Select Jefferson Surname Genealogy

Jefferson comes from son of Geoffrey, a forename meaning peaceful place.  The surname is not that common in England. 

Jefferson is more common in America, thanks to Thomas Jefferson, the third American President.  He was recently discovered to have a Y chromosome belonging to the haplogroup known as K2.  Genetic studies show that this Y-haplogroup is extremely rare in Europe and is more likely to have come from northeast Africa or the Middle East.  Two unrelated Jeffersons in England were also found to have the same Y-haplogroup.  This led The New York Times to speculate that the Jeffersons were Jewish. 

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England.  The first reference to a Jefferson appears to be a John Geffreesume, otherwise known as John fitz Geoffrey, as a signature to the 1258 Provisions of Oxford document.  However, the fitz Geoffrey name was still patronymical (his son was called fitz John), rather than a surname as we would know it.

Suffolk  Jeaffresons were yeoman farmers in Suffolk for many generations.  In the early 17th century, John Jeaffreson left his home for a life of adventure at sea.   He was fortunate in his connections and was able, in 1625, to secure rights to a plantation in the West Indies. 

His son Samuel established this plantation, the Red House plantation, in St. Kitts.  Although the Jeaffresons later returned to England with their profits and bought Dullingham House in Cambridgeshire, it is believed that one of these Jeaffresons migrated from Antigua to Virginia and was the forebear of the American President, Thomas Jefferson.       

Yorkshire  The name John Jeffrason appeared in Yorkshire in the 1528 York register.  Jeffersons subsequently were to be found in the East Ridings:
  • a Jefferson family were landowners in Hook and Howden, dating back to Robert Jefferson in the 1680's.  There were and still are clusters of Jeffersons in and around Driffield nearby. 
  • and the name still means something in Thorganby where the family had been benefactors.  Locals protested when the name of their pub, The Jefferson Arms, was changed to The Indian Elephant.
The actor Thomas Jefferson was born in Ripon in 1732.  The family later emigrated to Philadelphia.  His son and grandson also became actors, the latter, Joseph, achieving public renown in America for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle.   He put on a show in Washington, Our Japanese Embassy, when the first ever Japanese delegation came to America in 1860.

Cumbria  Jeffersons can also be traced from the early 1600's across the Pennines in what is now Cumbria.  A Jefferson family owned the Bulmer Hill farm near Wigton.  From Wigton came Robert Jefferson who founded the family rum business in Whitehaven that bore his name.  This business, which involved ships, plantations in Antigua and warehouses in Whitehaven, lasted until 1997.  The warehouses, first built in 1785, now function as a museum. 

Also from Cumbria came Stan Jefferson who crossed the Atlantic, like the Yorskshire Jeffersons, to tread the boards in America.  He is better known by his stage-name Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame.   

America.  The Jeffersons appear to have arrived in Virginia in the 1650's.  Thomas's father Peter claimed land in Albemarle County where he built a 5,000 acre plantation.  Thomas Jefferson himself served as Governor of Virginia, was a member of the Continental Congress, and, in 1800, became the third President of the United States.  He retired to his estate in Monticello in 1809.

While President, Jefferson concluded in 1803 the Louisiana purchase which secured for the United States the North American French possessions in the south.  As such, his name is particularly commemorated there.

Jeffersons themselves are still to be found foremost in Virginia, and then in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia.   Richard Jefferson was granted land in Delaware in the 1740's.  John Jefferson was one of those who moved south to Mississippi in the 1830's and later went onto Seguin in Texas where he ran a tavern and operated several stage lines.  Another Jefferson family from Virginia, the descendants of Colonel Field Jefferson, migrated to Tennessee and Texas.

Thomas Jefferson has been called the "negro president."  He was throughout his life a slaveowner.  His relationship with his slave Sally Hemings caused much comment at the time and still does.  Did Jefferson father any of her six children, including her son Eston who subsequently moved to Wisconsin and took the Jefferson name?  Eston's descendants thought so and tried to gatecrash the annual Jefferson reunion. 

African Americans  It is a noteworthy fact that 75% of the Jeffersonsin America today are black. African Americans could choose their name after Emancipation and many of them obviously chose Jefferson as a well-known early President.  There are more than a thousand living descendants of Jefferson by his slaves.  We have post-bellum slave recollections by Isaac Jefferson at Monticello, by Sophronia Jefferson in Kentucky, and by Lewis and Hattie Jefferson in Mississippi.

In more recent times, the popularity of Jefferson as an African American name is evident from The Jeffersons, the first black family sitcom to be aired on national TV.  Blind Lemon Jefferson is considered the father of the Texas blues; while Bill Jefferson was in 1990 Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction

Select Jefferson Miscellany

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

Select Jefferson Names

John Jeaffreson established his family fortunes as a plantation owner in St. Kitts in the West Indies. 
Henry Jefferson started the Jefferson rum business in Whitehaven in the 1780's.
Thomas Jefferson was the third American President.
Joseph Jefferson was a nineteenth century actor known for his portayal of Rip Van Winkle.

Blind Lemon Jefferson from Texas was one of the first African American blues singers to achieve popular success.
Wallace Jefferson in 2004 became the first African American to be Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

Select Jeffersons Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Warwickshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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