Carpenter Surname Genealogy
Carpenter, a worker in wood, is
from the Norman French carpentier,
itself from the late Latin carpentarius,
introduced into England after 1066.Carpenter first started
appearing as a surname, rather than as an occupation, around
1120. Some see a link with the French de Melun family.
A Melun forebear had
been called “William the Carpenter” because of his prowess with a
battleaxe. This nickname stuck with the family.
Carpenters in America outnumber Carpenters in England by a
factor of two to one. This is because the American Carpenters
have been augmented by German-speaking Zimmermans (Zimmerman means
carpenter in German). Many of these Zimmermans anglicized their
names to Carpenter. But Ethel Zimmerman took the name Ethel
Merman. And a certain Bob Zimmerman decided to call
himself Bob Dylan.

Carpenter Resources on

Carpenter Ancestry  

England. The Carpenter
name was and is mainly to be found in the south of England,
particularly in the southwest.
Further north, it was the Old English word Wright which described the
workers in wood or carpenters in the medieval age.

Carpenters date from the 1300’s in Herefordshire. They had come
over from France and their seat was at Holme (or Homme) in
Dilwyn. They were to be found from an early time in London.
Richard Carpenter was a chandler there and John Carpenter became Town Clerk of London,
and a very famous one, in 1417. Later in the Hereford line came
George Carpenter, ennobled
as Lord Carpenter for his feats as a general in defeating the 1715
Jacobite revolt.

Cornwall  The
Cornish Carpenters started with John
Carpenter, MP for Liskeard in 1323, and continued through naval
captains to Alfred
, awarded the VC for his part in the raid on
Zeebrugge during World War One.

Elsewhere The
Carpenter name in time spread across the south of
Carpenters, for instance, were yeoman farmers in Berkshire from the
15th centrury. From this family came William Carpenter,
an early settler in New England
. Another William
who crossed the Atlantic came from Amesbury in Wiltshire. There
was a Carpenter family at Bradford on Tone in Somerset and Carpenters
were also to be found in Sussex at this time.

An 18th
century family
started with Thomas Carpenter, a carpet maker in Kidderminster.
His son Lant became an influential Unitarian preacher and his
granddaughter Mary a noted Victorian social reformer who founded the
ragged school movement.

Ireland. Henry Carpenter
came from an Irish
family in Enniskillen. His marriage in 1840 to Hester Boyd later
produced the Boyd Carpenters, father and son Conservative

Early Carpenter arrivals included:

  • William
    Carpenter, a preacher, who came to the New Providence plantation in
    1635. His descendants settled in Jamaica, Long
    Island. The family line was traced in Daniel H. Carpenter’s
    1901 book The Carpenter Family in

  • William Carpenter
    , his wife
    Abigail, and their four children who arrived on the Bevis to Rehoboth, Massachusetts in
    1638. This William, another preacher, died there in
    1659. Charles Carpenter’s 1988 book The Descendants of William Carpenter
    covered his family history. There is a Carpenter Road and
    three historic Carpenter Houses in Rehoboth today.
  • Ephraim Carpenter, a Quaker, who
    came to America in 1678 and settled in Long Island (his forebear was in
    fact a German Zimmerman who had changed his name to Carpenter in
    England in the 1550’s).
  • and Samuel Carpenter, another
    who came to Philadelphia by way of Barbados in 1683. A friend of
    William Penn, he became a very successful merchant in the new
    colony. Carpenter’s Wharf established itself as one of the city’s

All of these Carpenters have a
large number of descendants recorded. The Rehoboth Carpenters
included Captain Benajah Carpenter who founded
the US Army Field Artillery Corps and the painter Francis Carpenter who
lived in the White House at the time of Lincoln and published a memoir
of his stay. One Carpenter line went through to the astronaut

were hundreds if not thousands of German immigrants into Pennsylvania
the 1700’s named Zimmerman or some variation thereof. Many
of them were Mennonites from Switzerland and south Germany seeking
religious freedom. From Switzerland and settling in Lancaster
county came Heinrich Zimmerman in 1717, Hans Zimmerman and his family
on the Pink Plaisance in
1732, and George Zimmerman in the 1740’s.

George Zimmerman later anglicized his name in Virginia to
Carpenter. As did Mathias Zimmerman in North
Carolina. And many others did as well. Perhaps they made
name change to fit in better with their English neighbors. Or
perhaps their new name represented a growing American pride.

George Carpenter’s descendants moved inland once the Revolutionary War
was over. Carpenter’s station was one of the first stations to be
built across the Cumberland Gap in Kentucky. It was established
in 1780 near present-day
Hustonville by three Carpenter brothers, Adam, Conrad and John, all
Revolutionary War veterans. Other Carpenters from Pennsylvania
later moved onto Ohio.

Australia. Early
Carpenters were convicts, such as Charles Carpenter who arrived in 1832
and Richard Carpenter five year later. Richard subsequently
married and eked out a living in what was called “the terrible
vale.” However, he had a love of horses and this love was passed
down to his descendants who owned, trained or raced horses.

John Carpenter was a New England sea captain and merchant who had moved
his shipping base to Sydney in Australia in the 1880’s. His
sons later took over the business and Walter Carpenter founded WR
Carpenter & Co in 1914, a company which traded copra with the
planters in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

“Although much abused by some planters
and small traders – WRC was said to stand for “would rob Christ,” –
Carpenters also earned the gratitude of those who survived on long-term
credit and who looked to it to transact all their business.”

The Carpenter business expanded in the inter-war years into a major
shipping company by sea and by air.

Select Carpenter Miscellany

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

Carpenter Names

was one of the most famous Town Clerks of London and
was the author of the first book of English common law.
was the general from Hereford who defeated the
Jacobite rebels at Preston in 1715.
from Kidderminster in Worcestershire was a prominent
early 19th century Unitarian minister and educator. His daughter
Mary was the founder of the ragged school movement for orphan children.
Edward Carpenter was a poet and
writer, one of the founders of the Fabian Society in the early 1900’s,
and an early advocate of gay rights.
Walter Carpenter
, the son of a New England whaler, based
himself in Australia and was a highly successful shipping merchant in
inter-war years.
Richard and Karen Carpenter are
the brother/sister pop duo
known as the Carpenters.

Select Carpenters Today

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 52,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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