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
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 DEEPER ANCESTRY
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
This has been updated 12 Jan 2016.