Dare Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Dare Surname Meaning

The Dare surname was Anglo-Saxon, but nobody today really knows what it meant. Some have suggested that it described a person who acted like a wild animal – as its root was the Old English deor or dere meaning “wild animal.” By contrast, the same word could have given us “dear” and meant beloved.

The first recording of the surname was Goduui Dere in the 1086 Domesday Book.

Dare Surname Resources on The Internet

Dare Surname Ancestry

  • from SW England
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. Dare appears to have been at the onset a west country name. The first sightings were in Somerset where Walter Dare was recorded in rolls in 1243 and Richard le Dare in 1327.

Somerset. Thomas Dare was a prosperous Taunton merchant in Tudor times. A later Thomas Dare was a prominent silversmith in the 1670’s who became involved in the Monmouth rebellion against the King.  

“Thomas Dare, though of low mind and manners, had great influence at Taunton. He was directed to hasten across the country to direct his friends that Monmouth would soon be on English ground.”  

Dare was imprisoned in Ilchester jail for this involvement. He managed to escape to Holland, but was later shot dead.

By the 18th century there was a pocket of Dares in villages near to Taunton at North Curry and Stoke St. Gregory. John Dare married Mary House in North Curry in 1736 and Charles Holcombe Dare, born there in 1785, was a man of some local importance. His grandson Sir Charles Dare was an Admiral in the Royal Navy.

However, there was a black sheep Dare in North Curry. John Dare, together with his two brothers-in-law, was tried and convicted of highway robbery in 1839. John, a widower aged twenty-nine, was transported to Australia on the Parkfield, leaving four children behind.

Dorset.  The Dare name also appeared at an early time at Lyme Regis in Dorset. William Dare was recorded there as early as 1265 and the Dare name in Lyme Regis continued prominently until the 1600’s.

Gideon Dare was a yeoman farmer at Wootton Fitzpaine nearby. However, he took part in the Monmouth rebellion in 1685 and ended up being transported to Jamaica.

Elsewhere.  The Dare name was also to be found in London and the southeast.

Ananias Dare was a tiler and bricklayer in London in Tudor times who might have come originally from Essex. His father-in-law John White from Essex led Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempt to form a colony at Roanoke in America and Dare followed him with his wife in 1587. They left a son John in London.

A later Dare family held the Theydon Bois manor in Epping Forest, Essex from 1789 onwards. This family subsequently became Hall-Dare.

There were Dares elsewhere. In 18th century Gretton in Northamptonshire, several generations of a Dare family have been identified through the parish registers. The first of these was Richard Dare, “a black man,” who married Ann Medwell in 1749. This line continued in Gretton records until 1797 and then, for some reason, disappeared.

America. The first Dare in America is something of a mystery. Virginia Dare was born in 1587 at the Roanoke colony in present-day North Carolina, the first English baby to be born on American soil. But no one knows what happened to her and to the other colonists. Did they die or survive?

There were two later Dare lines that came to America:

  • James Dare from Berkshire arrived in Maryland sometime in the 1670’s.
  • while William Dare from Dorset came to southern New Jersey around the year 1682.

Interestingly, based on DNA testing, these two Dare lines were from the same male progenitor.

James Dare was a prosperous planter in Calvert county, settling in the Lower Cliffs. Many of his descendants were buried in the Middleham cemetery there.

William Dare became a large landowner in Cumberland county, New Jersey. His son William bought land near Bridgeton in 1710 where his descendants were to remain until 1867. Other Dare branches moved elsewhere in New Jersey. The Dare Family History was written by William and Nellie Montgomery in 1939. The Dare Family Association has held a reunion each year for descendants of this family.

There was another William Dare, possibly related to the Maryland line, who built the Blue Anchor tavern on the Delaware river in 1681.

Canada.  Dare Foods is a well-known cookie manufacturer in Ontario, dating back to 1892. The company was founded then in Kitchener by Charles Doerr. It has remained family-owned. However, in 1945 the company and family name were both changed to Dare. Bryan and Graham Dare are its co-chairmen today.

Australia.  Robert Dare from Northamptonshire was transported to Tasmania on the Mangles in 1835. He married Susan Richardson there in 1845 and they had eight children, some being registered as Dear and others as Dare.

George and Billy Dare from London arrived in 1838 at the very new colony of South Australia. George later departed for New Zealand, but Billy stayed on and became a successful sheep farmer.

In 1849 Joseph Dare, a Methodist minister from Dorset, came to South Australia where he was an eloquent and popular preacher on the Adelaide circuit. He moved to Geelong, Victoria in 1860.

Dare Surname Miscellany

The Dare Timeline in Lyme Regis, Dorset.  The Dare timetable in Lyme Regis, starting in 1265, ran as follows:

  • William Dare owned a property on the north side of Coomb Street.
  • William Dare was the vicar of St. Michael’s Church.
  • Robert Dare elected mayor of Lyme Regis.
  • Richard Dare elected mayor of Lyme Regis.
  • William Dare elected mayor of Lyme Regis.
  • Thomas Dare elected mayor of Lyme Regis.
  • Captain William Dare departed for America.

