgatives that were very popular but often lethal when taken in excessive quantities by the infirm or seriously ill."

Other Morisons have been those of Dersay in Fife and those of Preston Grange in East Lothian.

The first accouint of the Scottish Morrisons was undertaken in 1880 by Captain Thomas and L.A. Morrison in their book The History of the Morison or Morrison Family.

England.   Morrison, like similar patronymic names, has generally been a name of the north of England.  It first appeared as a surname - as Robert Morisson - in the Yorkshire poll tax records of 1379. 

Morrisons in the North.  The Moryson family of Chardwell in the West Ridings of Yorkshire dates back to the 15th century.  Thomas Morrison later moved south to Hertfordshire and his son Richard, a protege of Thomas Cromwell, distinguished himself as a diplomat at the time of Henry VIII. 

Another Moryson family may have come originally from Northumberland.  They were in Lincolnshire by the early 1500’s.  Thomas Moryson of Cadeby in Lincolnshire was a member of the local gentry who held the lucrative office of Clerk of the Pipes.  The family was wealthy enough that his son Fynes could travel around Europe for six years in the 1590’s.  He published an account of these travels in 1617.

Some Morrisons in England were of Scottish ancestry, such as Robert Morrison the Protestant missionary to China.  He was born of a Scottish father in Northumberland in 1782.  John Morrison, born in Alston in Cumberland in 1761, was also probably of Scottish origin.

Morrison supermarkets, begun by William Morrison of Bradford in the 1920's, has been traditionally associated with the north of England.  Son Ken Morrison, the recent Chairman of Morrisons, was born in Bradford and makes his home outside York.

Morrisons in the South.  James Morrison, the 19th century businessman, grew up in a small village in Hampshire.  He came to London and made his fortune as a trader on the principle of "small profits and quick returns."  His son Alfred of Fonthill House in Wiltshire was a noted art collector.

Isle of Man. 
Morrison can be a Manx name.  The Manx names of Myvorrey and Mylvorrey, meaning "the son of Mary's servant," would become Morrison.  Patrick Mylvorrey, for instance, was born around 1761 in the northwest of the Isle of ManThe next Mylvorrey generation became known as Morrisons.    

Most Morrisons in Ireland are to be found in Ulster, in particular in Antrim and county Down, and are of Scots origin.  The singer Van Morrison's family roots are from the Ulster Scots population that had settled in Belfast.

John Morrison was among those Scots Irish who fled after the siege of Londonderry in 1689.  Lieutenant Robert Morrison and Captain James Morrison also took part in the battle and were declared traitors by King James in 1689.  They all emigrated, helping to found a new Londonderry in New Hampshire in 1719.

Some Morrisons in Fermanagh are descendants of the Irish Morrisons on Harris who fled the Western Isles after conflict with
the McAuleys.

America.   Most of the Morrisons who came to America in the 18th century were Scots Irish.  Their numbers included:
  • two Morrison brothers, Samuel and James, who settled in Drumore township in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania around 1718.
  • the Morrisons from Londonderry in Ireland who helped found the town of Londonderry in New Hampshire in 1719.  The John Morrison who died there in 1736 was said to have been 108 years of age.  The family home, Morrsion House, was built there in 1760 and still stands.
  • Samuel and Mercy Morrison of county Tyrone who came to Bucks county, Pennsylvania on the Sally of Coleraine around 1740.  Some of these Morrisons moved onto New York and Ohio.
  • four Morrison brothers who came to Pennsylvania from Ulster around 1740.  William Morrison was an early settler in North Carolina.
  • and Nathaniel Morrison from the Isle of Lewis who came to Greenbrier, Virginia sometime in the 1750's.
Morrisons from Scotland were early pioneers in the West:
  • born in Scotland, John Morrison emigrated to Connecticut around 1830 and learned carpentry there.  He arrived in Oregon county in 1842 in the same wagon train as the other famous Oregon pioneers. 
  • while George Morrison was a Scottish stonecutter in Colorado in the 1870's who moved his family to what was to become Morrison, Colorado.  His son Tom served as the town's first mayor.  His grandson Pete was a silent movie star who returned to the area to live following the end of his career in the late 1920's.
Jacob Haight Morrison was born in upstate New York, but moved south at some stage, married well, and acquired the Brunswick sugar plantation in Pointe Coupee parish, Louisiana in 1856.  This plantation was to stay with his family until the 1930's.  Later Morrisons of the family were to be prominent in local New Orleans politics. 
Canada.  Captain John Morrison visited Nova Scotia as a military officer, sent to destroy French fortifications at Louisburg in 1759.  By that time he had a family with six young children living in Peterborough, New Hampshire.  He was inspired by the lands of Nova Scotia and he moved there, becoming one of the first settlers of Truro.  There was to follow the Scots Irish settlement of Londonderry nearby. 

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

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Samuel Eliot Morison was an American historian noted for his works of naval history.
Herbert Morrison was a British Labor politician who was Deputy Prime Minister in the Labor government of the 1940's.
Jim Morrison was an American cult singer of the 1960's who died young in Paris at the age of twenty eight.
Van Morrison is a singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland. 
Toni Morrison, born Chloe Wofford, is a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist, author of works such as Beloved.

Select Morrisons Today
  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous in Aberdeen)
  • 44,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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