Butler Surname Genealogy

Butler as an occupational name originally denoted a servant in charge
of the
wine cellar, from the Norman French word butuiller.  It
came to be used to describe a servant of high responsibility in a noble
household, mostly leaving behind its association with the supply of
The surname has its counterparts in France with
Boutler and in Germany with Buttlar.

Butler Resources on

Butlers in England
were in many cases at first butlers.

early spelling here was Botiller or Boteler.
Thus Ralph who was the butler to the Count of Meulan in the
early 1100’s
was the forebear of Baron Botiller of Wern in Shropshire.
From Robert de Pincerna, butler to the Earl
of Chester in 1086 came Sir William le Boteler, lord of Warrington and
of Lancashire in the 13th century.  His family later became the
Butlers of
Warrington and Bewsey.

Other early

  • the
    Botelers of Yatton in
    Herefordshire in the early 1300’s who were the forebears of the Butlers
    Shambrooke in Bedfordshire and subsequently of county Cavan in Ireland.  
  • Thomas
    Boteler who appeared in a charter
    dated 1313 in Biddenham in Bedfordshire.  The
    line included Sir William Boteler, Lord Mayor of London
    1515.  The Botelers were still in
    Biddenham in the early 1700’s.   
  • and
    Boteler, descended from the Botillers of Wern, who took over Sudeley
    castle in
    Gloucestershire in the 1360’s.  A
    descendant Thomas Butler was made Baron Sudeley in 1441.
    After he died, his young widow Eleanor, known
    as the Holy Harlot, was alleged to have had an affair with King Edward

were three John Butlers who were recorded in London in the early
1400’s.  Two were members of the Mercers’
Company, one becoming an MP in 1417.  A
third was a draper who was Sheriff of London in 1420 and died a wealthy
man in 1436. 
were cloth merchants in London in the
1530’s.  A later cloth merchant of
London, John Butler, bought Amberley Castle in Sussex in the 1650’s.

were yeoman farmers at Claines near Worcester in the 17th
century.  Descendants were to be found at
Rye in Sussex and Margate in Kent.  The
Margate line extended to George Butler, Headmaster of Harrow school
from 1805
to 1829, and his son Montagu, Headmaster of the same school from 1859
1885.  Another line included a number of
Victorian colonial governors in India and the conservative politician

the late 19th century,
there appeared to be three main centers for Butlers:

  • in
    the north, in Lancashire stretching into
  • in the west midlands,
    primarily in Staffordshire and Warwickshire  
  • and
    in the southeast around London.   

The Butler
dynasty in Ireland began with Theobald Walter from Lancashire, who was
part of
the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 1170’s and was given at
that time the
title of Chief Butler of Ireland.  They changed their name from
FitzWalter to Butler at that time.

Butlers were ennobled as the Earls of Ormond in 1328 and they
acquired their
fortress at Kilkenny
in 1391.  For
centuries they remained a great power in SE Ireland, often in dispute with
the FitzGeralds
, that other great dynastic family in

The Butler
extended through Kilkenny and Tipperary into parts of Carlow.  While the Ormond Butlers remained the senior
branch, other Butler branches developed over time, those of Dunboyne,
Polestown and Roscrea, and Mountgarret. The Ormond Butlers left
castle and Ireland permanently in 1935.
Charles Butler, the 31st Chief Butler of Ireland and the last of
line, died in 1997.

Stephen Butler
arrived in Ireland from Bedfordshire in 1610, having received a land
grant in
Cavan.  He laid the foundations of the
town of Belturbet and his family became prominent landowners in the
ennobled in 1756 as the Earls of Lanesborough.
Their title became extinct in 1998.

America.  Richard
Butler from Tipperary in Ireland was
the first Butler to step ashore in America.
He was a page-boy on Raleigh’s expeditions to Roanoke in 1584
and 1585,
but refused to stay (and therefore did not perish as those who did).

