Select Montgomery Surname Genealogy

Montgomery origins are French.  The surname came from the ancient castle of Saint Foi de Montgomery in the diocese of Lisieux in Normandy.  It was born by Roger de Montgomerie, a Norman lord who came to England with William the Conqueror and was one of his principal advisors.  

His Montgomery line spread to Scotland in the 12th century and then to Ireland with the Ulster plantations of the 17th century.   There were some interesting early accounts of this Montgomery family history.  Today there are more Montgomerys in America than in the UK and Ireland.  

The Montgomerie spelling variation persists, although it is not that common now

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England.  Sir Roger de Montgomery was one of the chief advisors to William the Conqueror in his invasion of England.  As a result he was rewarded with large land grants there.  According to the Doomsday Book of 1086 he owned 150 castles and lordships in ten counties of England.  Notably he was granted lands on the Welsh border in the county which later took his name, Montgomeryshire.  He built Shrewsbury Abbey in 1083 where he is entombed.

What happened to that vast inheritance is unclear.  His son Hugh, known as Hugh the Red, died unmarried without heir.  Another son Robert de Belleme inherited but forfeited after leading a rebellion against Henry I in 1101. 

“Robert was typical of his generation, the sons of William's companions who had earned their great honors and titles at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  This newer generation did not share the values and attitudes of their fathers but rather had different experiences altogether.  They had inherited their wealth and status, not earned it.  Yet they expected royal favor and patronage without attending court or serving the king in any capacity.  They often rebelled when they felt they were not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserved.”

Later Montgomerys in England seem to have come through the back door, via Ireland.  Montgomerys from Blessingbourne in Tyrone were London-based British civil servants, diplomats, and army officers in the early 1900’s. Bernard Montgomery, the British Field Marshall during World War Two, was born in London.  His roots, however, were in Moville in SE Donegal which he had visited with his mother as a boy.

Scotland.  Robert de Mundegumri was the first recorded name-bearer in Scotland, a charter witness around the year 1165.  This Robert, said to have been a grandson of Robert de Montgomery, came to Scotland as a follower of the FitzAlans who were also from Shropshire.  Robert was granted lands by King David I in Renfrewshire.  The manor of Eaglesham became the clan seat of the Montgomerys for several centuries.

Sir John Montgomery, the 7th chief of the clan, distinguished himself at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 when he captured Harry Hotspur, the chief of the Percys.  He acquired the Eglinton barony in north Ayrshire and his line became the Earls of Eglinton in 1507. 

The Montgomerys played both sides of the religious divide in that century.  First they were loyal Catholics of Mary, Queen of Scots.  But a later chief had become a staunch Presbyterian covenanter by the time of the English Civil War.  Their home for a while was Androssan on the Ayrshire coast where the 10th Earl Alexander Montgomerie was murdered in 1769.  Their home from 1797 to 1925 was Eglinton Castle. 

There were subsidiary Montgomery branches in north Ayrshire, at Hessilhead and Braidstane.  Alexander
Montgomerie, a younger son of the Laird of Hessilhead, was a poet in the court of James VI in the 1580’s.  Hugh Montgomery of Braidstane became close to James I on his accession to the English throne in 1603.  He was thereby able to obtain half of the O’Neill lands in Ireland as the basis for a Scottish Ulster plantation. 

Ireland.  Sir Hugh Montgomery, Viscount of the Great Ards as he became, is known as one of the founding fathers of the Ulster Scots in Ireland.   The Laird of Braidstane's Scots colony was established there around 1607.

“Of the first 51 families that emigrated from Ayrshire and settled on the Montgomery land, only six appear among them by the name of Montgomery.”

Sir Hugh made his home on the Ards Peninsula at Grey Abbey, where now stands Rosemount House (built in 1762).  The Rev. Hugh Montgomery fled the house during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  But Montgomerys have lived there ever since.  A descendant is the actress Flora Montgomery.

Ayrshire is close to Ulster and other Montgomerys crossed the Irish Sea as well: 
  • Hugh Montgomery, a kinsman of the Viscount, was settled at Derrygonnelly in county Fermanagh in 1618.  A later Hugh came into possession of the Blessingbourne estate in Tyrone in 1730 through marriage.
  • a Montgomery family was at Killaghtee in SE Donegal around 1628.  Samuel Montgomery was a prosperous wine merchant in Derry and built his family home, New Park, at Moville in 1750.  Later Montgomerys were colonial administrators in India.
  • while Alexander Montgomery of Hessilhead came at the time of Cromwell in the 1640’s and made his home at Croghan in Donegal.  His son John was captured by rebels and narrowly escaped death.  His grandson Alexander was appointed High Sheriff of Monaghan in 1718.  The family home there was at Ballyleck.
Archibald Montgomery was born at Killead in county Antrim in 1743.  His line included the Rev. Henry Montgomery, a Presbyterian minister who founded the liberal Remonstrant Synod of Ulster, and two 19th century emigrants who made themselves fortunes – Archibald Montgomery in New York and Josiah Montgomery in New Zealand.  Archibald’s line in America extended to the actor Robert Montgomery and his daughter Elizabeth Montgomery.

