History of the McMORRAN Surname
© 1997-2008, Marcel Safier. Last updated 27 March 2008

Scottish Origins

The name MacMORRAN derives from old Gaelic mugh-ròn, literally 'seal's slave'. Mugron, comharb of Columcille in Ireland and Scotland died in 979. The Scottish MacMorrans are a sept of Clan MacKINNON.  From the 13th century the McKinnon name appears in Iona, in the Isles of Mull. The MacMORRANs of Mull nearly all changed there name to MacKINNON, the name borne by Clan FINGON which had once been that of princes of the royal house of Kenneth Mac Alpin. Originally the MacKinnons held extensive lands in Mull, beneath the mountains of which Iona rests, but following losses to the Macleans, they were compensated with the Strathairdale district of Skye.

McMORRAN is said in some sources to be an old Galloway surname. This ancient region includes Wigtownshire to the west and Kirkcudbrightshire to the east. A few early references to the surname can be found in the legal records of Kirkcudbright from the 15th century.

Although surname history reference books lists Mac/Mc MORRAN as the definitive spelling, the surname has been misspelt extensively throughout time due to illiteracy on the part of the person supplying the information or the person recording the name, and even in the mid to late nineteenth century this still happened so that it has been recorded as McMORAN, McMORREN, McMORRIN, McMORRINE, McMORINE and McMORRON amongst others..  The surnames McMURRAN, McMURREN, McMURRIN also exist in Scotland. Some record entries bearing these spellings could be mispellings of McMORRAN but most people bearing these surnames probably originate in Ireland or had Irish forebears.

Over the last half millenium the majority of the McMORRANs appear in the counties of Lanarkshire, where the McMORRAN spelling predominates and Dumfrieshire and less-so Kirkcudbrightshire, where the McMORRINE and McMORINE spellings predominate. The surname is actually fairly uniquely found in these lowland and border counties and is scarce to find elsewhere in Scotland. The contracted or Anglicised forms of the surname MORIN, MORRIN, MORINE and MORRINE are more commonly found in the records in Dumfrieshire than their respective Mac forms.  Although MORREN, MOREN and MORIN can be shortened forms of the surname these are English and Irish surnames as well. MORREN is listed as a separate sept of clan McKINNON along with McMORRAN.

Irish Origins

For various reasons McMORRANs have emigrated from Scotland to Ireland over the centuries. Thousands of Scottish people went to Ulster with the Plantation of Ireland that took place between 1610 and about 1630 and saw the settlement of Irish land that had been previously seized, by people who would be loyal to the English Crown. The people who received land were called "Undertakers" because they had to undertake certain conditions, including building a house and bawn (a fortified barn), and to settle the land with a minimum number of people of the Protestant faith who could become militia in time of troubles. Confiscated lands were sold to a select class of people including English and Scottish "Undertakers" who were responsible for the plantation of the area granted to them; Servitors, who were English crown servants resident in Ireland, and Native Irish Freeholders. Confiscated land was sold in Ulster, Tyrone, Armagh, Donegal, Fermagh, Cavan and Caleraine. In 1649-1650 following the Civil War there was another major redistribution of lands when Oliver Cromwell offered land in lieu of wages to his soldiers. Many of them took the offer and sold the lands on without themselves even visiting their allotment.

Not all the occurrences of the surname and its variants in Ireland are due to Scottish emigrants and there exists in Ireland families bearing the surname who are unconnected with Scotland.  Surnames of similar spelling to McMORRAN which are more commonly found in Ireland are McMORAN, McMURRAN and McMURRIN.  Some people bearing these surnames may be descended from Scottish McMORRAN emigrants whose names have been corrupted over time but most are of Irish descent.

