Chapman Surname Genealogy

The name Chapman comes the Old English or Saxon ceap, meaning a bargain or cheap,
and the suffix mann or man.
The German equivalent was Kaufman.
The name came to describe a merchant or trader who travelled from place
to place selling small wares. An act of Edward VI spoke of
“person or persons commonly called peddler, tinker, or petty
chapman.” A chapman, however, was not necessarily held in low
regard. He would bring to isolated villages welcome news and
gossip about the outside world.  In Yorkshire the chapman or itinerant peddler gave his name to the
Chapman packhorses once prevalent in the Yorkshire dales.

Resources on

Chapman Ancestry

There is
a folk tale in Norfolk about a peddler called John Chapman who
suddenly became very wealthy and donated much of his money to
refurbishing the church in Swaffham.In 1454, according to
legend, the peddler had a dream that he should go to London to meet a
stranger on London Bridge. In due course the peddler set off for
London and on the third day in the capital he did meet a
stranger. This stranger told him about a dream that he had had
about finding a treasure in a garden in Swaffham. John Chapman
swiftly returned home and discovered the treasure trove in his own

England. The Chapman name
appeared in various places around England in medieval times. But
the early
demographics indicate that the name was mainly to be found in
with a smattering across East Anglia and the southeast.

the name might suggest humble origins, there were some who made it
landed gentry. One well-to-do family from Cambridgeshire can be
traced to Rainthorpe Hall in Norfolk until Elizabethan times. The
Chapman name has continued in villages around King’s Lynn.

Yorkshire The
name Chapman appeared in Whitby records as early as
1216. They were one of the long-established families of this
coastal town. Later generations were Quakers and prominent
mariners and bankers in the town (the name of Abel Chapman is to be
found on the plaque at the old entrance to Whitby harbor). In
1758, according to local newspaper reports, Captain William
Chapman found fossil bones of an alligator off the Whitby coast.

Some of these Chapmans left the region:

  • Thomas
    Chapman, an English naval officer, moved to Sweden in 1715 and joined
    the Swedish navy. His son Fredric was a naval architect who rose
    to be vice-admiral of the Swedish navy in 1791.
  • and many Chapmans
    departed for America, including the Quakers
    Giles and Sarah Chapman who set off from Bridlington for Virginia in
    1734. One of their most treasured possessions (which still exists
    today) was a
    family Bible
    dating back to 1613.

Another Chapman base, from the early 1600’s, was Hawnby in north
Yorkshire. The New Hall in Hawnby was home to generations of
Chapmans until religious oppression drove many away. William and
Mary Chapman
, Methodists who were unable to practice their
embarked with their nine children on the Albion in 1774 for New Brunswick in
Canada. Their departure was commemorated in Michael Chapman’s
anthem of loss and regret, In The

Leicestershire A
Chapman family in Hinckley near Leicester had family ties with the
Elizabethan adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Through these ties,
Francis Chapman set sail for Virginia in 1608 as one of the early
Jamestown settlers.

Later, Benjamin Chapman served in the
Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and received as reward Killua castle in
Westmeath. His family became part of the Anglo-Irish landowning
class in succeeding generations. In the 1880’s, Thomas Chapman
had an affair with his governess Sarah Lawrence. Their son, born
illegitimately, was the T.E. Lawrence of Seven Pillars of Wisdom fame.

Cornwall A
cluster of Chapmans can be found as well in the southwest, in
Cornwall. The Chapman name in St. Breward church records here
dates from the 1550’s. During the Cornish exodus of the
19th century, William
departed for
Northampton County in Pennsylvania, John Chapman for Prince Edward
Island in Canada, and Edward Chapman for Sydney in Australia.

America. Many of the
Chapman immigrants to America came from Yorkshire. In fact, when
William Chapman built his opulent family house in Rye, New York in the
1850’s, he named it Whitby castle after Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire (it
is now part of the Rye Golf Club).

New England
Early New England arrivals
included Robert Chapman who arrived in 1635 and settled in Saybrook and
Edward Chapman who arrived in 1644 and settled in Ipswich. From
the latter family came the Rev. Eliphaz Chapman, an early settler in
Bethel Maine, and William Rogers Chapman, the director of the Maine
musical festivals in the 1920’s.

Eminent 19th century
Chapmans included Henry Chapman, a Boston merchant and abolitionist,
and his wife Maria, an even more fervent anti-slavery advocate; Oliver
Chapman, the railroad contractor who pioneered the use of steam
shovels; and Josephine Wright Chapman, one of the first women

Virginia Francis
Chapman was described as one of the “ancient planters.”
He lived through the Jamestown deprivations and was listed among the
survivors in 1623. His family later moved to Northern Neck,
Virginia where they became well-to-do and well-connected planters
(including friendships with the Washingtons nearby).

In the
1740’s, Jonathan Chapman built Chapman’s Mill in the
Gap, a gristmill that fostered the agricultural development of the
Shenandoah valley. The present-day Chapman Forest in Maryland
exists on land that this family acquired in the 1750’s.

Many more Chapman immigrants came to
Virginia in the 1740’s. Some stayed; others moved onto South
Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere:

  • the descendants of John and Mary
    Chapman settled in Newton County, Mississippi in the early1800’s.
  • one Virginian Chapman, William Chapman, moved further
    afield, to Portland in Oregon. He founded The Oregonian newspaper in the
  • while George Chapman arrived in California from Kentucky as
    early as 1843.
  • and William Chapman was in the 1880’s an early
    farmer in Glenwood, Colorado.

South Africa. John
Chapman was a ship mate on the Consent
who, in 1607, landed near Cape Town in search of safe anchorage.
He left his name to Chapman’s Peak overlooking Cape Town.

Chapman was born in Cape Town in 1831. He was an early South
African hunter, trader, and explorer. His brother Henry and son
William followed in his footsteps. Another son Charles perished
in the Titanic disaster of

Australia. William
Chapman had been transported to Australia in 1791 for stripping lead
off a church roof in Stepney. He was described as “very dressed,
very smart, in long coat, clean shirt, and very tidy.” He next
appeared at the Theater in Sydney in 1796 where he played the part of a
polished gentleman (possibly the right role for a well-dressed
burglar). He subsequently lived with the formidable Ann Marsh and
they developed a number of businesses together in the new colony.

Thomas and Mary Ann Chapman from Kent were among the first free
settlers to Australia. Mathew Chapman from Yorkshire
was an early settler in the Hunter valley. And another Thomas
also arrived in the
1830’s, an orphan who had been sent out by the short-lived Children’s
Friends Society. He went to Western Australia where his
descendants still reside.

Chapman Miscellany

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

Select Chapman Names

George Chapman, a contemporary
of Shakespeare, was a poet and the translator of Homer’s Iliad, a work much admired by Keats.
, better known as Johnny
, was a New England pioneer nurseryman who introduced
apple to large parts of the Midwest. He became an American legend
in the early 1800’s because of his open and generous nature.
James Chapman, born in Cape
Town of an English immigrant father and an Afrikaans mother, was an
early Victorian explorer of southern Africa.
, born in
Rotherham, was the great English club football manager of the 1920’s
and 1930’s.
Colin Chapman was an
influential British race car designer and developer in the 1960’s and
1970’s. His Team Lotus won seven Formula One World Championships
during this period.
Tracy Chapman, born in
Cleveland Ohio, is a singer-songwriter and four-time Grammy Award

Select Chapmans Today

  • 88,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 46,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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