Emerson Surname Genealogy

Emerson is a patronymic name from the northeast of England. The
root could be Emery – from
the German personal
name Emaurri introduced into
England by the Normans; or from the
Anglo-Saxon Emars sunu,
meaning “son of Emar” or “son of Ethelmar;” or from Haimericus, comprised of haim meaning “home” and rik meaning “rule,” which was
the basis of the Gascon name Aimeric (in Italian Amerigo).
Early Emerys are found throughout England, early Emersons mainly in
Durham.  Emmerson is an alternative spelling of the name.
Emerson Resources on

Emerson Ancestry

The Emerson name is thought to have originated in Durham and with
the archdeacon of Durham in the early 13th century. This
may explain the subsequent Emerson association with the bishopric of
Durham. The first tracked family began with Ralf Emerson, born
around 1500 in Foxton in the bishopric of Durham.

At Hurworth near Darlington in Durham there is a monument to the rather
eccentric mathematician William Emerson. He was a
native of this village and was buried in its churchyard. In the
17th century there
were a number of Emerson “merchant adventurers” in Newcastle, notably
Emerson of the Eastgate Emersons. There
were also Emersons recorded as foresters at Stanhope in Weardale at
time. Their numbers increased sharply in
the 18th century with the lead mining at

the 19th century, the geographic
location of the Emerson name
was in a line stretching south

from Durham to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. One
Emerson family in Lincolnshire traces back to the village of Searby
in the early 1500’s. A genealogical survey was undertaken by the
writer and photographer Peter Henry Emerson in his 1898 book The English Emersons.

William Emerson from Bedfordshire was an early
English settler in Ireland, arriving at Carofin in county Clare in the
1630’s. Two centuries
later his descendants, Catholic, made their home at Clifden on the
coast in Galway. Tom Emerson was a house builder, as was his son
Geoffrey. His family ran the Ivy Hotel there for many

America. Robert Emerson came to America from Lincolnshire
with his brother Michael and sister Elizabeth in the 1650’s. They
settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. One branch of these Emersons
migrated to
in the 1760’s, but didn’t stay. Later Emersons
of this family moved to upstate New
York and to points further west.

Thomas Emerson
from Durham was the
first Emerson ancestor in America of the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.
arrived in 1636 and settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
These Emersons were all church ministers
dating back to that time. Ralph’s father William was a
Unitarian minister, pastor to Boston First Church. Ralph himself became
known as a controversial thinker in the late 1830’s as he began to
Transcendentalism. Benjamin Emerson’s
1900 book The Ipswich Emersons
recorded the family history

Edwin Emerson, born in New York in 1823, was the patriarch of an
Emerson family which spent much of the 19th century living and
traveling in Europe and Japan. His five sons all eventually
returned to the United States. Edwin was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s
1898 Rough Riders and later a war correspondent; Alfred an archaeology
professor at Cornell University; while Samuel, Harrington and George
involved themselves in banking in Nebraska.

Virginia and the South.
The Emerson spelling varied somewhat in the South. The 1790
Virginia census gave the following names of heads of families: John
Emmerson of
Pittsylvania; Richard Emmerson of Fairfax; Arther Emerson of Nansemond;
and Henry Emberson of Albemarle.

James Emerson, a Regulator in North Carolina, was captured by the
British but escaped hanging in 1771 (a descendant John Hudson Emerson
still lives in the area where he was taken). George Emerson – his
name was spelt variously – migrated south from Virginia through
Tennessee into Alabama in the 1820’s. Other branches of the
family ended up in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Australia. John Henry
Emerson from Lancashire was a sergeant at the Woolwich barracks when he
absconded with army money in 1821 – for which he was tried and
sentenced to 14 years’ transportation. In Sydney he appeared to
live well. But he was discovered in 1827 to have been part of a
money forgery ring. This time the sentence was death, although
later commuted to life imprisonment. His life ended in Sydney in
1852 in some degree of respectability, leaving behind a wife and four

Emerson Miscellany

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

Emerson Names

William Emerson was an
18th century English mathematician.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the
American lecturer, essayist and poet who led the Transcendentalist
movement of the mid-19th century.
J.W. Emerson was the American
lawyer who founded the Emerson Electric Company in 1890.
Peter Henry Emerson, born in
Cuba to an American father, was an accomplished late 19th century
photographer and writer in England.
Roy Emerson
was an Australian
tennis player of the 1960’s, holder of twelve Grand Slam singles
Keith Emerson was the founder
of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the 1980’s, one of the first

Select Emersons Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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