Gale Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Gale Meaning
The most likely explanation for the Gale surname is that
it was a nickname for a cheerful or boisterous person.
The root may have been either the Old English
gal or the Norman name Geil, both of
which had that
meaning.  It has also been suggested that
Gale could have been an occupational name for a jailer, deriving from
French word gaiole. Gayle is a
spelling variant of the name today

Gale Resources on

Gale Ancestry

Early Gale sightings were in Yorkshire and the west

Gales at Scruton in north Yorkshire (in what was then
dated back to around 1500 and possibly earlier.  Oliver Gale of Scruton had two sons who both made their
mark in York –
James as a merchant there and George by trade a goldsmith who was its
mayor in
1534 and again in 1549.

George was the great great grandfather of that noted
antiquarian Thomas Gale, born in Scruton in 1636, who himself had two
antiquarian sons Roger and Samuel.  It was Roger
who built Scruton
Hall which stood from 1705 to 1988.  However,
in 1795 the direct Gale male line died out.

Other Gale lines from Scruton were:

  • John Gale who established the Gale family in
    Jamaica.  He had arrived with the first English colonists in 1655.
  • Miles Gale, another antiquarian whose
    son Christopher was Chief Justice of North Carolina in the early 1700’s.
  • whilst
    later Gale lines in Yorkshire were to be found at Bedale, Whitby and

The Gales of Whitehaven in Cumbria were possibly related
as they shared similar coats of arms.  From Robert Gale came his
grandson John Gale who grew
up in Whitehaven where
he was employed as Sir
John Lowther’s steward from 1677 to 1707.
In this capacity he did tobacco business with Lawrence
Washington in
Virginia.  He was the father of Colonel
George Gale who settled in Maryland

West Country
.  The west country Gales have been more
numerous and remain more numerous.  The
first appearances seem to have been in south Devon.

William Gale, according to
the Visitations of Devon, was living in
Dartmouth in the mid/late 1400’s.  His
descendant John Gale, born in Crediton in 1516, was a Devon MP in the
1540’s.  The Devon origins of Theophilus Gale are
uncertain.  He became vicar at
Kingsteignton in 1620 and married Bridget Walrond as his second wife
two years
later.  His church had the following
dedication to them.

lieth Theophilus Gale, doctor of divinity and vicar of Kingsteignton,
Bridget his wife who both departed this life in the month of May 1639.”

son, born in 1628, was the famous Puritan theologian Theophilus Gale

The Gale surname subsequently spread eastward to
Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. 

Gales were recorded in the Wiltshire village of Lacock
from the late 1500’s.  They were
carpenters in the 19th century.   John
Gale built the camera obscura for Fox Talbot’s research into
photography in the
1840’s.  Another Wiltshire family, based
in Cliffe Pypard, began with the birth of Richard Gale in 1603.

The main base
for the Gales in Dorset seems to have been the village of Powerstock.  The first Gale marriages appeared there in
1657.  John Gale was recorded in 1757 and
later Gales held Knapp farm.  From
Powerstock the name looks to have spread to Loders and Bridport.  Some were involved in the rope industry in
Bridport in the 19th century and moved to Poole when the rope industry
moved to

Richard Gale who married Hannah Brown at Catherington church in
Hampshire in
1759 was the forebear of the George Gale who established his brewery at
Horndean nearby in 1847.

“Gales Brewery took its water from its own well situated
under the
brewery which was fed from the South Downs.
The yeast and local water, coupled with the local brewing style,
beers with a sparse head, quite dark in colour.”

Gales remained independent until its sale to
Fuller’s Brewery in 2005.

Isle of Man.  Gale can also be a Manx name.  It
has Irish roots here, from the Gaelic giolla meaning
“servant,” which could become Gale or Gell or Gill.
The Gale name has cropped up at Malew and

Ireland.  The Ashfield Gales of
Killabban parish in
Queens county (now Laios) supposedly began with Colonel Oliver Gale who
said to have come to Ireland at the time of Henry VIII.

But it was Anthony Gale,
more than a century later, who was the first holder of the Ashfield
estate at
the time of the Cromwellian confiscations.
A later Anthony Gale was the father of two Gales in America –
Anthony and
his younger brother Malachi – and of the Galway mayor Parnell Gale.  The Gales remained at Ashfield until 1851 when
the family was impoverished by the potato famine.

America.  Richard Gale, sometimes called Gael, arrived in
Massachusetts around the year 1640 and was one of the founders of the
town of
Watertown.  The line from his son Abraham
led to:

  • Jonathan Gale of Weston, a
    soldier in the Revolutionary War.  His
    grandson the Rev. Amory Gale was a Congregational minister at Norton in
  • and the Rev. Nahum Gale, minister
    at Westborough in the early 1800’s and his son Monroe, a
    foreman at the New York Times.

