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

Where did the Scottish Orr family come from? What is the Scottish Orr family crest and coat of arms? 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 story of the Orr family is rich with Scottish history. It begins in the ancient kingdom of Dalriada where Orr evolved as a name for some who 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.

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Historical recordings of the name Orr include many spelling variations. They include They are the result of repeated translations of the name from Gaelic to English and inconsistencies in spelling rules. 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.


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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.

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

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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.

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Scottish settlers arrived in many of the communities that became the backbones of the United States and Canada. Many stayed, but some headed west for the endless open country of the prairies. In the American War of Independence, many Scots who remained loyal to England re-settled in Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Scots across North America were able to recover much of their lost heritage in the 20th century as Clan societies and highland games sprang up across North America. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Orrs to arrive on North American shores:

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


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  • 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

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  • 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.
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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Bonis omnia bona
Motto Translation: All things are good to the good.

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  1. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  2. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  3. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  4. Donaldson, Gordon and Robert S. Morpeth. Who's Who In Scotish History. Wales: Welsh Academic Press, 1996. Print. (ISBN 186057-0054).
  5. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  6. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  7. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  8. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  9. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  10. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  11. ...

The Orr Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Orr Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 19 February 2014 at 14:52.

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