Drinkwater Surname Genealogy

a view long held that the Drinkwater surname derives from a place-name,
that it
is a corruption of the place-name Derwentwater, one of the lakes in the
District. Early Drinkwaters must have
come from there. But there is no
that they did.
The alternative derivation, as the name
suggests, is someone who drinks water.
In the Middle Ages weak ale was the universal beverage among the
classes and so cheap as to be drunk like water.
The surname was perhaps a joking nickname given to a poor person
to afford beer or it was an ironic name for a noted tippler.
Drinkwater Resources on

Drinkwater Ancestry

England. The
origin of Drinkwaters in England appears not to have been the Lake
District in
what is now Cumbria but locations in northern Cheshire and SW
Lancashire. There was coverage of this
genealogy in the
Drinkwater and Fletcher 1920 book The
Drinkwater Family of Cheshire and Lancashire.

Cheshire and Lancashire. The name of
Thomas Drinkwater was recorded at
Lymm in north Cheshire as early as 1365.
The first Drinkwater family of substance in Cheshire was the one
occupied the Bent estate
in the
parish of Warburton from the mid-16th century.
In 1620 Richard Drinkwater built a half-timbered house there
which was
restored in the late 1800’s.

The line of descent from there went:

  • to
    and Richard
    Drinkwater moved there in the late 1700’s and prospered as merchants. Richard Drinkwater of the next generation was
    a well-known and respected local figure, elected Mayor in 1834. Drinkwater Street in Shrewsbury was named
    after him.
  • to
    Liverpool. George
    Drinkwater had moved there in the 1740’s and his descendants became
    merchants and landowners there and on the Isle of Man.
    James Drinkwater was Mayor of Liverpool in
    1810 and his son George Mayor in 1829.
  • and to Irwell near
    Manchester. From this branch came Peter
    Drinkwater, the man who in 1789 built the first steam-powered cotton
    mill in
    Manchester. Five years later he acquired
    the Prestwich Manor estate. Drinkwater
    Park there was his legacy.


was a naval surgeon who
made his home in Salford in the 1760’s.
But neither of his three sons was able to perpetuate his

. Drinkwaters did spread. An early outpost was in Oxfordshire. Drinkwaters were recorded at Wootton near
in the early 1500’s. They were
established as yeoman farmers at Enstone a century or so later. John Drinkwater had some reputation as a
breeder of cattle; another John Drinkwater’s only claim to fame,
according to
his burial register of 1620, was in being lame.
Their family home was called Gagingwell.

Drinkwater who died in 1781 was a yeoman and victualler at nearby
Tackley. Rose Drinkwater, who was born
there in 1816,
ended up in the poorhouse. But her son
Henry was able to escape to New Zealand.

, based in Banbury in the 1830’s, was an innkeeper
there and a
pioneer in the stagecoach developments in that area.
A descendant was the
early 20th century poet and
playwright John Drinkwater

Elsewhere. The Drinkwater name, according to 19th
century census data, extended in numbers to Worcestershire and
in the west country and to London.

America. Thomas
Drinkwater’s origins in England are
not known. He was first recorded as
marrying Elizabeth Haskell in Plymouth, Massachusetts and settling in
where he died in 1715. His son Joseph
made the move to North Yarmouth, Maine and his grandson Micajah to
also in Maine. Many of these Drinkwaters were mariners, including
who was captured by the British in the War of

The family name
lives on in Northport in the Edna Drinkwater School.
Their history was told in John Fernald’s 1904
book The Drinkwater Family.

That was
it in terms of Drinkwater immigrants until well into the 19th century. The Drinkwaters in America was
almost all in
Maine in the 1840 census. The numbers
had dispersed by 1920 in part because some of the Maine Drinkwaters had
dispersed and other Drinkwaters had arrived elsewhere.

instance Thomas Drinkwater – born in Penobscot county, Maine in 1850 –
first for Massachusetts and then for southern California where he
himself in orange and lemon tree plantation.
Meanwhile a Drinkwater family from England had arrived in Ohio
in the
1830’s. Later Drinkwaters of this family
made their home after the Civil War in Howard county, Indiana.

William Drinkwater and his family left Gloucestershire for
around the year 1830. They were early
settlers in what became the town of Brampton near Toronto.
Drinkwater farmhouse, constructed sometime in the 1840’s, still
stands. One son Isaac headed west to
Port Alberni on Vancouver island in the 1880’s.

There were earlier Drinkwaters
in this region. Two brothers Joseph and
William had come from the Isle of Man in 1862 and were pioneer settlers
in the
Cowichan valley. When Joseph died in
1898 he was described as “an excellent farmer and one of the most
widely loved
men in Cowichan.” In 1899 a later Joe
Drinkwater, a prospector and trapper, discovered Della
Falls on the island which he named after
his wife.

Drinkwater Miscellany

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

Drinkwater Names

Peter Drinkwater was a well-known
Manchester cotton mill owner of the late 18th century.
John Drinkwater

was an English poet and playwright of the early 20th century


Select Drinkwaters Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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

Leave a Reply