Carpenter Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Carpenter Meaning
Carpenter, a worker in wood, is
from the Norman French carpentier,
itself from the late Latin carpentarius,
introduced into England after 1066.Carpenter first started
appearing as a surname, rather than as an occupation, around
1120. Some see a link with the French de Melun family.
A Melun forebear had
been called “William the Carpenter” because of his prowess with a battleaxe. This nickname stuck with the family.
Carpenters in America outnumber Carpenters in England by a factor of two to one. This is because the American Carpenter was augmented by the German-speaking Zimmerman (Zimmerman means carpenter in German). Many of these Zimmermans anglicized their names to Carpenter. But Ethel Zimmerman took the name Ethel Merman. And a certain Bob Zimmerman decided to call himself Bob Dylan.

Carpenter Resources on

Carpenter Ancestry  

England. The Carpenter
name was and is mainly to be found in the south of England,
particularly in the southwest.
Further north, it was the Old English word Wright which described the
workers in wood or carpenters in the medieval age.

Carpenters date from the 1300’s in Herefordshire. They had come
over from France and their seat was at Holme (or Homme) in
Dilwyn. They were to be found from an early time in London.
Richard Carpenter was a chandler there and John Carpenter became Town Clerk of London,
and a very famous one, in 1417. Later in the Hereford line came
George Carpenter, ennobled
as Lord Carpenter for his feats as a general in defeating the 1715
Jacobite revolt.

Cornwall  The
Cornish Carpenters started with John
Carpenter, MP for Liskeard in 1323, and continued through naval
captains to Alfred
, awarded the VC for his part in the raid on
Zeebrugge during World War One.

Elsewhere The
Carpenter name in time spread across the south of
Carpenters, for instance, were yeoman farmers in Berkshire from the
15th centrury. From this family came William Carpenter,
an early settler in New England
. Another William
who crossed the Atlantic came from Amesbury in Wiltshire. There
was a Carpenter family at Bradford on Tone in Somerset and Carpenters
were also to be found in Sussex at this time.

An 18th
century family
started with Thomas Carpenter, a carpet maker in Kidderminster.
His son Lant became an influential Unitarian preacher and his
granddaughter Mary a noted Victorian social reformer who founded the
ragged school movement.

Ireland. Henry Carpenter
came from an Irish
family in Enniskillen. His marriage in 1840 to Hester Boyd later
produced the Boyd Carpenters, father and son Conservative

Early Carpenter arrivals included:

  • William
    Carpenter, a preacher, who came to the New Providence plantation in
    1635. His descendants settled in Jamaica, Long
    Island. The family line was traced in Daniel H. Carpenter’s
    1901 book The Carpenter Family in
  • William Carpenter, his wife
    Abigail, and their four children who arrived on the Bevis to Rehoboth, Massachusetts in
    1638. This William, another preacher, died there in
    1659. Charles Carpenter’s 1988 book The Descendants of William Carpenter
    covered his family history. There is a Carpenter Road and
    three historic Carpenter Houses in Rehoboth today.
  • Ephraim Carpenter, a Quaker, who
    came to America in 1678 and settled in Long Island (his forebear was in
    fact a German Zimmerman who had changed his name to Carpenter in
    England in the 1550’s).
  • and Samuel Carpenter, another
    who came to Philadelphia by way of Barbados in 1683. A friend of
    William Penn, he became a very successful merchant in the new
    colony. Carpenter’s Wharf established itself as one of the city’s

All of these Carpenters have a
large number of descendants recorded. The Rehoboth Carpenters
included Captain Benajah Carpenter who founded
the US Army Field Artillery Corps and the painter Francis Carpenter who
lived in the White House at the time of Lincoln and published a memoir
of his stay. One Carpenter line went through to the astronaut

were hundreds if not thousands of German immigrants into Pennsylvania
the 1700’s named Zimmerman or some variation thereof. Many
of them were Mennonites from Switzerland and south Germany seeking
religious freedom. From Switzerland and settling in Lancaster
county came Heinrich Zimmerman in 1717, Hans Zimmerman and his family
on the Pink Plaisance in
1732, and George Zimmerman in the 1740’s.

