Gillespie Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This Scottish and Irish (or Pictish-Scottish) last name is a reduced or shortened Anglicized form of the Gaelic surnames MacGilleEasbaig (Scottish) and MacGiollaEaspaig (Irish), both patronymics (son of, descendant of) a byname (nickname), derived from the Old Irish word epscop, from the Roman Latin eposcopus, meaning “bishop” or “leader”. The surname is thought to have pre-dated the tenth century AD.
The Gillespie family of Scotland were erenaghs, a medieval Irish office, or hereditary landed title, the responsibilities of which included collecting rents and tithes, overseeing termonn (church owned) lands, and building and maintaining churches. As such, the role was prebendary (senior member of the church) in nature.
Another origin theory, considered false, is summarized as follows in the 1857 book by William Arthur titled An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names: “The Gaelic for Archibald, from Gille, a youth or servant, and speach, a word expressive of quickness and sharpness in battle; spuaic, Gaelic, to break the head, to knock”. Yet another author believes is a habitational name denoting a person who was from Gillesbie, an area in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
The surname has a strong presence in County Down, Ulster, Ireland. Wikipedia states the following regarding the Gillespie name in the Emerald Isle: “In Ireland, a family bearing the surname occupied the office of toísech of Clann Aílebra in the late twelfth century. In 1172, for example, the toísech was slain by Donn Slébe Ua hEochada, King of Ulster. This slain Mac Gilla Espuic may be identical to a certain Gilla Óengusa mac Gilla Espuic, rechtaire of the Monaig of Ulster, who is earlier recorded in the king's service. Whatever the case, a later family bearing the surname appears on record as erenaghs of Kilraine in County Donegal”.
The surname is also present in England. There is a branch of the family in Northumberland, England who descended from Guileaspos Cambell who invaded said county in 1360 AD.
One source asserted the progenitor of the family was a Chieftain named Sliochd Gillies of the MacPhersons of Invershie. However, it is believed this connection is vague and the more likely, first known bearer, was Ewan Gillaspeck who lived near the end of the twelfth century AD.
A website titled Scottish Gillespies states the following in regard to this last name “The Filid were druidic bards, attached initially to the courts of the Irish tribal kings, who were called the "Rig" in their Celtic communities….By the second half of the 7th century, most of the Filid had converted to Christianity…. For the following centuries up to the Synod of Cashel in 1101, the Bishops, the Asbuig, of this Celtic society with its tradition of orally recited law, now attempting to integrate Canon Law with the Brehon Code, used the Filid to establish their own honour price in the courts. The honour price of a Bishop, Asbuig, came close to that of a tribal king, Rig….I n 1111, the Synod of Rathbeasail accorded the province of Armagh, which included Dal Riada (the area of Argyll in today's Scotland) a total of 12 sees. During the following critical surname period marked by the Normanization of the Scots, there were arguably 12 FilidAsbuig in the service of the 12 bishops responsible for these dioceses extending from Donegal and Down in Ireland, to Argyll in Scotland. These men, who were to have offspring bearing their names, were conceivably deacons, and not under full orders”.
Surname Spelling variants
Spelling or names with similar etymologies include Gillaspie, Gillespauy, Gillhespy, Gilliespie, Gillesspie, Gillespy, and Gillhespie.
Gillespie Family Mottos
I have identified four family mottos for Gillespie and have translated them from Latin to English:
1) Qui me tangit paenitebit (He who touches me will repent)*
2) Moderata manent (Remain moderate)
3) Fidelis et in bello fortis (Faithful and brave in war)
4) In certa salutis anchora (On a sure anchor of safety)
5) Touch not the cat bot a glove (bot means “without” in this context)
*This is also the motto of the US Army 315th Regiment
Early Bearers of the Gillespie Surname
Teag Mac Giolla Epscoip, Chief of Aeilabhra in the Barony of Iveagh, was recorded in 1175 AD.
Ewan Gillaspeck was witness to a charter in Scotland c. 1199 AD.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Gillespie ranks 758th popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: West Virginia (349th), Delaware (359th), South Carolina (380th), and Kansas (422nd).
The surname Gillespie frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (1,076th), Scotland (834th), Wales (1,575th), Ireland (404th) and Northern Ireland (138th). In England, it ranks highest in county Cumbria. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Falkirk. In Ireland, it ranks highest in Ulster. In Wales, it ranks highest in Merthyr Tydfil.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (834th), New Zealand (426th), Australia (658th), and South Africa (3,860th).
