Last name: Gillespie

Recorded in several spellings, this interesting surname, is of pre 10th century Gaelic-Scottish origin. It derives from Mac giolla Easpuig, meaning 'The son of the bishop's servant. Widely recorded in Scotland, the origination is from the Roman Latin word 'eposcopus' meaning bishop or leader, although why this should be, since no other Gaelic name has any sort of similar origin, remains a mystery. In Ireland the surname is chiefly recorded in County Down, Ulster. These Gillespies who came from Scotland, were erenaghs or hereditary landlords, who managed the local church lands. In Scotland Ewan Gillaspeck witnessed a charter by Alwin, earl of Levenax, in circa 1199, whilst Guileaspos Cambell, who in 1360 invaded the county of Northumberland in England, is the forerunner of the later Gillespies of that county. They have the more unusual spelling of Gillhespy. Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (1766 - 1814), born in County Down, had an adventurous and distinguished career as a soldier in India, where he was killed in action. A coat of arms granted to the Scottish clan has the blazon of a silver shield, charged with a chevron wavy between three red heraldic roses. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Teag Mac Giolla Epscoip, who was chief of Aeilabhra, in the barony of Iveagh, County Down. This was dated 1175, in the "Medieval Irish Records", during the reign of Rory O'Conor, known as "The High King of Ireland", 1166 - 1175. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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Jane Gillespie

My husband had a DNA test with national geographic. He is a descendent of Niall M222. There are at least 5 lines of Gillespies in the US. I now believe his line crossed over to the lowlands of Scotland in the 5 th century. James and Jennet Gilhespey came to Colonial Virginia @ 1738. He was a Presbyterian elder and the English in Williamsburg liked the ScottsIrish because they were the buffer from the Indians in the Shenandoah Valley. They fought in American Revolution against England, and walked over the mountains to North Carolina to kick English butt at the Battle of Kings Mountain. When you have your DNA tested, there are markers that may mutate when your family immigrated. My husband knows he is Irish, Scots, and even the Gillespies intermarried with American Indians!


I am a Gillespie and I know I'm African American and some American Indian been trying to find out if I have Irish descendants. I am really interested.people keep telling me different things but the research I have conducted keeps leading me to be Irish.

David Gillespie

This is the history of my surname. I am aware that I have a Scottish/ Irish background so very informative.

Ronald A Gillespie

I am a Gillespie Ronald Gillespie from Laois and Ulster. DF21,DF25,DF5,L1403. That translation is not accurate. They were the Fili. There are notions concerning the etymology of the Gillespie name which are no longer credible. The first associates the root with "Gilly," a serving boy. If this were true, the Scots Gillivray name, where the the third syllable comes from the Gaelic "Brath," meaning judgment, would foolishly translate to, 'servant boy of judgment,' rather than to the obvious FiliBrath, or 'lawyer (poetic reciter) of judgment.' The Galbraith name has the same origin. Another myth links Gillespie to the name to Archibald: it is absurd to link the Gaelic name of Gillespie with the Germanic Ercenbald.

Chief Charles Gillispie of "Mac Giolla Easpaig Clann of Armagh"

The Gillespie name is Irish part of Northern Ui Neill they moved in to Dalradia, before Scotland was united as a country by Kenneth MacAlpin who united the Picts and Celts. you can read the complete summary and explanation of the surname at here you will learn about the connection to St. Chattan, GilleChattan Mor the Ui Neill connections.

James Gillespie
dave,I have researched Gillespie clan history in Scotland we go back to 500AD research deeper


you're clearly scottish and scottish people absolutely hate admitting they have any connection to ireland. thats a blatant lie. gillespie came from ireland in the 5th century, was first recorded in county down in 1175 and only recorded in scotland in 1199. personally i'm an irishman but if you can prove gillespie is scottish thats cool with me. it just annoys me how scottish people claim to own everything e.g. whiskey-recorded in scotland in 1494, recorded in ireland in 1405

Jon Gillespie
For the Scottish Gillespies.. I have a book "The Loyall Dissuasive; And Other Papers Concerning The Affairs of Clan Chattan" where they state that the Gillespies were in control of the lands of Badenoch until the Cummings came. The Macphersons drove out the Cummings and became the power in the area..hence the Gillespie-Macpherson connection in Scotland. In Ireland, since the name translated means servant of the Bishop, (or son of the servant with the "mac"), isnt it possible they migrated to Scotland with Columba, and his party up the great glen? Looking into the kingdom of Dal Riata and how it stretched from Northern Ireland to Scotland, it makes sense to me. Lets try to end all this nonsense associating our surname, with 'Ercenbald' and other names. ps- I have no idea how old these posts are I just came across them today (9/8/2012)