George Zimmerman later anglicized his name in Virginia to
Carpenter. As did Mathias Zimmerman in North
Carolina. And many others did as well. Perhaps they made
name change to fit in better with their English neighbors. Or
perhaps their new name represented a growing American pride.

George Carpenter’s descendants moved inland once the Revolutionary War
was over. Carpenter’s station was one of the first stations to be
built across the Cumberland Gap in Kentucky. It was established
in 1780 near present-day
Hustonville by three Carpenter brothers, Adam, Conrad and John, all
Revolutionary War veterans. Other Carpenters from Pennsylvania
later moved onto Ohio.

Australia. Early
Carpenters were convicts, such as Charles Carpenter who arrived in 1832
and Richard Carpenter five year later. Richard subsequently
married and eked out a living in what was called “the terrible
vale.” However, he had a love of horses and this love was passed
down to his descendants who owned, trained or raced horses.

John Carpenter was a New England sea captain and merchant who had moved
his shipping base to Sydney in Australia in the 1880’s. His
sons later took over the business and Walter Carpenter founded WR
Carpenter & Co in 1914, a company which traded copra with the
planters in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

“Although much abused by some planters
and small traders – WRC was said to stand for “would rob Christ,” –
Carpenters also earned the gratitude of those who survived on long-term
credit and who looked to it to transact all their business.”

The Carpenter business expanded in the inter-war years into a major
shipping company by sea and by air.


Select Carpenter Miscellany

Meluns and Carpenters in Hereford.  A possible origin of the Carpenter family that was found in Hereford, Cornwall, and Devon by the year 1300 was a branch of the de Melun family of France which settled in England.

Subsequently a common ancestor, when surnames came into vogue, assumed the name Carpenter from his ancestor William Melun, one of the leaders of the First Crusade.  At the siege of Antioch in 1098, he so distinguished himself with his dexterity of the battleaxe that he was nicknamed “William the Carpenter.”

These Counts de Melun, from Melun in France, held many possessions in England.  One of them, Robert de Melun, was Bishop of Hereford from 1164 to 1179; another became Earl of Warwick; and another was Dean of Wimborne.  So de Meluns were prominent in Hereford before 1200.  And a Hugh Carpenter was a chaplain at Hereford Cathedral in 1292.

There is a book in the British Museum entitled The Life of Lord George Carpenter.  It was published in 1736, just five years before George’s death.  It was therein stated that he George was the grandson of Thomas Carpenter of the Holme in Dilwyn, Herefordshire where the family had been possessed of a considerable estate for over four hundred years (suggesting that this Carpenter family had been there by 1300).

Reader Feedback – Meluns and Carpenters in Hereford.  I have found an error in your article, Meluns
and Carpenters in Hereford
.  William, in fact, received his
“The Carpenter” in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.  This
occurred after losing his mount (horse) and all of his weaponry.  In order to survive he picked up an English
battleaxe and commenced hacking his opponents to death.  His
seeing the weighty blows he delivered to the enemy, were reminded of a
carpenter swinging his hammer.  That is how the nickname came

With regard to two of his descendants,
William, Sr. and William, Jr, you may find it interesting to note that
William, Jr. became a Captain of the Army and,
through his five sons, became known as the father of “The Family of
Heroes.”  Over 300 of his male
lineal descendants served America in the Revolutionary War, more than
any other
American family.

Larry Carpenter (

John Carpenter, Town Clerk.  John Carpenter was one of the most famous of the Town Clerks of London
and was the author of the first book of English common law (called Liber Albus or The White Book).  The statue
of John Carpenter shows him holding this book.

On his death he had bequeathed land to the Corporation of London
intended to fund the maintenance of four boys born within the
city.  They would be called “Carpenter’s children.”  This
later became the City of London School for Boys.

Carpenters from Berkshire to America.  Two William Carpenters, senior and junior, had resided in the
Berkshire village of Shalbourne, just outside Hungerford.  Manor
records in Culham, Oxfordshire contain a number of references to a
father-son William Carpenter and William Carpenter senior had been a
resident of Shalbourne since 1608.  His appearance there coincided
with a childless Thomas Carpenter and his wife in Hungerford.
William Carpenter junior married Abigail Briant in Shalbourne in 1625.

