Freeman Surname Genealogy

English feudal
society many were serfs, essentially beholden to their lord. But some were free. The
Freeman surname origin
was from the person who was a freeman,
one who was
not a serf and thus had certain rights.
Freeman can also be a black or Jewish
name. Many blacks adopted the surname of
Freeman after emancipation in 1863. It
is noteworthy that the Freeman name today is strong in the states of
Old South with their history of slavery.
Freemen can also be Jewish, from the Germanic Friedman or

Freeman Resources on

Freeman Ancestry

England. Freeman
has been a
name of southern England, either in the west or in the east.

Western England. The Freeman surname
was evident at an early
time in the English counties bordering Wales.
It has been conjectured that this was due to the large number of
captives that had been reduced to serfdom or slavery there. A number of them probably did become freemen.

Freemans at Beckford near
Tewkesbury in
Gloucestershire date from 1469 when John Freeman was recorded as a
there. Samuel Freeman kept an inn there in
1637; and the manor house was held by the Freemans from about 1700 to

In another Gloucestershire village were the
Freemans of Batsford, going back to about 1500.
Thomas Freeman, well-known for his epigrams in the early 1600’s,
was of
this family. Freemans were also recorded
in the village of Ebrighton.

Eastern England. However, larger
Freemen numbers were to be
found in eastern England, in Northamptonshire and then in London and

Ralph Freeman, born in
Northampton, was one of the leading English merchants in Calais and was
of Northampton in 1550. He died in 1558,
the year that Calais was lost to the French.
Henry Skinner of Irchester prospered as a steward
for a number of manors at this time and he invested his proceeds in
land. His four sons were all entered into
a London
guild, the Skinners’ Company.

families by the name of Freeman, all ultimately bearing the same arms,
from Northamptonshire to London in Elizabethan times.
Martin Freemen, a member of the London
Fishmongers’ Company, and his son Ralph, who received a gentleman’s
and became a protégé of the Duke of Buckingham, were among the most
enterprising of these Freemans. Ralph’s home at Betchworth in
Kent stayed with
his descendants until 1817. Meanwhile another
Ralph Freeman, of the Clothworkers’ guild, became Lord Mayor of London
in 1633.

By the mid-19th century the largest numbers
of Freemans were to be found in London and Surrey.

Ireland. The
Freemans of Castle Cor in Cork were probably English in origin. John Freeman built the house around 1650 on
the ruins of an old castle there. These
Freemans became the Deane-Freemans through inheritance in the late

can also have Irish roots, being in some cases an anglicized version of
Gaelic Mac an tSaoir sept.

America. The
early Freemans went to New England.

. There
were three notable
Freeman arrivals here, two of whom came to Cape Cod:

  • Samuel
    Freeman from London
    arrived with Winthrop’s party in 1630 and settled in Watertown. Three Samuel Freemans followed him, all
    resident at Eastham on Cape Cod. They
    were followed by a Barnabas and then another Samuel living on the
    family estate
  • Edmund
    Freeman, possibly related, came on the Abigail in
    1635, being first at Lynn (where he was said to have
    twenty pieces of plate armor as defence against the Indian arrows) and
    then at
    Sandwich on Cape Cod. Dr. Nathaniel
    Freeman of this family was a Brigadier General during the Revolutionary
  • while
    Ralph Freeman, also from London, first
    appeared at Dedham, Massachusetts in 1651 and later moved to Attleboro. His grandson Ralph migrated north to New
    Hampshire in the 1740’s.

history in
New England has been covered in two books:

  • Frederick
    Freeman’s 1875 book Freeman
    Genealogy in Three Parts
  • and
    Robert Freeman’s 2005 book Freeman Families of New England.

Elsewhere. Colonel
Bridges Freeman from Oxfordshire came to the Virginia colony in 1625
and had
extensive land holdings along the Chickahominy river.
When he died in 1655 he may have left
children. But as he left no will this
has been questioned

in Henrico county, Virginia date from the
early 1700’s and possibly earlier. Holman
Freemen, born there in 1714, took his family across the Savannah river
Wilkes county, Georgia in 1773. He died
there ten years later. His son Colonel
Holman Freeman had a distinguished Revolutionary War record; his
granddaughter Mary Freeman
married the future
Governor William Bibb.

Freeman line in Wilkes county, Georgia – probably unrelated – began
with the
marriage of Gabriel and Lucy Freeman there in 1794.

William Greene from North
Carolina served as a scout for General Washington during the
War. His descendants settled in Greene
county, Missouri.

. Freeman
is a special surname for African Americans following Emancipation in
1863. It is perhaps surprising that it is
not more
commonplace than the Washington and Jackson names used by freed slaves. But the preponderance of the Freeman name
in the Old South does testify to the importance of African Americans
for the
Freeman name in America.

earliest black Freemans were in the North, with its earlier history of

Pearson Freeman was a former slave from
Massachusetts who earned his freedom fighting for the Green Mountain
Continental Rangers during the Revolutionary War. He
settled in Rutland, Vermont. His grandson
was Martin Freemen,
college-educated, who departed for Liberia during the Civil War.

