Select Pettigrew Surname Genealogy

Here are some Pettigrew stories and accounts over the years:

Reader Feedback - Pettigrew, An Alternative Derivation

There is an alternative alternative derivation for the name Pettigrew, that it is derived from pie de grue, meaning “crane's foot” (i.e. one with long legs).  It may not look like Pettigrew at first - until you hear it pronounced.  Then it's a dead ringer. 

This alternative theory doesn't require one to explain why the "it" was inverted to "ti", and it explains why many early versions of the name were spelled with a “d.”   

It would be great if you guys at least put the alternative theory on your page.  If Pettigrew truly means small growth, then so be it.   But if it doesn’t, it’s a little bit of humiliating etymology.  

David B. Pettigrew (

The Pettigrews and the Hamiltons

Pettigrews have often been linked to or named in conjunction with the Hamiltons, an Anglo-Norman family who became major landowners in Lanarkshire.  Perhaps a Pettigrew ancestor arrived in Lanarkshire from England as a follower of the Hamiltons.  There certainly was a connection in subsequent centuries. 

  • Thomas Pettigrew, the senior Scottish herald, married Katherine Hamilton, who was the sister of Patrick Hamilton, the first Scottish Protestant martyr (burnt at the stake in St. Andrews in 1528). Katherine and Patrick were niece and nephew of the Earl of Arran and great grandchildren of King James II. 
  • One of the main 'planters' who brought Scottish settlers across to county. Down in the early 1600’s was a James Hamilton from Ayrshire.  He acquired land at Killyleagh where Pettigrew families were to settle. 
  • In 1655 Thomas Pettigrew was recorded in the Register of the Great Seal in 1655 as a portioner (i.e. small landowner) in Shettleston on land owned by James Hamilton of Torrens.

The Pettigrews of Dyesholm and Malcolmwood

William Pettigrew, aged 33, left his cottage at Dyesholm one morning in January 1800 to marry Jane Pollock, aged just 17.  It was a later William Pettigrew, his grandson, who moved his family up the hill from Dyesholm in 1860 to the family farm at Malcolmwood above the Calder river.  He had married Betsie Imrie on Christmas Eve 1858 at Auchterarder in Perthshire where she had been born out of wedlock.  Their marriage was to produce seven sons and five daughters. 

In 1865 Jane Pettigrew wrote a poem about the beauty of this area which began as follows: 

"Sweet Dyesholm, sweet Dyesholm,
Thy lowery haunts I love to roam,
Thy woods, thy glens, thy mossy dell
Sweet Dyesholm I love thee well." 

Nevertheless only one of William’s sons, John, stayed at home.  William departed for America, Robert and Andrew for Australia, and Alex, Jimmy and Dick for New Zealand.

Petticrews and Pettycrews in Ireland

The following Pettycrews were recorded in Ireland in the mid-18th century:

Hugh Pettycrew
Belfast merchant who died that year
John Pettycrew
Co. Down
innkeeper in Ballynahinch
John Pettycrew
Belfast linen draper who died that year
Richard Pettycrew  
Co. Down   
horse breeder in Ballyallely
Robert Pettycrew
Co. Down
flax mill owner in Gransha
James Pettycrew
Co. Down
breeched maker in Drumalig, accused of murder

Joseph Petticrew was a tenant on land near Lisburn in county Down in the late 18th century.  He died in 1806.  His eldest son Joseph emigrated to America in 1812. 

Another Petticrew family were long-term farmers in Boardmills, county Down.  Their first may have been Robert Petticrew, born in 1777, married Elizabeth Wilson in 1803, and died in 1849.  Joan Petticrew of this family has been its historian. 

Petticrews have been optometrists in Belfast since 1887, one of the longest-established family practices in the UK.

James Pettigrew and the Indians

In 1773 James Pettigrew bought a farm in what was known as the flat section of Abbeville district on the Little river in South Carolina.  But an outbreak among the Cherokee Indians three years later forced all those who had settled there to abandon their plantations and seek safety in the Huguenot fort of James Noble. 

At that time James Pettigrew had become very religious and this may have saved him and his family from Indian attack.  He was so strict in his observance of the Sabbath that he allowed no cooking to be done on that day.  One Sunday his family averted being massacred along with all the other inhabitants of the village. The story goes that the Indians, upon seeing no smoke coming from his chimney, presumed the home to be unoccupied.

