Emerson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Emerson Meaning
Emerson is a patronymic name from the northeast of England. The
root could be Emery – from
the German personal
name Emaurri introduced into
England by the Normans; or from the
Anglo-Saxon Emars sunu,
meaning “son of Emar” or “son of Ethelmar;” or from Haimericus, comprised of haim meaning “home” and rik meaning “rule,” which was
the basis of the Gascon name Aimeric (in Italian Amerigo).
Early Emerys are found throughout England, early Emersons mainly in
Durham.  Emmerson is an alternative spelling of the name.
Select Emerson Resources on The Internet

Emerson Ancestry

The Emerson name is thought to have originated in Durham and with
the archdeacon of Durham in the early 13th century. This
may explain the subsequent Emerson association with the bishopric of
Durham. The first tracked family began with Ralf Emerson, born
around 1500 in Foxton in the bishopric of Durham.

At Hurworth near Darlington in Durham there is a monument to the rather
eccentric mathematician William Emerson. He was a
native of this village and was buried in its churchyard. In the
17th century there
were a number of Emerson “merchant adventurers” in Newcastle, notably
Emerson of the Eastgate Emersons. There
were also Emersons recorded as foresters at Stanhope in Weardale at
time. Their numbers increased sharply in
the 18th century with the lead mining at

the 19th century, the geographic
location of the Emerson name
was in a line stretching south

from Durham to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. One
Emerson family in Lincolnshire traces back to the village of Searby
in the early 1500’s. A genealogical survey was undertaken by the
writer and photographer Peter Henry Emerson in his 1898 book The English Emersons.

William Emerson from Bedfordshire was an early
English settler in Ireland, arriving at Carofin in county Clare in the
1630’s. Two centuries
later his descendants, Catholic, made their home at Clifden on the
coast in Galway. Tom Emerson was a house builder, as was his son
Geoffrey. His family ran the Ivy Hotel there for many

America. Robert Emerson came to America from Lincolnshire
with his brother Michael and sister Elizabeth in the 1650’s. They
settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. One branch of these Emersons
migrated to
in the 1760’s, but didn’t stay. Later Emersons
of this family moved to upstate New
York and to points further west.

Thomas Emerson
from Durham was the
first Emerson ancestor in America of the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.
arrived in 1636 and settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
These Emersons were all church ministers
dating back to that time. Ralph’s father William was a
Unitarian minister, pastor to Boston First Church. Ralph himself became
known as a controversial thinker in the late 1830’s as he began to
Transcendentalism. Benjamin Emerson’s
1900 book The Ipswich Emersons
recorded the family history

Edwin Emerson, born in New York in 1823, was the patriarch of an
Emerson family which spent much of the 19th century living and
traveling in Europe and Japan. His five sons all eventually
returned to the United States. Edwin was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s
1898 Rough Riders and later a war correspondent; Alfred an archaeology
professor at Cornell University; while Samuel, Harrington and George
involved themselves in banking in Nebraska.

Virginia and the South.
The Emerson spelling varied somewhat in the South. The 1790
Virginia census gave the following names of heads of families: John
Emmerson of
Pittsylvania; Richard Emmerson of Fairfax; Arther Emerson of Nansemond;
and Henry Emberson of Albemarle.

James Emerson, a Regulator in North Carolina, was captured by the
British but escaped hanging in 1771 (a descendant John Hudson Emerson
still lives in the area where he was taken). George Emerson – his
name was spelt variously – migrated south from Virginia through
Tennessee into Alabama in the 1820’s. Other branches of the
family ended up in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Australia. John Henry
Emerson from Lancashire was a sergeant at the Woolwich barracks when he
absconded with army money in 1821 – for which he was tried and
sentenced to 14 years’ transportation. In Sydney he appeared to
live well. But he was discovered in 1827 to have been part of a
money forgery ring. This time the sentence was death, although
later commuted to life imprisonment. His life ended in Sydney in
1852 in some degree of respectability, leaving behind a wife and four


Emerson Miscellany

From Aimeric to Emerson.  Philip of Poitou accompanied King Richard I as his clerk to the Holy Land on the
Crusade and, through this relationship, was appointed Archdeacon of
Canterbury.  He was also successful in
a license to operate a mint in Durham and in installing his nephew
Aimeric de
Taillebois as Archdeacon of Durham.

