Trail (surname)

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The name Traill (Tra-yill-e) is a French family of Lairds or land Barons and clergy from Paris, France. They originated in pre and post revolutionary France and spread to Orkney, Northern Ireland and beyond. References to Trails as Barons are recorded from the year 1066 and references to the family extend as early as the 10th century.


The name is French. The Trails descend from Mordac of Verdun,[citation needed] a companion of Rollo. Mordac's descendant Goidfrid de Traillie came to England as French representatives in 1066[citation needed] and held land in Bedford and on the Scottish border, both under William the Conqueror.[citation needed] The Traills held land at Trelly in France and later in Bordeaux.[citation needed] Before 1391, Sir John Trailly was appointed Mayor of Bordeaux. The Traills still reside in France. [1][2]

The similarity to the name Tyrell raises the question whether the families are related, but the Tyrell family are descended from the family of the Count de Poix, of which the senior branch remained in France in the area known as Picardy.[citation needed] There is no known relationship between the two families in England: the Tyrells held land in the South in Devon and Somerset,[citation needed] unlike Goidfrid de Trailli (see above).


The family started to leave England for Scotland and France after the death of Sir John Treyl in 1360, although his son John did return for periods and served as a member of the House of Commons of England. A few years before this Sir John's death in 1401, his son Reginald returned from Bordeaux and had sold up the English estates by his own death in 1404. Earlier in approximately 1385, Sir John's brother, Walter Treyl, Bishop of St Andrews, bought Blebo from the Church and later willed it to his nephew, Thomas.

William Dunbar in his Lament for the Makaris writes “He hes Blind Harry and Sandy Traill / Slaine with his schour of mortall haill / Whilk Patrik Johnestoun myght nocht fle”,[3] citing him among a roll call of poets chiefly from the fifteenth century, but nothing else is known of Sandy Traill and no works have been traced.

Blebo, a large rural property, was subdivided in 1609 by the Laird of the period, John Traill, in agreement with his eldest son in order to help his younger brother Thomas. The smaller portion became known as Blebo Hole. In the 16th century another brother of the same family, George Traill, migrated to Orkney, Scotland and thence to Co. Antrim, Ireland, now Northern Ireland.

In 1722, lead and silver were discovered on the Blebo property. The area around the estate (Blebo Hole) is currently known as the community of Blebo Craigs. In Central Fife, Blebo lies three miles (five km) east of Cupar and comprises the village of Blebo Craigs, located a quarter-mile (0.4 km) northeast of Blebo House, together with the farms of Milton of Blebo, Blebo Mains, and Newbigging of Blebo. Kemback lies a quarter-mile (0.4 km) to the northwest and Pitscottie a half-mile (0.8 km) to the southwest.


In the 18th/19th century the Reverend Anthony Traill (archdeacon) (1745–1852) was Rector of Skull[4] and Archdeacon of the Diocese of Connor.[5] His son, the Reverend Robert Traill (rector) (1793–1847) was also Rector of Skull during the Irish Potato Famine and tried to alleviate the lot of the poor and to draw attention to their plight.[6] He was also the first Irish translator of The Jewish War of Flavius Josephus.[7]

In 1904 Anthony Traill (1838–1914) was appointed provost (i.e. head) of Trinity College, Dublin.[8]

William Atcheson Traill (1844-1933) was an Irish engineer and co-founder of the Giant's Causeway Railway and Tramway Company, opened in 1887.

Later dispersion[edit]

In the mid 17th century, Trails acquired and settled land in the North America, in Massachusetts and in Maryland. The Maryland area, New Scotland Hundred, eventually became the city of Washington DC. The Maryland Trails also held estates in what are now Montgomery County and Frederick County. Other branches of the family settled in Argentina, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The book Silver River[9][10] by Daisy Goodwin gives a partly fictionalised account of the fortunes of her branch of the Traill family from her great-great-great-grandfather, Rector Robert Traill of Skull during the potato famine via their emigration to Argentina to herself in an attempt to understand her relationship with her mother, Jocasta Innes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Controversy between Sir Richard Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor in the Court of Chivalry A.D. MCCCLXXXV - MCCCXC, by Sir N. Harris Nicholas K.H., Vol II, p. 223 ff. (in Google books)
  3. ^ "RPO -- William Dunbar : Lament For The Makers". Retrieved 2014-01-27. , lines 69–71
  4. ^ PAPERS RELATING TO THE STATE OF THE Established Church of Ireland, Session 21 April to 23 November 1820, Vol. IX, p. 188 (in Google books)
  5. ^ The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, AD 1824 5° GEO.IV, C.80., VI (p. 873) (in Google books)
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Silver River, Fourth Estate, 2007
  10. ^