Alsop Surname Meaning, History & Origin

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The Derbyshire place-name of Alsop-le-Dale, meaning “valley of Aelle” and lying within the parish of Ashbourne, appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 and had pre-Norman origins.

After the Conquest, Henry de Ferrers from William’s retinue was given land in Derbyshire. He in turn granted the township of Alsop-le-Dale to one of his officers Gamellus who became known as Gamellus de Alsop.  His descendants were to hold the Alsop estate until the 17th century.  Gamellus was not only the forefather of the Alsops in Alsop-le-Dale but also possibly of most of the Alsops around the world today (although this has not been established by DNA testing).

As a surname Alsop has had many variant spellings. In England it has been Alsop, Allsop and Allsopp, with Allsop being the most common.  In America it has been Alsop and Alsup, with Alsup in the majority.

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England. The Alsop surname originated in the township of Alsop-le-Dale in the Derbyshire Dales and later spread outwards.

Derbyshire. The Alsop family was to hold the Alsop estate for seventeen generations. One of Gamellus’s descendants, Sir Hugh de Alsop, was knighted for bravery at the Battle of Acre during the Third Crusade. John Alsop built the current Alsop manor house in 1575 and established for himself a fine library there. But Anthony Alsop, beset by creditors, ended up selling the estate in 1688.

Little remained of Alsop or of the Alsop family there after that time. Alsops were to be found in the nearby village of Parwich
from 1639 onwards. The last of this line was Miss Anna Alsop who died there in 1912.  The Parwich Parish Magazine for 1952 reported:

“At Anna’s death, the beautiful and valuable heirlooms of the Alsops were sent to Christies’ of London to be sold. They included two carved high-backed chairs of great beauty.  These fine chairs are now in the chancel of Alsop church: a gift from Miss Alsop.”


John Alsop from Alsop-le-Dale was recorded as a yeoman farmer at
Hognaston in the 1530’s. And there were Alsops at the ancient market town of Wirksworth:

  • one Allsop family line dates back to the marriage of James Allsop and Elin Wall in 1625.
  • Richard Alsop departed Wirksworth for Long Island in America in the 1670’s.
  • while Thomas Allsop held Stainsborough Hall near Wirksworth in the mid-1700’s. His grandson Thomas left for London in 1812 where he made money in the stock market. He was a friend of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and became attracted to radical causes.

Alsops or rather Allsopps did return to Alsop-le-Dale. In 1883 the Alsop estate was purchased by the brewer Sir Henry Allsopp, 1st Baron of Hindlip, and he used it as a hunting lodge. 

“He had tried to revive the title Lord Alsop of Alsop, but failed to demonstrate his descent from the original Alsop family.”


Sir Henry descended from Samuel Alsop, a tobacconist in Derby who had died in 1728 and was possibly related to those earlier Alsops. Sir Henry was at the time the owner of Samuel Allsopp & Sons, a brewer at Burton-on-Trent and then the second largest brewery in England.

Descended from Sir Henry are:

  • Sir Charles, the 6th Baron, who was chairman of Christies auction house from 1986 to 2002.
  • and his niece Cath Kidston, a fashion designer and merchandiser, and his daughter Kirstie Allsopp, a TV presenter and property agent.

Elsewhere. The Alsop name and its variants did extend beyond Derbyshire, but primarily to nearby counties in the West Midlands. The following was the share of these names by leading counties in the 1881 census:

  • Derbyshire 20%
  • Staffordshire 13%
  • Warwickshire 11%
  • Nottinghamshire 9%
  • and Yorkshire 8%.

Alsops appeared further south in London. Bernard Alsop from Derby established himself as a printer in London by 1620. Robert Alsop, an ironmonger by trade, served as the Lord Mayor of London in 1752. He died in 1785 without a male heir.

Alsops also extended to the west country. The Rev. John Alsop, possibly from Derby, served as a preacher in the parish of Crewkerne in Somerset in the early 1600’s. Three of his sons became clergymen. A fourth son Timothy was a Plymouth merchant and mayor of the town in 1648.

