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Grierson (Greerson, Greer, Grier) Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: HOC SECURIOR (more secure through this)

Let me share with you the rich history of your family, the Griersons, passed down through generations. The name Grierson finds its origins in the personal name of Gregor, derived from the Greek word for ‘vigilant’ and the Latin translation ‘gregorius’, which was a popular name in the Middle Ages. It is believed that the surname Grierson is derived from this forename. Your family’s main lineage, the Greirsons of Lag, near Dumfries, acquired their ancestral lands in the early fifteenth century. In 1420, Gilbert Grierson served as an ‘armour bearer’ to the Earl of Douglas, and he married Janet, the daughter of Sir Simon Glendinning, who had a royal connection as her mother was Mary Douglas, daughter of the fourth Earl of Douglas and Princess Margaret.

The fortunes of your family were secured through this royal connection, and around 1460, Vedast Grierson of Lag constructed a formidable tower on the family’s lands. Sir William Grierson, closely allied with the powerful Maxwell family, joined forces with them against the Johnstones of Annandale at the Battle of Dryfe Sands in 1593.

Sir Robert, the only son of Sir William, was succeeded by his cousin, also named Robert, who became the first Baronet of Lag. During the reign of James VII, it was this Laird of Lag who, for a period, became synonymous with terror and death due to his fierce persecution of Covenanters. In 1685, he was granted the baronetcy of Nova Scotia, and that same year, he surprised a Covenanter service at Kirkconnell. In the ensuing struggle, most of the worshippers were killed, and Lag was reputed to have denied them a proper burial, solidifying his feared reputation. Following the removal of James VII from power, Sir Robert was arrested, and the ordeal took a toll on his health, leading to his passing in 1736.

However, not all members of the Grierson family were involved in bellicose pursuits. Elizabeth Crichton (née Grierson), born in 1779, was the daughter of Sir Robert, the fifth baronet. After her husband’s untimely death, she dedicated his legacy to philanthropic endeavors. Although her efforts to establish a new Scottish university in Dumfries did not succeed, she successfully founded the Crichton Royal Hospital. Following the hospital’s closure in the 1980s, part of its site became the Dumfries campus of the University of Glasgow, fulfilling the founder’s original intention. Another notable figure from your family is Dr. John Grierson, born in Kilmadock near Stirling in 1898, who is widely recognized as the father of the British documentary film movement.

The Grierson family has an intriguing connection to Clan Gregor, as some claim that the Griersons of Lag in Dumfries-shire are descended from Gilbert, the second son of Malcolm, Chief of Clan Gregor, who received lands at Dalgarnock around 1408.

Gilbert Grierson, who served as an Armour Bearer to the Earl of Douglas in 1420, married Janet Glendinning, a granddaughter of the fourth Earl of Douglas and Princess Margaret. Vedast Grierson, their son, further fortified the family stronghold at Lag by constructing a four-storey tower.

The Griersons faced tumultuous times, with Roger Grierson losing his life at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 and subsequent generations perishing alongside James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Displaying their loyalty, the family supported James IV during his infancy, and William Grierson of Lag was knighted by James VI.

During the reign of James VII, Sir Robert Grierson of Lag unleashed a fierce persecution of the Covenanters from his base at Garryhorn. Infamous tales spread about his bloodthirsty zealotry, such as his acid spit that could burn holes and his wine that turned into congealed blood. Grierson himself faced imprisonment for aligning with the Jacobite cause. Sir Walter Scott featured Grierson in his popular novel, Red Gauntlet.

Your family has also produced distinguished individuals beyond Scotland’s borders. Benjamin Grierson, born in 1826 and passed away in 1911, served as a Union cavalry general during the American Civil War. In 1863, he led an expedition through Confederate-held territory, severing communication lines between Vicksburg, Mississippi, and enemy commanders in the Eastern Theatre. After the Civil War, Grierson led the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

Associated family names or spelling variations include Greerson, Greer, and Grier.

These are just glimpses into the captivating history of your family, the Griersons, which encompasses royal connections, battles, philanthropy, and achievements in various fields.

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