Gillespie Family Tree & Gillespie Genealogy
Gillespie of Mountuhanie
David Gillespie, Esquire of Mountguhanie House, county Fife, Scotland, was a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant born in 1814. He was the son of David Gillespie Esq. of Mountquhanie and Mary Carnegie of Pittarrow, and grandson of John Gillespie who died in 1781. In 1840, he married Susan, daughter of Lieutenant General Bethune of Blebo and had issue as follows: David, Alexander, James Carnegie, and Maria (married James Carnegie, Esquire of Stronvar, her cousin).
From Falkirk, Scotland to Maryland, US
James Gillespie was born between 1405 and 1465 AD. He had a son named William James Gillespie who was born in Falkirk, Scotland c. 1470 AD. He married Marry Cullane and had a son with her named James. This son, James William Gillespie, was born in Falkirk, Scotland c. 1490 AD. He married twice: Isobel Manson and Janet Bennie. He was the father of William. Burgess Reverend William Gillespie was born in Stirling, Scotland c. 1520 AD. He had a son named Patrick. Reverend Patrick John Gillespie was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland c. 1555 AD. He married Janet, daughter of John Cairns and Elisabeth Park, and had a son with her named John. His son, Reverend John Patrick Gillespie, was born in Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland c. 1580 AD. He was a Presbyterian preacher and Minister of Kirkcaldy. He married twice: Lilias Simson and Janet McGilvary. He was the father of the following children: Archibald, Janet, Archibald, Patrick, Christian, Elizabeth, Lilias, and Mary. His son, Reverend George E. Gillespie, Minister of St. Giles, Edinburg was born c. 1613 in Perth, Scotland. He married Margaret, daughter of Robert Murray of Woodend and Elizabeth Melvill, and had three sons with her a follows: Reverend Robert, Revere George Jr., and Archibald. His son, Reverend George Gillespie Jr., was born in Perth, Scotland in 1644. He married twice: Ann, daughter of John Garner and Rebecca Garner. He came to Maryland in colonial America around 1717. He was the father of the following children: Patrick, John, Patrick, George, Robert, and Ellen. Four of his sons are discussed as follows:
St. Peter's Church, Liverpool, 1800
1) Patrick Gillespie was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1680. He married Ann, daughter of Daniel Denniston, and had issue with her as follows: William, Jane, John, and Colonel Daniel. He died in Virginia.
2) John Gillespie was born in Scotland in 1676. He married Elizabeth Hunter. He had a daughter named Martha. He died in Pennsylvania.
3) George Gillespie was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1683. He married Rebekah Allison. He was the father of the following children: Samuel, George, Elizabeth, Martha, Agnes, Hannah, and Mary. He died in Delaware.
4) Robert Gillespie was born in Perth, Scotland in 1686. He married Eliza. He had two sons: Thomas and Joseph. He died in Pennsylvania.
From Ireland to Virginia
George Gillespie or Gillaspie, son of George, was born in Ireland in 1731. He went to colonial America. He married three times: Mary Ann, daughter of Hezekiah Saunders, Mollies Farris, and Mary Moore. He had the following issue: William, Sherod, Letitia, Frances, Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexander, Sarah, Dicey, Lewis, Margaret, and George Jr. Two of his sons are discussed as follows:
1) William Gillespie was born in Virginia c. 1753. He married Nancy, daughter of Joshua Hudson Sr., and had issue with her: Lewis H., Wilson G., Gabriel, Joshua, Elizabeth, George Washington, Mary Polly, Phillip, and Susannah. He was killed in a duel with General Thomas Kennedy over a card game.
2) Lewis Gillaspie was born in Virginia c. 1775. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Farris and Mary Ann Saunders, and had issue as follows: Micajah L. Gillespie, James Nathan, Selina, and William H. He died in Tennessee.
