Gates Surname Genealogy

and Yates are both surnames that derived from the Old English gatu, plural of geat, meaning “gate.”  Since
medieval gates were usually arranged in pairs, fastened in the center,
the plural name came to be used.  The surname described a
gatekeeper or one who lived by the gates of a walled town.
The Gates and
spellings developed separately in different parts of
the country and probably reflected earlier pronunciation
differences.  Gates may also specifically refer to the Sussex
place-name Eastergate, known as Gates in the 13th
and 14th centuries.Gates in America is often an anglicization of the German name

Resources on

Gates Ancestry

The earliest appearances of the name were in East
Anglia.  Silvester atte Gates was rector of
Brinton in Norfolk in 1354 and Thomas Gates, born in 1327, was the
first of
the Gates gentry family of Essex.  This family purchased the
Garnetts manor in High Easter (near present-day Chelmsford), which
remained in their hands until
1582.  Sir
John Gates
prospered as a courtier under Henry VIII,
but then lost his head when he backed the abortive attempt to put Lady
Jane Grey on the English throne.

“On August 19, 1553 he was tried at the Tower and
sentenced to death for treason.  Three days later he was brought
out to Tower Hill where at three blows his head was struck off.”

The Gates name spread around the southeast, from
Essex to Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire.
  The Gates name was
recorded as early as 1480 in Horsham in Sussex; Henry Gates lived at
the Kings Barn nearby in Cowfold in the 1660’s; and the Gates of Alton
in Hampshire
date from the time of the Civil War.

  The Gates name appeared early in the history of
America.  Sir Thomas Gates sailed for Virginia as head of the
rescue party for the original Jamestown inhabitants.  He became
of Virginia briefly in 1611, but then returned to England.

The Puritan Stephen
stayed.  He came in 1638 from Hingham
near Norwich in England on the Diligent
and settled with other Puritans from Hingham in Hingham,
Massachusetts.  Later Gates descendants were to be found in
Massachusetts.  Jacob Gates was a Mormon and an early arrival in
Salt Lake valley. Charles Otis Gates’ work Stephen Gates of Hingham and His
, published in 1898, is not now considered fully
reliable and has been much corrected by
more recent researchers.  Robert Cady Gates’ 2000 book Records of the Gates Families in America is
a more recent work.

One researcher went through Gates as a surname in the 1850 and 1860 US
censuses and estimated that a majority of them had German rather
than English roots.  Many Goetz became Gates in
America on arrival or a generation or so later.

Among the Goetz who came to America and became Gates then or later were:

  • Early arrivals, John Georg Goetz along with his mother and
    siblings, who left Wurttemburg for America in 1750 and settled in Berks
    county, Pennsylvania.
  • Johannes Gotz from the Rhine Palatinate arrived in 1754 and
    settled in Indiana county, Pennsylvania
  • Adolph Goetz and his family from Wurttemburg who moved to
    Buffalo, New York in 1846 (another Goetz, George Goertz, settled in
    Rochester nearby and later moved onto Indiana and Ohio)
  • Daniel Goetz and his family from Wurttemburg who arrived in Iowa
    in the early 1850’s to farm
  • and a Goetz family from Nuremburg who started emigrating to
    America in 1853.  They settled in Angola, Indiana.

There were two Bill Gates known to be in Alaska at the time of the
Klondike gold rush of the 1890’s.  The first, the flamboyant
Swiftwater Bill, was a small moon-faced wanderer from Idaho.  He
made and lost several fortunes.  In one famous Klondike story he
presented the Dawson dance hall girl Gussie Lamore with her weight in
gold.  A biography The True
Life Story of Swiftwater Bill Gates
was written in 1908 by his
mother-in-law Iola Beebe.  The other Bill Gates, whose family had
come from Rhode Island in the early 19th century, settled in Washington
state and was the
grandfather of Microsoft founder Bill Gates

Canada.  The descent from
New England immigrant Stephen Gates came north into Canada a century or
so later, through two different lines:

  • One was via his son Simon.  Simon’s grandson Captain Oldham
    Gates left Massachusetts in 1760 for what is now Annapolis county, Nova
    Scotia.  His family founded Gates Breakwater, which became known
    as Port
    George in 1812, and were the builders of the first oceangoing vessel
  • The other was via his son Isaac.  There was a Joseph Abel
    Gates, who was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1772 and married Mary
    in 1802, and a Henry Gates, born in Burford in Brant county, Ontario in

Gates Miscellany

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

Select Gates Names

John Gates
was a courtier under Henry VIII who was later
executed for his role in trying to put Lady Jane Grey on the English
Horatio Gates served as an
American general during the Revolutionary War.  He was credited
with the victory at Saratoga but plotted the replacement of George
John W. Gates was a pioneer
promoter of barbed wire and became a prominent American
financier.  He was also a big-time gambler, known as
“bet-a-million” Gates.
Bill Gates started and
developed the computer software giant Microsoft.

Select Gates

  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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