Scotland. The Alsop name was found in Scotland. It was Joseph Alsop, reportedly born in Scotland in 1710, who emigrated to Virginia in the 1750’s. There were Alsops from Inverurie near Aberdeen from the early 1800’s. Spence Alsop emigrated from there to Australia in the 1850’s. Another Spence Alsop started a meat business in Aberdeen in 1888 which continued with a Spence Alsop into the third generation of Alsops.

America. Two spellings occur here – Alsop in New England and Alsup generally in Virginia and the South.

New England. There were two early Alsop arrivals into New England. They both came from Derbyshire, although they were probably unrelated.

Joseph Alsop, just fourteen at the time, arrived on the Elizabeth
and Ann
in 1635 and settled nine years later in the New Haven colony. He died there in 1698, seven years after the death of his eldest son Joseph.

Richard Alsop was also a lad when he crossed the Atlantic. He had lost both his parents in England in the late 1660’s and was then adopted and brought to New York by his uncle Thomas Wandell. He settled in Newtown in what would become Queens county and died there in 1718:

  • his grandson John became an importer in New York and a merchant in cloth and dry goods. His enterprise prospered and the Alsops were for a time one of the great merchant houses of the city. John was a delegate for New York to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776. His daughter Mary married Rufus King and their son John Alsop King was Governor of New York in 1857.
  • while John’s cousin Richard from Middletown, Connecticut had literary ambitions and was a member of a group known as the Hartford Wits in the 1780’s. His son Richard made a fortune trading in Peru and Chile during the 1820’s.

Richard’s brother Joseph was the first of five Joseph Wright Alsops from Connecticut. The fifth of them was an influential journalist and political insider in the nation’s capital over the period from 1945 to the late 1960’s. Joe Alsop and his wife Susan were a particularly
effective power-broking couple in Washington during the Kennedy administration.


Virginia and the South
. Early spellings in Virginia were variable. But over time Alsup generally took hold.

William Alsop from Derbyshire arrived in Virginia sometime in the 1680’s and died in Hanover county in 1730. One line through James Alsup moved to land near Jonesboro, Tennessee in 1780; while another via Joseph Alsup came to Fayette county, Kentucky around 1789.

John Alsup, said to have come from Scotland, was in Pittsylvania county, Virginia by the mid-1700’s. His son John moved westward, first settling with his family in 1804 in eastern Tennessee and then searching out new land in western Missouri. John came to what became Douglas county in Missouri in 1837 and died there in 1844. His son Moses wrote:

“My father was a man of strong intellect but of a rambling disposition and very much addicted to the intemperate use of ardent spirits which caused him to die a poor man.”


The Alsups prospered in Douglas county, raising large families there and taking part in the local politics. They were noted for their excellent race-horses and their skills in riding. And they were also noted at times for taking the law into their own hands. At the time of the Civil War they were rumored to hold every elected office in the county.  Many Alsup descendants continue to live in this area of the Missouri Ozarks today.

Frederick Allsopp from Staffordshire came to Arkansas as a young man in 1884 to work at the Arkansas Gazette. By 1899 he had become its business manager and was to preside over the newspaper for more than forty years. He also owned a bookstore in Little Rock. After his death in 1946 Allsopp Park in Little Rock was named in his honor.

Alsop family lines in America, as well as in England, have been covered in Jerry D. Alsup’s three-volume work Alsop’s Tables published between 1994 and 2012.

Canada. George Allsopp’s origins are uncertain. But following the French defeat in Canada he left Bristol in 1761 to take up an office position with a Quebec-based merchant. He soon became an influential merchant in his own right and a political spokesman for the English merchant class in Quebec with the British Government. His sons were active in various commercial enterprises in Quebec after his death in 1805.

Australia. William Alsop, convicted of theft in London, was the first Alsop in Australia, arriving in the Second Fleet on the Surprise in 1789. He later married a fellow convict and settled down in the Hawkesbury district of NSW. Only a laborer during his life, he lived to a good age, dying at the age of eighty-four in 1850.