Marriages of Gillespies
1) Patrick Gillaspy married Cicely Gillaspy in Liverpool England in May 1761
2) Ann Gillespie married Reverend John Mitchell in Edinburg, Scotland in January 1799
3) Charles Gillespie married Isabella Gregson in St. Peter, Liverpool, England in September 1790
4) William Gillaspey married Ann Sutton in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, England in July 1796
5) Lieutenant Alexander Gillespie married Ms. Priestley in Edinburg, Schotland in May 1789
6) John Gillespie married Lady Bograw in Edinburgh, Scotland in August 1773
7) Daniel Gillespie married Lucie Galt in Guildford, North Carolina in December 1788
8) James Gillespie Jr. married Hanah Denny in Guilford, North Carolina in June 1791
9) James Gillespie married Fannie Lock in Smith, Tennessee in December 1874
10) David S. Gillespie married Steuben, Indiana in December 1854
11) Robert B. Gillespie married Laureann Gould in Indiana in September 1857
12) Dora Gillespie married Lawrence d. Massey in Franklin County, Arkansas in 1896
Early American and New World Settlers
Some of the earliest settlers in colonial America bearing this name include:
1) George Gillespie came to Maryland c. 1717
2) William Gillespie came to New York in 1701
3) George Gillespie came to Massachusetts in 1712
4) George Gillespie came to Pennsylvania in 1713
5) George Lewis Gillespie came to Virginia in 1720
6) Matthew Gillespie came to Pennsylvania in 1722
7) George Gillespie came to Maryland in 1724
8) John Gillespie came to South Carolina in 1731
9) Neil Gillespie came to New York in 1739, along with wife Mary and sons Gilbert and Angus
10) Patrick Gillespie, age 26, came to New Castle, Delaware in 1765
11) John Gillespie, age 25, came to Georgia in 1775
12) William Gillespie, age 20, came to New York in 1774
13) Thomas Gillespie, age 20, came to Georgia in 1775
14) Andrew Gillespie came to New England in 1759
15) George Gillespie came to Delaware in 1760
16) John Gillespie came to Georgia in 1775
17) Thomas Gillespie came to Georgia in 1775
18) Thomas Gillespie came to New York in 1779
19) George Gillespie came to Pennsylvania in 1782
20) James Gillespie came to Pennsylvania in 1792
Several thousand members of the Gillespie family came to the United States through Ellis Island, during the nineteenth century, including:
1) Anne Gillespie came from Glasgow, Scotland aboard the Furnessia in 1906
2) George W. and Emily M. Gillespie came from Enfield, England aboard the Orduna in 1916
3) Kenneth Gillespie came from Glasgow, Scotland aboard the Furnessia in 1911
4) Jean Gillespie came from Glasgow, Scotland aboard the Saint Louis in 1916
5) Albert Edwin came from Belfast, Ireland aboard the Baltic in 1917
6) James Gillespie came from London, England aboard the Manchuria in 1916
7) George Gillespie came from Aberdeen, Scotland aboard the Baltic in 1911
8) John Gillespie came from Ballyclare, Ireland aboard the Philadelphia in 1916
9) John Gillespie came from Donegal, Ireland aboard the Astoria in 1905
10) Peter Gillespie came from Donegal, Ireland aboard the Caledonia in 1906
11) Patrick Gillespie came from Durham, England aboard the Carmania in 1906
12) Michael Gillespie came from Killybegs aboard the Teutonic in 1905
Some of the earliest settlers in Canada bearing this name include:
1) John Gillespie came to Nova Scotia in 1768
2) Robert Gillespie came to Montreal in 1800
3) Charles Gillespie came to Quebec in 1803
4) Biddy Gillespie, age 25, came to Quebec in 1832
5) George Gillespie, age 30, came to Montreal or Ontario in 1820
6) Charles Gillespie, age 35, came to Ontario in 1820
7) Adam Gillespie, age 27, came to Ontario in 1820
8) Alice Gillespie, age 25, came from Belfast, Ireland to Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the Doras Savage
Some of the earliest settlers in Australia bearing this name include:
1) Michael Gillespie came to New South Wales in 1810 aboard the Indian
2) David Gillespie came to New South Wales in 1816 aboard the Mariner
3) James Gillespie, age 43, came to New South Wales in 1817 aboard the Mary I
4) John Gillespie, age 18, came to New South Wales in 1817 aboard the Mary I
5) Matthew Gillespie came to New South Wales in 1820 aboard the Eliza I
6) Daniel Gillespie came from Lancaster, England to New South Wales in 1829 aboard the America
7) John Gillespie, age 27, came to New South Wales in 1857 aboard the Sumner
8) John Gillespie, age 24, came from Galway, Ireland to Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the Elizabeth, along with his sister Eliza and Sarah Mary
Some of the earliest settlers in New Zealand bearing this name include:
1) Andrew Haggerty Gillespie, age 36, a joiner by trade, came to Wellington in 1842 aboard the Birman, along with his wife Christine and son Charles Haggerty
2) C.H. Gillespie came to Wellington in 1842 aboard the Bernian
3) Henry Gillespie, a farm laborer from Armagh, Ireland, came to Canterbury in 1862 aboard the Echunga
4) Alexander Gillespie came to Canterbury in 1869 aboard the Matoaka
5) William Gillespie came to Canterbury in 1864 aboard the Mermaid