McMoran in Ireland

MORAINN MOR (Morainn the Great) lived around 750-800 on the shores of Clew Bay in Co. Mayo. Some of his descendants transferred to establish themselves in Fermanagh, probably in the Newtownbutler area. Apart from the McMORANs of Fermagh, whose name has been inevitably changed to MORAN, there a several distinct septs of Ó MORÁIN and Ó MOGHRÁIN, whose name is anglicised to MORAN. Four of these are from Connacht where the name is most common, originally located at: Elphin, in Co. Leitrim (where they are also called MORAHAN), in Co. Mayo at Ardnaree and in Co. Galway, and the fifth at Offaly where the synonym MORRIN is used.  It is likely that the McMORAN name has sometimes been corrupted into McMORRAN giving rise to Irish families bearing surname with no Scottish antecedants. A detailed genealogy of the sept was prepared by the genealogist O'Luinin of Fermanagh from the earliest times to 1800.

Further info on the Moran surname can be found on the following website:
http://users.ev1.net/~gpmoran/mrn3a.htm (contains on exhaustive history of the surname)

McMurran/McMurrin in Ireland

The Irish Gaelic surname Ó MUIREAIN (Muireain meaning sea white or sea fair) belongs to the Ui Fiachrach group of families of Sligo and North Mayo. It was also anglised as (O)MURRIN, (O)MURREN, (O)MURRAN and (O)MORAN.

The McMURRAN surname (probably the most frequently observed spelling) became increasingly common in Scotland especially in the south-west during the 19th century due to the wave of Irish immigrants who settled in Scotland between 1820 and 1900.  Over half of the McMURRAN adults listed in the 1881 census of Scotland for instance are of Irish birth.  I have now seperated the history of the McMURRANs and placed it on, The McMURR*N SURNAME HOME PAGE which also covers the variant spellings McMURRIN, McMURREN, McMURRAIN and McMURRIAN.


Emigration has seen McMORRAN families scattered to many parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, North and South America and South Africa where the McMORRAN spelling is usually the most dominant, although as a check through any modern phone book will reveal the name is never too common.  The majority of McMORRANs who emigrated from both Scotland and Ireland went to America, from as early as 1709 and the next common destination was Canada. The early Australian McMORRAN emigrants went to the Goldfields of Victoria in the 1850s.

Two branches of a McMORRINE family emigrated respectively to America and Australia and account for most of the individuals in those countries with that spelling although some of the Australian family changed their name to McMORRON (refer to main index for links to these families).  Another family with the McMORINE spelling also emigrated to America.  This spelling does not occur in Australia or New Zealand.

(Thanks to Martin Murrin martinmurrin@hotmail.com  for supplying information which helped with the Irish surname origins)

A note on Genetics and One Name Studies

By focussing on a single surname an assumption is made that the male line in families is a continuous one whereas in truth this may not be the case. Indeed only the female line can really be fairly certain but since a patronymic (i.e. deriving from the father) system of passing on surnames exists in most Western societies there is no easy cohesive way of constructing female kindred genealogies. It is estimated that a 3-5% rate of incorrectly stated or documented paternity exists in many families at each generation, that is the parenting father is not the biological father of the child. In some cases this would be due to adoption whether formal or informal, while in others some infidelity may have occurred. Sometimes this might have been with the fathers consent in the case where he may have been infertile and he may have allowed another man to father a child for him with his wife. This other person may have been another family member such as a brother in which case the male bloodline is then perpetuated or it may have been a stranger. In more recent times surrogacy, AID or in-vitro fertilisation with a donor egg or sperm have complicated the issue. Other non parental pregnancies might have resulted from rape or incest. When one considers how this effect would perpetuate with each generation it could mean a significant proportion of people purportedly being the descendants of some earlier progenitor may have no genetic basis to claim this. One has to ask if this matters of course and it gets down to what one is trying to achieve by a one name study -  an accurate genetic bloodline or a real documentation of families as they existed.

Furthermore with each generation assuming that there are roughly equal numbers of male and female children, the father's surname disappears from subsequent generations with the marriage of his daughters. Looked at another way, a quarter or just over a quarter of the grandchildren of a grandfather would carry his surname  depending on whether all the females in the family married. With a great-great grandfather that fraction may drop to as low as a sixteenth of the great great grandchildren carrying their progenitors surname. The genetic dilution is usually not as great as it could be as many family members will end up marrying distant cousins, knowingly or not, especially given of the small populations of some of the places our ancestors lived in the past. All this means that a one name study will miss many people who are descended from ancestors with the surname being studied.

