The MacMurtries, McMurtries, McMurtrys and other variations have a long history in Canada and can now be found in
almost every Canadian province. There are families in Ontario,
Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island,
Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
The earliest arrivals in Canada came from New Jersey to York
(present day Toronto, Ontario), around 1799. Other Irish
families came from Co. Carlow to areas near Lake Erie and from
Co Derry (or perhaps Tyrone) to areas west of Ottawa in the
1820s and others came to New Brunswick in the 1840s, 1850s and
1860s. A Scottish family settled in York Co., New Brunswick
prior to 1839. A Glasgow family came and settled in Huron Co,
Ontario around 1840. An Irish family came to Ontario around
1840, then moved to the plains and eventually settled in British
Columbia. Several branches of a Kirkoswald, Ayrshire family came
to Canada - one branch settling in Ontario prior to 1858, then
moving to Montreal and Vancouver; another coming directly to
Ladysmith, B.C. around the turn of the century. A Girvan family
came to Ontario in 1876. An Irish family came to Saskatchewan in
1905. That gives a general overview.
McMurtries/McMurtrys of Ontario
Joseph, Simon and James McMurtrie came to York, Upper Canada
(now Toronto, Ontario) in 1799 from Sussex County, New Jersey.
Joseph and Simon appear repeatedly in the Sussex Co court
records between 1793 and 1799 as being in trouble because of
debt - a common problem of the rural population in this era.
Simon is associated with a Robert McMurtrie in one of these debt
cases in 1798, which supports the idea that these brothers may
have been sons or grandsons of Robert McMurtrie of Hardwick Twp.
Joseph married Lydia Hopkins, daughter of Silas Hopkins, who
migrated to Canada as a Loyalist during the American Revolution.
Joseph and Simon appear to have successfully obtained land
grants on Yonge Street, but James' petition for land was denied.
Joseph and Simon joined the Union Village Shaker religious
community near Dayton, Ohio in the 1820s; then Joseph left and
settled in Attica, Indiana. Simon's and James' fate is unknown.
Possibly related to this branch was a James S. McMurtrie, on
Yonge Street, grocery and provision store, listed in the 1837
Toronto City Directory. An 1834 census shows him with a town
lot, a frame house under two storeis, located on the west side
of Yonge Street. Also, a Methodist newspaper mentioned the death
of "James S. McMurtrie, for many years a resident of Toronto,
died in Youngstown, NY age 27, Sept 6, 1837."
Another family appears to have come from NY. Courtland McMurtrie
b 1812 NY married Zella Klink in 1833 in Toronto and a Susan
McMurtrie married a Nelson Little in 1835. Courtland moved to
Illinois by 1840. A group of Irish McMurtrys settled in Ontario
beginning in the 1820s. In 1822, William McMurtry received a
letter of recommendation from one John Alexander, of Milford,
Co. Carlow, testifying that William "has served me in the
capacity of Miller for Twenty years during which time He has
conducted himself to my satisfaction. He understands the
business of grinding and dressing corn in all its branches. I
now discharge him at this own request being determined to go to
America where He hopes to be able to provide for a large Family
better than in this country." William, born 1778, came with his
wife and 9 children, possibly as early as 1823 or 1824, and
settled at Port Hope, on Lake Ontario. He soon moved 13 miles
west to Bowmanville where his family grew up. William's
descendants live mainly in Ontario and Quebec.
Another Co Carlow family settled in Cobourg 21 miles east of
Bowmanville. According to one of Williams' descendants, three
sisters, nieces of William - Lizzie, Ellen, and Martha - came to
Cobourg and Lizzie married Thomas McMurtry, son of William. The
gravestone of Martha who married a Thomas Harper says she was
born in 1815 in Milford, Co Carlow. The gravestone of Lizzie
McMurtry (1810-1892) includes her sister Ellen (1825-1890), and
a John McMurtry (1822-1850), presumably a brother. These four
were probably all children of a brother of William. A Thomas
McMurtry appears in Percy Twp, 15-20 miles from Cobourg, though
there is no evidence of his being related to the Cobourg or the
Bowmanville families. Family tradition is that he was from
Coleraine, Co Derry (which lies near the border with Co Antrim).
Thomas was born in 1818 and married shortly before 1850. He
later went to Saskatchewan where he died. Descendants of this
Thomas live in British Columbia.