civil war veteran George Lewis Gillespie Jr., (1841-1913)
There are hundreds of notable people with the Gillespie surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include:
1) George Lewis Gillespie Jr. (1841-1913) was an American soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the American Civil War while fighting with the Union Army, which were “carrying dispatches through enemy lines under withering fire to Major General Philip Sheridan at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia on May 31, 1864
”, born in Kingston, Tennessee
2) John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993) who was an American jazz singer, composer, bandleader, and trumpeter born in Cheraw, South Carolina, that became a major figure in popularizing and creating modern Jazz, along with Charlie Parker
3) Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie (1852-1923) was a Scottish-American soldier, businessman, and land developer who became the first mayor of Sarasota, Florida
4) Nicholas John Gillespie (1963) is an American libertarian journalist and was editor-in-chief of Reason from 2000 to 2008, born in Brooklyn, New York
5) Alastair William Gillespie (1922-2018) was a member of the Canadian Parliament for Etobicoke from 1968-1979, born in Victoria, British Columbia
6) Major Archibald H. Gillespie (1812-1873) was an officer in the US Marine Corps during the Mexican-American War, serving from 1832-1854, born in New York City
Major Archibald H. Gillespie
7) Billy Gillespie (1891-1981) who was an Irish football player from Kerrykeel who plated from 1907-1933 for three teams: Institute, Leeds City, and Sheffield United
8) John Imrie Gillespie (1879-1943), also known as Jimmy Gillespie, was a Scottish rugby player who played for Scotland’s national team from 1899-1904 and for Great Britain’s national team in 1903
9) James Gillespie, a veteran of the North Carolina Militia during the American Revolution, served in the US House of Representatives for North Carolina from 1793-1799 and again from 1803-1805.
10) James Lamont Gillespie (1888-1975) was an American composer and lyricist born in Covington, Kentucky who wrote numerous songs, including You Go to My Head and Santa Claus is Coming’ to Town
11) Dean Milton Gillespie (1884-1949) was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1944-1947, born in Salina, Kansas
12) Margaret Vandemore Gillespie (1969) is a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives who assumed office in 2001, born in Hawarden, Iowa
13) Patrick Gillespie (1617-1675) was a Scottish minister and Principal of the University of Glasgow who supported the Covenanters (Presbyterian)
Another notable was Eliza Maria Gillespie "Mother Angela Gillespie, a nurse who tended to the wounded on both sides of the American Civil War. The following is an excerpt about her from Americancivilwarforum.com, "Once, a seriously wounded Confederate officer was brought to Mound City. When word got around, an angry mob stormed the hospital, determined to drag the officer out and execute him. But Mother Angela stood over his bed and refused to leave until the Confederate had been guaranteed safe passage home. In September 1862, Mother Angela returned to St. Mary’s Academy, assured that the soldiers’ needs would be met from other sources".
Colonel Leander Gillispie, US Army, Civil War
Gillespie America Civil War Veterans
There were several soldiers with the last name Gillespie who served in the American Civil War, including the following:
1) James T. Gillespie of the 55th Regiment Illinois Infantry (Union)
2) Edward Gillespie of the 30th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry (Union)
3) John L. Gillespie of the 45th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry (Union)
4) George W. Gillespie of the 11th Regiment Ohio Cavalry (Union)
5) Abner H. Gillespie of the 80th Regiment New York Infantry (Union)
6) Gilbert Gillespie of the 33rd Regiment Missouri Infantry (Union)
7) William Gillespie of the 7th Regiment Illinois Cavalry (Union)
8) Daniel H. Gillespie of the 2nd Regiment Tennessee Infantry (Confederacy)
9) Charles M. Gillespie of the 5th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry (Confederacy)
10) Richard T. Gillespie of the 57th Regiment North Carolina (Confederacy)
11) James L. Gillespie of the 11th Regiment Mississippi Infantry (Confederacy)
12) James M. Gillespie of the Snead’s Company Virginia Light Artillery (Confederacy)
13) John F. Gillespie of the 12th Battalion Arkansas Sharpshooters (Confederacy)
14) Henry H. Gillespie of the 32nd Regiment Texas Cavalry (Confederacy)
Eliza Maria Gillespie "Mother Angela Gillespie", civil war nurse
Gillespie America Revolution Veterans
There were several soldiers with the last name Gillespie who served in the Revolutionary War, including the following:
1) Private William Gillespie of Virginia (4th Regiment)
2) Private John Gillespie of Delaware (Continental Troops)
3) Private Thomas Gillespie of Grayson’s Regiment (Continental Troops)
4) Corporal John Gillespie (Continental Troops)
5) Private George Gillespie of Virginia
6) Samuel Gillespy of New York