America.  The first Montgomery to come to America was probably William Montgomery from the Maypole parish in Ayrshire.  His father Hugh had fallen on hard times there.  One son James sought to support the family as a merchant in Glasgow.  But William decided to emigrate and came to Monmouth county in New Jersey in 1702.  He named his tract Eglinton and it remained with the family until the early 1800’s.

Most other early arrivals were Scots Irish from Ulster.

Hugh Montgomery came from Antrim to Boston in 1718, part of a Scots Irish exodus to New England at that time.  Reportedly they had to spend the winter on the Maine coast before finding a home in what became Londonderry, New Hampshire.  Later Montgomerys were farmers in Strafford county.

Another Hugh and his son John Montgomery had fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  Hugh died while John survived.  He emigrated from Donegal to Delaware with his family in 1720.  They made their home in the Mill Creek Hundred.  William Montgomery, born there in 1736, was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and later a Pennsylvania Congressman.  A later William built the William Montgomery House in Mill Creek Hundred around the year 1810.  It still stands.

James and John Montgomery, also from Donegal, came to that Scottish haven of Virginia, Augusta county, in 1747.  James made his home at Catawba Creek.

Richard Montgomery from a well-to-do Donegal family had come to New York in 1772 and, at the outbreak of war, taken the American rather than the British side.  He led the American attack into Canada in 1775 but died in the assault on Quebec City.  He was remembered as an American hero of the War.   His home in Rhinebeck, New York is now the General Montgomery house and museum.

Tennessee.  Whereas Montgomerys had arrived in America in many different places, Tennessee appeared to have had a lot of them by the early 1800’s. 

John Montgomery had migrated west from Augusta county, Virginia to Tennessee in the 1770’s.  He explored the area that today bears his name (Montgomery county) and later founded the town of Clarksville.  He was killed in 1794 in an Indian ambush. 

William Montgomery, a surveyor, had arrived in Sumner county from Pennsylvania in 1782, settling in Shackle Island.  He also had Indian problems.

“In April 1788 William’s three sons – John, Robert and Thomas – were killed by Indians outside of their father’s house.  John had hobbled out into the orchard where his brothers were trimming apple trees.  The Indians rushed out from a neighboring thicket and scalped all three, leaving their bodies in a heap on a brush pile.”

William lived until 1835.  His farm become the center of the Shackle Island community and was the location for a grinding mill, sawmill, and fulling mill.  

Thomas Montgomery meanwhile came to Blount county from Pennsylvania with his family in 1791.  Later Montgomerys lived on a farm near Snow Hill. 

Lemuel Montgomery was an attorney in Nashville when the War of 1812 broke out.  He enlisted.  He was killed at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, but was afterwards remembered.  Montgomery counties in Alabama and Texas were both said to be named after him.  Lemuel was descended from Hugh Montgomery, an Irish immigrant and merchant in the 1760’s in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Canada.  Hugh Montgomery from Kintyre in Scotland came with his wife and family to Malpeque Bay on Prince Edward Island in 1775.  His house, still preserved there, was home to five generations of Montgomerys and remained in Montgomery hands until the late 1950’s.  One line of descent led to Senator Donald Montgomery of Park Corner and his son Hugh, father to the world famous author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Montgomery’s Inn in Toronto dates back to 1830 when it had been first opened by Thomas Montgomery.  He had immigrated from Fermanagh some fifteen years earlier and previously worked in the salt trade and as a surveyor.  The hey-day of the inn was the 1840’s when many thousands of Irish immigrants, fleeing the potato famine, crowded into Toronto.  Montgomery’s Inn continued until the mid-1850’s, although Thomas himself did not die until 1877.  The inn can be seen today in its preserved state as a museum.

Another tavern owner in Toronto was John Montgomery, the son of an Empire Loyalist from Connecticut.  His tavern also started in 1830.  It served as a base for the rebels during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

New Zealand.
   William Montgomery, brought up in Belfast after his father died, went to sea in 1834 at the age of 13.  By the age of 30 he had bought his own ship and sailed to Australia.  He joined the Victorian Gold Rush but was unsuccessful.  He departed for Christchurch, New Zealand where he was successful as a timber merchant and later entered politics.  He died there in 1914 in his early 90’s.

Select Montgomery Miscellany

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

Select Montgomery Names

Roger de Montgomery was one of William the Conqueror’s principal advisors.  He was granted lands on the Welsh border in the county which later took his name.
Sir Hugh Montgomery
is considered one of the founding fathers of the Scots Ulster plantation of the 17th century.
John Montgomery
was an 18th century American soldier, settler and explorer.  He is credited with the founding of Clarksville, Tennessee.  Montgomery county in Tennessee was named after him.
Sir Bernard Montgomery
was a British Field Marshall of the Second World War, famous for his desert victory at Alamein in 1942.
Wes Montgomery
was an American jazz guitarist, widely considered one of the greatest who ever played.
Colin Montgomerie
is a Scottish professional golfer who has won a record eight European Tour Order of Merit titles

Select Montgomery Today
  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northern Ireland)
  • 39,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 15,000 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 800 surnames.

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