Darling Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Darling Meaning
The Darling name derived from
the Old English deorling, meaning
“darling” or “one dearly loved.” It
would probably describe the young noble of the house, the eldest son in
likelihood, on whom all expectations rested.
An early record was that of a Saxon
noble Aelmaer Deorling found in 1016 in
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Deorling
or Dyrling was quite a common Old English
byname and remained in use as a personal name into the 14th century. The name also developed as a surname at a
of locations in both England and Scotland

Darling Resources on

Darling Ancestry

Scotland. The surname Darling, or variants
thereof, seems to have been first found in Roxburgh on the Scottish
borders and
then moved up to Edinburgh and to points further north:

  • Waldevus Derling was
    recorded as a charter witness in Roxburgh around 1338.
  • John and Andrew Derling
    were burgesses of Edinburgh in 1381.
  • while
    Sir John Derlynge was precentor of Caithness in 1368.

Scottish borders and Edinburgh accounted for two thirds of the Darlings
Scotland by the time of the 1881

main location for Darlings has been Duns
in Berwickshire. One family there has
been traced back to John Darling, a weaver, who married Margaret
Robertson in
the early 1700’s. Henry Darling was born
in Duns in 1776 and David Darling in 1796.

John Darling migrated from Duns to
Edinburgh in the 1820’s and was the father of John Darling, the man who
emigrated to Australia in 1855 and started up the Darling mercantile

Edinburgh. George Darling
was born in Lasswade parish near Edinburgh in 1584.
A subsequent George, thought to have been his
son, was captured by Cromwell’s troops at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650
and sent
away as a prisoner to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Later Darlings from
Edinburgh were:

  • William
    Darling a prominent printer and bookseller in the
    mid/late 1700’s.
  • George
    Darling a doctor who trained in Edinburgh in the early
    1800’s and married the sister of the Chairman of the East India Company. Their son George worked in the Indian Civil
    Service; and their grandsons Kenneth and Douglas were both
    distinguished and
    decorated British army officers.
  • William
    Darling, the son of an Edinburgh fancy
    goods seller, who emigrated to Montreal in 1840 where he did well as a
  • James
    Darling who started the
    Temperance Hotel
    on Waterloo Place in 1867.
    The hotel remained in family hands until the 1930’s.
  • and
    Sir William Darling an Edinburgh MP for
    the Conservatives from 1945 to 1957. His name has lived on in the Sir William Darling
    Prize awarded annually to Edinburgh University students for good
    He was the g
    reat uncle of Alistair Darling, the Labour
    Chancellor of
    the Exchequer from 2007 to 2010.

England. Darlings
were also noticeable south of the
border in Northumberland and Durham in NE England.

NE England. Two notable Darling
here spent much of their time abroad, either with the army or in the

This was true of Major-General Henry Darling from Embleton in
Northumberland. The monumental
inscription at his local church reads:

“In memory of Major-General Henry Darling who
died on the 7th of September 1835, aged 81 years. He
served his King and country for 58 years,
a great part of which time he was employed abroad.”

Sergeant Christopher
Darling, born around 1750 in Durham, died in 1795 of yellow fever in
Caribbean while on service with the 45th Regiment.
Two of his sons became colonial
administrators – Sir Ralph Darling as Governor of New South Wales from
1825 to
1831 and Henry Darling as Lieutenant Governor of Tobago from 1833 to
1845. Henry’s son Charles was the Governor of
Jamaica in 1857 and later of Victoria in Australia.

More famous than these Darlings was the
Darling who stayed at home – Grace
the lighthouse keeper’s daughter at Bamburgh in
Northumberland. Her act of heroism in
saving lives from a shipwrecked vessel in 1838 won her the hearts of

Elsewhere. There were Darling lines
elsewhere in
England, most notably in Berkshire. The first sightings there were in Wantage,
now part of Oxfordshire. By the time of
the 1881 census the largest number of Darlings in England were in

America. The early Darling arrivals
into New England, covered in William Clemens’ 1913 book The
Darling Family in America

New England. There were
four main Darling lines here during the 17th century:

  • two of these were in
    Salem, Massachusetts. John Darling of probable
    English extraction
    married Mary Bishop in Salem in 1661 and they had one son, Thomas. George Darling, on the other hand, was a
    Scottish prisoner brought to work at the Lynn ironworks in the early
    1650’s. He later became a tavern owner
    in Salem. George and his wife Katherine
    raised ten children there.
  • Richard Darling married Abigail Messenger in New
    Haven in 1662 and they were the precursors of the Darling New Haven
    Thomas Darling, born there in 1720, was the most
    famous of these Darlings. His home in
    Woodbridge, built in the 1770’s, is now the Thomas Darling Museum.
  • while Dennis Darling came to Mendon, Massachusetts from
    England around
    the year 1677. This line, the most
    extensive of these Darling lines, was covered in Susan Salisbury’s 2003
    book The Darlings of Mendon, Massachusetts.

