Select Pettigrew Surname Genealogy

Pettigrew comes from the French petit cru, meaning "small growth," and was probably in this case a nickname for a small or short man.   However, there is an alternative derivation for the name, that it is derived from pie de grue, meaning "crane's foot" (i.e. one with long legs).

The name was brought first by the Normans to England and Scotland and later by French Huguenots to Ireland.

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England.  Early sightings of the name in England were in Cornwall.  There were records of a Pettigrew manor at Gerrans in Cornwall in the 1200's.  Alice Pettigrew was born in Helston, Cornwall around 1257 and married William Godolphin there in 1276.  The Pettigrew name appeared frequently in Cornish parish records in the 16th and 17th centuries, but was less common later.  Most Pettigrews in the 1891 census in England in fact probably originated from Scotland.

.  Exactly who brought the Pettigrew name to Scotland and when is not known.  Some think that a Pettigrew family may have arrived with or at the same time as the Hamiltons.  A Thomas Petykreu of Lanarkshire appeared in the Ragman's Roll of 1296.  From that time onwards the Pettigrew name was to be found in the Old Monklands area of Lanarkshire where Coatbridge and Airdrie now stand.  The name later extended into Glasgow and parts of Ayrshire.  

Blantyre parish near Hamilton in NW Lanarkshire listed many Pettigrews.  One Pettigrew family traces their history back to Alexander Pettigrew, a shoemaker of the parish in the late 1600's.  Pettigrews were also living nearby at Dyesholm and Malcolmwood in the 19th century. 

From the Glasgow cleric Pettigrew - who appeared in Walter Scott's Rob Roy - is said to have descended the naval surgeon William Pettigrew.  He settled in London and his son Thomas was an early expert on Egyptian mummies.

James Bell Pettigrew, born near Airdrie, was a distinguished 19th century academic who was a pioneer in the theory of flight well before the time of Wilbur WrightOne line of these Pettigrews were mining engineers who moved to Ireland and then to Chile in the early 1900's.  Stanley Pettigrew returned to Ireland in 1930 and became a well-known painter there. 

.  The Pettigrews in Ireland may be either of Scottish or of French Huguenot origin.  Both settled n the northern counties of Ulster.
Scottish.  One of the main planters who brought Scottish settlers to county Down in Ireland in the early 1600's was James Hamilton of Ayrshire.  He acquired land at Killyleagh where several families of Pettigrews later settled.  Gavin Pettigrew and Rachel McCormick were married there in 1706 and had thirteen children between 1707 and 1732. 

There were also Pettigrews in Cumber parish, a few miles south of Belfast, from Daniel Pettigrew in the early 1600's.  The spelling in county Down was sometimes Petticrew or Pettycrew.

Huguenot.  The Huguenot Pettigrews in Ireland were originally Petigrus.   Fleeing religious persecution in France, it is thought that they had first come to Scotland.  James Pettigrew - as he then styled himself - was an officer who fought for William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  In recompense he was granted land in county Tyrone where he built his family home, the Crilly House.  This large stone and slate house was to stay with successive generations of Pettigrews until 1945. 

America.  This Huguenot trail moved to America when James Pettigrew and his wife Mary left their home in Tyrone for America in 1745, staying first in Pennsylvania and then moving south to the Abbeville district of South Carolina.   One of his sons William penned a family history around the year 1800.

Another son James adopted the old Huguenot spelling of Petigru and was a leading lawyer of his time.  It was said that by changing the spelling of his name James Petigru enjoyed much greater upward mobility in Charleston society.

Another son Charles settled in Tyrrell county, North Carolina.

"Of all the zealous clergymen in the Church of England in North Carolina at the time of the Revolution, none ranked higher than the Rev. Charles Pettigrew.  He built Pettigrew's Chapel at his own expense and for many years ministered there, as well as at Edenton and elsewhere throughout the province."

Charles's family became prominent Tidewater planters and politicians.  Son William expanded the family holdings.  His homestead and lands are now the Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina.   Another son James Johnston was a well-known local figure and a Confederate general during the Civil War (his life was described in Clyde Wilson's 2002 book Carolina Cavalier). 

owever, the family fortunes declined after the defeat in the Civil War.  One branch of this family moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas where James Pettigrew was a prominent lawyer and newspaperman before and after the Civil War.

The Pettigrew Family Papers that came out in four volumes in 1971 cover this family history.

Australia.  William Pettigrew from Ayr in Scotland came out to Australia on the Fortitude in 1849, settling in Queensland.  He built Brisbane’s first steam-power sawmill in 1853 and was active in the timber industry there throughout his life.  He was mayor of Brisbane in 1870.  His diaries and papers provide some interesting material on colonial Queensland at that time.

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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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Thomas Pettigrew
was a London-based antiquarian who became an expert in Egyptian mummies in the early 19th century.
J. Johnston Pettigrew was a Confederate general killed soon after the Battle of Gettysberg.

Select Pettigrews Today
  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 2,000 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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