Select Peters Genealogy

Peter and the patronymic Peters derived from the Greek word petros, meaning “a rock,” and became well-established names because of St. Peter, the apostle of the New Testament. 

Petrie is a Scottish variant.  The Dutch and north German version was Pieters which often became Peters in America.  The Dutch Pieterse is a common Afrikaans name in South Africa.  Peters is also widely found as a surname in Nigeria

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Select Peters Ancestry

Peters from Pieters is a fairly common name in northern Germany and Holland today.  The German numbers are estimated at 90,000.  The name is mainly to be found in Schleswig-Holstein, further east in Mecklenburg, and further west in Hamburg.  The Dutch numbers are about 25,000, mainly in Gelderland and Limburg.

There was an early history of the name, as Petre (pronounced Peter) or Peter in Devon in SW England.

Petre and Peter.  The Petres were yeoman farmers at Torbryan in Devon, going back to the late 1300’s.  John Petre was “a rich tanner of Torbryan” in the early 1500’s.  His son John was a founder member of the Exeter merchant adventurers in the 1560’s.

A younger son Sir William Petre made it to London and the Tudor court, serving as Secretary of State for four monarchs from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth.  He acquired Ingatestone Hall in Essex at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.  Afterwards the Petres became a high-profile recusant family:

  • William, the fourth Baron Petre, suffered under the Commonwealth as a Catholic and suspected Royalist, spending time in the Tower of London.  
  • while Sir Edward Petre, a Jesuit, was a highly unpopular privy councillor and advisor to James II in the 1680’s.
Ingatestone Hall in Essex was established as a Catholic refuge which it has remained under the Petre family until the present day.

The Petre spelling became Peter with Thomas Peter who had married Elizabeth Mitchell, the heiress of Harlyn in north Cornwall, in 1632.  Their son Gregory and grandson Henry both served as the High Sheriff of Cornwall.

“Thomas Peter was for a long time imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell, but procured his release in 1653 through the assistance of his (so-called) maternal kinsman Hugh Peter.”

Another Peter line established itself at Porthcothan on the north coast in Cornwall.  And there was also a Peter family from the 17th century onwards at Poole Farm at Sheviock on the south coast near the Devon border

Meanwhile William Dykeveldt or Dickwood had arrived as a child in Devon during the 1540’s, “driven thither from Antwerp because of religion.”  He and his brother Thomas established themselves as merchants and changed their name to Peter, perhaps because of some relationship they had with the prominent Petre family of Devon.

This family was fiercely Protestant.  Thomas’s son Hugh Peter, a committed Puritan, spent some time in America in the 1630’s before returning to England at the time of the Civil War.  For his role in the king’s regicide, he was executed in the ancient barbaric fashion at the time of the Restoration in 1660

Peters.  The Peters name was to be found in Cornwall, but later than Peter.  One family line began with the marriage of Joseph Peters and Elizabeth Ford at Menhenoit in 1780.  Another west country Peters was James Peters who was born at Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire in 1800.  His son Ebenezer became a coal miner in south Wales. 

Peters as a surname has generally been more widely spread in England than Peter

Some early Peters in SE England were:
  • Peter Peters (originally de la Pierre), a Huguenot surgeon who came to England in 1658 and purchased the Blackfriars at Canterbury in Kent.  He and his descendants were physicians there.
  • Charles Peters, born in London in 1695, who became physician to George II in 1733.
  • and Robert Peters who was married to Elizabeth Fuller at Hastings in Sussex in 1716.
There were Peters also in Lancashire, notably in Southport during the 19th century.  Ralph Peters, father and son, had been Town Clerks of Liverpool in the 1700’s.  Later Peters were successful merchants and made their home first at Platt Bridge near Wigan and then at Southport.  Another Peters family were lifeboatmen at Southport.  Ralph Peters, then aged sixty, and his son Ben died in the Mexico lifeboat disaster of 1886.