Mendon line through Dennis’s grandson Ebenezer Darling moved to Rhode
Island in
the 1740’s. Joseph Darling of this
family headed in the early 1800’s to Georgia where he was a plantation
owner. Lucius B. Darling meanwhile
served as the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island in the 1880’s.

Another Mendon line migrated to Dutchess
county, New York around the year 1740.
Three generations and a century later, Rufus Darling headed west
Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Elsewhere. The Darlings of
Long Island began with Adam
Darling, possibly Scots Irish, in Smithtown. He and his family
Quakers and had gone to Nantucket during the Revolutionary War rather
than compromise
their principles. There they operated early whaling ships.

Descendant Matthew Darling bought land at
Port Jefferson on Long Island and established a shipyard there in 1832. Later Captain
Selah Darling
who began his career on whaling ships ran coastal
out of Port Jefferson to Nova Scotia.

Canada. It was said that John Darling of the Dutchess
county, Mendon line “went up country.”
In fact he was a Loyalist who crossed over to Canada in the
1790’s and
received a land grant in the Bay Quinte region of southern Ontario. John died in 1848 at the grand age of

His grandson William left
Bay Quinte for America in 1863.

“William Allen Darling, having married in 1850 and in ten
years fathered
six children, left both eastern Canada and his family behind in 1863. He was bound for Chicago, apparently for the
purposes of fighting in the American Civil War on the side of the Union. During this time he cut off all communication
with his family who eventually presumed him to be dead.”

But he married again –
a bigamous marriage technically – and settled on the western shores of
Huron in Tawas City, Michigan.

Robert Darling from Berwickshire on the Scottish
borders emigrated to Halton, Ontario in the 1830’s, but died soon
afterwards. His two sons David and
George were farmers. David was
sixty-five years old when he married his wife Margaret, then aged
in 1866. They were to have five children
between 1868 and 1874.

Another Scotsman, William
Darling from Edinburgh, arrived in Montreal in 1840 and prospered there
as a
merchant. He became a prominent member
of the commercial community there. After
his death in 1885 his eldest son William succeeded him as the head of
family firm William Darling and Company.

Australia. John Darling, who arrived
in Adelaide from
Scotland on the Isabella in 1855, was
the progenitor of John Darling and
the leading wheat merchants in Australia.

John Darling Jr. succeeded his father
in the business in 1897; while another son Joe became a cricketer and
Australia three times between 1899 and 1905.
The business mantle passed to Gordon Darling who held the reins
1914 to 1950. His son Gordon who died in
2015 was well-known for his philanthropy.


Select Darling Miscellany

Early Darlings in Berkshire

Darling Year of Birth Place of Birth
William Darling    1630 Wantage (now in Oxfordshire)
Ambrose Darling    1640 Wantage (now in Oxfordshire)
John Darling    1650 Littleworth (near Wantage)
John Darling    1670 Wantage (now in Oxfordshire)
Joseph Darling    1690 Chaddleworth
William Darling    1723 Chaddleworth
   1730 East Hendred
Joseph Darling    1733 Chaddleworth
William Darling    1748 Chaddleworth
William Darling    1754 East Ilsley
John Darling    1758 East Ilsley

Grace Darling, A Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.  Grace Darling was a lighthouse keeper’s daughter in
Northumberland, famed for her participation in the rescue of survivors
from the
shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838.

the early hours of September 7th, Grace – looking out from an upstairs
of the lighthouse – spotted the wreck and survivors of the Forfarshire on
Big Harcar, a nearby low rocky island.
The vessel had foundered on the rocks and broken in half.  One of the halves had sunk during the