Dave Gillespie
I've been doing some research on the origins of the Gillespie's and it's clear that the Gillespie's are from the northwest region of Ireland (Donegal). Interesting enough, 27 ships of the Spanish Armada sank in the western coast of Ireland (1588 Sept). The La Trinidad Valencera survivors came to Donegal. As the ship broke up around 40 men were drowned but most of the men on board managed to get to shore safely. They were met by a the Irish chieftain of the area Sir John O’Doherty who agreed to help them and sent them on their way to the Bishop of Derry’s castle at Elagh. (Some Gillespie's can trace their heritage back to being servants to the wealthy O'Doherty family in Donegal). Anyhow, the English heard of their arrival and sent a force of mounted troops to capture the Spanish. The Bishop of Derry (Redmond O'Gallaghar) then helped the Spanish escape to Scotland... How this is relevant is just look at the Gillespie Scottish coat of arms... the ship, and the motto "A sure anchor of salvation"... it seems to me the Gillespie's were the servant of O'Doherty family but were also acting as the servant of the Bishop in escorting the Catholic Spaniards to Scotland. This also goes well with the "Black Irish" theory which suggests some of the spanish soldiers took up roots in Ireland and scotland and thus we have dark haired, dark eyed, and olive skinned Irish/Scots... which I am one of them. Please email or comment if you have anything to say about this.

Ashlee Gillespie
I am Black and we have a Irish influence in my family. Tryng to pinpoint exactly who where and when!


hey dave, sorry to tell you but the black irish thing is a myth, nothing more. i'm an irishman and we've studied that stuff in history. also, the irish gillespies were servants to the o'neill clan, who granted them land in the barony of iveagh, county down. after their chief teag gillespie was killed they relocated to county donegal where the name has existed for the last 8 1/2 centuries.

Sophie henderson (gillespie also)
Wow i just love that our family name is so old! Who knows who we are related to its amazing

Rian Gillespie
I have come to my own conclusion, after reading mayn articles too, that my surname is of Irish decent. I believe the confusion in it's origions comes from the cross relations of Irish and Scottish relations on and after 5th century, with marriage and clanns merging. You can see the Irish/Scottish history even today with the Celtic Football Club. Just for a FYI also, I am from Co. Tyrone (North west Ireland, on borger with Donegal) and all the Gillespie family I am connected to hare from here. That in iteself gives a good strong link to all the pre-discussed findings and linkage to the name originating in Donegal.

Bruce Gillespie
I have been researching the name Gillespie for 30 years and still haven't come to a final solution. One interesting point I have come across is the name Gillespie in all its forms may originally have been a Pict name. ( The original inhabitants of Scotland prior to the influx of Celtic peoples) The latest DNA samples taken of Scotland show that a percentage of persons ,especially in the north and central highlands Including those with the last name Gillespie have the DNA of the first migration out of Africa and not associated with the second migration as with persons of purely Celtic origin. There is currently a Gillespie DNA project underway that every Gillespie is able to participate in for the cost of the DNA kit and some postage. This will once and for all settle the Irish Scottish heritage. .

John Carbonne
Actually, the name Gillespie has it's origin in France, In Alsace.

Sheila Gillespie Roark
Does anyone know of some contact information In Scotland or Ireland to get information on your ancestors?

N Craddock
Is your assumption that information derived from Ireland and Scotland is by definition more accurate? There is a roaring trade in 'Ancestors.' c.f. the above post re: Clan McPherson Museum. (!!!) One seems to have a choice: get to hear what you want to hear; Research it yourself (I do mean use research through differing sources) and draw your own conclusions. History, wherever one comes across it, is NOT definitive - Who Shot Kennedy? Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place in Freemont Street not at the Corral but check out the 'reconstruction' there at the Corral. We cannot prove what happened last week let alone centuries ago !!! I don't live Ireland, Scotland or America (just a thought) The links here and by searching elsewhere on tthe 'net will provide a mine of information. There is little census information - plenty of folklore. A series of programmes on the Clans (one for each major Clan) is very good and should give one the correct impression that much from the period is 'mudded' Good Luck

N Craddock
Power struggles between clans meant that it was advisable to align oneself with 'x' or 'y' faction. The Gillespies allyed with the McPherson's. These pacts were often sealed through marriage.