A column on the south side of the nave of the church at Lyme Regis bears the initials of William Dare inside a shield. The other columns all bear the coats of arms of the wealthy and royalty in that church.  Since a William Dare was mayor in 1491, 1500 and 1506 and the church usually reserved a seat in the front for the mayor and, since the church was remodeled during that period, we can assume that they did this to honor him.

Virginia Dare and the Roanoke Colony.  Virginia Dare, born on August 18, 1587 in the Roanoke colony in present-day North Carolina, was the first English baby to be born in America.  Her parents were Ananias and Eleanor Dare.

What became of Virginia and the other Roanoke colonists remains a mystery.  The fact of her birth is known because John White, Virginia’s grandfather and the governor of the colony, returned to England in 1587 to seek fresh supplies. When White eventually returned three years later, the colonists were gone.  Governor White found no sign of a struggle or battle.

There are a number of theories regarding the fate of the colonists, the most widely accepted one being that they sought shelter with local Indian tribes and either intermarried with them or were killed.

Virginia has become a prominent figure in American myth and folklore in the more than four hundred years since her birth.  She has represented different things to different people – innocence and purity for some Americans, new beginnings, promise, and hope for others.   She has also symbolized mystery because of her mysterious fate.

Her name has become a tourist attraction for North Carolina. Many locations are named after her, including Dare county, the Dare Trail, and the Dare Memorial Bridge.  Residents of Roanoke island celebrate Virginia’s birthday each year with an Elizabethan Renaissance fair.

Reader Feedback – Descended from William Dare of New Jersey.  Found out that Captain William Dare who settled in New Jersey is my ancient grandfather. And according to the genealogies my branch is also descended from Mary Tudor and Henry VII!

Ramona Wetzel (ramonawetzel22@gmail.com).

William Dare and the Blue Anchor Tavern.  Many researchers had assumed that William Dare, owner of the Blue Anchor tavern before 1700 in what is now Philadelphia was the same person as the Captain William Dare who had settled in South Jersey around the year 1680. We now know that these were separate William Dares, possibly cousins.

The Blue Anchor tavern, built in 1681 by William Dare, was located at Front and Dock Streets.   This was the spot that William Penn first set foot in Pennsylvania in the fall of 1682.  Sailing up the Delaware on his ship The Welcome, he rowed a small boat over to the tavern.  He then decided that this would be where he would build his green country town of Philadelphia.

William Dare later sold the tavern and went south, established other taverns in Maryland.

Reader Feedback – Joseph Dare in Pennsylvania and Georgia.  I have Dare ancestors from Pennsylvania.  Grandfather Joseph Dare, born in the 1800’s, left home at a young age. He eventually ended up in Savannah, Georgia, married to Annie Carter. He was a veteran of the Spanish American War. He died in 1935.

Virginia Dare (giniaann1@aol.com).

George and Billy Dare in Adelaide.  When the Dare family from London arrived in South Australia in 1838 on the Royal Admiral, they were joining other pioneering settlers there, most of them then camped under canvas on the banks of the Torrens river adjacent to what was then the tiny village of Adelaide.

The Dare family included two brothers – George aged twenty-two and young Billy just fifteen – and their older sister Sarah.  George was with his de facto wife Mary Gowne and their young son.

George Dare worked as a carpenter as houses got built.  However, ill feelings arose when Mary Gowne went off to live with his employer. George then told Mary that he intended to go back to England to marry her sister, and he accordingly left.

He returned from England in early 1841, obviously having failed in his quest to marry Mary’s sister.  He did not remain in Adelaide for long.  Instead, he migrated to New Zealand where he married and where many of his descendants reside today.

Billy Dare stayed on and lived in a mud hut while working for the Government grubbing trees.  After a while he struck out on his own, starting a sheep run near Mount Bryan where he built a hut and ran seven hundred sheep.

In the 1850’s he tried his luck at the goldfields, working at the Eagle Hawk diggings and having some success. He then returned to sheep farming until his death in 1892 at the age of sixty-nine.

Admiral Sir Charles Dare.  Charles was born in 1854 in the village of North Curry some five miles outside of the market town of Taunton in Somerset.  The family had lived there for generations, his grandfather Charles, a Land Tax Commissioner, having built in 1815 the home where he was born.

Dare joined the Royal Navy as an officer cadet and was commissioned in 1868.  He rose through the ranks and by 1903 was put in command of the new armored cruiser HMS Berwick.  He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1909 and was knighted in 1919, the citation reading “for valuable services in command of the important auxiliary patrol base of Milford Haven since February 1915.”

For this conventional naval man, he had, unusually, married a railway guard’s daughter, Emily Harper, who had brought an illegitimate daughter, Maud, with her to the marriage.  Both his wife and Maud survived him.  After his death in 1924 Maud left a family photograph album to the National Maritime Museum.

Dare Names

  • Virginia Dare, born in 1587 at the Roanoke colony in present-day North Carolina, was the first English baby to be born in America. 
  • Zena Dare, born Zena Dones, was an English singer who became famous for her performances in Edwardian musical comedy in the early 1900’s. 
  • Dan Dare was a British science fiction comic hero, appearing as Pilot of the Future in the Eagle weekly strip from 1950 to 1967.

Dare Numbers Today

  • 3,500 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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