Recorded in the spellings of Greir, Grier and Greer, this is an ancient Scottish surname. Whether it descends as is sometimes claimed from the clan MacGregor, who were outlawed in 1603, and clan members forced to take other surnames, or whether it is a short form of 'Grierson', is not proven. However it hardly seems to matter as the Griersons of Lag, Dumfriesshire, themselves claim Highland descent from Gilbert, second son of Malcolm, who is purported to have formed clan Gregor in circa 1350. This in itself however, seems unlikely as Malcom 1V reigned in circa 1150, and the MacGregors themselves claim descent from Gregory the Great, of the 9th century - its all very confusing, but a good fable. What is certain is that the surname is first recorded in 1542 (see below) and amongst the early recordings is that of George Grier, who was a minister of the kirk in Aberdeen in 1598, whilst William Greir was recorded as the heir to lands worth forty shillings in Dalgoner in 1617. Other examples include Gilbert Griersonne of Shappell, Dumfries, in 1677 whilst Rosina Greir was a parishioner of Rerrick in 1684. Amongst the entry lists for the port of New York was James Greer, who is recorded as embarking from Liverpool, England, on April 29th 1846, on the ship 'Sea King'. Strictly speaking these lists show refugees from the Irish Potato Famine, and it is possible that he joined the ship in Belfast. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert Grier, which was dated 1542, a witness at Dumfries Court, Scotland, during the reign of Queen Mary, known as "Queen of Scots", 1543 - 1587. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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