The Carpenters had inhabited Culham as a prosperous yeoman family
from 1533 when Thomas Carpenter was a tenant of the Abbey of
Abingdon.  Carpenter tenants of the abbey had extended back to the
1400’s.  A William Carpenter had served as an Assessor of Fines at
the Culham manor court.  This William Carpenter educated his son
Robert at Oxford for the Church.  It is thought that many of
Robert’s books may well have made their way to Massachusetts in the
possession of William Carpenter junior.

William Carpenter’s Will, 1659.  “In the name of God, Amen, I William Carpenter of Rohoboth, being in
perfect memory at present, blessed be God, do make my last Will and

I give to my son, John Carpenter, one mare being the old white mare,
and my best doublet and my handsomest coat, and new cloth to make him a
pair of breeches.  I give unto his son beside twenty shillings to
buy himself a calf.  I give to him Mr. Ainsworth’s upon the five
books of Moses, Canticles, and Psalms, and Mr. Brightman on
Revalations, and my concordance.

I give to my son William, the young gray mare of two yearling colts,
and five pounds in sugar or wampum, and my coat, and one suit of
apparel, and Mr. Mahew on the four Evangelists upon the 14 chapters of
Paul.  I give to him my Latin books, my Greek grammar and Hebrew
grammar and my Greek Lexicon, and I give him ten pounds of cotton wool,
and to his son John twenty shillings to be paid to him ayear after my

I give to my son Joseph, two of the youngest steers of the four that
were brought to work this year, and to his son Joseph twenty shillings
and to Joseph I give one of Perkins’ works and of Barrows upon private
contentions called harts divisions.  I give to Joseph a suit of
better cloths to be given at his mother’s discretion, and I give him a
green serge coat and ten pounds of cotton wool, and a matchlock gun.

I give to my daughter Hannah, half of my Common at Pawtuxet, and one
third of my impropriate, only my meadow excepted, and that land that I
had laid out to cousin that I had for the low lands cousin Carpenter
that I had by.  I give to my daughter Hannah one yearling heifer,
also I give to Hannah her Bible, the practice of piety and the volume
of prayer, and one ewe at the island, and twenty pounds of cotton, and
six pounds of wool.

I give to my son Abiah, the rest of my lands at Pawtuxet, and the
meadow after my decease, and his mother and Samuel to help him to build
a house because Samuel has a house built already.  Only if my wife
marry again, she shall have nothing to do with that land.

I give to my daughter Abigail, one young mare, a three year old bay
mare, and if the mare should be dead at spring, she shall have fifteen
pounds in her stead within one year after my decease.

I give twenty shillings to John Titus, his for to be paid a year after
my decease, but if John Titus comes to dwell and take the house and
land which I sent him word he shall have if he come, then he shall have
the land and not the money.

I give to my son Samuel one half my land which I now live upon (and two
pens of the young sheep, two cows, one bull) and he now lives on, with
his furniture and half of my working tools, and Samuel to have one book
of Psams, a Dictionary, and a gun and my best coat, and one ewe at the

I give to my wife the other half of the land I now live upon for her
lifetime, and the use of my household stuff, carts and plows if she
marry not.  But if she marry, she shall have a third part in my
land and Samuel the rest, and she shall have four oxen, one mare which
is called a black mare, four cows, one bed and its furniture, one pot,
one good kettle and one little, and one skillet, and half of the pewter
her lifetime and then to give it up to the children, and if she does
not marry, to have the rest of my land at Pawtuxet which remaineth,
that which is left which is not given to my daughter Hannah and that
which is left Abiah to have after my wife’s decease, if she marry to
have it the next year after.

I give to my wife those books of Perkins called Christ’s sermon on the
Mount, the good Bible, Burroughs Jewell of Contentment, the Oil of
Gladness.  I give her two hundred of sugar.  My wife is to
have the house I now lodge in and the chamber over, and to have liberty
to come to the fire and do her occasions, and she shall have the meadow
that was made in John Titus’ lot because it is near, and she is to have
a way to the swamp through the lot.  And if John Titus come,
Samuel is to have two acres out of his lot that is not broken up and my
wife is to have the rest, and Samuel to break it up for her.  Also
I give to my wife corn towards housekeeping and the cloth in the house
toward the clothing itself and children with her, and twine that she
hath to serve towards housekeeping and three acres at the island.