Another Irish family came to March Township near Ottawa in the
late 1820s. James (b 1794), John (b 1810), Sarah (md 1835), and
Mary (b ca 1820) McMurtry settled in March Township. John's
death certificate says he was born in Co Tyrone. James' wife,
Nancy Wilson, was from Co Derry. John later moved to McGillivray
Twp, Middlesex Co, but the male line died out. James has
descendants in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Some claim that the
Ottawa and Bowmanville families are related but no documentary
evidence has been found to support this.
Other Ontario families include: Matthew McMurtrie who was the
first train station master at Oakville, a few miles west of
Toronto, in 1855; John McMurtrie, son of a Glasgow cabinet
maker, who came to Canada about 1840 and settled in Tuckersmith,
Huron Co; Alexander Boyd McMurtrie born in Girvan, Ayrshire who
came to Ontario in 1876 and to Sarnia in 1891. His son Alexander
David McMurtrie (b 1895) of Sarnia began a massive effort to
collect family history information from McM. all over the world;
a branch of a Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, Scotland family came to
Ontario before 1858 (John and Catherine McDonald McMurtrie) and
has descendants in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and
McMurtrys/McMurtries of New Brunswick
The earliest mention of the family is in 1841 when Thomas
McMurtry married Martha Ritchie in St. John. Thomas and Martha
later returned to Ireland, had most of their children and then
settled in Illinois about 1859.
John McMurtry, his wife Ann Diensmore, and 7 children came from
the port of Derry in 1847 and settled in St. John. John was
reportedly born about 1805 and his son Hugh was reportedly born
in Kilrea, Co Tyrone (though Kilrea appears to be in Co Derry.)
Family tradition says that he and his brother Robert came to St
John and engaged in a mercantile business and that Robert went
back to Ireland for a short time and then returned, settling
probably in Ontario. No record of this Robert has been found,
but it has a striking parallel to the story of Thomas, mentioned
above. John's descendants settled in Margaretteville, Nova
Scotia and Massachusettes. John left a will in St John in 1875
which mentioned his wife Ann.
James McMurtery/McMurtrie married Eliz McMulkin in 1859 in
Portland, St John County and died there in 1868 leaving
children, including his eldest son John and reference to 100
acres in Gagetown, Queens County. This James may be the eldest
son of John referred to one of John's descendants.
Mary McMurtry, widow of Henry, appears in the 1864 city
directory for St. John and in the 1871 census. She had 3
children - Hannah (b 1860 in Ireland), John (b 1862 in Ireland)
and Mary J. (b 1865 New Brunswick). She is undoubtedly the Mary
Taylor who married Henry McMurtry in Castleroe, Co Derry in
1858. This Henry was son of a Henry McMurtry, coachman and was
brother of an Ellen McMurtry who married a Ross.
In Fredericton, York Co, John McMurtrie married Margaret
Nicholson in 1839 and died prior to 1861, probably in New
Maryland. Children included: Andrew Stephens McMurtrie
(1844-1929) and Robert McMurtrie (b 1842). Descendants still
live in Fredericton area.
McMurtrys of Saskatchewan
Rev. James McMurtry, born in Belfast in 1880, came to
Saskatchewan in 1905. James' grandfather was a James McMurtry, a
sea captain from Carrickfergus. James' descendants live in
Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Cousins live in
England and Dublin, Ireland.
McMurtries/trys of British Columbia
There were 5 Scottish families who settled in British Columbia:
Thomas Leitch McMurtrie, born 1874 in Partick, Glasgow and
descendant of the New Kilpatrick family, married Marion Lang in
1900 and came to Vancouver after 1907. Son Walter.
James Cunningham McM born 1883 in Govan, Glasgow, descended from
a Kirkmichael family, settled in Vancouver prior to 1926. Sons
John Charles Stark and James Andrew McM.
James McMurtrie b 1877, son of the Ayr postmaster, lived
Vancouver in 1939.
John McMurtrie b 1863 Dailly, Ayrshire, settled in Ladysmith.
Descendants live there, in Vancouver and in Southern California.
William Drennan McM b 1892 and George C. McM b 1880 of the
Dreghorn, Ayrshire family came to B.C. in the early 1900s.
The McMurtrys who settled in British Columbia were descendants
of the Saskatchewan and Ontario families mentioned above.