This Aimeric left issue, said to be a son (Richard fil
Emerie) and two grandsons (Emerie fil Emerie), and is thought to have
been the
forebear of the Emersons in England.  This descent
is believed to explain the long connection of the Emersons with the
Bishopric of Durham, especially as parkers, foresters, and gatekeepers
of the park belonging to the Bishopric.

Henry Emerson in his 1898
book The English Emersons concluded
the following about the Emerson origins:

Durham we find several Emerysons before 1400
and they increase
rapidly between 1400 and 1500 and more rapidly still
– with
the singular exception of two Yorkshire Emersons –
find no Emerysons (Emersons) in any other
county in England until after 1500.  We
fairly suppose that the Emerysons originated in county
and may
suppose they are all descended from Aimeric, Archdeacon of Durham, the
only one of the name of whom we have any early record in Durham.”

Emersons in the 1881 English Census

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Durham     402    22
Lincolnshire     211    12
London     237    14
Elsewhere     950    52
Total   1,800

The Emerson
name appeared in clusters in this census.
Stanhope in Durham accounted for almost half of the Durham
Emersons; and
Louth in Lincolnshire more than a quarter of the Lincolnshire Emersons.

Emersons in Stanhope, Durham.  Emerson was
the fourth most common surname in Stanhope in the 1881 census and
accounted for
almost half of all the Emersons in Durham.

in Weardale was an area for lead mining.  Its
population increased in the 18th century
as new technology enabled deeper mines to be sunk.
pay was poor and families usually needed to supplement their income by
small holdings on the hillside.  Fathers
and sons would work at the mine while mothers and daughters tended to
the animals.

Emerson family of lead miners in Stanhope
dates from the 1740’s.  Thomas Emerson, a
miner, died there in 1818 at the age of seventy eight.
The 1851 census showed the family of Thomas
Emerson, lead miner, and his family at Pudding Thorn in Stanhope.

Thomas Emerson, Forebear to Ralph Waldo.  Thomas Emerson was born at Bishops Stortford in Durham in 1584.  Tradition
has it that he came with his wife
and children on the Elizabeth Ann in
1635.  In 1638 he was in Ipswich,
Massachusetts where he received a deed of 120 acres from Samuel
Greenfield, a
weaver.  This was the basis of the Turkey
Shore farm which was to remain in the family for generations.  Thomas himself died in 1666 and left a very
considerable estate to his family.

line ran from Thomas’s son Joseph, a Puritan minister who settled in
through five generations of clergymen to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The Emersons Foray into Canada.  In the early 1760’s Theodotia Emerson and four
of his sons left Massachusetts for Nova Scotia to pursue their
dream of
acquiring land.  At that time there was
an attempt to reinforce the colonies of Nova Scotia, probably because
of the
French and Indian Wars, so land grants were being offered.
Some 350 people set off from Massachusetts for
Nova Scotia to clear the land in an effort to take advantage of this

Following the Revolutionary
War, the new settlers of Nova Scotia were asked to pledge allegiance to
King.  The Emersons refused and they were
driven out and their homes burned.  Setting
sail, hidden by the coves at night to avoid pursuit, they managed to

Samuel Emerson and his family landed in Mount
Desert Island across the bay; while Joseph and Benjamin went back to
Bristol county area of Massachusetts and set up their home in Rehoboth.  It is believed that their father Theodotia
had died in Sackville, Nova Scotia, probably around 1780, and was
buried there.

Roy Emerson’s Family Background.  Roy Emerson was an Australian tennis player of the 1960’s, the
holder of twelve Grand Slam singles titles.

His grandfather was originally from Durham in England and had emigrated
to Australia in the late 1800’s.  Roy
himself grew up on his father’s 800 acre dairy farm at Blackbutt in
Queensland.  The
farm had one tennis
court and 160 cows, which Roy milked almost every day.
The family moved to Brisbane in 1951 for no
other reason really than to promote Roy’s tennis ambitions.


Emerson Names

  • William Emerson was an
    18th century English mathematician.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson was the
    American lecturer, essayist and poet who led the Transcendentalist
    movement of the mid-19th century.
  • J.W. Emerson was the American
    lawyer who founded the Emerson Electric Company in 1890.
  • Peter Henry Emerson, born in
    Cuba to an American father, was an accomplished late 19th century
    photographer and writer in England.
  • Roy Emerson was an Australian
    tennis player of the 1960’s, holder of twelve Grand Slam singles titles.
  • Keith Emerson was the founder
    of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the 1980’s, one of the first
    pop band supergroups.

Select Emerson Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Emerson and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.




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