Munro/Monroe


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Tradition has it that the Munros were Irish mercenaries who came to Scotland in the 11th century and fought against the Vikings under Donald Munro, son of the Irish chieftain O'Caenn.  As a reward they were granted lands in Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands.

Some say the Munro name was derived from the Gaelic Mac an Rothaich, meaning "man from Roe," where Roe is the Roe river in Ulster.   That would support the supposed Irish origin of the Munros.  An alternative version has Munro coming from the Gaelic maolruadh, meaning "bald and red."

Munro spelling variants are Munroe, Monro, and Monroe - with an "o" supplanting the original "u" and an "e" added at the end.  Monroe describes the fifth President of the United States and a famous American actress.

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ScotlandThe Munro lands around Foulis extended along the north side of Cromarty Firth in Ross-shire and later into Sutherland.  Robert de Munro was the first chief of the clan to be recorded in 1350 by contemporary evidence.  Disputes with other clans featured in the succeeding centuries, although most of these were minor skirmishes. 

The Munros took a different path than other Highland clans in that they were early adopters of the Protestant faith.  John Munro of Foulis, a devout Presbyterian, welcomed the Glorious Revolution of 1689 and the Munro clan stood by the British Government in the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745.  Although the Munros did not suffer as did other clans in the aftermath of Culloden, this event did in fact mark the end of their traditional clan way of life. 

The Munro tradition in warfare probably began with those Munros - including Robert Munro, the black Baron - who fought for Protestant causes abroad in the early 17th century.  Some returned home to serve in the Covenant armies or to join the Royalist cause.  Munros later distinguished themselves as generals in the British army in India during the 18th century. 

The main cadet branches of the Munros have been those of Milntown, Newmore, Teanininch, Balconie, Novar, Obsdale, and  Auchinbowie. 
The clan history was first described in Alexander Mackenzie's 1888 book History of the Munros of Foulis.

America.  The Munro spelling did not transfer to America, but Munroe and Monroe did - principally because the Royalist Munros sent to America during the English Civil War spelt their names that way.

New England.  William Munroe had been taken at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and transported to Massachusetts as an indentured servant.  He married three times and was the progenitor of a large New England Munroe family. Munroe Tavern in Lexington, built in 1695, had a part to play in the Revolutionary War and George Washington supped there in 1789.  James Phinney Munroe, a descendant, outlined the family lineage in his 1890 book A Sketch of the Munro Clan.  An updated version was published by Richard S. Munroe in 1966.

Virginia.  Andrew Monroe meanwhile was sent to Maryland after his capture at the Battle of Preston in 1648.  These Monroes became Virginia planters in Westmoreland county.  Andrew's great grandson James Monroe fought in the Revolutionary War and became the fifth President of the United States in 1816.

Canada.  John Munro had come out to America from Munro country as a soldier in the 1750’s and stayed.  He was one of the Loyalists who crossed the border into Upper Canada in 1784.  His son Henry joined the North West Company as a surgeon in 1796.  

Other Loyalists crossing the border were Daniel Munro to Nova Scotia, Samuel Munro to Prince Edward Island, Hugh Munro to Bathurst, New Brunswick, and another Hugh Munro to Glengarry county, Ontario.  Philip Munro, who was involved in the siege of Quebec in 1757, stayed and married there.  His children were Monroes.


From Morayshire in Scotland came James and Helen Munro in 1816 to take up a land grant in Nova Scotia.  Their son Philip Munro uprooted his family in 1881 for the long trek west to homestead in Manitoba.  James Munro came to Theorold, Ontario from Scotland in 1844 and prospered with a cotton factory.  His house, Munro House, still stands.

South Africa.  Alexander Munro departed Aberdeen with his wife on the Barossa in 1823 under assumed names.  He was granted a seal hunting permit at Mossel Bay and there he built a house and tavern. Apparently he gambled most of his money away.  However, the tavern and Munros remain in the area.

Australia.  Early Munros in Australia were convicts.  Some made good, such as James Munro from London and Alexander Munro from Inverness.  James, transported in 1800 to Sydney, became a skilled seaman who later settled on Preservation Island in the Bass Straits.  Mount Munro was named after him.  Alexander, transported in 1830, made his mark with his vineyard in the Hunter Valley.  Lydia Munro was a First Fleeter who arrived on the Prince of Wales in 1788. 

Some later Munro free settlers in Australia from the Scottish Highlands were: 
  • Donald Munro who came to Sydney with his family from the Black Isle in Scotland to Sydney on the John Gray in 1848.  He started cattle ranching in the Hunter valley ten years later.  It was his son Alec who started the breeding of shorthorn cattle under the Weebollabolla name.
  • Hugh Munro who came with his brother Joseph to Victoria from Golspie in Sutherland in 1851.  Later Munros in Hugh’s family were jockeys, including Darby Munro, one of Australia’s greatest jockeys.
  • Donald and Catherine Munro who arrived in Melbourne under the Bounty Scheme from Skye in 1854.  After Donald’s early death in 1865, Catherine moved the family to new farming lands in NSW. 
  • James Munro, a descendant of the Munros of Foulis, left Sutherland for Melbourne with his family in 1858.  He made money from the building society he started there and became Premier of Victoria in 1890.  However, his business practices were dubious and he is remembered as one of the corrupt politicians of the land boom era.  
  • and two Munro brothers, Archibald and Donald, who left their home at Barnaline in Argyle for Queensland in 1871.  They set up a timber mill on the banks of Gehan Creek and later were early users of locomotives there.
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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Donald Munro
of Foulis, who died in 1039, was considered in tradition the first chief of the Munro clan.
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States.  He is best-known for having formulated the Monroe doctrine in 1823.
H.H. Munro was an English short-story writer who went under the pen-name of Saki.
Sir Hugh Munro was a mountaineer best known for his "Munros" Scottish mountain classification.
Matt Monro was an English ballad singer of the 1960's.
Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortensen, was the famous American actress of the 1950's and early 1960's.
Alice Munro is an acclaimed Canadian short story writer.

Select Munros/Monroes Today
  • 23,000 in the UK (most numerous in Perthshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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