Recent breakthroughs have livened up the issue with typing of the Y-chromosome becoming more widely available. Y-chromosomes are passed on basically intact through the male line with small mutations occurring after many generations. Professor Sykes, an eminent geneticist tested a number of people bearing the Sykes surname and found over 50% had similar Y-chromosomes. This suggests strongly that many modern day Sykes came from a single progenitor and Sykes suggests that non-paternal parenting accounts for many of the errant Y-chromosomes discovered.

I would be most interested in the future to see a similar analysis of some modern McMorran descendants performed to determine whether common ancestry exists but the technology is still prohibitively costly at around US$220 per chromosome analysis. A number of commercial companies are setting up genetic registers but the testing is still not 100% standardised to make comparisons between the results of different testing facilities possible.
Other Links: Clan McKinnon Page
Ron MacKinnon's site
Clan McKinnon Society of North America
Isle of Mull Family History Pages
Index: Early References to McMorrans in the Lothians
Early References to McMorrans in Lanarkshire
Early References to McMorrans in Dumfrieshire
Early References to McMorrans in Kirkcudbright
Early References to McMorrans in Peebles
Early References to McMorrans in Ayrshire
Other early references to McMorrans in Scotland

Early References to McMorrans in the Lothians
Alexander Annand, son to the late Alexander Annand, burgess of Dundee, was apprenticed with John M'Morane thesamoer merchant 17 September 1591.

John Macmorran was one of the baileys of Edinburgh with a house in Riddle's Court which still stands today. He was killed by Sir William Sinclair of Mey whilst attempting to quell a riot at the High School of Edinburgh 5 September 1595. Sir William (who had been knighted by James VI) obtained a remission under the Great Seal for his crime in 1600, having just become married to Katherine Ross and he later inherited extensive lands from his father George, the son of the Earl of Caithness.

William Makmorame was a merchant burgess in Edinburgh in 1565 as was Ninian Macmorran whose daughter Elizabeth (baptised 3 December 1598) married Patrick Hamilton (their marriage contract was dated 18 March 1613) who was later knighted by Charles I on the 22 June 1633. They had one son named Patrick and three daughters. Patrick was appointed a teacher at the St Mary Magdelene School at Linlithgow in 1617 and in 1619 along with two London merchants got a patent on payment of £600 per annum for the refining of sugar and had a barony incorporating Little Preston erected in 1643.  Patrick died in 1662. John Philp, son to Robert Philp, was apprenticed with Ninian Mackmorran merchant 25 November 1607. Robert Borthwick, second son to John Borthwick, of Ballincreif, was apprenticed to Ninian Macmorane merchant 7 December 1608. 

The indexed old parish registers (OPR) of Scotland indicate the most entries for McMorran families in the 17th century is in Edinburgh although this could be partly due to the fact that the Edinburgh registers are amongst the earliest available.

Andro Macmorran married Christane Davidsoun on 16 Dec 1606 in Canongate Parish.

Patrick MackMoran and Margaret Thomsoun had a daughter Margarety baptised 28 Nov 1611 in Edinburgh.

George Mackmoran married Jessie Prymroise on 17 July 1623 in Edinburgh.

Margaret Macmorran married John Adamsoun on 29 Apr 1629 in Canongate parish.

David MackMorrain and Janet Fraser had children David baptised 6 Dec 1674 and Jannet baptised 4 Feb 1677 in Tranent, East Lothian.

Early References to McMorrans in Lanarkshire

From Black's "The Surnames of Scotland" mention is made of William M'Moryne who was a tenant under the Douglas in the barony of Buittle in 1376 and Maurice Macmoryn who was the rector there died in 1381.

William MacMorin, lately papal nuncio to the king and realm of Scotland petitioned in 1395 for the canonry and first prebend of Glasgow. He died in 1408.

