Carver Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Carver Meaning
Carver as a surname derived from the occupation – a
carver in wood or in stone (i.e. a sculptor), with the former being the
likely explanation.  The root of the name
the Middle English kerven, meaning
“to cut” or “to carve.”  Gerard
le Kerver was recorded in
Essex in 1209 and Richard le Kerver in Lincolnshire in 1275.
Carvers were not from England.  There
were Protestants who came from Flanders – Deryk Carver from Dilsun who
refuge in England in 1545 and John Carver who departed from Leidun for
America on
the Mayflower in 1620.  And
some came later from Germany or Switzerland with
like-sounding names such as Gerber (meaning “tanner”) that became
Carver in

Carver Resources on

Carver Ancestry

EnglandThe Carver surname seems to have first surfaced in East
Anglia.  The name looks to have then spread
north and
westwards (into Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lancashire) and
southwards (to Bedfordshire, London and the southeast).

Yarmouth in Norfolk had one concentration of Carvers.
Robert Carver, the emigrant to New England in
1638, had come from the village of Filby near Great Yarmouth.
Thomas Carver, born in 1711, was a tenant farmer with
a thatched cottage in Hardley, a village on the Norfolk Broads near
Norwich.  He had three sons – Thomas,
John, and James.  Some of their
descendants have remained in Norfolk, others have emigrated.

One family
line in Nottingham dates back to the marriage of William Carver and
Joan Walker
in 1696.  There has been some suspicion,
although no proof, that John Carver, the Mayflower
emigrant, came from Nottingham.

The Carvers were cattle and sheep farmers at
Ingarsby in fox-hunting Leicestershire in the 1700’s.
William Carver was living at his home there at
Old Ingarsby in the 1840’s.  One
branch of the family which had moved
around this time with the Creswells
expanded into other areas.
As a descendant Humphrey Carver recalled in his 1975 memoir Compassionate Landscape:

“In Gibraltar,
the Carver business prospered, shifting their attention from buying
port and
sherry for the hunt in Leicestershire to exporting cotton goods to
Morocco.  This then became Carver
Brothers, buying raw cotton in Egypt and exporting it to the Lancashire

Carver Brothers were based in Manchester, but
included Benjamin Carver in Gibraltar and Sydney Carver in
Meanwhile the line from cotton merchant Harold Carver,
who had worked for
Carver Brothers after World War One, led to
Field Marshal Lord Carver, a highly decorated combat
veteran of World
War Two who went on to hold the most senior posts in the British army.

was a second Carver family in Manchester based on cotton.
This began when two brothers Thomas and John
Carver, financed by their father William, bought the Hollins mill at
near Manchester in 1858.  It was Thomas’s
son William who married Kate Armitage, the daughter of another cotton
manufacturer, and then increased the family wealth substantially.  He was able to buy the stately home of
Cranage Hall in Cheshire.

The 1901 census
showed that William and Kate had three children and could afford to employ eight live-in servants – a
housekeeper, cook, nurse and
five maids.

Two of William’s sons died in World War One,
including Oswald, a rower who competed in the 1908 Olympics
(interestingly his
widow Elizabeth went on to marry Field Marshal Montgomery).   Joyce
Donald’s 1970 booklet The Carver Family
covered this family.

Sussex on the south coast
had the highest concentration of Carvers in the 1881 census.  There were two notable Carver families there,
one coming from the outside and the other apparently home-grown.

Deryk Carver was a Protestant refugee
from Flanders who came to Brighton, then a small fishing town, around
1545.  However, when Queen Mary came to the
in 1553, England was no longer a Protestant haven and Deryk was burnt
at the
stake.  Despite his death his descendants
remained a presence in Brighton in the following centuries.