William Pettigrew's Family History

William Pettigrew, the son of James Pettigrew in South Carolina, gave the following account of his family history around the year 1800.

"As you wish to know something of the origin of your family I will give you as good an account as I can. 

My great grandfather left France for the sake of his religion in the time of King Louis XIV and was an officer in Cromwell's Army.  He had two sons, John and James.

As to John, we have very little account given of him.  James married Martha Moore, a Scottish lady.  He settled in Ireland and was an officer in King William's army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  After the peace he was given a tract of land of 300 acres in county Tyrone on what was called the Blackwater where he lived and died.  He had seven sons and two daughters.

James, my father, had a classical education, but never went to college.  In his 18th or 19th year he married Mary Cochran, the daughter of Captain George Cochran who lived at a place called the Grange.  After having four children, he left all of his friends and came to America in November 1741.  He landed at New Castle.

My father became acquainted with Dr. Franklin who wished him to study physic which he declined.  He got a tract of 300 acres on March Creek in Pennsylvania where he lived until it was broken up by the war in 1755.  Shortly after Braddock's defeat he sold his land for 80 pounds and removed into Virginia and Lunenburg Old Court House, renting some land.  There I was born in 1758.

After staying there three or four years we removed to Granville county in North Carolina where he bought 300 acres of land.  Then, hearing a good account of Long Cane, my father sold out and set out in October 1768 for South Carolina where we landed after some three weeks traveling."

James Pettigru's Epitaph

The tombstone of James Louis Petigru bore an epitaph so impressive that it was said that President Woodrow Wilson, attending the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, requested that the epitaph be sent to him.  The simple marble headstone had the following words:

“Born at Abbeville, May 10, 1789, died at Charleston, March 9th, 1863.  Jurist, orator, statesman, patriot. 

Future times will hardly know how great a life this simple stone commemorates.  The tradition of his eloquence, his wisdom and his wit may fade; but he lived for ends more durable than fame.  His eloquence was the protection of the poor and wronged.  His learning illuminated the principles of law. 

In the admiration of his peers, in the respect of his people, in the affection of his family, his was the highest place.  The just mead of his kindness and forbearance, his dignity and simplicity, his brilliant genius and his unwearied industry. 

Unawed by opinion, unseduced by flattery, undismayed by disaster, he confronted life with antique courage and death with Christian hope. 

In the great Civil War he withstood his people for his country.  But his people did homage to the man who held his conscience higher than their praise.  And his country heaped her honors on the living, his own righteous self respect sufficed alike for motive and reward. 

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail or knock the breast, nothing but well and fair, and what may quiet us in a life so noble."

The Pettigrews of Fayetteville, Arkansas

George Pettigrew came from North Carolina, by way of Georgia, Kentucky, and Missouri, to Arkansas in 1825 where he settled with his wife Sarah just outside Fayetteville.  He got active in politics and was elected to the Arkansas Legislature in 1840.  He found there a friend and ally in the lawyer William Reagan who was to be a mentor for his son James. 

James Pettigrew studied law under Reagan and became his law partner.  He also married Reagan’s eldest daughter Allie and began to dabble in politics.  In 1859 he was the sheriff for Washington county and he started a pro-Confederate newspaper The Arkansian with the politician Elias Boudinot. 

With the outbreak of hostilities in 1861 Pettigrew enlisted in Company K of the Confederate army and ended the war as Colonel.  Arkansas saw much of the fighting during the war, including the Battle of Prairie Grove in 1862.  Allie wrote regularly to her husband during the war years.  Her letters, which have been preserved, talked about the lack of food and clothing on the home front, the burning of homes, and Federal foraging. 

When the war was over Pettigrew and Reagan returned to their Fayetteville law practice.  His wife Allie died of smallpox in 1871.  He survived, married another of Reagan’s daughters, and was elected mayor of Fayetteville.  In 1875 he started another newspaper in Fayetteville, The Arkansas Sentinel. 

James Pettigrew died in a hotel in Waco, Texas in 1886.  A coroner’s inquest listed the cause of death as alcohol poisoning, although obituaries in the local papers reported that he died of a fever.  His body was shipped back to Fayetteville to be buried in Evergreen cemetery.

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