Select Barker Surname Genealogy
Barker is an occupational name, but descriptive of two different occupations.  The most probable root is the Old English barken, meaning to strip or tan from the bark of a tree. The barker is the name, now obsolete, for a bark stripper or rather for the man who prepared the bark for the tanner. In time it became the occupational name for a tanner of leather in northern and eastern England.

The alternative version has barker derived from the Norman berchier or berkier, meaning a shepherd. These names led to bercara sort of inspector or chief shepherd whose duty it was to superintend the stint of sheep on the common lands of the manor.

Select Barker Resources on The Internet

Select Barker Ancestry

England. The Barker name made an early show in Shropshire where William Barker was recorded as a tenant at Stanton Lacy in 1292. The Barker name here probably derived from bercar, meaning a chief shepherd. William Barker alias Coverall appeared in the 1400’s. Most of the Barkers of Shropshire seem to have been descended from him. These included Barkers in Shrewsbury, Barkers at Fairford Park in Gloucestershire, and some emigrants to America.

Other early Barker families were to be found in Rutland, Suffolk, and London:

  • the Barkers of Rutland were originally of yeoman stock, going back to the early 1500’s. Abel Barker bought the manor of Nether Hambleton in 1634. He prospered as a large-scale sheep farmer, became a baronet, and acquired Lyndon Hall nearby. His descendant Thomas Barker was a Rutland squire who kept a detailed weather record at Lyndon Hall from 1736 to 1798.
  • the Barkers of Ipswich in Suffolk were prominent cloth merchants trading with the Continent in Elizabethan times. They held Grimston Hall in Suffolk and many were local MP’s. The male line died out in 1766. The Barkers of Bocking Hall in
    Essex were a subsidiary line.
  • while in London, Christopher Barker, printer to Queen Elizabeth, was the father of a printing dynasty that included his son Robert and three of his Constable grandsons. Robert
    Barker was famous as being the printer of the King James Bible in 1611. These Barkers may have been descended from earlier Barkers at Stokesley in north Yorkshire.

Yorkshire. The largest number of Barkers (one in four in the 1891 census) has been in Yorkshire. William Barker was born in Stokesley around 1525. Elsewhere in north Yorkshire:

  • the Barker name cropped up at Masham and Kirkby Malzeard from the early 1600’s. There was a well-known court case involving a Barker matricide at Kirkby Malzeard in 1874.
  • a Barker family at Egton was a stubborn Catholic recusant family. George and Ann Barker were recusants there in 1628; and George and Mary Barker recusants in 1780.
  • while one family line at Appleton-le-Street began with the birth of Robert Barker around 1688.

The Barker name was to be found elsewhere in Yorkshire. The Barkers of Nafferton in the East Riding date from Thomas Barker who was born there around 1690. Samuel Barker took over the Mexborough pottery works in the East Riding in the 1820’s. His sons acquired the larger Don pottery in 1856 and this remained in family hands until 1893.

America. Two early Barker arrivals in New England were:

  • James Barker from Suffolk who came to New England with his family on the Mary and John in 1634. He died during the voyage. His son James settled in Rhode Island, married Barbara Dugan in 1644, and was elected Deputy Governor of the colony in 1678.
  • while Robert Barker came to Plymouth, Massachusetts with his brother John sometime in the 1630’s. They later made their home in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Their line was covered in Barker Newhall’s 1900 book The Barker Family of Plymouth Colony.

One line from Robert Barker led to Nantucket and then to Swan’s Island in Maine. A later Robert Barker, a mariner, bought land there and built himself a spacious frame house in 1773. Jacob Barker, born on Swan’s Island five years later, was for much of his life a prosperous merchant and financier in New York and New Orleans.

Virginia. John Barker of uncertain origins was a sea captain who sailed the Atlantic regularly from England to Virginia. He formally emigrated to Virginia in 1635 but continued to sail until his death in
1689. His son John, however, made his home in Virginia, acquiring land in 1653 on Chippokee Creek in Surry county for “one thousand pounds of good tobacco.” This line was described in William Pullen’s
1971 booklet The Barkers of Virginia.

There was another Barker mariner William Barker, possibly from Shropshire, also sailing the seas between England and Virginia. He brought emigrants to the new colony and traded tobacco. He moved to Virginia pemanently in 1635, acquiring land in Charles City county.

Elsewhere. The Barkers of Philadelphia had their origins in New Jersey where John Barker was born in 1746. By trade a tailor, he was twice mayor of Philadelphia in the early 1800’s. He was the father of the playwright James Nelson Barker who served in the army during the War of 1812 and was also later mayor of Philadelphia.

Canada. The early Barkers who came to New Brunswick arrived from America. Jacob and Mary Barker came to the new Maugerville settlement with their sons Thomas and Jacob from Massachusetts in 1764. Thomas Barker, a Loyalist magistrate in upstate New York, moved to Fredericton in 1787. His son Thomas was a member of the New Brunswick legislature for many years. Barker’s Point Bridge was named after another son Anthony.

David Barker, another Loyalist (this time with Rhode Island and Quaker roots), left Poughkeepsie in New York for the Bay of Quinte on the northern shoreline of Lake Ontario in 1784. He died there in 1821, aged 91. Shortly before his death he inscribed on the family Bible as follows:

“Be it remembered that I make this Bible a present to my grandson David Barker, son of Edward Barker; and it is my desire that it may be kept in the family, to the name of David.”

It was another grandson David who was appointed postmaster at Picton in nearby Prince Edward county in 1848. A later David ran a
foundry there.

South Africa. George Barker, a missionary from Essex, was an early arrival in South Africa, coming there with his family five years before the 1820 settlers. He spent most of his life at the Theopolis mission station in Cape colony.

“His early diary there recorded vast herds of the now extinct quagga, an infinite variety of other game, and constant troubles with elephants, buffaloes, leopards and snakes. Depredations by the Xhosa tribes from across the Fish river caused much distress and anxiety.”

Arthur Barker from London meanwhile was one of the 1820 settlers, arriving at the Cape colony with his family on the Zoroaster. He acted as a chaplain for the settlers. He was allotted a farm on the Kanega river, 25 miles from Grahamstown.

Australia and New Zealand. Collet Barker, a British army officer from London, arrived in Sydney on the prison ship Phoenix in 1828. During his brief time in Australia, he made various explorations of the Australian continent. Mount Barker in South Australia was named in his honor. However in April 1831, at the mouth of the Murray river, he was killed by aboriginal people in the mistaken belief that he was a whaler or sealer wishing them ill.

Henry Barker from Kent, a convict, had arrived in Tasmania on the prison ship Bussarch Merchant in early 1830. He was to live longer, until 1895. After his release, he settled down to farm in the Geelong area of Victoria where he and his wife Margaret raised seven children.

Alfred Barker from London came to New Zealand with his family in 1850 and settled in Christchurch. He is best known today for
the photographs he took of himself and his family between 1858 and his death in 1873. Alfred was a descendant of the Aston Barkers of Staffordshire.

Select Barker Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Barker Names

Robert Barker was the printer of the King James Bible in 1611.
Jane Barker
was a popular English fiction writer and poet of the early 18th century.
James Nelson Barker
was an American playwright of the early 19th century.
Ronnie Barker
was an English comedian, best known for his roles in TV series such as Porridge and The Two Ronnies

Select Barkers Today

  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply