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The History of the Reid Family Name

The Reid surname has a complex origin, with roots in various parts of the British Isles, including Ireland. It is derived from the old English term “read,” meaning “red,” often used as a nickname for someone with red hair or a ruddy complexion.

Etymology and Meaning

The name Reid, primarily of Scottish and English origin, signifies red and was often attributed to individuals with red hair, a reddish complexion, or who habitually wore red clothing. In Ireland, it’s often the Anglicized version of the Gaelic surname Ó Maoildeirg, derived from “maol,” meaning ‘bald’ or ‘tonsured one,’ and “dearg,” meaning ‘red.’

Earliest Known Usage

Records of the Reid surname date back to the 14th century in England and Scotland. In Ireland, the name became prevalent from the 15th century onwards, particularly in counties Tyrone, Donegal, and Down.

Geographic Distribution

Originally, the Reid surname had a strong presence in the north of Ireland, predominantly within the province of Ulster. Over time, the name spread across the island and eventually to other parts of the globe due to extensive Irish emigration.

Original Geographic Location

The Reid name, in its Irish context, originated in the northern part of the island, particularly in County Tyrone.

Migration Patterns

Large-scale migrations during the 19th and 20th centuries, primarily due to the Great Famine and economic hardships, led many Reids to settle in North America, Australia, and other parts of the British Empire.

Historical Context

Notable Historical Events

The Reid family was involved in many pivotal moments of Irish history, from the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century to the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century.

Involvement in Key Moments in History

During the 1916 Easter Rising, a notable event in Irish history, several members of the Reid family were active participants.

Notable Irish Bearers of the Surname

Famous Individuals

The Reid name has been borne by many prominent Irish individuals. Sir Thomas Mayne Reid was a popular 19th-century novelist known for his adventurous stories. Contemporary film and theatre actor Stephen Reid is another famous bearer of this name.

Influential Figures

Among the influential figures bearing the Reid name is Dr. John Reid, an accomplished Irish psychiatrist known for his research on mental health disorders.

Variations of the Surname

Spelling Variations

Due to phonetic interpretations and Anglicization, the Reid name has numerous spelling variations, including Reed, Reade, Rede, and others.

Regional Differences

Regionally, differences in the Reid surname exist, with some variations being more common in certain parts of Ireland than others. For instance, Reid is more prevalent in Northern Ireland, while Reed is more common in the southern regions.

Current Statistics and Distribution

Frequency and Global Distribution

Today, the Reid surname has a strong presence in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia, reflecting historical migration patterns.

Changes Over Time

Over time, the distribution of the Reid surname has become more dispersed due to continued migration, globalization, and intermarriage.

Family Coat of Arms

The Reid family coat of arms consists of a black shield with a silver lion rampant, symbolizing bravery, nobility, royalty, strength, and valor. The family motto is “Pax copia” (Peace, Plenty), reflecting the family’s aspirations.

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