Thomas and John Butler, brothers from Essex,
came to America in the 1630’s and they settled on Kent Island
which lay
between the
colonies of Maryland and Virginia.  This
was dangerous as Maryland was Catholic and they were Protestant and
they feared to come under Maryland’s jurisdiction.
In the end the Butlers made their home in Westmoreland county,

Three notable early New England Butler families

  • the
    Butlers beginning with Nicholas
    Butler who came to New England on the Hercules
    from Kent in 1637 and stopped first in Dorchester, Massachusetts before
    to Martha’s Vineyard.  Benjamin Butler,
    Union General and Governor of Massachusetts, was a descendant.
  • William Butler who came around 1654 and made his
    home in Ipswich, Massachusetts.  He was
    by repute an Irish Butler fleeing Cromwell.  One
    line from him migrated in the mid-1700’s to Connecticut
    and to the
    Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania.  Another
    line started making paper, initially in Connecticut and Vermont, and
    then in
    the 1840’s in the Chicago area.  Growing
    rich they built their country estate in 1898 at Oak Brook near
  • and
    the Butlers who were recorded in New
    London, Connecticut in the 1680’s.  Walter
    Butler grew up there but moved in 1742 to the Mohawk
    valley in
    upstate New York.  His son John Butler
    led the
    notorious pro-British Butler’s Rangers during the Revolutionary War.  John died in Canada, a war hero to the

Major Pierce
, the third son of
a well-born family in Ireland, had come to South Carolina with the
army, but resigned his position in 1773 to join the American cause.  He prospered after the War.
With his rice and cotton plantations in South
Carolina and later on the Georgia Sea Islands, he and his two grandsons
inherited his estate were amongst the largest slaveholders of the
South.  Their edifice began to crumble,
however, before the Civil War.

Canada.  The
Butler name is old in Newfoundland.  Samuel
Butler, possibly from Bristol, was
among the very first immigrants to land at Conception Bay with John Guy
1610.  Thomas Butler and his three sons
were living at Port de Grave in 1675; and his line may well have
extended to
James Butler who was granted a moiety at Little Belle Island in
Conception Bay
in 1757 (James reported property being in his family’s possession for
years).  There is a Butler house, built
by Butlers at Cupids on Conception Bay in 1905, that is still with the

Butlers in Newfoundland came from both England and Ireland.  James Butler arrived at Trinity Bay from
Hampshire in England around 1808.  There
have now been five generations of Butlers living at Port Rexton.  On one stormy winter’s day in 1892 Butlers of
were caught up in the tragic outcome of a seal hunt chase.

“John Butler witnessed
the events unfolding from land; his nephew James made it ashore in very
poor shape; but another relative Isaac perished in his seal boat.”

Australia and New Zealand
.  Laurence Butler from
Wexford was transported to Australia for his role in the 1798 Irish
Rebellion.  He arrived there in 1802 at
the age of 52 on the Atlas 2.  Nine
years later he started to advertise as a
cabinet maker in Sydney.  By the time of
his death in 1820 he was recognized as Australia’s first cabinet maker
of note
and a leading businessman of the new colony.

Born in the tiny
Dorset village of Okeford Fitzpaine in 1814 to a clergyman’s family,
Butler ran away to sea at the age of 14.
In 1838 he arrived in New Zealand, bought land at Mangonui on
Island, and set up a trading post to service whaling ships with
supplies and
provisions.  The Butler homestead at
Butler Point where he and his wife Eliza raised thirteen children has
been restored by descendants.

Butler Miscellany

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

Butler Names

Chief Butler of Ireland was the
title given to Theobald Walter in 1171.
James Butler
was a prominent 17th
century Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman.  He fought against the
Cromwellian conquest of Ireland but returned to English favor after the
Pierce Butler represented South
Carolina in the Constitutional Convention and was a large plantation
owner in South Carolina and Georgia.
Samuel Butler was the Victorian
writer of the Utopian satire Erewhon.
Rab Butler was a prominent
postwar Conservative politician who was expected to but didn’t become
Britain’s Prime Minister.

Select Butlers Today

  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 72,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 58,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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