Carvers were yeoman
farmers in West Sussex from about 1600 onwards, first at Sutton near
and then at Tillingham near Findon.  John
Carver was recorded as marrying Ann Scotcher at Sutton in 1679.  Much later, during the agricultural recession
of the 1830’s, George Carver departed Tillingham for a new life in
Canada.  Some of his letters home have been

SomersetThe Carver name has also cropped up in the Somerset village of Buckland Dinham
near Frome.  John Carver married Mary
Ayers in 1757 and ten other Carver marriages were recorded there in the
eighty years.  The progenitor of these
Carvers may have been John Carver who had moved there from Norfolk in
the 16th

Ireland.  Carver is an Irish surname
of uncertain
origin found almost only in the county of Cork:

  • Thomas Carver, born in Cork in
    the mid-1700’s, moved to Limerick where he operated a dairy farm.  His descendants returned to Cork.
  • Cornelius
    Carver, born in 1802, was a bookseller in Cork city.  
  • while other Carvers were to be found in the
    New Market area of Cork.  

All of these
families had Carvers who emigrated to New York or Massachusetts in the

America.  Not that much is known
about John Carver who came
on the Mayflower in 1620 and was the first
Governor of the Plymouth colony.  He
lasted less than six months in Plymouth and left no descendants.

Massachusetts There
were two Carver arrivals around 1638, Richard from Norfolk and Robert
uncertain origins. Richard settled in
Watertown but soon died, leaving only daughters.  Robert
made his home in Marshfield.  He was a
sawyer by trade.

Robert Carver had only one known child (named John), he had a number of
grandsons to continue the family name:

  • the
    eldest was William, born in 1659, who lived in Marshfield to the age of
    102.  The Marshfield homestead stayed in
    Carver hands until the early 1900’s.
  • Deacon Eleazer was born in 1668.  His
    descendant Eleazer migrated north to
    Vermont in the 1790’s.  This line was
    covered in Fred Carver’s 1971 book Genealogy
    of the Rev. Eleazer Carver Family.
  • and Ensign David was born in 1669.  He
    later moved to Weymouth and to Canterbury, Connecticut.
    His son Jonathan was an early explorer in the
    1760’s of the American West.  Carver
    county in Minnesota was later named in his honor.  

William Carver was a merchant mariner who was master of
a ship engaged in trade between the English port of Bristol (probably
native city) and the colonies.  His name
first appeared in Virginia records in 1659 when he patented land in
Norfolk county.  He got caught up in
Bacon’s Rebellion against the Governor’s rule in 1676 and was hanged
for his

However, William left descendants in Virginia, many of whom settled in
Albemarle county.  Richard Carver
migrated from there after the Revolutionary War to Spartanburg, North
and later Carvers settled in Georgia.
Morgan Carver meanwhile departed for Kentucky where he died in
1863 at
the grand age of 108. 

John Carver was a Quaker from
who came with William Penn on the Welcome
in 1682.  A maltster by trade, he took up
land at Byberry near Philadelphia.

“It was said that his
eldest daughter Mary was born in a cave on the site of Philadelphia,
the first
child of English parents in the province.”

John Carver’s farm
remained in the
family for five generations, descending from father to son (all of whom
named John) until 1864.

John’s brothers
William, Joseph and Jacob Carver arrived in Pennsylvania at around the
time as John.  Joseph married and moved
to North Carolina near Carvers Creek; Jacob died unmarried; while William traded in his farm at Byberry for land in Bucks
county.  His line was covered in Frank
Caligiuri’s 2018
book The Carver Family of Bucks County.

Other Carvers.
Two Mennonite Gerber
families from Switzerland came to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania around
year 1735.  Their name was often spelt
and, in many cases, became Carver.

Michael Gerber did become Michael Carver sometime
after his arrival in Pennsylvania in 1751.
His son Christian fought in the Revolutionary War and later
settled in
Ohio.  Christian’s sons Moses and Richard, born there, migrated by
covered wagon
to Missouri in 1838.  Richard later moved
onto Kansas. 

Moses Carver, however, stayed on in
Missouri as a plantation owner
and slave-holder.  He is remembered today
because of a slave on his plantation named George Washington Carver.  After slavery was abolished, Moses and his wife Susan
raised George and his brother James as their own children.
George later became renowned for his work at
Tuskegee University in his advocacy of crop rotation.
  Moses’s farm in Newton county is now known for its
George Washington
Carver National Monument.

Canada.  Nova Scotia has the largest
concentration of Carvers in the country today.

