Orr in Ireland

My thanks to Barbara Holt in New Zealand for a new claimant for the first Orr in Ireland, who appeared in an Index of Wills  in the Salt Lake City Library of the Latter Day Saints. This gives a Richard Orr having lodged a will (or his executors/family did) in 1563. His residence is given as Clontarf in the Diocese of Dublin, site of a famous victory by King Brian Boru over the Vikings in 1014. Richard is an unusual name in Scotland and at first guess he may well have a different origin. In Land Of Urr I remarked on the possibility of a Norse origin from their word `Orri ` meaning `blackcock` ( a bird ) and that a link appeared in the Lincolnshire Assize Roll of 1298 with reference to a Roger Orre in 1202. That the name Orre should turn up so early on the East coast of England where Norman knights from William the Conqueror's time had lands, raises all sorts of possibilities.  A new twist to the origin and the Norse men has appeared in recent DNA tests by Orrs that is throwing up a Viking/Norsemen/Scandinavian link. This includes the Norwegian Vikings who founded Normandy in France, and were the ancestors of William the Conqueror.

As for Richard, he may  have been a merchant or trader or a dealer in cattle from south west Scotland - Wigtownshire and the Mull of Kintyre is about 110 miles as the crow flies from Dublin but a mere 21 miles from the coast of north County Down. Perhaps he was an  adventurer from England. In 1556  Mary, Queen of England, began a plantation scheme for most of the old counties of Leix and Offaly which were renamed Queens and King`s County. At this time some 160 families mainly from England  and the Pale (the secure district around Dublin) were granted estates there. The settlers had to face resistance from the native Irish and a century of risings of varying degrees of seriousness.  Whatever Richard`s origin he was a resident in 1563 and had an estate of some kind to pass on to his heirs.

As far as I know James Orr and his wife Janet McClement, were the first to come to the province of Ulster in about 1607 as part of the settlement by Hugh Montgomery in County Down. It is likely that other Orrs came to Ireland in the Plantation period 1610 - 1630 and settled in County Donegal; Co Londonderry, and Co Tyrone. We know of John Orr of Raphoe who was granted denization (citizenship so that he could then legally own land) in 1617 during the Plantation, and of an Orr family in Co Tyrone in 1655. 

There are several Orrs mentioned in the Hearth Money Rolls (HMR) and Poll Tax Returns for County Antrim 1660 - 1669.

William Orr (2)  Antrim Town 1666 and 1669 HMR.
Widow Orr, Parish of Raloo, townland of Ballywillin. 1669 HMR
Robert Orr, Parish of Raloo, townland of Ballyrickard More. HMR 1669.
Pat Ore, Parish of Ballymoney, townland of Ballymoney. 1666 and 1669 HMR
John Ore, Parish of Ballymoney, townland of Greenshields 1669 HMR.
Pat Oar,Parish of Billy, townland of Liscolman. 1660 Poll Tax.
John Ore, Parish of Kilwaughter, townland of Ballykeel,1666 and 1669 HMR.
John Oure, Parish of Larne, townland of Larne Town,1669 HMR.
John Orre, Parish of Finvoy, townland of Knockans.1669 HMR.
John Orr, Parish of Ballinderry, townland of New Park. 1669 HMR.

A very valuable source for tracing ancestors are the Tithe Applotments and Griffiths Valuation which took a number of years to complete. The original records for Northern Ireland are in PRONI (ref VAL 1B/ ) and for the rest of Ireland in the National Archives, Dublin but they have been filmed by the LDS and an Index is also available on a commercial CD. An Index for Ireland at the Ulster Historical Foundation shows that there were some 518 Orr households in the Valuation,

It is well worth the effort to have a look at the Public Records Office at www.proni.gov.uk  which has a number of indexes on line. They also have a considerable volume of records from the large landed estates on which most of the population lived in the 18C.

 Read the introduction advice and follow the links that will explain what records are available in the 17th,18th and 19th centuries. They also provide information leaflets in pdf format which are worth downloading for reference.

There are a wide range of web sites for Family History in Ireland, some restricted to particular districts and counties. See Ulster parishes  for details of the counties that formed the ancient Province of Ulster. For the Counties of Antrim and Down there are substantial BMD records at the Ulster History Foundation / Ulster Historical and Genealogical Guild at www.ancestryireland.com . Their Free Search facility will produce a listing of references in a wide range of records. It is however, a Pay Site if you want the full details of a record. Charges are half price for members of the UHGG.

An excellent site, which includes a full Griffiths Valuation facility, is


Ros Davies` Co Down web site is well worth a visit - mountains of information and no less than 26 pages of Orrs in the Surnames Index.



Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material