John Symington, younger of that Ilk, the elder son, married in 1499, Janet Somerville, daughter of Alexander Somerville and granddaughter of Thomas Somerville of Braxfield, but died without issue, probably before his father, and the succession fell to his brother, William Symington of that Ilk, who is styled Captain of the Castle of Douglas, and bailie of the lordship of Douglas. He married first, Elizabeth Inglis, from whom he was divorced in 1516, and secondly, Janet Hamilton, who was still alive in 1560; but William Symington died before 1535 and left three sons, Archibald, John, and William. Archibald Symington, that Ilk, the eldest son, obtained sasine as heir to his father in the year just mentioned, although still in minority. But he only enjoyed the estates a few years, as he died in 1545. On 27th December, 1538, he, with consent of George Symington and William McMorran of Glaspen, his curators, granted a charter to James Hamilton of Finnart, of parts of the lands of Symington, including two oxgates possessed by John Symington, clerk, and one by John Symington, son of George Symington ; and in 1541 he had a charter to himself, as heir and successor of John Symington of that Ilk, his great-grandfather, and Christian Baillie, his spouse, of the lands of Hazelside and others,  erected into the barony of Symington, with the offices of Bailie of the Lordship of Douglas and Captain of the Castle of Douglas. He was dead in 1545, and his widow, Christian Baillie, afterwards married John McMorran. Archibald left one son, John, an infant, who was at first under the care of his uncle, John Symington, who is called Wardator of that Ilk in letters of gift under the privy seal granted to him on 19th September, 1545, and 15th January, I546-7, of the escheat of his deceased brother Archibald. But John must also have died before 1550, as in that year his next brother, William, bears the title of Tutor of Symington.
(ref: Symington Genealogy)

Probate records for Lanarkshire mention the following:

Mongo M'Morane, in St Connelis Chappell, parish of Douglas 24 May 1623
Bessie M'Morrane, relict of William Corsbie, in Scheilburne, parish of Douglas 10 July 1630
John M'Morrane, in Weston scheilles, parish of Douglas 6 July 1657
Geillis M'Morrane, in Onsett, in Crawfurdjohn 13 Apr 1635
James M'Morrane, of Glespen, parish of Crawford 23 Nov 1691
James M'Morrane, in Biggar 1 Jan 1656
John M'Morrane, in Lindsey-lands, parish of Biggar 25 July 1676
Jean, lawful daughter to the deceased Alexander M'Morrane, in Lindsay-lands 3 Jul 1696
William M'Morrane, in Westraw of Biggar, parish of Biggar 2 Aug 1661
Margaret M'Morrane, spouse to John Byres, in Culter maynes, parish of Culter 2 Aug 1661
Claud McMorran of Glespin to fa Jas McMorran of Glespin who d. 10/10/1668 in Glespin & Cairn currishaw in barony of Crawfordjohn in Lanarkshire 1712

A McMorran was Laird of the estate of Glespin around 1620. This passed to successive sons. The MacMorran of Glespin was Commissioner of Supply for Lanark in 1696.  The following is an extract about Glespin taken from "History of the Parish of Crawfordjohn, Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. 1153 to 1928." by Thomas Reid. Printed by Turnbull & Spiers, Edinburgh, 1928.

The earliest recorded notice of the lands of Glespin indicate that in the first half of the seventeenth century this property was held by a family of the name of Macmorran, and alludes to an incident not connected with the Laird, But with the Lady of Glespin. The latter had given expression of opinions at the time of Montrose's descent upon the Lowlands favourable to the Highland host and contrary to those of the Presbytery of Lanark. Cited for her utterances on 3rd September 1646 before the court, the "Lady of Glespin compears and confesses she said, 'If Montrose and his people were present she would not be worse used than be our awine.'" She was "ordained to confess her fault privately before the Session, and being humbled, to be received."

Prior to 1654, James Macmorran, probably this lady's husband, was then laird. On the 27th February of that year, his son and heir, also a James Macmorran, was put in possession of the "nine merks lands of Glespin, the ane merk land of Cairnecureshaw, within the barony of Crawfordjohn."

