Doubleday Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Doubleday Surname Meaning

The origin and meaning is uncertain. Double may come from the French doubel, meaning “twin,” or Dobbel, a pet form of Robert, plus day from the Old English daege meaning “servant.” Some think that Doubleday – originally Dubaldy – was a French Huguenot name that was brought to England in the 16th century. 

Doubleday Surname Resources on The Internet

Doubleday Surname Ancestry

  • from England (East Coast)
  • to America and Canada

England.  The surname may have had its origin in England in that part of East Anglia that covers south Lincolnshire, north Norfolk and east Cambridgeshire. Doubledays in Colsterwood near Lincoln date from the late 1700’s. And Doubleday is still to be found in these parts.

The name was also in Nottinghamshire from an early time:.  “In 1544 a Marjorie Doubleday died and in her will she left the rent of a small close to the sexton of St Peter’s Church in Nottingham on the condition of his ringing the bell, which she bought for the purpose, every morning (except Sundays) at 4 o’clock to awaken the washerwomen of the town to their labors.”  

William Doubleday married Elizabeth Pepper in the church in 1667 and there is a vault of the family in the southeast corner of the church tower. In the 1740’s a Squire Doubleday was recorded at Southwell; and there were Doubleday butchers in Nottingham for several generations in the 19th century. The largest number of Doubledays has in fact been in Nottinghamshire, according to the 1881 census.

An early mention of a Doubleday elsewhere was Edmund Doubleday, a London dignitary partially responsible for the capture of Guy Fawkes during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

There were two prominent Doubleday Quaker families.

One was in the northeast in Northumberland. John Doubleday was the owner of Alnwick Abbey in the 1720’s which he used to promote Quakerism. His son John married into the Quaker Barclay family. 

Another was in the southeast and Epping in Essex where Benjamin Doubleday in the early 1800’s was one of the principal tradesmen of the town. Henry Doubleday the naturalist was his eldest son. He lived at the same time as his cousin and namesake Henry Doubleday of Coggeshall who became a horticulturist. This Henry Doubleday was the author of the first catalogue of British butterflies and moths.

America. Roger Doubleday left London for Boston in the 1670’s and was the forebear, via his son Elisha and grandson Abner, of Congressman Ulysses Doubleday, a New York Congressman, and his sons Abner and Thomas. The family line was covered in Margaret Curfman and Stephen Rockstroth’s 1993 book Doubleday Families in America.

Abner Doubleday was a Union general during the Civil War who is often mistakenly credited with inventing the game of baseball. His brother Thomas ran a well-known bookshop, TD Doubleday, on Wall Street. Thomas died in 1863 after being run over by a bus in New York.

Another line from Elisha Doubleday led to William Doubleday, a 19th century Brooklyn hatter, and his son Frank. Frank Doubleday founded the Doubleday book publishing company in 1897. Frank’s son Nelson and grandson Nelson Jr. both ran the company, at one time the largest book publisher in America, until it was sold in 1986.

A more recent Frank Doubleday is an actor who has made his name playing villains on the screen.

Canada. A Doubleday family from Southwell in Nottinghamshire emigrated to Canada in 1884. Percival Doubleday settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two of his sons started a trucking company there, Doubleday’s Transfer, in the 1920’s.  

Australia. Bligh Doubleday was transported from Norfolk to Australia on the Sarah 1 in 1829. He married Mary Dowd in Sydney four years later.

Doubleday Surname Miscellany

Doubledays in the 1881 Census

County Numbers Percent
Nottinghamshire   103   16
Lincolnshire    88   14
Norfolk    79   13
London    77   12
Elsewhere   283   45
Total   630  100

The largest concentration of the name (53) was to be found at Nottingham St. Mary in Nottinghamshire.

The Doubleday Group in Lincolnshire.  The Doubleday Group was founded by John Doubleday in the early 1970’s and is still very much family owned, with the business now being led by the family’s third generation.

John Doubleday took over the John Deere franchise in 1982 and the Group has become the leading John Deere dealer in Lincolnshire and Norfolk.  They have grown from strength to strength – with the acquisition of Bourne Tractors in 1988 and Evergreen Tractors in 1999.  From 2011 the trading area of the Doubleday Group has expanded again and now encompasses northern Lincolnshire.

Henry Doubleday, Naturalist.  Henry and his brother Edward spent their childhood collecting natural history specimens in Epping Forest. Before 1848, when his father died and the entire management of his business at Epping devolved upon him, Henry made many collecting expeditions.

After that time, he took on civic responsibilities and both duty and inclination kept him at home.  Between 1846 and 1873, he was said to have slept only twice away from his own house. A brief visit to Paris in 1843 was the only occasion on which he ever left England.

The credit of having introduced “sugaring” to the notice of entomologists should probably go to Henry Doubleday.  He was the author of the first catalogue of British butterflies and moths.  His moth collections are now held at the Natural History Museum.

Abner Doubleday and Baseball.  Debate on baseball’s origins had raged for decades.  To try to end the argument, Alfred Spalding – an American sporting goods entrepreneur and sports publisher – organized the Mills Commission to investigate the issue in 1905.

The Mills Commission concluded two years later that Abner Doubleday had indeed invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839; that he had coined the word “baseball,” designed the diamond, indicated fielders’ positions, and written the rules.

The principal source for the story was one letter from elderly Abner Graves, a five-year-old resident of Cooperstown in 1839.  Graves never mentioned a diamond, positions or the writing of rules. Graves’ reliability as a witness was challenged because he spent his final days in an asylum for the criminally insane.

No written records in the decade between 1839 and 1849 have ever been found to corroborate these claims, nor could Doubleday be interviewed (he died in 1893). Doubleday had lived in Cooperstown as a young boy, but had already left for West Point in 1838.  Mills, a lifelong friend of Doubleday, never heard him ever mention baseball.

However, the Commission found it an appealing story. Baseball was invented in a quaint rural town without foreigners or industry, by a young man who later graduated from West Point and served heroically in the Civil War. 

Doubleday Book Publishers.  Doubleday’s century of publishing began in 1897 when Frank Nelson Doubleday, with remarkable confidence and a back loan of five thousand dollars, founded Doubleday & McClure Company in partnership with magazine publisher Samuel McClure.

Among their first bestsellers was A Day’s Work by Rudyard Kipling.  While the alliance between Doubleday and McClure lasted only three years, a long and profitable friendship grew between Doubleday and Kipling, who, using Doubleday’s initials, “F.N.D.,” nicknamed him “effendi,” the Turkish word for “chief.”

The business became known as Doubleday & Company in 1946, by which time it was the largest publisher in the United States – with annual sales of more than 30 million books. Anchor Books, created in 1953, was the first line of distinguished trade paperback books in the industry.

Frank’s grandson Nelson became President of the company in 1978. Two years later he bought the local baseball team, the New York Mets.  Eight years later he sold Doubleday to the German conglomerate Bertelsmann for a price reported to be around $500 million.

Doubleday Names

  • Abner Doubleday was a Union general during the Civil War mistakenly credited with inventing the game of baseball. 
  • Frank Nelson Doubleday founded the Doubleday book publishing company in 1897.

Doubleday Numbers Today

  • 700 in the UK (most numerous in Nottinghamshire)
  • 500 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *