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Index of first names




A sept of the Douglas family

Though shrouded by the mists of time, the chronicles of Scotland reveal the early records of the Norman surname Morton which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is interwoven within the colourful plaid of Scottish history and is an intrinsic part of the heritage of Scotland.

Diligent analysis by professional researchers using such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem (written by Robert Wace), the Honour Roll of the Battel Abbey, the Inquisitio, the Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismal records, family genealogies and local parish and church records shows the first record of the name Morton was found in Cheshire where they were seated from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.

Variable spellings of the name were typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Your ancestral name, Morton, occurred in many references from time to time, and variations included Morton, Moreton, Moorton, Myrton, and many others. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another and buried with a headstone which showed another. Preferences for different spellings were derived from a branch preference, to indicate a religious adherence or sometimes to show nationalistic allegiance.

The family name Morton is believed to be descendent originally from the Norman race. The Normans were commonly believed to be of French origin but were, more accurately, of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their King, Stirgud the Stout. Later, about 940 A.D. under their Jarl, Thorfinn Rollo, they invaded France. The French King, Charles the Simple, became first Duke of Normandy. Duke William, who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy.

After the Conquest, Duke William took a census of most of England in 1086; it became known as the Domesday Book. By 1070, William’s nobles were growing restive and dissatisfied with their grants of land. William took an army north and laid waste most of the northern countries. King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland offered refuge to these nobles, granting them land. Later, (about 1160), King David also encouraged his Norman friends to come north to join the royal court and obtain lands.

The surname Morton emerged as a notable Scottish name in the county of Cheshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated as Lords of the manor and estates in that shire. This distinguished Cheshire family are said to be descended from Robert, the Earl of Mortain, a brother of William the Conqueror. They received many Lordships in Cheshire and named their seats Moreton, Little Moreton and Greater Moreton. By the year 1170, they had moved north into Dumfrieshire where, in 1160, they were granted lands by Earl David, King David of Scotland. They became strong Ecclesiastics and businessmen in southwest Scotland. Meanwhile, the Mortons of Cheshire intermarried with the Masseys, the Davenports, and were elected to the peerage as the Earls of Ducie. Of note among the family at this time was the Earls of Ducie. More recently, John Morton of Pennsylvania was a signer of the American Declaration of Independence and Thomas Morton (1590? to 1647) was an English born American adventurer who, after settling in what is now known as Quincy, Mass., established a colony which he called Ma-re Mount. He was arrested and sent to England but later returned. His exploits were the subject of Hawthorne’s "The Maypole of Merry Mount".

The surname Morton contributed much to local politics and to the affairs of England or Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the country was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. The unrest caused many to think of distant lands.

Settlers in Ireland became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland". Essentially, they "undertook" to keep the Protestant faith and became known as "the Undertakers". Thirty families of Morton settled in Ireland mostly in Antrim.

The news about the attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as "White Sails".

In North America, migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the surname Morton or variable spellings of that same family name, included Edward Moreton. He settled in the Barbados in 1685; John Moreton settled in New England in 1663; Mathew Moreton settled in Virginia in 1698; George Morton settled in Plymouth, Mass. in 1623; Henry Morton settled in Charleston in 1767; Mary Morton and her husband settled in Salem in 1630; William Morton settled in Virginia in 1654.

From the port of arrival, many settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

Meanwhile, the family name was noted in the social stream. There were many notables of this name Morton: Levi P. Morton, U.S. Vice President; Henry Morton, British writer; Richard Morton, Biochemist; Robert Morton, Professor; Sir Stanley Morton.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:
Silver on a black diagonal stripe three round buckles.

The crest was:
A Moorcock.

The Ancient family motto for this distinguished name was:

Not to be confused with:
The Earls of Morton
The Douglases of Morton Castle


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024