Grassick – Origins of the Surname

This is a rare surname of Gaelic – Scottish origins. It derives from the word “griasaich” and can have several meanings including embroiderer, decorator and more latterly, shoe or hose maker. The surname is unusual in that it is occupational when most Gaelic names were patronymics, and based upon nicknames for the original chief of the clan. It is said that Grassick is most popular in the far north and specifically Aberdeenshire, where the pronunciation is as Gracey! As a result that there are spellings as Grassie and Grass, and indeed these seem to predate the actual Grassick recordings with that of John Grasse of Kirktoun of Crathe appearing in the tenants list in 1539. However it is more likely that earlier registers have gone missing, since the keeping of such items in the past was not given any great consideration. Other early examples of recordings include Donald Graycht at Lochalsh in 1548, Elspet Grassiche of Tullochaspak in 1612, and David Grassiche of Kepache. He was a bit of a lad who was accused of “violence” in 1617, although his fate is not known. Another to fall foul of the authorities was Alexander Gresiech of Towie in 1669. He was accused of curing cattle by charming them!

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The Grassicks in 2010 at a gathering in the Derbyshire Dales.

I’ve been dabbling in geneology off and on for 15 years now, so now is the time to begin to gather together and share everything I’ve learnt (and am still learning) about my wide, wide family.

My paternal roots are in Scotland, but through my mother and my partner, like half the world (and unlike Theresa May) I am very much a global citizen.

My mother, Paulette Abecassis, is from a Jewish north African family. My father, Henry Hay Grassick, was born to parents who were first cousins via the maternal grandparents – the Bowies of Linlithgow. And my wife Beatrix is north German, with Danish and Norwegian relatives.

The Second World War brought us all into existence. Poignantly, my father landed in Algiers in November 1942 as a participant in Operation Torch, the action that probably saved my mother from the Nazi machine for which my wife’s father was fighting.

These pages explore and celebrate the diversity of my family, and considers some of the strange questions of identity that such a history can produce.