Select Moffat Surname Genealogy

Moffat is a name of the Scottish borders where there is a small town called Moffat in Annandale in the Scottish borders.  The origin of the Moffat name is thought to have been an Anglo Norman family, originally Montealt and then Movat, that was first sighted in Scotland in the late 11th century.  They became de Moffets. 

Moffat comes in various spellings.  Moffat and Moffatt are the usual spellings in the UK. Moffat has been the form most widely found in Scotland.  But Moffatt has outnumbered Moffat in England.  Moffett and Moffitt are the more common forms in America

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Select Moffat Ancestry

ScotlandThe early Moffats in Annandale seemed to have had a close relationship with the church as they included Nicholasr de Moffat, the Bishop of Glasgow in 1268, and Walter de Moffat, the Archdeacon of Lothian in 1348.   Robert de Moffethe was treasurer of the church of Glasgow in 1467.

These Moffats may have been
in a Christian minority of three because the Moffat clan was more normally associated with the lawless Border reivers that operated along the English/Scottish border.  In 1587 it was recorded that the "Moffettis of the West Marche" were included among "the unruly border clans" whose activities "were to be curbed." 

However, they were a spent force by that time.  T
heir most notable enemy was the powerful Johnstone clan.  In 1557 the Johnstones murdered clan chief Robert Moffat and burned the building in which a number of Moffats had gathered, slaughtering those who tried to escape.  From that date the Moffats were a leaderless clan.  

One Moffat family dates from
Adam Moffat of Knock who fought at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  His descendants remained the Lairds of Knock until 1609,  when their land had to be sold to the Johnstones because of rising indebtedness.  They were tenants at Midknock until 1905.  In 1759 the Moffats from Gardenholm in Annandale moved to Craigbeck in what is today Moffatdale.  The Moffats at Craigbeck had by the 20th century become one of the biggest sheep farmers in southern Scotland. 

England.  The border pacifications in the 17th century led to many led to some Moffat migrations south of the border into England to Cumberland, Westmoreland and Northumberland.  The Moffat name cropped up frequently in the village of Kirklinton in Cumberland. 

Some Moffatts became miners.  John Moffatt, for instance, was a lead miner in Stanhope, Durham in the early 19th century.  Later Moffatts of this family emigrated to New Zealand.  James Moffatt died after a pit explosion in the Workington mines in 1888.  Frederick Moffatt wrote up an account of the Northumberland mining industry in the 19th century. 

Ireland.  The Moffats in Ireland are of Scottish origin.  Often the name changed in their new home.  Moffat predominated in Antrim.  But Moffatt, Moffett, and Moffitt were to be found elsewhere in Ulster Ireland. 

The Donegal Moffitts were descendants of three brothers - Robert, Adam, and Thomas - who came sometime in the 1730’s.  Robert and Adam Moffitt were recorded as leasing land at Ballymore in
Clondahorky parish some thirty years later.  Moffitt descendants are still to be found there. 

Many of the Moffats (or variant names) who came to America were Scots Irish. 

Samuel Moffat had fled Scotland to county Antrim in Ireland after the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679.  His sons William and Samuel embarked for America in 1710 and settled first in New Jersey and then in Ulster county, New York.  This genealogy was traced in Burnham Moffatt’s 1909 book Moffat Genealogies.  A later Samuel Moffat started a trading post at Blooming Grove in 1811.  His son David headed west and made a fortune in railroads in Colorado.  Moffat county in Colorado was named after him.

A Moffett family in Virginia dates from the 1780's and were descendants of John and Elizabeth Moffett of Virginia (who were probably Scots Irish in origin).  They were later to be found in Shelby and Anderson counties, Kentucky. 

William Moffitt came from county Donegal in the 1760's, fought in the Revolutionary War and settled in Randolph county, North Carolina.  His descendants headed west, first to Indiana, then to Minnesota and Montana, and finally to Los Angeles - which was where the baseball pitcher Randy Moffitt and his elder sister the tennis great Billie Jean King (nee Moffitt) were born.

William Moffett meanwhile came to America from county Armagh in 1785 and was a successful merchant there.  Later Moffetts from the line of Samuel Moffett, who arrived in 1803, were to be found in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The family was traced in Linden Moffett’s 1919 book Descendants of Henry and Jane Moffett. 

Thomas Moffett arrived in Philadelphia from Ireland sometime in the 1820’s.  His son Corporal Theodore Moffett was grievously wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 but survived another thirty six years. 

.  Alexander Moffat from East Lothian came out to Ontario in the 1830’s and was an early settler at Pembroke in Renfrew county.  His stone house is still standing there.  He built a grist mill on the Muskrat river and laid out the town.  His descendants migrated west to British Columbia

South Africa.  Robert Moffat came out to South Africa as a Christian missionary a few years before the 1820 settlers arrived there.  In 1824 he and his wife Mary moved onto Kuruman in the northernmost outpost where he was to remain for fifty years.  His son John followed him in his missionary work, his daughter Mary married the explorer David Livingstone.

Select Moffat Miscellany

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

Select Moffat Names

Nicholas de Moffat was Bishop of Glasgow in 1268.
Robert Moffat was patriarch of the Christian missions in South Africa during the 19th century.  His daughter married the explorer David Livingstone. 
John Moffat was a
Scottish-born entrepreneur who in the late 19th century developed a mining and industrial empire in northern Queensland which drove the development of northeast Australia.
Alistair Moffat has been the organizer of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival held every year in August.

Select Moffats Today
  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous in Dumfries and Galloway)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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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