Chamberlain Surname Genealogy

is an occupational surname describing an official who was in charge of
the private chambers of his master.  It
evolved into a title of high rank.  There
have been Lord Chamberlains
of the
Royal Household since 1399.  The root is
the Old French word cambrelane or chambrelain
brought to England by the
Normans.  The Chamberland spelling
cropped up in Normandy.
Chamberlayne was an early surname spelling in
England.  Martin le Chamberleyn was
recorded in Cambridgeshire of 1232.
Chamberlain and its variant Chamberlin are found today.  The surname Chambers also exists; although
this might have denoted a lower-ranking person.

Chamberlain Resources on

Chamberlain Ancestry

Early Chamberlaynes were said to have sprung
from the Tankarvilles who had come to England from Normandy at the time
William the Conqueror.  The first of that
name, William Chamberlayne, was chamberlain to King Henry II in the
century.  His descendants were to be
found at Stoke-near-Nayland in Suffolk.

There was also an early Chamberlain line
at Wickenby in Lincolnshire, reputedly descended from Herbert, the
of Scotland in 1130.  Descendants here
held Pletsoe manor in Buckinghamshire.

Both the Chamberlain and
Chamberlayne names featured in Oxfordshire:

  • Sir
    Edward Chamberlain of Shirburn was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and
    Berkshire in 1505.  His son Leonard
    guarded Princess Elizabeth during her imprisonment at Woodstock in the
    reign of
    Queen Mary.  He was from a
    Catholic-sympathizing family.
  • meanwhile
    the Chamberlaynes of Wickham were
    descended from William Chamberlayne who had ventured to Ireland and
    from his
    son Sir Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice of Chester in 1616.
    Thomas of the next generation became a
    baronet in 1643 because of his Royalist support during the Civil War.

Chamberlain name had become more predominant at this time, although the
Chamberlayne name did persist into the 20th century – notably at Weston on the
outskirts of Southampton
where they were gentry and local MP’s.

Orland Chamberlain
of uncertain origins was an English diplomat in
Portugal made a baronet in 1828.  He
married twice:

  • his first marriage produced Henry, the second baronet,
    who became
    a British army officer and an artist of some repute.
  • his second marriage
    produced British army and naval officers as well.  The
    line from William, his eldest son here
    and a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy, led to three notable sons –
    another naval
    officer; Basil, a leading Japanologist of his time; and Houston, who
    would be
    considered racist for his writings today.
  • two other sons – Crawford and Charles – were officers in
    the Indian army.  Charles’s son Francis is credited with having invented the
    game of snooker
    while stationed in India in 1875.

line of Joseph Chamberlain, the British
politician and statesman of the late Victorian era, began in Wiltshire
Daniel Chamberlain, born in 1688, who was a maltster in Lacock.  His son William came to London in the 1730’s
to pursue a trade as a cordwainer (shoemaker).
Three Joseph Chamberlains followed, the last of whom settled in

“Joseph Chamberlain made his career

, first as a manufacturer
of screws and then as a notable

 of the city. As a
self-made businessman, he had never attended university and had
contempt for
the aristocracy.

He was the father by different marriages of the
politician Sir Austen
Chamberlain and of the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlen was a Huguenot
brought to London from Paris in 1569.
Peter Chamberlen and his sons were “barber surgeons,”
practitioners in
midwifery.  They attended the royalty of
the time.  Either Peter or one of his
sons was the inventor of obstetric forceps, something that they kept as
closely guarded secret for over a hundred years. 
instruments, rediscovered in 1813, were given to the Royal College
of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.

Chamberlin has been a
variant spelling.  It seems to have first
cropped up in the Barnstaple area of Devon in the early 1500’s.  But the largest numbers have been in
Norfolk.  Henry Chamberlin from Hingham
in Norfolk emigrated to America in 1638.
A much later Henry Chamberlin started a department store in
Norwich in
1815 that lasted until the 1950’s.
George Chamberlin was three times Mayor of Norwich between 1891

There were some notable Chamberlain lines coming
to Massachusetts and to Pennsylvania.

Massachusetts.  Two Henry Chamberlins
apparently arriving in
Hingham, Massachusetts in the 1630’s.
One returned to England, the other – a blacksmith –
stayed.  A descendant
line has been traced through thirteen generations to Richard Chamberlin
Georgia, a recent member of the House of Representatives there.

Chamberlain brothers from Norfolk made their home in Billerica,
Massachusetts in
1654, although only William remained there.
His wife Rebecca was caught up in the Salem witchcraft trials
and died
in prison in 1692.  William lived onto

Some of his descendants migrated to New Hampshire and then
to Maine.  Joshua
born there in 1828, served with distinction at the
Battle of Gettysburg
during the Civil War and afterwards was elected the Governor of Maine.  Another descendant line was to be found in
Alton, Illinois.

Pennsylvania.  There
were two Chamberlain lines in Chester county, Pennsylvania – one
through Robert
originating from England and coming in 1692 and the other through Jonas
Ireland in 1731.  The line from Robert
extended to:

  • Dr. Joseph Chamberlain of Newark, Delaware in the early
  • his
    son Charles, also a doctor, who moved south to Natchez, Mississippi in
  • and
    his son George who migrated to Oregon and became its Governor in 1902
    Senator in 1908.

There were Irish Chamberlains headed by Jeremiah
Chamberlain in
York county, Pennsylvania by the 1740’s.
A later Jeremiah
this family also headed south to Mississippi, in his case in 1830,
where he
founded Rodney Presbyterian church and Oakland college.
However, he was foully murdered on the
college campus in 1851.

Chamberlain family association of America

was founded in 1897
by Joshua Chamberlain of Maine.  It has
continued on and off until today

.  The Chamberland name
appeared in Normandy as
early as the 12th century.  Simon
Chamberland departed France for Quebec in 1663 where he married Marie
Boileau.  His main line of descendants
remained in Quebec.  But some crossed the
border into America, changing their name in the process to Chamberlain
or Chamberlin.

David and Polly Chamberlin
departed Connecticut for Hatley, Quebec in 1794; while John and Jane
Chamberlain came from Lincolnshire in England in 1837 and were early
in Nobleton, Ontario.  Many of their
descendants remain there.

New Zealand.  John Chamberlain, a farm
laborer from
Hampshire, and his family were early arrivals in New Zealand, coming on
the Sir Charles Forbes in 1842.  They
settled in the Tasman district, SI.  Charles
Chamberlin came in 1854 and purchased
an island east of Auckland, now known as Ponui Island, for his family
farm.  They are still there.
Brian Chamberlin’s 2006 book was entitled Ponui and
Beyond: 150 Years of Chamberlins

Select Chamberlain Miscellany

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

Select Chamberlain Names

Thomas Chamberlayne
a distinguished
diplomat in Elizabethan times, serving as ambassador in the Low

Joseph Chamberlain
 was a prominent
British politician and statesman of the late Victorian era.  He was first a radical Liberal and then a
leading imperialist in coalition with the Conservatives.
 was British Prime Minster from 1937 to 1940, most
remembered for his appeasement policy towards Hitler.
Edward Chamberlin
an American economist best known for his book The Theory of
Monopolistic Competition
 published in 1933.
Wilt Chamberlain
was an American basketball player
who still holds
many NBA records in scoring and rebounding.  He
is widely considered one of the greatest
and most dominant players in NBA history

Select Chamberlains Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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