Christopher Carver had arrived in
Nova Scotia sometime in the 1830’s and made his home in Baker
Lunenburg county.  His son Hiram, born in

1841, was like his father a woodsman.  He
married Mary Baker and, in so doing, inherited the Baker homestead.  Carvers remained at the homestead until the

The Carver name had spread to Queens and Shelburne counties in Nova
Scotia by the time of the 1901 census.


Carver Miscellany

Deryk Carver, Protestant Martyr.  Deryk Carver was Flemish, from the area of Liege which
was a stronghold of the Counter-Reformation.
He was an exile in England, either voluntary or forced, and had
in Brighton, then a small fishing port, around the year 1545.
enterprise, he had started the Black Lion brewery.

Carver prospered.  He was, as
recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, “a man whom the
Lord had blessed as
well with temporal riches as well as with spiritual treasures.”

However, by 1553 Bloody Queen Mary was on the
throne with a determination to re-catholicize England.
By the end of her reign in 1558 more than 300
Protestants had been burned at the stake for refusing to recant their faith.

Deryk  Carver, who acted as lay preacher in his house in Brighton, was an early victim.  He was
arrested in October 1554 and tried in London the following year.
questioned on his beliefs, Carver
refused to recant his Protestant practices.
He was thus found guilty and burnt at the stake in Lewes in July
1555.  In order to mock his profession,
he was placed in a barrel prior to his death.
Carver’s Bible was preserved and is on
display in Lewes museum today.  The
following memorial plaque was erected in Brighton in 1926.

Protestant Martyr
at Lewes, July 22, 1555
Lived in this brewery.”

Although Deryk Carver had died for his
faith, his line continued in Brighton.
Dereke Carver was recorded as a beer brewer of Brighton in his
will of

Richard Carver, a Quaker, was one
of the crew of Tettersell’s ship in which the future Charles II sailed
Shoreham harbour to France in 1651.
When Charles became King, Carver was said to have reminded him
of his
assistance and was apparently able to secure the release of a number of
imprisoned Nonconformists, including John Bunyan. 

Carver Marriages in Buckland Dinham, Somerset

Year Groom Bride
1757 John Carver Mary Aters
1764 Richard Ames Rachel Carver
1769 Benjamin Richards Hester Carver
1784 Matthew Carver Sarah Hall
1794 Sampson Carver Mary Gullifer
1811 William Carver Sarah Brownjohn
1830 Oliver Carver Eliza Millgrove
1835 William Greenland Jane Carver
1835 Aaron Carver Ann Maggs
1835 James Cayford Bethesda Carver

Carvers were involved in just over 5% of all the
marriages recorded at St. Michael in Buckland Dinham over this period.

The Carvers and Creswells in Gibraltar.  The
Carver and Creswell families had known each
other for generations.  It was Edmund
Creswell with his family who first came to Gibraltar in 1822 where he
established himself as a packet agent and later as a postmaster there.

His son Edmund succeeded him as the
postmaster.  Another son William later became a vice-admiral and was
known as the father
of the Royal Australian Navy; while Frederick became a Labour
Party politician in South Africa and its Minister of Defence in

However, it was another son Thomas who had married Martha Carver
in 1844 that brought the Carvers to Gibraltar. Thomas
and Martha began by trading wines and spirits back to
England.  Martha’s brother Benjamin
Carver came from Manchester to develop further business there.   Gibraltar in fact became the hub for the
Carver Brothers’ export trade.  Cotton,
after processing at the Lancashire mills, was sent by Ellerman Line
ships to
Gibraltar and thence onwards to North Africa.

In Gibraltar Benjamin and his six children lived in a Spanish
known as the Palace; while the
Creswells lived nearby above the post office.  Benjamin became the
President of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce in 1882.
He later returned home, “taking his family to
live under the grey skies of Manchester.”

Who Was the John Carver of Mayflower Fame?  John Carver had chartered the Mayflower and,
with 101 other Pilgrim colonists, set sail for
America in September 1620.  Two months
later, when in sight of the American coastline, he signed the Mayflower
(which he is thought to have written) and was elected to a one-year
term as the
governor of the new Plymouth colony.  But
very little is known about this John Carver.