A later convict arrival was Elizabeth Allsop from Derbyshire, just seventeen when she was arrested for stealing shoes and transported in 1840. She was fortunate. Her mother and eight of her brothers and sisters later moved to Australia and joined her.

 

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Alsops and DNA Testing.  Alsops have been DNA-tested.  The most common haplogroup found has been the I2a1b1 subclade.  Most of these members are genealogically related to each other within the past five hundred years.  One haplogroup member here has a documented paternal family line going back to Ashbourne in Derbyshire. However, that has not been the only haplogroup found. Another group which has several Alsop members is the haplogroup clade R1b1a1b.

“One would expect that if all of the Alsup/Alsop’s in the world originated from Gamellus de Alsop of Alsop-le-Dale in Derbyshire, then all of the members of the DNA project would be in the same haplogroup and would be related with a common ancestor within the past 900 years or less.However, the lack of DNA ‘relatedness’ could be the result of several factors.  There may in fact be more than one origin for the Alsop/Alsup name. If this is the case, testing of more Alsop family members should provide more insight into the name origins.”


Alsop and Variants Today

Number (000’s) Alsop Allsop Allsopp Alsup Total
UK    2.5    5.0    1.4    8.9
America    0.8    0.5    0.3    1.8    3.4
Australia    0.5    0.3    0.4    1.2
Elsewhere    0.2    0.2    0.1    0.5
Total    4.0    6.0    2.2    1.8   14.0

The Alsops of Parwich in Derbyshire.  The village of Parwich in Derbyshire was close to the Alsop’s ancestral home of Alsop-le-Dale. The first Alsop there, recorded by Helena Birkentall, was in 1639.

John Alsop, who died around 1670, and his sons John and Thomas were described in their wills as yeoman and would have presumably been tenant farmers.  Later Alsops in Parwich are confusing because of the number of different branches of the family to be found there.

The 19th century censuses also revealed that there were new branches of Alsops settling here.  One family in particular was to make Parwich its home.   In the 1870’s Sampson Allsop moved here from Alsop Moor and it is from him that the current Allsops and Allsopps in the village are descended. The family still have Sampson’s Bible which placed him at Allsop Moor Cottage in 1878.

Samuel Allsopp & Sons.  The history of brewers Samuel Allsopp & Sons begins with a Burton brewhouse in Derbyshire, the Blue Stoops Inn owned by Benjamin Willson which grew to become the original brewery around the year 1740.  Benjamin had two children, a daughter Annie and a son Benjamin who later took control of the brewery from his father.

Annie married James Allsopp and their son Samuel was taken on as a partner in the brewery by Benjamin Wilson Jnr in 1800.  Seven years later, due to a downturn in trade because of the Napoleonic wars, Wilson sold his share of the brewery to Samuel for 7,000 pounds.  Samuel, together with his brother Thomas, founded the brewery Samuel Allsopp & Sons Ltd.

By 1876 Samuel Allsopp & Sons had expanded to become the second largest brewer in England, brewing over 260 million pints per year.  However by 1900 the future of the brewery had become shaky.  In 1934 a merger between Ind Coope Ltd and Samuel Allsopp & Sons saw the birth of Ind Coope and Allsopp Ltd. The year 1959 then saw the Allsopp name dropped as the company became Allied Breweries.

Allsops Moving to Australia.  John Allsop was a Derbyshire miner who had married Elizabeth Wragg in Wirksworth in 1815. Over the next sixteen years they were to have nine children.  Her seventh child Elizabeth, born in 1823, was arrested for stealing shoes and transported to Australia on the convict ship Surrey in 1840.

In New South Wales Elizabeth became a servant to the Rev. John Morse and married another convict John Marsland.  Only 4 feet 9 inches tall, with red hair, she had eleven children in twenty-five years.  It was said that she and her husband saved up the money to pay for her mother to join them in Australia.

Back in England John Allsop had died in 1851 and seven years later his widow Elizabeth sailed on the Castilian with eighteen members of her family to Australia, enduring during the voyage a terrifying hurricane in the roaring forties.  In 1860 she was followed by another eight family members on the Hannah More.

Elizabeth died in 1886 at the grand age of ninety-one with nine children and sixty grandchildren in Australia, leaving only twelve in Derbyshire. 

