A number of different interpretations exist for the origin's of the name "Kilgore". Some are more fanciful than others, and there may be different origins for the use of the surname in different lineages. The following are some of the explanations commonly encountered. As with all such explanations, the validity of any of these is mostly a matter of personal preference.

1. Habitational Name. Someone who lived near Kilgour, Fife, Scotland. According to the Wikipedia:Falkland, Fife the Parish of Kilgour was founded about 1300AD in Fife, Scotland at the foot of the Lomond Hills. It is now known as the town, and former royal burgh of Falkland.
2. Habitational Name. "Kilgour" Derived from gaelic for from coille ‘wood’ + gobhar, gabhar ‘goat’, or "goat wood".

See Ancestry

3. Lineage Name. Derived from the family surname "Gore", combined with "Kel" are referring to a religious site, particularly a monastery. In this view, Kel Gore was a religious unit supported by the clan Gore.
4. Traditional. A common explanation in Southwestern Virginia is that the name was taken from the blood-thirsty feats of their ancestors who were known for their battle cry "Kill and Gore". This is often included with the observation that the family line was from the "Black Douglas'". A likely "just-so" explanation.


The 1790 US census includes 26 entries for variants of the Kilgore surname. Since census records for several states were destroyed in the War of 1812, notably that of Virginia where Kigore's are quite numerous (particularly in Southwestern Virginia) this sampling is just that, a sampling. The following summary is based on an extraction from Ancestry's online version of the 1790 US Census, and reflects spellings that Ancestry recognizes as equivalent to "Kilgore". Other spelling variants may have been missed. See Census:Kilgore's in the 1790 US Census

Spelling VariantCount


The following summarizes the frequency with which "Kilgore" and its spelling variants occurred in the surviving records of the US 1790 Census. Records are missing for both North Carolina, and Virginia, both of which had sizeable numbers of persons using the Kilgore surname.

North Carolina1
South Carolina3

Tapestry Project

A major line of Kilgore's settled along the Great Road from Pennsylvania, south into the Valley of Virginia, then into North Carolina, and back into Southwestern Virginia. Data on the Kilgore's in these areas is being collected as part of the Tapestry Project