Other black Freemans of these times were:

  • Mum
    Bet who was the first enslaved African
    American to file and to win in 1781 a freedom suit in
    Massachusetts. After the victory she
    took the name of Elizabeth Freeman.
  • Chatham Freeman from Wallingford, Connecticut who secured
    his freedom
    after fighting as a substitute during the Revolutionary War.
  • and
    Quash Freeman from Derby, Connecticut, freed in 1800, who was
    recorded as the “black Governor of Connecticut” in 1815.
    Two sisters from Derby – Mary and Eliza
    Freeman – purchased adjoining properties in Bridgeport, Connecticut in
    1848. These homes have been preserved.

the South, Abraham
Freeman who received a land grant in Bladen county, North Carolina in
1765 was
said to have been mulatto. In fact his

family has always proudly claimed a family lineage that also included
significant Native American heredity. In
the 1840’s Alexander Freeman migrated south to Myrtle Beach in South
where he and his descendants were fishermen. Later
Freemans developed Freeman’s
Beach as a resort there in the 1920’s.

William and Ellen Freeman were slaves in Craven
county, North Carolina. During the Civil
War they were able to gain their freedom by escaping to Brushton, North
Carolina. It was there that they received help from Union
soldiers until they
eventually found land whereon they could settle. Thomas
Freeman secured his emancipation from slavery in Georgia at this time. He was one of the founders of the black
community of Freemantown in Rome, Georgia in the years following the
Civil War.

Hubert Freeman was born in North Carolina sometime in
the 1870’s. He later moved to
Mississippi. He was the grandfather of
the actor Morgan Freeman.

Freeman in America could also be Jewish.

Louis Freedman was a Russian immigrant who came to Worcester,
Massachusetts in the 1880’s. His
grandson Carl Freeman, based in Maryland, was a prominent real
developer in the Washington area. He
died in a road traffic accident in 1988.

and Stella Freeman
left Russia in 1904 with their family following a pogrom against the Jews in the Poltava district of
Ukraine where
he lived. They made their home in
Brooklyn. Their son Joe became a notable
writer and magazine editor. He is best
remembered as the editor of The New
, a literary magazine associated with the US Communist Party,
and as
the founding editor of the Partisan

William Freeman had come to
Nova Scotia from Yorkshire as a young man in 1759.
His son Joshua moved with his family in 1816
to Burlington, Ontario and a village that became known as Freeman. The Freeman home on Brant Street, built
in 1885, stayed with the family until 1988.

The farmhouse of John Freeman – a descendant of immigrant Edmund
– was burnt down by American patriots in 1777 following the Battle of Saratoga. John fled to Canada but died after a smallpox
epidemic. Family survivors later settled
in Yarker, Ontario. The Freeman
farmhouse there stayed with the family until 1964.

The Rev. Daniel Freeman, a Loyalist, left New
Jersey for the wilds of Norfolk county, Ontario in 1800.
His son Daniel was a farmer there. His
grandson Daniel returned to America in
1873 – moving to the warm weather of Los Angeles for the sake of his
health. Although she died a year later,
he became a major ranch-holder in the area and was instrumental in the
of the town of Inglewood.

Zoltan Freeman was a
Holocaust survivor from Hungary who came to Canada after the war and
and settled down in Hamilton, Ontario.
There he became involved in the confectionary business and was
locally as “the candy man.”

Africa. The Freeman name appeared in West Africa
after the migration of freed slaves to Liberia in the mid-19th century. George Freeman set sail from New Orleans in
1852 but died on the voyage across.
Martin Freeman arrived in 1864 and became the President of
College. Benjamin Green Freeman was a
prominent rubber planter in the early 1900’s and later a Liberian

The Freeman name has since spread to nearby
countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria.

South Africa. Tobias
Friedman departed Russia for Britain in
the 1880’s, settling first in Liverpool and then in Dublin (where his
was briefly mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses). His son Isaac-Jacob emigrated to South Africa
in 1892 and his grandson Maurice Freeman became Mayor of Johannesburg

Australia. James Freeman
from Cambridgeshire was convicted of robbery and transported to Sydney
in 1817. He eventually settled in the Australian outback, at
Wyee Creek in NSW.

“In 1871 James Freeman was injured when a tree
fell on him and he received head injuries from which he never
recovered. A
newspaper cutting recounted how he, having gone walkabout, became lost
on the
Brokenback range in the Wattagan mountains. He was eventually
found by his son a few days later – nearly naked, dehydrated and
suffering cuts
and abrasions. He died soon afterwards.”

His son James was married to Soreina
at Wyee Creek in 1859. Granny Freeman, as she
became known, lived a further seventy years, dying there in 1929.

Freeman Miscellany

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

Select Freeman Names

the first black
president of an American college. During
the Civil War he became active in the African emigration movement and
departed for
Liberia in 1864.
Joe Freeman
fled Russia with his Jewish parents for New York in 1904 was an
American writer
and magazine editor, founder of the Partisan
Bud Freeman was a tenor saxophonist who pioneered the
style of jazz in the 1930’s.

John Freeman
was a Labour MP in the
1950’s and a British TV presenter in the 1960’s, best known for his Face to Face interviews.
is an acclaimed
African American actor and producer.
Cathy Freeman
, from Aborigine roots, is the Australian
sprinter who won the women’s 400 meters in the 2000 Olympics

Select Freemans Today

  • 36,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 59,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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