Select Ogilvie Surname Genealogy

Ogilvie is a place-name near Glamis in the former county of Angus on the east coast of Scotland.  It was first recorded around the year.1205 in the form of Ogilvin.  The name is thought to have derived from a Celtic word ugl meaning "high" and ma “place.”  The resulting surname has generally been Ogilvie, although the first Ogilvies who took the name and a few others have continued to style themselves Ogilvy.

By the time of the 1891 census 53% of Ogilvies in Scotland were still in Angus.  They had spread elsewhere in Scotland.  But larger numbers had moved overseas.

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ScotlandIn Pictish times Angus was ruled by a mormaer who was one of the ancient Celtic nobles of Scotland who became the first earls.  The Mormaer of Angus title became the Earl of Angus and Gillebride, Earl of Angus, gave the Ogilvie lands to his son, Gilbert, around 1172.  He assumed the surname of Ogilvy

Patrick de Ogilvy appeared on the Ragman Rolls swearing fealty to King Edward I in 1296.  But his two sons both supported Robert the Bruce in the Wars of Independence. 
Sir Walter Ogilvy was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425 and his grandson James named Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491.  These Ogilvies adhered loyalty to the Stuart cause throughout the troubled times from 1640 to 1745, from the English Civil War to Culloden.  Lord and Lady Ogilvy escaped to France after Culloden, but were later pardoned.

Cadet branches of the Ogilvies, who styled themselves Ogilvie, became the Earls of Findlater in 1638 and Seafield in 1701.  Patrick Ogilvie, born in 1623, was the first of the Ogilvies of Auchiries near Aberdeen. Today the principal Ogilvy seat is at Cortachy.  They still hold Airlie castle which was rebuilt as a mansion in 1793 after the Campbells had destroyed the castle in 1640.

There were other Ogilvie lines in and around Angus and other Ogilvie personages:
  • John Ogilvie, born in 1579, was the son of a wealthy laird at Keith in nearby Banffshire.  He became a Catholic priest, but was captured, tortured and hanged in 1615.  John Ogilvie was canonized by the Catholic church in 1976.
  • and William Ogilvie of Pittensear, who claimed descent from the Pict Gillebride, was known as the rebel professor.  He was author of the influential treatise An Essay on the Right of Property in Land that was published in 1781. 
One Ogilvie family established itself on the Scottish borders in the 18th century where they managed estates for the country gentry there.  They made their own home at Holefield near Kelso in Roxburghshire.   Will Ogilvie of this family departed for Australia in 1889 and spent twelve years in the Austrlalian outback where his prose and poetry written there captivated an audience back home.

  Ogilvies in England were generally transplanted Scotsmen, the best-known being David Ogilvy, the advertising guru, who was born near London in 1911.  
His father Francis had been a Gaelic-speaking Scotsman who was both a classics scholar and a stockbroker.  His family had originally come from Edinburgh, moved to Inverness, while Francis himself had been born in Argentina where his father had temporarily settled.

America.  The Ogilvie numbers that emigrated to America have not been that large. 

An early Ogilvie was the Rev. John Ogilvie, born in New York in 1724, and the son of a British army officer there.  William Ogilvie came to New York from Scotland in 1745.  A descendant was Judge Peter Ogilvie, a general in the War of 1812.  A later descendant was the Hudson river painter Clinton Ogilvie.    

After the Culloden defeat in 1745 Charles Ogilvie from the Auchiries line migrated to South Carolina where he was a member of the Charleston firm of Ogilvie & Ward which exported rice to Europe.  He also ran his own plantation at Myrtle Grove.  He was a Loyalist who departed Charleston after the defeat in 1783 (although his children did return to settle).

Caribbean.  Several Ogilvies established themselves in the Caribbean in the late 18th century, including Sir John Ogilvie of Inverquharity who owned plantations in Antigua.  His son Adam was foully murdered there in 1799. 

It was said that two Ogilvie brothers travelled to the Caribbean, one settling in Jamaica and the other in Grenada.  George Ogilvie, who died in 1791, did own a sugar plantation called Langley's in Jamaica.  Another George Ogilvie was born in Grenada in 1806.   George Robertson Ogilvie settled in Falmouth, Jamaica some time later; while Dr. James Ogilvie was mayor of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1870's.

Canada.  Alexander Ogilvie came to the Montreal area from Stirling in Scotland in 1800 and soon built for himself a small grist mill.  That enterprise - which was passed onto his sons Alexander, John and William - marked the start of his family's long association with the Canadian milling industry.  By the 1870's they were dominating the grain milling business of the newly-developed Canadian prairies.  The dynasty ended with the death of two of the brothers in 1900 and 1902.  The 1904 book The Ogilvies of Montreal by John Gemmill narrated their family story.  

A later Montreal arrival, James Ogilvy from Angus, started a small dry goods store there in 1866.  The store thrived and stayed in family hands until 1927.  It remains today in Montreal as La Maison OgilvyWilliam Ogilvie, the son of Scots Irish immigrants, was an important figure in the Canadian West, being at various times between 1870 and 1900 land surveyor, explorer, and commissioner of the Yukon territory.

Australia.  David Ogilvy - born in Edinburgh, a budding lawyer, and an acquaintance of Sir Walter Scott – emigrated to Australia in 1839 and settled at South Yarra near Melbourne where he practiced as a lawyer.  He called his home Airlie and grew grapes there.

Yulgibar castle in the Clarence valley in NSW was built by Edward Ogilvie, a cattle grazier who had established his ranch there in 1840.  It took Ogilvie and his German builders six years to build this grandiose 40-room structure.  At the time it was completed the station had its own vineyard, stables, school house, and gateway cottage.   Edward lived in the castle until his death in 1896.  He was the son of William Ogilvie who had arrived in Sydney from London in 1825.

New Zealand.   Charles and Edith Ogilvie came to New Zealand via Australia in 1914.  Their family history, plus the earlier history of the Ogilvies, was put together by a descendant Gordon Ogilvie in his 2002 book Picts and Porridge.

Select Ogilvie Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Ogilvie Names

Sir Walter Ogilvy was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425.
Alexander Ogilvie was the founder of the Ogilvie grain milling empire in Canada in the 19th century.
David Ogilvy was the advertising executive, the head of Ogilvy & Mather, who has been widely hailed as the father of advertising.

Select Ogilvies Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Angus)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 1,000 surnames.

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