Alsups in Douglas County, Missouri.  Douglas county in SW Missouri forms part of the Missouri Ozarks, a remote mountainous region with its own distinctive culture.  The original settlers of the Missouri Ozarks were nearly all natives from the mountains of east Tennessee.  And, outside of the larger towns, by far the greater number of the population are today the descendants of the original pioneers.

The Alsups arrived from Tennessee as early as 1820. Old Tom Alsup used to claim that the first of them landed at the mouth of the Big North Fork on White river in 1812 and that later they made their way up the Big North Fork to its junction with the Bryant Fork of White river and up the latter stream into Douglas county.

These Alsups were said to have been large, handsome and intelligent, but also very restless people. They were impatient of the law’s slow delays and usually settled their controversies according to their own ideas of right and wrong.

One story relates to Shelt Alsup who was elected sheriff at Douglas county at the end of the Civil War.

“Shelt Alsup, having imbibed too freely of Arkansas moonshine, tried to live over the Civil War with some of his old Confederate enemies, possibly in a gloating boastful manner.  One of the former rebels took advantage of his condition to give him a bad beating up. In the melee Shelt was hit on the head with a rock, suffering a concussion which partially paralyzed the muscles of his face.  He was left for dead, but his relatives were able to nurse him back to health.

Later, accompanied by his brother-in law, Shelt made a vengeance pilgrimage back to Arkansas. He found his enemy, the rock-wielder; and one can imagine the fear in his face when Shelt faced him and said: ‘Stand and take your medicine.’

Shelt killed him and a warrant for Shelt’s arrest followed his return to Douglas county.  At that time Shelt was elected sheriff and no warrant was ever served.”

As with other Ozark people, the Alsups had their feuds, in their case with the Fleetwood family. On one day in 1860, at a site chosen between Bryant Fork and Fox Creek, they did battle with roughly a hundred men a side.   As the day drew to a close a score of men lay dead and as many more wounded.  A truce was called while each side carried off their dead and wounded. As might have been expected the fight was a draw. Neither side would admit defeat and the feud raged more furiously than ever.

Joe and Susan Alsop, Washington’s Power Couple.  Joe and Susan Alsop were a power-broking couple in Washington DC at the time of the Kennedy administration.  Susan in fact was a favorite dinner companion of President Kennedy who found her witty, entertaining and flirty. She was influential enough to be dubbed “the second Lady of Camelot.”

However, Joe and Susan were oddly matched.

Joe Alsop was a shrewd, dogged, well-connected newsman with an exaggerated old-school manner. From his father he was a well-born and well-educated Connecticut Yankee; while from his mother came connections with the Roosevelt family.  These proved useful when he first began his journalistic career in the 1930’s.

Over the years Joe became the dean of Washington’s foreign-policy columnists, a committed Cold Warrior, the doyen of Georgetown society, and the close confidante to presidents, senators, and secretaries of state. He was known as an art connoisseur.  What was not known was that he was secretly gay.

His wife Susan had had an adventurous past before she met Joseph.  Born Susan Jay in 1918, she had married the diplomat Bill Patten in 1939 and in 1945 helped him to get a job with the American embassy in Paris.  While in Paris, she began an affair with the British Ambassador Duff Cooper by whom she had an illegitimate son.  This affair lasted until Cooper’s death in 1954.

Bill Patten died in 1960 and Susan returned to America where she made a platonic marriage to Joe Alsop who had been her late husband’s Harvard roommate.

Joe and Susan’s marriage ended in divorce in 1978.



Select Alsop Names

Gamellus de Alsop from the 12th century is considered the founder of the Alsop line.
Samuel Allsopp
started Samuel Allsopp & Sons, a brewery at Burton-on-Trent in the early 1800’s. It became later in the century the second largest brewery in England.  
Joe Alsop and his brother Stewart were important Washington journalists from 1945 until the late 1960’s, Joe in particular being the influential Washington political insider at that time.

Select Alsop Numbers Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Derbyshire)
  • 3,500 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 1,500 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

 

 

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