Lady Grey?

March 29th, 2011

My great-great grandmother, Agnes Gray (Grey), was Scottish. I’m not sure if she was born in Scotland, or if her parents immigrated to America first. Regardless, my own grandmother has always been interested in our Scottish heritage. She had a suit made in the Sutherland tartan, but I was never quite sure how that connexion worked. How could someone named Gray belong to the Sutherland clan?

Well it turns out that the Grays (Greys) are a sept, or sub-division of the Sutherland clan. The Grays came over to England with William the Conqueror, and later fled up to Scotland after doing something naughty down south. By the 16th century, they were allied with the Sutherlands and installed in Skibo Castle. The Grays intermarried with the Gordons, whose line still holds the ancient (created in the early 13th century) Earldom of Sutherland, and, until recent generations, held the newer (created in the early 19th century) Duchy of Sutherland.

Skibo Castle

Skibo Castle, which was held by the Grays for more than 200 years, until the 1770s, was rebuilt in the late 18th century. So I couldn’t find a picture of what it might have looked like during the years when “my family” held it. In the early 20th century, the new castle was purchased by American millionaire Andrew Carnegie. The castle is still owned by the Carnegie club, and is run as a posh estate hotel. Madonna was married at Skibo Castle.

Skibo Castle

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Which isn’t to say that I am actually related to Scottish nobility. We probably came from the poor-relation branch of the family. But I think it is fair to say that I am descended from the same Gray (Grey) who accompanied the Normal conqueror. Why do I suddenly have even less sympathy for Ivanhoe?

You can read more about the Sutherland clan on their website.

  • zoh says:

    Way cool that you know so much about your ancestors! And that they had a castle!! That’s awesome.

    I know what you mean about being from the poor branch of the family. Otherwise there wouldn’t be too much incentive to move here, right?

  • Ivan says:

    Greetings long lost cousin! 🙂 I was Googling Skibo castle tonight to show my children our ancestral home and came across your blog! We are descended from William Gray and I think we share some family tree somewhere a few hundred years back… Great pictures of the castle, too bad it is no longer in the family !

    • eva says:

      Hello cousin indeed! I’m so glad you found my posting about the Gray family. Do you know when your branch of the family came to America (presuming that is now where you reside)?

      • Ivan says:

        No, we’re in Australia – our family moved to Victoria. I have a family tree booklet with Skibo Castle on the front somewhere around here that will tell me more, but I have sort of misplaced it. I think it was in the mid 1800s…but I’m not sure.

        • eva says:

          I wish our family had gone to Australia instead of America!! I’ve always wanted to visit Australia. I know very little about Scottish history in the mid-19th century (my acquaintance with historical Scotland begins and ends with Sir Walter Scott’s account of the Battle of Flodden Field) so don’t know what the motivations might be for leaving then. Another branch of my family came to America from Ireland in the 1850s, but I don’t know about the Grays.

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