J. David Grierson


During 2002 I became interested in DNA testing (particularly YDNA) as an aid to conventional genealogy. The interest arose from the "brick wall" that seemed to have arisen in the search for Grierson ancestors, when it became apparent that the limit to easily accessible documentation had been reached. By 2003 I was well into the testing regime, and in a position to begin to draw conclusions from the study, albeit those conclusions were somewhat tentative because it was also apparent that the science was evolving rapidly, as it continues to do. Those early conclusions can now be seen to lack definition by comparison with more recent results, and doubtless there will be future advances that clarify things further.

On this page are links to successive articles written as the knowledge advanced. For the beginner, there is some value in reading them in date succession as they contain progressive explanation of both principles and jargon. The associated "Grier Charts" contain the latest data sets from which my conclusions are drawn, and they are periodically updated for reference purposes.

The "Grierson/Amuligane relationship" paper and its associated spreadsheets is a separate enquiry into the discovery that Grierson and Millican/Milligan DNA results showed unexplained similarities. It concludes that several families with roots in Galloway and Dumfriesshire are genetically linked in the era preceding the use of surnames.


The name Grierson (the modern spelling) is a South West Scottish surname, first noticed in extant documentation (as Grersoun) in the early years of the 15th Century. It appears in a charter relating to the sale of land in the Nith valley in the area then known as Galloway (being the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Wigtownshire, and parts of modern Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire). This deed addressed the change of ownership of an estate known as "Lag", and described the sale of the property by John McRath of Laught to Gilbert Grierson of Arde. The Griersons of Ard appear to have been hereditary bailies of the barony of Tibbers in the fourteenth century and by the end of the century, they were armigerous. The sale was confirmed by Henry, Earl of Orkney, Lord of the valley of Nith on December 6, 1408. Lag was clearly a superior estate to Arde, and so Gilbert and his heritors have maintained the appellation "of Lag" since then. A seal affixed to a 1418 document states "Gilbert, son of Duncan". George Dunbar, Earl of Dunbar and March was his feudal superior at that time. During the next four hundred years, the family prospered, and ultimately became owners or, in the case of some cadet branches, kindly tenants, over very large tracts of land in south west Scotland. In 1685 the Laird of Lag was made Baronet. By the 18th Century the name had spread widely throughout Galloway and Dumfriesshire.

At various times, but principally in the 16th and 17th Centuries, the name Grier was used as a form of shorthand. There are numerous documents and legal reports of the era in which the same man is referred to by both Grierson and Grier. In a descent chart produced under the sponsorship of Thomas Greer of Sea Park, Carrickfergus, Ireland, a High Sheriff and Member of Parliament in the latter part of the 19th Century, during the early 17th Century a branch descending from a brother of the then Laird of Lag migrated to Ireland, at the same time changing their preferred spelling from Grier to Greer. Oral tradition has it that another son of that branch migrated to North America at or about the same time, and his presumed descendants also use Greer. Later, some of the Irish Greers also emigrated to North America. Greer appears only rarely in Scottish records.

There are family legends and clan legends, and there is also deliberate misinformation about Grierson origins. Are we MacGregors? Are we Irish? How do we take the next step in identifying our forefathers? The answer may well be in recent advances in the study of DNA, as passed from father to son.

This has been updated 12 Jan 2016.

DNA Instalment One - May 2005

DNA Instalment Two - May 2007

DNA Instalment Three - May 2009

DNA Instalment Four - August 2011

DNA Instalment Five - September 2012

DNA Instalment Six - January 2016

January 2016
Grier Chart 1f (Excel)

The Grierson / Amuligane Relationship - August 2010
Associated spreadsheets:
Appendix A - Grierson M222
Appendix B - Grier(son)-Milliken Comp
Appendix C - McGee 37
Appendix D - McGee 67
Appendix E - Grierson-Niall TMRCA

Last modified 27 Sep 2018