One has to pass over a hundred years ere there is found any reference to the lands of Glespin. It was then the time of the '45, and Scotland was in a state of disorder quite equal to the confusion attending Montrose's campaign. The disorderly ranks of Prince Charles Stuart's army on their retreat from Derby passed through the Upper Ward, marching from Drumlanrig by Lamington, Crawfordjohn, Douglas and Lesmahagow to Glasgow, and onwards to the Highlands and Culloden Moor. On this occasion the then Laird of Glespin is found on the side of the Government. He was one of those who mustered at Lamington for the purpose of capturing the disorganised forces of Prince Charles. One of the parishioners of Crawfordjohn is said to have violently taken possession of a musket snatched from the enfeebled hands of a Highland soldier.

The Macmorran family appear to have ceased to be proprietors of Glespin about the commencement of the nineteenth century. They have left behind them little trace of family history, except that, according to popular tradition, Glespin was long possessed by lairds who had the reputation of being miser and spendthrift alternately.

The old house of the Macmorrans was one of considerable extent and appears to have been coeval with the lifetime of the two James Macmorrans mentioned under date 1654.

The successor to the Macmorrans of Glespin was a Glasgow merchant, who in turn disposed of it to Messrs Inglis & Wood, lawyers in Edinburgh. Before the old house of Glespin was demolished these new proprietors were wont to derive a fair rent for the right of shooting over the moor on the estate. For such tenants outhouses, stables and barns of considerable extent were erected for their horses and attendants, and these are still standing.  From the firm of Inglis & Wood, Glespin came into the hands of the Douglas family about 1840. On the valuation roll of 1858-59 it appears as belonging to Lady Montague of Douglas, sister of the then Countess of Home.

The earliest McMorran entries in the Lanarkshire parish registers are for the family of William McMorran and Janet Mair living in Lanark who were married 4 April 1683 and had the following children baptised: James (26 June 1684), Margarat (21 April 1686), William (4 January 1688), Grissall (16 January 1690), Mary (1 May 1692), Elizabeth (28 Jan 1694) and Katherine (14 April 1695). Agnes MacMorren married James Carmichall 19 October 1684 in Lanark and may have been a sister to William.

Another William McMorren married Katherin Brown in the parish of Wiston and Roberton in 1693 and they had a son John baptised 25 February 1694.

James McMorran and Jean Ruan had a son David baptised in Crawfordjohn in November 1694. Another James McMorran married Margaret Watsone at Crawfordjohn on 19 December 1699 and they had the following children baptised: Margaret (2 February 1702), Elizabeth (6 May 1705) and Robert (28 May 1710) (this is the line of the maintainer of this site Marcel Safier - see the McMorrans of Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire).

Early References to McMorrans in Dumfrieshire

The earliest parish register entry is for the marriage of Edward McMorreine to Jeane Thomsone at Dumfries in 1670 and the earliest baptism of is of Margrat McMorrine, daughter to Robert, on 7 January 1681 at Dumfries. There is a gap in further entries until Walter McMoran has his son Thomas baptised in Kirkpatrick Juxta in 1748, and James McMorin married Elizabeth Walker in that same year at Kirkmahoe.  Samuel McMorran and Barbara Haining had their children baptised in Sanquhar from 1758.  Samuel McMor(r)in and his wife Helen Watson had three children baptised in Morton by Thornhill from 1774.

The best traced lines of Dumfrieshire McMorrines so far is that resulting from the marriage of Andrew McMorrin(e) to Grizzel Lorimer in 1786 at Closeburn. (see The McMorrines of Dumfrieshire/Kirkcudbrightshire) and the family of the above Samuel McMorrin and Helen Watson (see The McMorrines of Morton, Dumfrieshire).  The family of early Presbyterian Minister Robert McMorrine (b.1709) and Elizabeth Maxwell is also extensive (see The McMorines of Dumfrieshire).

