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Our 2,766 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

This study arose from a collaborative effort of two second cousins, connected through the Greig line in Nova Scotia, Canada, specifically through our most recent common ancestors James Franklyn Greig and Jessie Catherine Mckenzie.  Initially, the connection was made through Ancestry and the same people appearing on our trees (then public).  What was astonishing was that we grew up in the same city and had never met.  Both of us were experimenting with DNA testing and this led to further collaborative efforts.  At some point, a plan for a one-name study was hatched.  Being a member for a while, I registered the study.  Later, Cathy joined the Guild (member #7715). From the outset, we both share full ownership of the study.       

If you check a guide to Scottish clans, Greig will always be included under MacGregor, as descendants of the traditional ancestor, Gregor or Girig.  The MacGregor tartan is always the recommended one. However, much has been disproved on the one common ancestor of MacGregor and its many septs. As early as 2011, Alistair Moffat and James F. Wilson, in their book The Scots: a genetic journey describe differences in DNA calling this theory into question. Indeed, they suggest that Highland clans are not a homogenous group.  

This study aims, in its initial phase, to collect data on Greig families in Nova Scotia, tracking to Scotland.  At the same time, other Greigs in Canada, often sharing no relationship, will be collected and also tracked to Scotland.  When an individual family takes a side trip to Australia or the United States, or wherever, they will be captured at that time.  Scenarios of notable Greigs may mean that more information is available and these will be collected as they are encountered, hoping to find connections. Eventually, the geographic scope of the study will continue to expand.  

Variant names

Consideration of variants has led to a decision at this time to restrict to Greig only.  Many possible variants are truly deviants, rather than variants.  For example, my own Greig ancestors, coming to Nova Scotia in the mid-1800s, were enumerated in the first couple of Census records as either Craig, or Gregg, or even Grieg.  However, all records in Scotland relating to the family before emigration were clearly Greig.  These official misspellings were erratic and by the 1891 Census and afterward, there was little misspelling by officialdom. Evidence to date suggests that the family were the first of the Greigs in Nova Scotia and may be the reason for the misspellings, as an unfamiliar surname. 

It is clear that there are many variants and as the study progresses in Scotland, both DNA and family history research will suggest the primary variants that may be added to the study.  Gregg is perhaps the one most encountered.  The story of the composer Edvard Grieg is well-known, as the descendant of Alexander Greig of Scotland, who settled in Norway circa 1770 and eventually the surname adapted to a Norwegian appearance. 



Name origin

As mentioned above, sources identify the Greig surname as originating from Gregor, from the Latin gregorius or Greek gregorein, meaning "watchful".  A number of early saints and popes carried the name Gregory. In Scotland, the Gaelic version of Gregory is Griogair.   Collins Scottish Surnames has Gregg/Greig as one entry and points out the Gregory origin but not necessarily of the MacGregor clan.  It describes the surname having longtime origins in Fife, as early as the 13th century, with a variety of spellings. The Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (2009) maintains the traditional viewpoint that Greig (and Greer and Grier) are diminutive forms of MacGregor adopted by those who left the Clan MacGregor between 1580 to 1600.  This contradicts Collins stating evidence of the Greig surname prior to this era.  Attempting to trace the origins of the particular form of Greig will be part of the study. 


Name frequency

As would be expected, the density of the Greig surname predominates in Scotland, while there appears an overall evidence of the surname in the remainder of the United Kingdom., which presents frequency per million of population in map applications shows the highest density in New Zealand.  Publicprofiler mapping is based on contemporary population distribution based on publicly available sources such as electoral rolls, telephone and other directories,etc. This, of course, represents not a population total, but the frequency of the surname in the population overall. As the calculation for Scotland is affected by the overall representation in the United Kingdom, the frequency is lower than would be actual.  Looking at the top cities worldwide for the surname, all are in Scotland. In North America, the frequency is moderately low overall. In Canada the FPM (frequency per million) is 26.13 and in the United States 11.94.  Small FPMs are listed for Scandinavian countries and Argentina. 

Census or Census substitutes show the following, in the late 1800s or early 1900s: 

Country Type Greig Count
England & Wales 1881 Census 799
Scotland  1881 Census  4,101
Canada 1891 Census 447
United States 1900 Census 773
New Zealand 1901 Elect.Rolls 50
Australia 1901 Elect.Rolls 5




Core datasets include Census and births, marriages, deaths as available in different resources by country/province/state. The collection of data is still in the initial phase. Individuals are placed in families as soon as possible, and due to Census access, most are placed from the outset. As both researchers are MAC users, families are being constructed in family history software, MAC Family Tree. 


A DNA study has not yet been registered.  However, we have a male 1st cousin to me and a 2nd cousin to Cathy who agreed to Y-DNA and as a result of this, uploaded his DNA to the MacGregor project through FamilyTreeDNA.  This rather ambitious and large project aims to consider all the possible connections to Clan MacGregor and has some early results in isolating Greigs (and variants).