Eaton Surname Genealogy

Eaton is a topographical surname which described someone who lived by a river or
on an
island. The root of the name is the Old
English ea meaning “river” or eg
meaning “island” or “low-lying land”
plus tun meaning “settlement” or
“enclosure.” This became Etone or Eitone
by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.
Eaton as a surname was first found in the western counties of Shropshire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire. One early spelling was Eyton.

Eaton Resources on

Eaton Ancestry

England. The Eyton spelling was found in Shropshire where
Robert de Eyton held the manor of Eyton-on-the-Wildmoors in 1154. These Eytons remained in Shropshire for many
generations. Sir John Eyton fought at
the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485; and Thomas Eyton was High Sheriff
Shropshire in 1779.

Cheshire. The Eaton place-name in Cheshire near
the village of Eccleston gave rise to an Eaton family which in the 15th
married into the more famous Grosvenor line. Eaton
Hall became their ancestral home.
Earlier, around 1310, Sir Nicholas de Eaton had married
an heiress in Stockport and moved the Eaton family name into Lancashire.

accounts have Richard Eaton, the vicar of Great Budworth in Cheshire in
early 1600’s, as descended from the Eytons of Shropshire.
But this is by no means clear. Richard
had three illustrious sons – Samuel,
Theophilus and Nathaniel Eaton
three were Protestant dissidents who
emigrated to America. Only Theophilus
stayed there.

Long Eaton in the Erewash district of Derbyshire was
referred to as Aitone in the Domesday Book.
A settlement had grown up close to the lowest bridging point of
Erewash river.

The Eaton name has been mainly to be found in Derby.
An Eaton family was engaged for several
generations in the wool-combing and dyeing trade during the course of
the 17th
and 18th centuries. They lived at the
Bridge-gate. Thomas Eaton served as its mayor
in 1771 and William and Richard Eaton, father and son, were keepers of
county jail in the early 1800’s.

Elsewhere. There were sizeable Eaton
numbers in Cheshire
and Derbyshire by the time of the 1881 census.
Larger numbers were to be found further north in Lancashire.

Eatons dated from the mid-16th century in Dover,
Kent. Nicholas Eaton was mayor of the
town in 1618. His son John emigrated to
America in 1635.

There were two notable Eaton lines in London in the 19th

  • the
    first began with William Eaton, first recorded as a buckle-maker on
    Addle Street in 1784. His son William
    practiced as a silversmith, one of the most prolific silversmiths in
    country, from 1813 until his death in 1845. But
    he almost fell into deep trouble with the law in a court case at the Guildhall
    in 1822.
  • the
    second, born in 1816, was Henry William Eaton.
    became wealthy as the head of Henry
    William Eaton & Sons, silk brokers with China.
    He was the MP for Coventry and made Baron
    Cheylesmore. His son Herbert was a
    sportsman, Army officer, and Chairman of London County Council.

Ireland. The main Eaton
line here had descent from Theophilus Eaton, the grandson of Richard
Eaton from
Great Budworth in Cheshire. He had
returned from America after his father’s death and moved to Dublin at
the time
of Cromwell’s conquests in the 1650’s.
He secured Powers Court at Goresbridge in Kilkenny.

story goes that his grandson John then lost Powers Court on a game of
cards to
the Loftus family. But he somehow
remained in possession for a period of time while accompanied on all
by two thugs with pike and blunderbuss.”

Timothy Eaton’s family had been in Ulster since 1626.
He was born in 1834 in Ballymena in county
Antrim, the son of Scottish Presbyterian tenant farmers.
His father died when he was only two months
old, his mother died when he was fourteen.
In 1854, at the age of twenty, he followed several of his
siblings and
emigrated to Canada. He was the
progenitor of the Eaton dynasty in Toronto.

America. According
to the Eaton
Family Association
, there were five main
early Eaton lines into New England.

New England. The first to arrive was
Francis Eaton from
Bristol with his family on the Mayflower
in 1620. A
carpenter by trade, he died in 1633 as a result of an epidemic that had
the colony. The report on him by
Governor William Bradford in 1649 ran as follows:

“His first wife died in
the general sickness and he married again and his second wife died. He married a third time and had by her three
children. One of them married and has a child.
The others are living, but one of them is an idiot.
Francis died about sixteen years ago. His
son Samuel, who came over as a sucking
child, also married and has a child.”

Eaton came with his family and two brothers on the Hector
in 1637. Two years
later he helped found the colony of New Haven in Connecticut and was to
as its first governor until his death in 1657.
His epitaph read:

“Eaton so famed, so wise,
so just,

The Phoenix of our world, here lies his dust,
This name forget, New England never must.”

then his eldest son Theophilus had returned to England and settled in

John Eaton from Kent arrived on the Elizabeth and Ann
with his family in
1635 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts six years later.
The line of descent, which numbers many
thousands today, was through his son John.
This was covered in John Eaton Alden’s 1900 book Eaton
Family of Dedham
. A
family reunion by descendants was held at Dedham in 2017.