We don’t know, for instance, when
he was born or where.  Some have
speculated Nottingham as his birthplace, others Doncaster.
He was supposedly a wealthy London merchant,
although no details of his time in London are available.

He was in Leiden in
Holland by 1609, or maybe earlier.  John
Carver first appeared in Leiden records with Mary de Lannoy, a French
in February 1609.  This was the same
month that John Robinson and the rest of the Pilgrims had sought
from the Leiden magistrates to take up residence there.
Mary died sometime thereafter, probably
during childbirth, and Carver was then married, perhaps around 1616, to
English-born Katherine Leggatt from Nottinghamshire.

What can be said is that John
must have been one of the more prominent members of the Pilgrims’
church as he
was chosen as their agent to secure a charter to establish a colony in
and to contract for the charter of the Mayflower.  He had some wealth, possibly coming from his

There is very little to record
about John Carver after his arrival in America.
He only lasted five months before his death in April 1621.  He supposedly collapsed while working in the
fields.  His wife Katherine died soon
afterwards. They left no children.

The Trees at John Carver’s Farm at Byberry, Pennsylvania.  A large
chestnut tree on John Carver’s farm, six feet in diameter, was cut down
Watson Conly in 1885.  It made ten cords
of wood and 180 posts, the largest tree of any kind saving perhaps the
old elm
which stood in from of Carver’s house.

On account of its size, Old Elm was a
curiosity.  It stood alone in all its
majesty, away from surrounding trees, and was a noble specimen.  Measuring twenty-five feet in circumference,
it was forty feet up to its branches and topmost limbs were 110 feet
high.  Mahlon Carver stated that the tree
made more
than 25 cords of wood.

On John Carver’s farm were also two pear trees which had
been brought over from England by the first John Carver in 1682 and
were still
alive and bearing fruit in 1856. 

Moses and George Carver.  Moses Carver and his wife Susan moved to Missouri from
Illinois in the 1830’s.  They settled on
land near Diamond and built a log cabin.
Moses worked to acquire more land and grew many crops, including
corn, oats, wheat, and flax.  He raised
livestock, such as cattle, horses, and sheep.
He also planted an orchard and had beehives.
His farm became one of the most valuable in
the area.

In 1855, when he was in his forties, Moses purchased an
enslaved girl
named Mary, about 13 years old.  Around
1859 Mary gave birth to her first son, James.
Near the end of the Civil War, Mary gave birth to her second
George.  During the Civil War, Moses Carver’s farm was a target of
the outlaw
gangs that frequently terrorized the area.
One story handed down through time says that outlaws once hung
Moses in
a tree by his thumbs in an attempt to steal his money.

When George was a baby,
he and his mother were kidnapped.  A band
of outlaws took them.  His older brother
Jim may have hidden during the raid.
Moses Carver hired a man to bring Mary and George home.  The man found George, who was very sick from
whooping cough.  His mother Mary was
never seen again.

This meant that George and his brother Jim were orphans.  The Civil War ended and so did slavery.  Moses and Susan Carver raised the boys.  After George traveled eight miles to enrol in
a school in Neosho, Moses built a new house that still stands at the
Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri.

Although George never
lived with Moses and Susan Carver again, he stayed in touch and went
back to
the farm for occasional visits.  He
visited Moses Carver for the last time in 1908.
Moses died in 1910 and was buried in the Carver Family Cemetery
at the
George Washington Carver National Monument.


Carver Names

  • Deryk Carver was a Protestant martyr
    who was burnt at the stake in Lewes in 1555. 
  • John Carver who arrived in America on the Mayflower
    in 1620 was the first Governor of the Plymouth
    colony.  He died less than a year later. 
  • George Washington Carver, born a slave,
    became famous in America for his work as a botanist and his advice on crop rotation. 
  • Michael Lord Carver was a highly
    decorated combat veteran of World War Two who went on to hold the most senior
    posts in the British army. 
  • Raymond Carver was an American
    short story writer of the 1980’s

Select Carver Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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