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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

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.

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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.


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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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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 United States in the 17th Century


  • Robert Orr, who landed in Maryland in 1674

Orr Settlers in 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 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


Orr Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Isaac Orr, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750

Orr Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Samuel Orr, aged 26, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1833
  • Paddy Orr, aged 18, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1833
  • George Orr, aged 29, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Salus" in 1833
  • Thomas Orr, aged 36, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Edward Reid" in 1833
  • Robert Orr, aged 22, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Perseus" in 1834


Orr Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • William Orr, aged 44, a farm bailiff, arrived in South Australia in 1852 aboard the ship "Gloucester"
  • Isabella Orr, aged 18, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Sir Thomas Gresham"
  • Mary Orr, aged 18, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Victoria Regia"

Orr Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Andrew Orr arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Gertrude" in 1868
  • Arthur Orr, aged 22, a farm labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Oxford" in 1874
  • Daniel Orr, aged 20, a farm labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Maraval" in 1879
  • James Orr, aged 21, a farm labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Maraval" in 1879

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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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  1. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  2. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  3. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  4. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  5. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  6. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  7. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  10. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  11. ...


This page was last modified on 31 December 2014 at 15:21.

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