Booth


Select Booth Surname Genealogy

Booth comes from the Old English both, a cowhouse or a herdsman's hut.  The name could refer either to the location or be an occupational name for a cowherd or a herdsman.  The word was originally of Scandinavian origin and tended to be found in areas where the Scandinavian influence was most marked.  

Booth occasionally appears in its travels with an "e" (i.e. Boothe).

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England.  Booth developed locally as a surname, in Lancashire and Cheshire and in the adjacent counties of Derbyshire and the West Ridings of Yorkshire.  This pattern was evident in the 14th century and continued in later centuries.  Even by the end of the 19th centiury, roughly 80 percent of the Booths in England were to be found within this region.

Cheshire  Booths from Dunham Massey in Cheshire have been traced back to Barrowford Booth in Lancashire in the 13th century.  This family married well and bacame part of local Cheshire gentry.  George Booth played a part in the national politics of his time, being a member of the delegation which invited Charles II back.  A generation later, Henry Booth was tried but acquitted of high treason after James II had lost his throne.  This Booth line petered out soon after.  However, Letitia Booth married Sir Nathaniel Gore in 1711 and these Gore Booths did become large landowners in Sligo in Ireland. 

Another branch of this family held the barony of Barton in Eccles near Manchester until 1586.  A descendant was the 18th century actor Barton Booth. 

Lancashire  The Booth name could also be found during the 18th century in villages to the north of Manchester, around Oldham and Bury.  One family history traces the Booths from Bury who fled industrial Lancashire for the American West. 

"The father John Booth, a hatter, had died in 1845 by 'hanging himself whilst under the influence of temporary insanity.'  It is possible that he went 'insane' from the mercury he used in making hats.  This experience was common enough for the phrase 'mad as a hatter' to develop."

Edwin Booth was born in Bury and apprenticed in Preston.  In 1847, while still a teenager, he started a tea store in Blackpool which was to become the Booths chain of supermarkets in the north of England (now run by a fifth generation of Booths).      

In 1767 Thomas Booth left his farm in Warrington and travelled to Liverpool to seek his fortune.  By the age of thirty he had become a successful corn merchant and by forty he owned his own trading vessels. However, his offspring did more.  His second son Henry helped George and Robert Stephenson develop the first railway locomotives.  Charles, like his father, became a corn merchant.  His son Charles built up the Booth Steamship Company, a business which made him a wealthy man.  But Charles Booth is most remembered today for his social work, as this memorial reveals:  

"During many years he devoted the leisure of an arduous life to a study of the condition of the poor in London.  He diligently sought for a foundation for which remedies could be securely based and he lived to see the fulfilment of part of his hopes, in the lightening of the burder of old age and poverty.  To those who lived under his influence, he brought unfailing help and joy.  He leaves them a precious example."

Derbyshire  William Booth had a less easy road.  His father, from Belper in Derbyshre, went bankrupt and William set off on his own to London.  There he became a Methodist preacher.  However, dissatisfied with its protocol, he decided to start his own mission.  In 1865, he and his wife Catherine opened their first Christian Revival Society in the East End of London.  This place, intended to be a gathering place for the poorest and neediest in society, grew to be the Salvation Army.  Although its early years were lean ones, the Salvation Army eventually flourished and Booth himself received widespread respect and admiration throughout the country.

Booth wrote in his book In Darkest England and The Way Out:

"My only hope for the permanent deliverance of mankind from misery either in this world or the next is the regeneration or remaking of the individual by the power of the Holy Ghost through Jesus Christ. But in providing for the relief of temporal misery I reckon that I am only making it easy where it is now difficult, and possible where it is now all but impossible, for men and women to find their way to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Another Booth from Derbyshire, Abraham Booth, was a Baptist preacher and an anti-slavery campaigner in the late 1700's.  A century later, the evangelical Joseph Booth from Derby set out for Africa as a missionary.  However, when there, he aroused the hostility of other missionaries and the colonial authorities by advocating higher wages and more political power for Africans.  They eventually banished him back to England.