Early References to McMorrans in Kirkcudbright

John M'Moryn appears as a witness in Kirkcudbright in 1466. Alexander McMoren in Galloway had a respite for "treasonable intercommonyng with Inglismen" in 1529.1 M’Morrane of Kirkennan, being in debt 400 merks to George Gordon in Culwha, assigned to him the lands of Mylneton of Buittle on the 20th May 1585. He married Margaret, daughter of John Gordon of Lag, parish of Girthon.2 Probate records show Edward Malmorane was retoured heir of Margaret Gordoun his mother in lands of Blakat in Kirkcudbright in 1576.  On the 25th June 1586, Edward (Maxwell), commendator of Dundrennan, conveyed to Robert M’Morrane of Kirkennan, the teind schaws of the eight-merk land of Torr and Len Schannel, with pertinents in Rerwick. The witness to this was James Hutton, Prior, &c. Robert M’Morrane appears to have left two daughters as heirs-portioners. Their names were Nicolas and Margaret. On the 26th February 1592, they were served as heirs to their father.3 The farms of Blackbelly, Chapeltoun or Chapelcroft, &c., are believed to have formed a portion of the Buittle estate and a notice dated 12th March 1611, shows Nicola and Rosina, daughters and heirs of Robert M’Morane, had retour of Blackbelly, &c. On the 31st October 1615, Robert, son of Robert Maxwell of Spottes, was served heir to Chapelcroft or Chapeltoun, and Blackbellie, but in what way he became heir does not appear.4

The first mention of the name in the parish registers is in Minnigaff where John McMorran married Janet Henderson in 1707. In Girthon, Margaret McMorrin married James Paulin in 1729 and Helen McMorrin married James Tod in 1732. Robert McMorine and his wife Jannet McClellan had a daughter Margaret baptised at Buittle in 1738. Another Helen McMorran married John McCutcheon at Minnigaff in 1749. In Twynholm Samuel McMoran had a daughter Mary baptised in 1766 and William McMorran married Janet Rain there in 1772. A William McMoran had a son William baptised at Balmaghie in 1769 (see The McMorrans of Kirkcudbright website).

Unfortunately the church records are too incomplete to allow any connections to be drawn between these early inhabitants of Kirkcudbright although it is evident the McMorran surname has over a 500 year history in the county.

1George F. Black, "The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History" NY Public Library, NY, 1965, 2nd Reprinting.
2,3,4P.H. M'Kerlie, "History of the Lands and Their Owners in Galloway" Edinburgh, 1877.

Early References to McMorrans in Peebles

6 March 1699
This day in the presence of the magistrats and cousell, compeired John M'Morran, and enacts himself to serve as hangman within this burgh of Peebles dureing all the dayes of his lyfetyme, and that ge sall behave himself honestly, and not be found in any transgression dureing his service, for doeing quhairof the toun are to give him a peck of meall weekly till the price be below a merk piece, and thairafter a merk weekly, and a sute of cloaths yeirly, and a free house; quich John M'Morran obleisses himself to do. De mandato dicti Joannis M'Morran, scribere nesciendi manu sua (ut asseruit), Ego Gulielmus Williamsone, notarius publicus, subscribo.

Early References to McMorrans in Ayrshire

Patrick McMorran had a daughter named Jonet baptised 29 Jan 1671 in Ochiltree.

Willem MackMurren had a son named James baptised 2 Apr 1682 in Muirkirk.

Other early references to McMorrans in Scotland

John McMoryne witnessed a charter by Robert de Graham of lands in Kyle to Melrose Abbey c. 1344 and Alan McMoryn witnessed the resignation by Sir David de Wemyss of certain lands in 1373. Herbert McMorane had a remission for certain acts committed by him in 1495.1

1George F. Black, "The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History" NY Public Library, NY, 1965, 2nd Reprinting.

I welcome contact about any aspect of the site or the family surnames:
© 1997-2008. Marcel Safier, P.O. Box 239, Holland Park 4121, Queensland, Australia, msafier@ozemail.com.au