Shelley Gillespie
Sorry, that should be, "related"! (It's a bit late)

Shelley Gillespie
I've recently been to the Clan MacPherson Museum in Scotland and it has prompted me to look for the origin of "Gillespie". Can anyone explain just how we became relared to the MacPhersons? Shelley Gillespie

Lee Louise Williams
Just look it up in your notebook, under Gillespie, it is all there.

Nigel Craddock (nee Gillespie)
It derives from Mac giolla Easpuig, meaning 'The son of the bishop's servant. Widely recorded in Scotland, the origination is from the Roman Latin word 'eposcopus' meaning bishop or leader, although why this should be, since no other Gaelic name has any sort of similar origin, remains a mystery. Read more: I wouldn't be surprised if the Bishop's servant bit is not post introduction of the name. Craddock - Caradoc - Caratacus - by 1100's were advisers also (superseded by the Twdr - or Tudors, just an aside) but their rank was Pre-Roman let alone Pre-Christian. So, no mystery save that 'our' history is more than a little convoluted to suit a certain 'story.'

Nigel Craddock (nee Gillespie)
Yawn, yawn, yawn - The area that the name comes from is today both part of Ireland and Scotland. Pls, pls. stop putting modern boundaries and prejudices on others who wouldn't know what you were going on about

Jene' Gillespie
So, I'm a black Gillespie does this mean that my last name came from slave owners?

Nigel Craddock (nee Gillespie)
Most probably. Although, as with my previous posts, I hope you are proud to be who you are.

Nigel Craddock (Mother's side - Gillespie)
From what is available to be read it's clear that the area from which the Gillespies hailed is south-west Scotland and N. Ireland (as known today) - I think aligning oneself to today's borders and concepts of nationhood with regard to the past is ummm pointless. e.g. The Lord Of The Isles was not Scottish and fought the Scots at Renfrew but today one would be called crazy not to think of the Isles as not-Scottish. I would suggest being proud to be Gillespie and forget lines on the map drawn by politicians. Just a thought ..

For a more accurate description of gillespie look up the surname anespie, which is a variant of it.k

I don't know what idiot wrote this article but I suggest they check their facts. The Gillespie name is both Irish and Scottish, was first found in Ireland and for the record Mac Giolla Easpaig is the Irish translation. Mac Gille Easbuig is the Scottish translation.

The catholic church in ireland didn't abide by the laws of the wider catholic church so bishops and priests were able to marry into the 1200's until it was reformed. i assume it was the same in scotland

Speaking as a typically candid 'sonofabishop' I am surprised sons of bishops' servants evolved into a family tree at all. Clearly some brave sonofabishop escaped to procreate in peace with his piece.

Sheila Roark
Ok. After reading the above comments I am confused as to which Gillespie I am. My father always told me I was Irish and Indian. But have recently learned I am Sottish too. So how do I find out which clan I am from.. And did they inter-marry with one another (Scottish & Irish).

Lee Louise Williams
I seem to be in the same situation, could write a book. Just found out I am a Gillespie and was told that I also had Indian (American). Very complicated. To make matters worse am also adopted. Hence the sur-name.

Sheila Roark
Lee, Would like for you to contact me personally...We might can help each other researching our genealogy/sur-name. Let me know if you are interested. Will give you my email address..Or Facebook address...Thank you for responding to my post.. Sheila

I've done some research into this name. Mac Giolla Easpaig or Mac Giolla Easpuig is an Irish Gaelic surname originating in west Ulster (Donegal, Derry) and means 'son of the servant of the bishop'. This surname has been Anglicised as Gillespie. Mac Gille Easbuig is a Scottish surname which arose in several parts of Scotland and also means 'son of the servant of the bishop'. This surname has also been Anglicised as Gillespie. In general, catholic Gillespies are of Irish descent and protestant Gillespies are of Scottish descent though this isn't always the case. There is also an error with the coat of arms. The Irish Gillespie clan use the blue shield with the 3 red roses while the Scottish clan use the same coat of arms as the macpherson clan whom they're supposed to be related to. Their coat of arms is a ship on a yellow background.

The name may have originated in scotland but i've read it goes back earlier to 5th century ireland. Usually 2 origins are given: mac giolla easpaig (irish) and mac gille easbuig (scottish). Also this website itself states that the name was first recorded in county down,Ireland which undermines the claim that it's originally scottish. Anyway i'm just saying it's debatable. Check out this website: - 13k

Sounds like someone who thought they were fully fledged Irish and this has come as a unpleasant suprise.

Amy Gillespie
How do you know?