London  A more exotic Booth line started with John Booth, a Jewish silversmith in London whose ancestors had been banished from Portugal because of their radical political views.  He mixed with the radical set in London, including John Wilkes a well-known agitator at the time. 

His son, Junius Brutus Booth, from whom came the famous theatrical family, took off for America in 1821 with his mistress (who eventually bore him ten children) and toured the country as an actor.  He died aged 56 on board a steamboat on the Mississippi. One of his sons, Edwin Thomas Booth, founded Booth's Theatre in New York; another, John Wilkes Booth, is forever known as the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. 

Back in England, the Booth line has extended to the actor Tony Booth and his daughter Cherie, the wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.          

America.  Family tradition has it that three Booth brothers from Cheshire came to America in the 1630's; William to Barbados, John Booth who settled on Long Island, and Richard Booth who was one of the founding fathers of Stratford, Connecticut (Donald L. Jacobus's 1952 book Genealogy of the Booth Line recounts this family line).  

A 19th century Massachusetts descendant was Edmund Booth who was deafened and totally blinded in one eye by meningitis when he was four.  Nevertheless he lived a long and active life, first in California during the Gold Rush days and then in Iowa as a pioneer settler.

Also from Cheshire were Thomas Booth who came to Gloucester County, Virginia in the 1630's and James Mather Booth who arrived a century later and became the first mayor of Marietta, Ohio in 1825. 

John and Charity Booth moved from Virginia to Kentucky around 1805.  At the same time Charles Boothe was one of the first settlers in Wayne County, West Virginia.  James Booth and his wife Milliam departed Virginia for Georgia in 1821.  After James's death in 1840, Milliam moved onto Kentucky.  Family legend has it that "she came in her carriage and brought her slaves from Georgia with her." 

Later, Richard and Elsie Booth were Mormons who made the long trek from Lancashire to Salt Lake valley in 1857.  Joseph Booth, also from Lancashire, arrived in Texas in 1859 and became a Texas ranger.

Canada.  Early arrivals into Upper Canada were Empire Loyalists such as Joshua Booth from upstate New York.  Though a soldier and a fighter, the sight of blood would overcome him.  During an engagement in 1813, he fell into a state of catalepsy and suddenly died.

Robert and Elizabeth Booth came to Canada from Kilkenny in Ireland around 1813.  JR Booth, born in Quebec in 1827, was the son of Irish immigrants.  He became a lumber baron, controlling logging rights for large tracts of forest land in central Ontario, and lived onto 1926.

Australia.  A Booth family from Yorkshire set out for the Victoria goldfields in the 1850's.  However, the later family history was tinged with sadness.  The father John killed himself in 1887 and his son John died underground in a mining accident in 1903.  

Another Booth family in Victoria had a happier outcome.  Esca Booth bought into the Taminick cellars in Glenrowan in 1904 and this winery has now been in Booth hands through four generations.     

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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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George Booth started Booth's rebellion and then was part of the delegation which invited Charles II back to the throne.
Barton Booth was one of the most famous dramatic actors of the first half of the 18th century.
Sir Felix Booth was the scion of Booth's gin and the backer of several Arctic expeditions.
John Wilkes Booth, an actor, was the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
Charles Booth, a Victorian philanthopist, spent the latter part of his life documenting and publicizing the plight of the urban poor in London.
William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army.
Maud and Ballington Booth founded the Volunteers of America in 1896.  Ballington was the son of General Booth of the Salvation Army; but the two had had a falling-out and Ballington went his own way.
George Booth from Lancashire took the stage name Formby, as his music hall father had, and became hugely popular with his ukelele playing in the 1930's.
Cherie Booth is the wife of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Richard Booth is the self-proclaimed King of Hay on the Welsh border and the creator of the world's first book town.

Select Booths Today
  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 18,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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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