Select Bates Surname Genealogy

Bate was a pet form of the personal name Bartholomew and Bate emerged as a surname as well. The spelling later took the form of the patronymic form Bates, meaning “son of Bate.” Some alternative origins of the Bates name have been suggested.

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Select Bates Ancestry

England. The early spelling was Bate and was to be found in the north of England, in the Midlands, with an outpost (possibly of Viking origin) in the South.

North. Thomas del Bate was recorded in Yorkshire in 1279 and John Bate, who died in 1429, was a religious writer who had been brought up in a Carmelite monastery in York. A Bate family was to be found in Northumberland by the 1300’s. As Bates they became a prominent landed family in Northumberland.

. John Bate was recorded as the Dean of the Collegiate Church in the parish of Tamworth in Warwickshire in 1448. There were Bates at nearby Newton Regis in the next century. Thomas Bates, the Gunpowder Plot conspirator in 1605, came from Lapworth. However, the Bate spelling was more resistant here than in the North. It was, for instance, Mark Bate from Birmingham who emigrated to British Columbia in Canada in 1857. By then Bates numbers had shifted more towards the East Midlands.

South. A Bate line began with John Bate at Lydd in Kent in the late 1300’s. They became Bates around 1550. Form Lydd came two early settlers to America – John Bates in Virginia in 1624 and Clement Bates in New England in 1635.

Ireland. There were Bates in Ireland, of probable English extraction, in Ulster (Tyrone and Donegal) and in Wexford in SE Ireland. 

Bates in Tyrone were to be found around Lough Leagh and in the Strabane area near Donegal. Bates at Donaghmore parish in Raphoe date from at least 1795. These Donegal Bates emigrated in the early 1900’s.

Bates were Protestant in county Wexford at the time of the 1798 Irish Uprising.

“Peter Bates, a farmer at Monart, swore that his house, offices, and property were consumed by the rebels. They murdered his two brothers, two brothers-in-law, and one uncle, all of Templeshambo.”

Many Bates emigrated from the area to Canada in the first half of the 19th century. But Bates remained as fishermen at Kilmore Quay. Willie Bates did much to revive the fishing out of Kilmore Quay in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Bates of Kilmore Quay is a popular seafood store there today.

America. Early Bates came to both Virginia and New England.

Virginia. John Isaac Bates arrived in Jamestown in 1624 as an indentured servant. His descendants based themselves at their Skimino plantation in York county, Virginia for the next six generations. It was John Bates, the grandson of the immigrant and known as the Quaker merchant, who made the family wealthy.

One line of this family made their home at the Belmont plantation in Goochland county. Thomas F. Bates, despite his Quaker upbringing, fought in the Revolutionary War. He had three well-known sons:

  • Frederick Bates who served as the second Governor of Missouri in 1824
  • James Bates who was an early settler and politician in what was then Arkansas territory
  • and Edward Bates who served as the first Attorney General of Missouri and was later US Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln.

Another Bates line moved south to Georgia in 1800. They witnessed the roundup of the Cherokee Indians that preceded the Trail of Tears before migrating west to Texas.

Other early Bates in Virginia have been:

  • William Bates who had acquired land in Essex county by 1670. His descendants have been civic leaders in King and Queen county until recently.
  • and Dr. James Bate, who had initially immigrated into Maryland but then moved to a new home at Berry Hill in Berkeley county, Virginia in 1778. However, he was to die a year later. His widow and children moved to another Berry
    home in Kentucky
    in 1798.

New England. Two early Bates in New England were:

  • Clement Bates who came to Hingham, Massachusetts in 1635 and was instrumental in forming the community there. He has a large number of descendants in New England today. Included among them were Simeon Bates, the Scituate lighthouse keeper at the time of the War of 1812, and Elijah Bates, a furniture manufacturer in North Brookfield a few years later.
  • while Deacon Edward Bates from Buckinghamshire arrived in Weymouth, Massachusetts around 1637. Bates of this line were to be found in Connecticut and later in Ohio and Kansas.

Another line from Clement Bates led to Major Elkanah Bates, a cotton merchant and farmer in Marshfield, Massachusetts in the early 1800’s. His son Benjamin Bates raised money to build a new cotton mill in Lewiston, Maine. The project, a long time in the planning, was eventually completed in 1854. The plant was steadily expanded over the years and by 1940 Bates Mills was the largest employer in the state of Maine. The mills, however, closed in 1992.

Canada. Walter Bates was a Tory farmer on Long Island who accepted the King’s offer of land in New Brunswick and departed New York in 1783 on the Union. He wrote a narrative of his experiences entitled Kingston and the Loyalists of the Spring Fleet and later had some success as a writer.

Bates from Ireland started coming in the early 1800’s. Those from Wexford included:

  • Mark Bates who arrived in 1810, married in Newfoundland two years later, and settled in a small community of what became known as Bateston on Cape Breton. They raised six children there. There are over 500 descendants of Mark Bates in Nova Scotia today.
  • Thomas Bates who came to Hastings county, Ontario. in the 1820’s, after earlier separating from his two other immigrant brothers. Thomas and his descendants lived in the same farmhouse in Thurlow township from 1831 to 1977.
  • and Nathaniel Bates who came with four brothers and sisters in 1833 and settled in Prescott county, Ontario. He was the youngest of fourteen children of Peter and Hannah Bates in Wexford.

Some later Bates arrivals from England presented sadder cases . Three Bates children – Thomas, Albert and William, – were brought to Canada by Dr. Barnardo’s in 1920 after their father had died and their mother had remarried. They were the first Home Children orphans to come to Canada after the war. Ted Bates had arrived on the Victorian in 1914 and made his way out west, first to Manitoba and then to Saskatchewan where he farmed. He was caught up in a terrible family tragedy during the Great Depression of the early 1930’s.

Australia. Thomas Bates from Kent was convicted of stealing at the Old Bailey and transported as a convict to Australia on the Neptune in 1790. On getting his release, he joined the NSW Corps, married, and prospered as a boat builder. One of his sons Nathaniel went to New Zealand and became a whaler. He supposedly had three Maori wives and thirty children.

Meanwhile the Bates name has been long associated with Kangaroo
Island off South Australia:

  • in 1824 Londoner George Bates, nicknamed the Fireball, arrived on the sealing ship Nereus. He was still there twelve years later when an official landing party came to the island and was appalled by his unconventional lifestyle there.
  • in 1858 Ephraim S. Bates (unrelated) from Sussex arrived on the Melbourne from England and started farming in the Penneshaw area. Three more generations of Bates
    followed, until the death of Bruce Bates there in 2014.

Select Bates Miscellany

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

Select Bates Names

Benjamin Bates was a 19th century New England industrialist who started the Bates textile mill in Lewiston, Maine in 1854. His legacy is Bates College there.
H. E. Bates
was a 20th century English writer, best known for his novel The Darling Buds of May.
Alan Bates
was a prominent English actor of the 1960’s

Select Bates Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in East Midlands)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 19,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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