AmericaAmong the early Peters of New England was Andrew Peters, a distiller in Boston who in his later years made his home in Andover, Massachusetts.  That was not a safe settlement in his time as his two oldest sons – John and Andrew – were both killed during an Indian raid in 1689. 

Among later lines were: 
  • from John Peters, who was born in 1695 and later moved to Hebron, Connecticut, came Colonel John Peters and his sons Colonel John and General Absalom.  These sons fought, one on the British side and the other on the American side, in the Revolutionary War.  A different line led to John Samuel Peters who was the Governor of Connecticut in 1831.  The Governor never married and left no descendants.  
  • from another John Peters who departed Andover in 1765 came the Peters of Maine.  Fifty years later this John built the John Peters House at Blue Hill which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  John Andrew Peters and his nephew of the same name were both US Congressmen for the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pennsylvania.  Richard and William Peters, two sons of Ralph Peters the Town Clerk of Liverpool, emigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1730’s.   Richard was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia and worked with him in setting up the University of Pennsylvania.  His nephew and William’s son Richard - who held the family’s Belmont estate outside Philadelphia - was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later a prominent Pennsylvania judge.

This Richard’s grandson Richard Peters, an early railroad developer, migrated to the South where in the 1840’s he was instrumental in founding the city of Atlanta, Georgia.  And that Richard's son, Edward C. Peters, bought and then sold off for development the land that is now the southern half of midtown Atlanta.

German.  There are more German than English Peters in America on the basis of the origin of the Peters who came to America.  There were two early Jacob Peters who settled in Virginia: 
  • the first from Bavaria arrived sometime in the 1730’s and made his home in Rockingham county.  His son Christian was the founder of Peterstown.
  • the second was the father of three sons – Henry, John and Jacob – who settled in Scott county in the late 1700’s.   James Peters’ 1986 book Peters Family of Scott County covered their lines.
Among those who arrived in the 19th century were:  
  • Christian Peters from Hesse who came to Ottawa, Illinois with his family in 1868.  After he died, his wife Gertrude settled in Iowa in 1884.  
  • and Charles Peters who left his home in Prussia at the age of eighteen after the death of his parents.  He came to Ashton, Illinois also in 1868 and married and farmed there.  He too moved to Iowa in 1884.
CanadaPrince Edward Island on the Atlantic coastline has a concentration of the Peters name.  There appear to be two reasons for this – one being a French settler family of the 17th century and the other a Loyalist family that had arrived after the Revolutionary War. 

The forebears of the French family were Jean and Marie Pitre who had come to French Acadia sometime in the 1660’s.  After the British had dispersed the French from Acadia, the Pitres settled in Rustico township in Prince Edward Island.  By the 19th century some Pitres began to call themselves Peters. 

The second source was the Peters family from Hempstead, Long Island.  James Peters, a Loyalist leader, departed in 1783 for Nova Scotia. 
The Peters would remain influential in the Maritime provinces for several generations. Frederick Peters, a great grandson, served as the sixth Premier of Prince Edward Island in 1891.  His son Fritz fought in both World Wars and was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1942.

Australia.  Wilhelm Peters had received theological training in Pomerania in northern Germany before being sent out to Australia as a Lutheran pastor in 1877.  His initial assignment was to minister to the Chinese people working at the goldfields in Victoria.  He based himself at Murtoa in western Victoria where he founded Concordia College.  His son Albrecht became a doctor in Melbourne.

Select Peters Miscellany

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

Select Peters Names

Sir William Petre was an English Secretary of State in Tudor times, from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth.
Thomas Peters, ex-slave and a Black Loyalist during the Revolutionary War, was a founding father of the West African country of Sierra Leone in 1792.
Richard Peters, an American railroad developer, was the founder of the city of Atlanta in Georgia in the 1840’s.
Jim Peters was an English runner who four times broke the world record marathon time in the 1950’s. 
Tom Peters is an American writer on business management practices, best known for his book In Search of Excellence

Select Peters Today
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 56,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 33,000 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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