The Graham Surname

Graham Surname

Do you have a Graham surname in your Scottish family tree? If you do, then read on…

The Origin of the Graham Surname

Sir William de Graham was the first known Graham in Scotland. He was an English knight who travelled north with David I to claim the Scottish crown.  In addition, he had witnessed the foundation charter of Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.

His descendants rose to great prominence in the following centuries and William, third Lord Graham, was made Earl of Montrose in 1504. Unfortunately, he died at the Battle of Flodden in 1514.  His descendant, James Graham, third Duke of Montrose, was key in persuading Parliament in 1784 to remove the law forbidding Scots to wear tartan.

By the 19th century, the Grahams became one of the largest landowners in Stirlingshire and built Buchanan Castle near the village of Drymen.  During WW2, it was requisitioned as a military hospital.  Rudolf Hess had stayed there after hurting himself when he landed his plane nearby. There is still mystery that surrounds his arrival in Scotland. Today, Buchanan Castle is a ruin.

The Grahams are not a Highland clan but a Lowland family, with numerous branches in Menteith, Drymen, the Borders and Angus. The current chief of the Graham Clan is James Graham, the 8th Duke of Montrose.

The Meaning of the Graham Surname

It is believed that the Graham surname comes from an English place name. There is debate whether it comes from the Manor of Grey Home, or whether it comes from Grantham in Lincolnshire. Above all, some say it means ‘gravel’.  Nevertheless, it was the 30th most popular surname in 1995 according to the National Records of Scotland.

Spelling variations of the name include Grahame and Graeme. The motto for the Graham clan is ‘Ne Oublie’ which means ‘do not forget’. Its crest has a falcon killing a stork.

Fun Facts About the Name Graham

  • Alexander Graham Bell was famous for inventing the telephone. However, he was not born with the name Graham. At the age of 10, Alexander had asked his parents to have a middle name like his brothers.  He was given the middle name Graham, after an old family friend, as a birthday present.  
  • In Scotland, there is a name for mountains between 2000 and 2500 feet high that have a drop of 150 meters around them.  They are called Grahams and there are currently 224 Grahams.
  • Scottish writer, Kenneth Grahame, wrote the 1908 classic children’s book The Wind in the Willows. He was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and grew up in Argyllshire under his grandmother’s care.
  • Reverend Sylvester Graham invented the famous American Graham cracker . He was born in Connecticut and he is sometimes referred to as the Father of Vegetarianism. Apparently, he believed that a plant-based diet helped people to abstain from sex.  Therefore, he created a bland cracker to help prevent physical stimulation.

If you have a Graham surname in your family and want to know more about your Graham ancestry, then contact me for further information.

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