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Home: Surnames: Petticrew Family Genealogy Forum

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Surname spelling: Petticrew or Pettigrew, which is it?
Posted by: B. Kline (ID *****3222) Date: June 07, 2011 at 08:52:10
  of 61

Pat,

You asked, "I have often wondered why our Pettigrews spelled their names with a "g " versus a "c'. The old question of what came first the chicken or the egg..........in this case the g or the c?"

Ah, the eternal puzzle of the surname spelling. You have already seen from Westmoreland and Armstrong county records and census how many ways it can be spelled, just for your own line. You even found the 1816 Westmoreland Co. PA poor children list where the name was Pettycrew, which I found particularly intriguing, and other times you found Petticrew, Pettecrue, as well as various 'grew versions.

Researcher George Petticrew said his line, from immigrant David through John Finley, always spelled it Petticrew. I have found this generalization to be a little too broad, as I have found some records where the spelling deviated. David's gravestone has Pettecrew. However, in general, immigrant David's line almost always used some form of the 'crew spelling, and from the early 1800s on kept to the Petticrew spelling. David's sons, John Finley and James, both located in the Dayton OH area by 1810, and in OH the Petticrew spelling prevails among their descendants.

Immigrant James' line, however, was not so consistent. Mostly, in Dauphin Co. PA and Rockbridge Co. VA, you find him and his children as Pettycrew. James had sons William, John, Robert, Samuel, and James Jr. In the 1810s, son John and his family adopted the Pettigrew spelling. Family lore, from my uncle, was that there had been a feud between brothers back in VA, and one brother changed the spelling. John's line remained in Rockbridge Co, and his descendants are there still as Pettigrews, around Lexington.

Children of William, Robert, Samuel and James Jr. scattered to OH and IN, and records of the 1800s show that some children used Petticrew, some Pettigrew and some Pettycrew. The Pettycrew spelling eventually died out, among immigrant James' descendants. There remain, however, a great many Pettigrews in the USA today, who are 'crew descendants and don't know it.

Going back to Ulster, Ireland, whence came our immigrants (I conjecture), the predominant surname spelling in the 1700s was 'crew, and it continues to be so there. A prominent Belfast family in the 1750s, when my immgrant James came to America, was Pettycrew. In 1700s Co. Down and Co. Antrim there were Pettycrews, Petticrews, and Pettecrews. In 1700s I have found Pettigrew spellings scattered about in Cos Down, Antrim, Armagh and Tyrone, and in Dublin.

Back in time, I think not as much importance was placed on consistent surname spelling, and the spelling in official records was always dependent upon the scribe's interpretation. When you live in a townland of a few dozen or few hundred people everyone knows your family, so consistent spelling was not critical. On the other hand, I have also seen a notable consistency in the surname spelling of certain Irish families of the 1700s.

I refer you again to the signers of 1784 Petition against having Harris' Ferry the county seat of newly formed Dauphin Co. PA:

Township of East Hanover:
James Pettycrew, William Petegrew, Mr. John Petegrew, Willm Pettycrew.

Township of West Hanover:
John Petticrew, James Petticrew

The Pettycrews and Petticrews were related, without question, and I speculate that the Petegrews (the latecomers to Dauphin Co.) were also related to them all. As this was a petition, and these men did sign their names themselves, I think there is great significance in the surname spellings, and it was not just some haphazard occurrence. I speculate that James and his son William used Pettycrew to differentiate their family from the family of brothers James and John Petticrew, and vice versa. Likewise, Mr. John and William Petegrew might have spelled their surname as 'grew to distinguish themselves as a separate family group, in order to prevent confusion within the small community of Hanover.

Therefore, if indeed your 'grew line is related to the 'crews of Dauphin Co., it may be that the Pettigrew spelling derived from an attempt to keep the separate families distinguishable. That is my conjecture only.

Whether the original surname spelling of our ancestors in Ireland was 'crew or 'grew remains to be discovered. One further point. While the 'crew spelling predominated in Ulster, the reverse was true in Scotland, whence came the Ulster 'crews. Scottish baptism and marriage records show a predominace of 'grew spellings. Maybe immigrants to Ireland from Scotland changed the spelling to 'crew to signify a beginning of a new life in a new land. I don't know, but it is striking to see the shift to the use of 'crew in Ireland from 'grew in Scotland.

Bev


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