Jonathan Eaton, who
was born in Dedham in 1681, moved to Windham county, Connecticut in
1701. He was the first permanent settler
of Putnam
village where he built a mill. From
Windham came:

  • Abel
    Eaton who moved to Columbia county in upstate New York in the
    1770’s. His son Amos who co-founded the
    Rensselaer School in 1824 was an inspired educator and botanist who
    the scientific approach to study. Daniel
    Eaton, like his grandfather Amos, was also a botany professor.
  • and
    Eaton who departed for California in 1850 at the time of the Gold Rush. He moved south to Los Angeles and was the
    first settler and founder of the town of Pasadena.
    His son Fred became a major force in Los
    Angeles, serving as city engineer and mayor. A younger Eaton owned a
    ranch in
    the Owens Valley and introduced William Mulholland to the area. This led to the controversial bringing of
    Owens River water to Los Angeles in 1913.

Another John Eaton, possibly from Warwickshire, was first
recorded in
Salisbury, Massachusetts in 1639. His
homestead there, later known as Brookside Farm, remained in family
hands until
the early 1900’s. Other Eatons migrated
to New Hampshire and Maine. Tristram
Eaton of Buxton, Maine died in 1875 at the grand age of ninety-four.

brothers Jonas and William Eaton were likely cousins of John Eaton of
Dedham. They arrived from Kent on the Hercules in 1637 and made their home in
Reading, Massachusetts. A family home,
now known as the Eaton-Prescott House, was built in Reading in the
1750’s. Lilley Eaton, born in 1802, was a
Justice of
the Peace for thirty-eight years and a noted local historian.

Elsewhere. John
Eaton was a Baptist from Radnorshire in north Wales who came with his
wife Joan
and brothers George and Joseph to Philadelphia in 1686.
John and Joan moved to the Welsh tract in New
Castle county, Delaware by 1712. Later
Eatons settled in Rowan county, North Carolina.

William Eaton who died in York
county, Virginia in 1714 appears to have been the progenitor of the
Eatons of
North Carolina and Tennessee. His
grandson Major Pinketham Eaton of Halifax county, North Carolina was
killed in
battle in 1781 during the Revolutionary War.
He left land in Williamson county, Tennessee to his brother

son John Henry Eaton moved to Tennessee in the early 1800’s and became
part of
a network there that supported the political campaigns of Andrew Jackson He was just twenty-eight years old in
when he entered the US Senate, making him the youngest Senator in US
history. He later was Andrew Jackson’s
Secretary of
War until he became embroiled in the “Petticoat affair.

“The Petticoat affair, led by the wife of Vice President
John Calhoun,
socially ostracized John Eaton, the Secretary of War, and his wife
Peggy over disapproval of the circumstances surrounding their
marriage and
what they considered her failure to meet the moral standards of a

. There
were notable Eaton lines in Nova Scotia and Toronto.

Nova Scotia. David Eaton from
Haverhill in Massachusetts
was an early arrival in Nova Scotia in 1760, settling in Cornwallis,
county after the French had departed five years previously. His line was covered in the Rev. Arthur
Eaton’s 1929 book The Eaton Family of
Nova Scotia.

The line through Stephen Eaton, a shipbuilder and farmer in Pugwash,
produced Charles and Cyrus Eaton. Charles
was a clergyman,
journalist, U.S. Congressman and a signatory to the original United
charter. Charles’s
nephew Cyrus prospered as
well in America, emerging in the 1920’s as one of the most powerful
of the American Midwest. Cyrus
and helped organize the first Pugwash conferences on World Peace in

Toronto. Timothy Eaton was the Irish
immigrant who founded Eaton’s department store in Toronto in 1869, one
of the
most important retail businesses in Canada’s history.
He spawned
colossal retail empire that his offspring would expand from coast to
reaching a high point in World War Two when they employed more
than 70,000

The Eaton family of Toronto was
considered like royalty
in Canada. Four generations of the
family were involved in the running of the business.
However, retail decline set in in the 1990’s
and the company went bankrupt in 1999.

Australia and New Zealand. William Eaton was convicted
the theft of a cheddar cheese in London and transported to Australia on
the Admiral Barrington in 1791. Both
he and his son John prospered as farmers
– William in Hawkesbury, NSW and John in Maryborough, Queensland. And both lived to a good old age.
William Eaton died in 1858 at the age of
eighty-nine, John Eaton in 1904
the age of ninety-three.

Edward Eaton, a carpenter, and his wife Emily came to
New Zealand from Kent on the Stag in
1852. They were early settlers in
Masterton near Wellington where the built their home, the Ivy Cottage,
1855. They moved to Dunedin around

Levi Eaton arrived in New Zealand in 1860 on the George
from Pugwash, Nova Scotia. He
had been involved in the building of
wooden ships there, but that business was in decline.
Levi became an auctioneer in Auckland.

Eaton Miscellany

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

Eaton Names

Theophilus Eaton was a Puritan colonial
leader in New England, the co-founder and first governor of the New
colony in Connecticut in the 1640’s.

Timothy Eaton
, an Irish immigrant, founded Eaton’s department store in
Toronto in 1869. It was to thrive as
Canada’s leading
department store for over a hundred years.
Henry Eaton became wealthy in London
in the mid/late 19th century as the head of Henry William Eaton &
silk brokers with China.

Cyrus Eaton
, born in Canada, was one of the most powerful
financiers of the American Midwest from the 1920’s to the 1950’s

Select Eatons Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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