I give to Abiah a yearling mare colt being the white mare’s colt, and
one yearling heifer, and Dr. Jarvis’ Catechism and Helen’s History of
the World, and one ewe about my wife’s occasion when she was at the

When the legacies are paid out, the remainder is to be disposed among
the children at the discretion of my wife and the overseers.

This is my Will and Testament to which I set my hand.  William
Carpenter of Rohoboth, the day and year before written.  I make my
wife the executrix and my overseer to be Richard Bowen, and John Allen
shall be helpful to my wife, and I appoint my brother Carpenter to help
and to have ten shillings for their pains.”

Mathias Zimmerman/Carpenter.  There
were hundreds if not thousands of German immigrants to Pennsylvania in
the 1700’s named Zimmerman or some variation thereof, of which many
would have been called Mathias.  This Mathias, born in the early
1750’s, probably started his life in Lancaster, Bucks, Berks, or York
county, Pennsylvania.  Whoever his parents were, Mathias Zimmerman
apparently left them in Pennsylvania and headed south to the Moravian
settlement at Salem in North Carolina.  He worked there, true to
his name, as a carpenter and married Elizabeth Miller in 1769.

His name appeared in the diary of Minister Soelle of the Moravians
who was travelling the area in 1772. Mathias had by then become a
captain in the county militia and was much opposed to the
brethren.  He was one of the leaders in the movement to keep
Soelle out of the Deep Creek meeting house, claiming that only
Lutherans or Reformed should be allowed to use it.

By 1775 he had anglicized his name to Carpenter.  Perhaps he
did this to fit in better with his English and Scots-Irish neighbors
and to reflect a growing American pride at a time when the revolution
against English rule was beginning.  Later  he staked out 400
at Hunting Creek in Surry county, appearing on the 1782 tax list and
1786 census there.  His father-in-law Christian Miller lived

Alfred Carpenter and His VC.  Alfred Carpenter had been born into a Cornish naval family.
His grandfather had been Commander Charles Carpenter who had been
involved in the capture of the American privateer, the Rattlesnake, in 1814.

Having joined the Royal Navy in 1896, he distinguished himself
during the assault on the port of Zeebrugge on St George’s Day 1918
whilst in command of HMS Vindictive.
He had navigated the ship through mined waters, bringing it alongside
the Mole in darkness.  When the Vindictive was within a
few yards of the Mole, the enemy started and maintained a heavy fire
from batteries, machine-guns and rifles.  Captain Carpenter
supervised the landing from Vindictive onto the Mole, walking
the decks and encouraging the men.  His power of command, personal
bearing and encouragement to those under him were seen to have
contributed greatly to the success of the operation; and he was awarded
the Victoria Cross by ballot, elected by his fellow officers under
Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant of 1856.

In 1921 his book The Blocking Of
was published, giving his own account of Operation ZB
and the way the blocking operation was carried out.  As his
position was one of a “front row seat,” this must probably be the most
authentic version of the action.



Carpenter Names

  • John Carpenter was one of the most famous Town Clerks of London and was the author of the first book of English common law.
  • George Carpenter was the general from Hereford who defeated the Jacobite rebels at Preston in 1715.
  • Lant Carpenter from Kidderminster in Worcestershire was a prominent
    early 19th century Unitarian minister and educator. His daughter
    Mary was the founder of the ragged school movement for orphan children.
  • Edward Carpenter was a poet and
    writer, one of the founders of the Fabian Society in the early 1900’s,
    and an early advocate of gay rights.
  • Walter Carpenter, the son of a New England whaler, based
    himself in Australia and was a highly successful shipping merchant in the
    inter-war years.
  • Richard and Karen Carpenter are
    the brother/sister pop duo
    known as the Carpenters.

Select Carpenter Numbers Today

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 52,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Carpenter and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.



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