She and her father William determined that the weather
was too rough for
a lifeboat to put out from Sunderland.
So they took a rowing boat across to the survivors, taking
a long
route that kept to the lee side of the islands, a distance of nearly a
mile.  Grace kept the boat steady in the
water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman,
Dawson, into the boat.  Her father and
three of the rescued men then rowed the boat back to the lighthouse.  Grace remained at the lighthouse while her
father and three of the rescued crew members rowed back and recovered
four more

As news of her role in the rescue reached the public, her
of bravery and simple virtue set her out as exemplary and led to an
uneasy role
as the nation’s heroine.  Subscriptions
and donations totaling over £700 were raised for her, including £50
from Queen
Victoria.  More than a dozen portrait
painters sailed to her island home to capture her likeness; and
hundreds of
gifts, letters, and even marriage proposals were delivered to her.

Grace Darling was not to live long after her deed of heroism.  She died of tuberculosis in October 1842,
aged just twenty-six.  But she has not
been forgotten. There is a museum at Bamburgh dedicated to her
achievements and
the seafaring life of the region. 

Darling in the 1881 Census in Scotland

Location Numbers Percent
Scottish Borders
  Berwickshire    120
  Roxburgh     40
  Selkirk     50
  Elsewhere     10
  Total    220    28
Midlothian    300    37
  (including Edinburgh)
Elsewhere    280    35
Total    800   100

Darling’s Temperance Hotels in Edinburgh.  Darling’s Regent Hotel in Edinburgh was started by James
Darling around 1867 at
Waterloo Place as a temperance hotel.
After James’s death his daughter Jane and other members of the
continued to run the hotel.  When she
died the hotel was bought by North British Hotels who continued to run
it until

James Darling also acquired the
premises on South St. Andrews Street which became the St. Andrews
Hotel, again
temperance.  This was run by his niece
Isabella until her death in 1942 and then continued in the family for
two generations.

John Darling of Salem, Massachusetts.  John Darling, born around 1632, married Mary Bishop in Salem in 1661 and died
there in 1712.  His name was spelt in
many different ways during his lifetime.

Some have attempted to attribute his parentage to John
Darling of
Bristol in England who had married Anne Batten around 1630.  This John was a merchant active in the
Caribbean who, sometime around 1644, settled in New York. He owned
sailing vessels and traded with various New England ports. He was to be
in Boston, Massachusetts in 1648.  It is
possible that he died in Pemaquid (now Bristol), Maine. 

The Misfortunes of Captain Selah Darling.  The Suffolk County News of Long Island ran
the following sad story about Captain Selah Darling on September 20,

at Port Jefferson is in deep sympathy with Captain Selah Darling who
has had
trouble enough to drive a less robust man crazy.  Ill
fortune has been steadily in his wake,
frequently overtaking and wrecking his vessel and causing him heavy

About a year ago he commanded the schooner vessel John Eastwood.  She was
loaded with lime one Sunday night and took fire in the Hudson river
Sing Sing.  The vessel was a total
loss.  Less than a month afterward he
lost the schooner Globe which went
ashore near Wading River.  She was also a
total wreck.

Last week he lost the schooner Ben
off Falkner island.  He had
but recently purchased her and spent $500 making repairs.
He had no sooner got ashore from the wreck
and reached the village than he was appraised of the death that morning
of his
wife from cancer.”

did get better.  Selah married again in 1892 and lived a long
life, finally dying in Port Jefferson in 1941 at the age of eighty-one.

John Darling and Son.  John Darling and Son has been an Australian wheat merchant and flour milling company which was for many
years the largest such company in Australia.  It was founded in
by John Darling in 1867.  Known as the Grain King, John set up branches throughout
South Australia’s wheat belt, buying up flour mills and then
agencies in Melbourne and London.  As a
result his company was handling most of Australia’s export grain.

John was succeeded in 1897 by his eldest son John Jr. and
then, from
1914 to 1950, by John Jr’s son Gordon.
Both John Jr. and Gordon also acted as Chairman of the
Australian mining
BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary).

The Darling family now
represents old wealth in Australia.
Their net worth has been estimated at $650 million.


Darling Names

  • Sir Ralph Darling served as Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. He left his name to the Darling
    river and Darling Harbour in Sydney. 
  • Grace Darling was a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who became famous in Victorian Britain for her participation in 1838 in the rescue of
    survivors from a shipwrecked vessel. 
  • John Darling arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1855 and was the progenitor of
    what became the very wealthy Darling mercantile family

Select Darling Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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