Select Nightingale Surname Genealogy

The cuckoo and the nightingale are the songbirds that are heralded in England.  No one has ever been called a cuckoo (at least as a compliment).  It is the nightingale that has passed into a name for someone who sings with a sweet voice.  The word nightingale comes from the Old English niht meaning "night" and galan meaning "sing."

A nightingale once sang in Berkeley Square.  But the incidence of the Nightingale name around England is something of a mystery.  If the nightingale nests and is heard in the south, how come then that Nightingale as a surname only appears north of a line from the Midlands to East Anglia?  Were the bird's migratory patterns different in the Middle Ages?  Or was there some other reason?     

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Select Nightingale Ancestry

England.  We found three clusters of Nightingales:
  • in Bolton in Lancashire
  • in Huntingdonshire and later in Cambridgeshire
  • and in Derbyshire. 
Bolton.  The Bolton Nightingales seem to have originated from the village of Rivington.  John Nightingale was born there in the 1630's.  Another John Nightingale was a yeoman in the 1730's.   And the Nightingale name is still current in the Bolton area today.

Huntingdonshire.  Samuel Pepys referred in his diary to a visit to his cozen Nightingale in Huntingdonshire "who hath a pretty house in Yelling." 

Geoffrey Nightingale was a lawyer who had managed to parlay his business into such a money-making enterprise that he was able tp purchase Kneesworth Hall in Cambridgeshire and become local gentry.  Thomas Nightingale took over the estate soon after 1600 and it remained in the family until 1831.      

Derbyshire.  Also on the way up was Thomas Nightingale, a local farmer in Lea in Derbyshire.  He proved very skilled in prospecting for lead and within a short space of time owned the local smelting works and much of the land in the area.   Over the 18th century this family became, as a result of his enterprise, one of the richest in Derbyshire. 

From this family came Florence Nightingale, so named because she happened to be born in Florence.  In her twenties she decided to take up nursing even though nursing was not then considered to be a suitable profession for a well-educated woman.  Her time came with the Crimean War when she exposed and dealt with the unsanitary hospital conditions that she found.  Her campaign touched the public mood and she became known as "the lady with the lamp."  

America.  Nightingales did make it to America.  William Nightingale from Cambridgeshire was first recorded at Braintree, Massachusetts in 1670.  The family homestead on Granite Street in Quincy, built by Solomon Nightingale in 1820, remained with his descendants until the 1920's.

One line of these Nightingales, via Samuel Nightingale, migrated to Rhode Island in 1751.  Joseph Nightingale became a wealthy Providence merchant and builder in the 1790's of one of the grandest houses in the town. 

"The location of the house on College Hill gave Nightingale a commanding view of the Providence river and its myriad ships, wharves, and warehouses filled with goods shipped from ports around the world."

Nightingales from Lancashire came to Paterson, New Jersey in 1818.  They operated a silk mill there.  In 1849 John Nightingale migrated to California at the time of the Gold Rush.  He did make a fortune in San Francisco, although in real estate.

New Zealand.  William and Eleanor Nightingale came to Auckland from Shrewsbury on the Nimroud in 1860.  A descendant Clifford Nightingale enlisted for World War One and died on the Western front at Passchendaele in 1917. He has been remembered for his war poems.

Select Nightingale Miscellany

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

Select Nightingale Names

Joseph Nightingale
was a wealthy New England merchant in Providence in the late 18th century.
Florence Nightingale
was the nursing superintendant at British military hospitals in the Crimean War and by her efforts became known as "the lady with the lamp."
Earl Nightingale from Los Angeles was an American inspirational speaker on radio best known for his 1956 work The Strangest Secret.
Annie Nightingale was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1.

Select Nightingales Today
  • 1,500 in the UK (most numerous in Derbyshire)
  • 1,500 in America (most numerous in California)

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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