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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Where did the Scottish Orr family come from? When did the Orr family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Orr family history?

The Dalriadan kingdom of ancient Scotland was the home of the ancestors of the Orr family. Their name indicates that they lived on a bank, or on the edge of a hill. The Orr surname arose independently from different sources. In some instances, it came from the Old English word ora, which means "edge" and was probably a name for someone who lived on a bank, or on the edge of a hill. Orr also came form the Old Norse name Orri, which meant "black rooster." It also emerged from the Gaelic word, odhar, which meant "pale" and would have been a nickname that became a surname.


Translation in medieval times was an undeveloped science and was often carried out without due care. For this reason, many early Scottish names appeared radically altered when written in English. The spelling variations of Orr include Orr, Ore, Orre and others.

First found in Renfrewshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Rinn Frił), a historic county of Scotland, today encompassing the Council Areas of Renfrew, East Renfrewshire, and Iverclyde, in the Strathclyde region of southwestern Scotland, where they held a family seat from early times and their first records appeared on the census rolls taken by the ancient Kings of Scotland to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Orr research. Another 133 words(10 lines of text) covering the years 1296 and 1503 are included under the topic Early Orr History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Orr Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Orr family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 139 words(10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


The descendants of the Dalriadan families who made the great crossing of the Atlantic still dot communities along the east coast of the United States and Canada. In the American War of Independence, many of the settlers traveled north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Clan societies and highland games have allowed Canadian and American families of Scottish descent to recover much of their lost heritage. Investigation of the origins of family names on the North American continent has revealed that early immigrants bearing the name Orr or a variant listed above include:

Orr Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Robert Orr, who landed in Maryland in 1674

Orr Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Samuel Orr, who landed in Leeward Islands in 1710
  • Hugh Orr, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1740
  • Clement Orr, who arrived in New England in 1742
  • Ann Orr, aged 18, landed in New York, NY in 1774
  • Isabella Orr, aged 20, arrived in New York in 1774

Orr Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Alexander Orr who arrived in New York state in 1803
  • Alexander Orr, aged 25, arrived in New York in 1804
  • Joshua Orr, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Josua Orr, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Mathew Orr, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811


  • Ashley Rose Orr (b. 1990), American actress
  • David L. "Dave" Orr (1859-1915), American first baseman in Major League Baseball from 1883 through 1890
  • Douglas Orr (1892-1966), American architect
  • James Lawrence Orr (1822-1873), American politician, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1857-1859), 73rd Governor of South Carolina (1865-1868), United States Ambassador to Russia (1872-1873)
  • Alexander Ector Orr (1831-1914), American businessman in New York City, influential in the building the NYC subway system, President of the New York Produce Exchange (1887-1888), President of the New York Chamber of Commerce (1894)
  • Benjamin Orr (1947-2000), American rock musician, best known as the bassist, vocalist and co-founder of the rock band The Cars
  • Gary Orr (b. 1967), Scottish professional golfer
  • Robin Orr CBE (1909-2006), Scottish composer
  • Baron John Boyd Orr (1880-1971), Scottish Professor of Agriculture awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949
  • Sheena Shirley Orr (b. 1959), birth name of Sheena Easton, Scottish four-time Grammy Award nominated singer



  • Ulster Pedigrees: Descendants, in Many Lines of James Orr and Janet McClement, Who Emigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland ca. 1607 by Ray A. Jones.
  • William Orr of Ireland, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky and his Descendants by Paul J. Ostendorf.


  1. Bloxham, Ben. Key to Parochial Registers of Scotland From Earliest Times Through 1854 2nd edition. Provo, UT: Stevenson's Genealogical Center, 1979. Print.
  2. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  3. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Socts Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art of Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  4. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  5. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  6. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  7. Donaldson, Gordon and Robert S. Morpeth. Who's Who In Scotish History. Wales: Welsh Academic Press, 1996. Print. (ISBN 186057-0054).
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  10. Paul, Sir James Balfour. An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland Second Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1903. Print.
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 1 July 2014 at 06:00.

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