Grewar: Name study


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Name studies and broader genealogical information

The following reports were filed by various people. If we published your report without your permission, please let us know and we'll either attribute it correctly or remove it, at your option.


Andy and Denese's report

This is the version about the Grewars received from Andy and Denese Grewar of Grahamstown.

GREWAR or MACGREWAR is a scots surname from the Gaelic "MacGrudaire", a brewer's son, and has many variant spellings: GRUAR, GRUER, GRUDER, GRUTHER, GROWTHER, and so on.

It is also found in an anglicized form as BRUAR, BREWER, BROUSTER, etc. The name is linked to three of the Scottish clans, the DRUMMONDS, the FRASERS, and the MACGREGORS. This means that members of the family allied themselves at different times to the chiefs of these larger clans. In the case of the MacGregors the name Grewar - or its variants such as MacGruther, MacGruder, MacGruer - was adopted by clan members after their lands had been seized and the name MacGregor outlawed by Parliament in 1603. In the north, towards Inverness, the MacGruers were linked to the Frasers.

GREWAR is one of the oldest surnames around Braemar, Deeside, and in the upper reaches of the Dee River Valley, which runs North East through the Grampian Mountains towards Aberdeen. According to the tombstone of a James Bruar, burried in Tominrau, near Braemar in 1807.

Four hundred years have now wheeled round,
With half a century more,
Since this has been a burying-ground,
Belonging to the Gruers.

This would mean there were Grewars in Braemar around 1350. Members of the family must have crossed the mountains south to Glen Isla early on, because a John Grewyr was a tenant at Fortour (Forter) Castle, near Kirkton of Glenisla, in about 1520.

In the same glen in the early 1900s, a DAVID GREWAR was gillie at Tulchan Lodge, and he wrote a book "The Story of Glenisla", in which he tells of various of his forebears who farmed in the area. The earliest record of the name is found in a charter to John de Cumre, witnessed in 1447 by Gillawane M'gruder. In 1494 a Donald McGruer witnessed a land transaction in favour of Thomas Stewart of Grantully, on the River Tay, south of Pitlochry. In the 1600s and 1700s, Grewar was a fairly common name in Southwest Perthshire, near Drummond Castle at Comrie and Muthill. In 1580, John Makgruder, son of James Makgruder, is recorded as a troublesome retainer of Lord Drummond at Bocastle.  

Fiona Sinclair's report

A researcher in Edinburgh, Scotland, Fiona Sinclair, filed the following report on 12 April 2004:

Compulsory registration of births did not come in until 1855. Before that, it was optional. It rather seems that your ancestors probably opted out. It is possible that they belonged to one of the Free Churches, or even to one of the non-Presbyterian denominations. They might have had the baptism registered in their own church but not in the official parish register.

It is likely that a person born anywhere in the Lothians would give their birthplace as Edinburgh when asked by somebody on another continent. People tend to name the nearest well-known place rather than some little village, because otherwise the next question will be "where is that". He could have come from anywhere in South-east Scotland and still given his birthplace as Edinburgh. In those days, the whole of the Lothians was known as the County of Edinburghshire. Though the city of Edinburgh itself certainly had the most numerous populations so maybe there is a 50/50 chance about that.

Grewer is an unusual name, and is possibly a spelling variation of a more common name, such as Grier. In 'The Surnames of Scotland' it is listed as a shortened form of MacGruar, a name recorded very long ago in Braemar. There is a grave of a James Gruer dated 1807 which stated that this had been the Gruer burial ground for 450 years. Also spelt Grewyr and Growar. MacGruar has many spelling variations, and is supposed to be derived from the Gaelic Mac Grudaire meaning brewer's son. It is found mainly in south Perthshire, particularly around Glenartney, Dunblane and Doune. Early examples: Gilawnane McCrouder 1447, Gilbert McGrevar 1499, Donald McGruer 1494.

Kirkcudbright is a long way from Linlithgow, and it is surprising that the boys did not get apprenticed somewhere nearer to home, and as brewers. This rather suggests that the whole family had moved to Kirkcudbright, and maybe that the father had died. The professions tended to be rather nepotistic about who was taken on. It would be quite common for fatherless children to be apprenticed to an uncle - perhaps the mother's brother. On the other hand, it would make a lot of sense for the son of a brewer to be apprenticed to a cooper. Why would two boys who had been apprenticed as shipwrights, become a cooper and a wagon builder? Maybe it was two other Grewers who became shipwrights. Do you know which port in Scotland those 3 ships set out from? Surely in those days a journey would have been paid for in advance before leaving Scotland? How would emigrants be expected to raise the money to pay off their fares within a couple of months of arriving in a strange country? It sounds to me as if they borrowed money from the Captain some time during the journey. Or maybe they all gambled while on board.

David McKenzie Grewar, son of Janet McKinzie, was probably named after Janet's father. John was probably named after his own father. They may possibly have had an elder brother named after John's father. If the first son of David & Johanna is named John, the second daughter is named Janet and the third son is named David, then you have a fair chance that the family were following the traditional naming patterns. If not, then you can't make any assumptions based on the names. It could be Janet MacKenzie, christened 17 Nov 1765 at Alva, in Stirling, who was the daughter of David MacKenzie & Elizabeth Keir. They also had Agnes (1765), Margaret (1769), William (1770), Anne (1774) and Isabele (1777), all at Alva.

Alva is in south Stirlingshire, not very far from Dunblane, and these places are about 20 miles from Linlithgow. It certainly sounds as if your family came from somewhere along the southern border of the Highlands.

(c) Peter Murray, 2005. Last update 2008-01-12.