Select Guthrie Surname Genealogy

The Guthrie surname derives from the Scottish place-name of Guthrie, a barony known as “the lands of Guthrie” in Angus in NE Scotland.  The root of the name is a Gaelic word meaning "windy place" or "arrows in the wind."  The Guthrie place-name gave rise to the Guthrie clan.  There are other theories about the Guthrie origin, but they do not have much credibility. 

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Select Guthrie Ancestry

ScotlandThe Guthries of Guthrie received their estates by a charter from King David II sometime in the mid-14th century.  The clan came to prominence in 1461 when Sir David Guthrie of Guthrie, Armor-Bearer to the King, was appointed Lord Treasurer of Scotland.  He obtained a warrant to build Guthrie castle near Forfar in Angus, which remains standing to this day.

It seemed that the clan had four main branches.  A rhyme of the 17th century quoted them as follows:

“Guthrie o' Guthrie and Guthrie o' Gaigie,
Guthrie o' Taybank an' Guthrie o' Craigie.” 

Some Guthries supported the existing religious order, others
were converts to Presbyterianism.  The Covenanter James Guthrie, referred to by Oliver Cromwell as "the little man who refused to kneel," was executed for his beliefs in Edinburgh in 1661.

Thomas Guthrie
grew up in Angus in the early 19th century.  He was one of the most popular preachers in Scotland of his day and was associated with many forms of philanthropy – especially temperance and the Ragged Schools, of which he was a founder.  His son Charles, a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, became a judge and Lord Guthrie; his grandson Tyrone Guthrie (who inherited the Scottish Guthrie genes and the Irish Tyrone genes) an English theatrical director whose ambition spanned the Atlantic.

The Guthrie name did spread into the Scottish Lowlands and Border areas.  One Guthrie line in the Scottish borders traces itself back to Robert Guthrie of Eyemouth, Berwickshire in the mid-1600’s.

Ireland.  The Scots came to Ireland in the 17th century either to take up plantation land or as a refuge from persecution.  Most Guthries seem to have come under the latter category.  Many stayed in the Derry area before embarking for America.  Those who remained were mainly to be found in Antrim, Down, and Derry. 

Guthrie can also be an Irish name.  Guthrie here seems to have been an English corruption of the name Lahiff, from the Gaelic O’Laithigh, found in county Clare around Corrofin.  A Guthrie family in Clare traces itself back to Denis Guthrie who was born in Kilnaboy in 1840.  The 1901 census listed three Guthrie families in Kilnaboy, as well as eighteen other Guthrie families in the county.

America.  Enterprising Scots and Scots Irish, including Guthries, discovered America in the 18th century, arriving there from Philadelphia in the north to Charleston in the south.  The most complete account of these Guthries is the rather dated but still valuable 1933 book American Guthries and Allied Families by Lawrence Guthrie.

Many of the early Guthries in Pennsylvania in fact came from Ireland and from Londonderry in particular:
  • James Guthrie came to America with his wife in 1730 and settled in Chester county, Pennsylvania.  His father was a Covenanter who had escaped persecution by fleeing to Ireland.
  • Another James Guthrie came and his wife Elizabeth in the 1760’s and they later settled in North Carolina.  He too was descended from a Covenanter.  Family legend has it that two of their sons were married to two sisters and they travelled on horseback over the mountains to settle in Tennessee.
  • and Robert and Bridget Guthrie arrived sometime in the 1740’s.  After a brief period in Philadelphia, this couple lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Robert was a carpenter and cabinetmaker (the organizer of the Carpenters' Guild of Carlisle), trades that were followed by his descendants.
Adam Guthrie had come from Cork in Ireland to Augusta county, Virginia in 1774.  By the late 1700's, there was a cluster of Guthries in Halifax county, Virginia - three apparently unrelated families of same name. Descendants of Thomas Guthrie, who died there in 1786, were to be found in Rockingham county on the border with North Carolina.

Guthries South and West.  Guthries moved South and West as the 19th century progressed.  Adam Guthrie, an early frontiersman, crossed the Cumberland mountains in 1808 and settled in Kentucky.  His son James became a Kentucky Senator and later served as the US Secretary of the Treasury. 

Guthrie place-names, in Kentucky, Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma for instance, showed where some of these Guthries had moved to.   John Guthrie from Tennessee came via Alabama to Texas in 1835, settling in Washington county; while Shadrach Guthrie from Kentucky came via Mississippi to Lavaca county, Texas in the 1850’s.

There were Guthries from Texas who had moved to Oklahoma in the early 1900's, which is where Woody Guthrie, the folksinger and author of This Land is Your Land, was born.  Texas has the largest numbers of Guthries in America today.  

Australia.  Thomas Guthrie from Berwickshire came to Tasmania in 1847at the tender age of 14.  He worked as a station hand there before following the gold rush to Victoria in the early 1850’s.  He made his money as an auctioneer and invested in the Rich Avon sheep grazing lands near Bendigo in 1864.  The land remains with Guthrie descendants today.  Tom Guthrie’s 2014 book The Longest Drive recounted the early history.

Select Guthrie Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Guthrie Names

Sir David Guthrie of Guthrie was Lord Treasurer of Scotland between 1461 and 1467 and subsequently Comptroller of the Exchequer.
James Guthrie
was a Scottish Presbyterian minister hanged for his faith in 1661 in Edinburgh.
Thomas Guthrie was a Scottish 19th century preacher and philanthropist known for his advocacy of temperance and “ragged schools” for children (of which he was a founder).
Woody Guthrie
was a famous American singer/songwriter and folk musician.  Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California.
Tyrone Guthrie
was a 20th century English theatrical director instrumental in the founding of theaters in Canada, America, and Ireland.

Select Guthries Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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