Some of the family
moved to Vermont after the Revolutionary War.
George Gale, born there in 1816, was a pioneer settler, judge,
legislator in Wisconsin

Colonel George Gale from Whitehaven,
active in the trade of Virginian tobacco, had married George
grandmother, the widow Mildred Washington, in 1700.
Although she died of typhoid the
following year, he did cross to America and started his Tusculum
plantation in Kent county, Maryland.  His
descendants George and son Levin Gale were Maryland Congressmen

The line from Christopher Gale, the Chief Justice of
North Carolina in 1703, became Gayle later in the century and led to
Gayle, the Governor of Alabama from 1831 to 1835.  His
home in Greensboro, Alabama still stands

Irish.  Anthony Gale of the Ashfield Gales arrived in 1798 and applied for
joined the US Marine Corps.  He was
briefly in 1820 its Commandant before being dismissed.

George Gale had been a captain of the
Dragoons and came to America in 1799.  He
moved around a lot with his family – first to Baltimore, then to
Virginia and
the Ohio River Valley, and finally to Missouri in 1840.
He left behind in Washington county,
Ohio a remarkable succession of Gale doctors – his son George
Washington, his
grandson George Thomas, and his great grandson George Hays Gale.

Major John Gale who arrived in 1655 was the
forebear of the Gale plantation-owning family of St. Elizabeth
parish.  Gale’s Valley sugar estate in
Trelawney appeared around the year 1800.
The Gayle spelling is also to be found in Jamaica, as with the
Chris Gayle.

Canada.  John and Mary Gale were married at Bridport in Dorset in
1768 and later settled in western Newfoundland.  They are believed
to be the ancestors of the Gales of Codroy and White Bay.

There were two notable Gale arrivals in Australia from the west country
in the year 1853:

  • John Gale from
    Cornwall came on the American Lass initially
    as a Methodist missionary.  He settled at
    Queanbeyan, NSW and was there
    at various times a
    clergyman, printer,
    journalist and MP.  He was also known for
    promoting Canberra as the new federal capital.  He
    died in 1929 at the grand age of ninety eight.
  • while a Gale family from Hampshire came
    to Tasmania
    where they were farmers.  Their
    descendants held a family reunion in 1976.

Another Gale departed Australia that year.
Henry Gale had come out from Wiltshire in
1834 as a young sixteen year old in search of opportunity.
But in 1852 he and his family were baptized
into the Mormon faith and the following year they departed on the Envelop for California and from there onward to Salt
Lake valley


Gale Miscellany

Roger Gale, Father and Son in Scruton.  Roger Gale, a
nationally-known antiquarian, was the MP for Northallerton from 1706 to 1713
and was Scruton’s first historian.  He
was buried in Scruton churchyard, but left instructions that there
was to be
no stone to mark the place.

In 1745 there
was a threat of strife in Scruton as Bonny Prince Charlie marched south
Scotland.  Local defence associations
were formed all over Yorkshire and Squire Roger Henry Gale, a
ne’er-do-well son
of the famous Roger, fled rather precipitately with his family to
Stamford.  In fact he was probably in more
danger at
Stamford than he would have been at Scruton for the Pretender came down
west coast route and never touched Yorkshire.

Prince Charlie found that his expected Catholic support never
and he retreated in disarray.  Poor Roger
Henry ran into trouble of another sort on his way back to Scruton.  Due to floods and bad roads, the 125 mile
journey lasted five days!

John Gale of Whitehaven.  David Hainsworth in his
1983 book The Correspondence of Sir John
described John Gale as follows:

“John Gale was a substantial
merchant, a bigoted Anglican, and very hostile to Whitehaven dissenters
included among their number his mother and youngest brother.”

Elisha Gale was
the youngest brother of John Gale.  He shared his brother’s
trades, being a
merchant marine and a ship owner, but differed in matters of faith by
preferring nonconformity.  Hainsworth noted that Elisha Gale’s
vessel The Crown carried Irish troops to France
after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. 

George Gale, A London Character.  George Gale was born about 1797. He was originally an
actor in small parts in London minor theatres.
In 1831 he went to America and claimed to
have played Mazeppa for two hundred nights (probably an
exaggeration) at
the Bowery Theater in New York.  He
afterwards traveled in the west and joined a tribe of native Americans.  He brought six of them with their chief to
London and was scarcely distinguishable from his companions. They were
exhibited at the Victoria Theatre until their popularity declined.

George Gale was able to procure an appointment as coast blockade
inspector in
the north of Ireland.  On the strength of this appointment, which
he held for
seven years, he assumed the title of lieutenant.

Tiring of this he made an unsuccessful
attempt to return to the London stage and then took to
ballooning.  He had a
balloon manufactured at the old Montpelier Gardens in Walworth and
his first ascent successfully from the Rosemary
tavern at Peckham in 1848.

He made many ascents, the 114th of which
was from the hippodrome of Vincennes in Bordeaux in 1850.
He was seated on the back of a pony suspended
from the car.  When the pony had been
released from its slings, the peasants holding the balloon ropes, not
understanding his directions, relaxed their hold and Gale was carried
up by the
only partially exhausted machine.  The car overturned but he clung
to the
tackling for a time and then was borne out of sight.  Next morning
his body was
found in a wood several miles away.

Gale was a man of much courage and very
sanguine.  For some time after his death
his widow, who had frequently made ascents in his company, continued to
gain a
livelihood by ballooning.

Anthony Gale and the US Marine Corps.  When President John Adams authorized the formation of
the US Marine Corps in 1798, Anthony Gale – then just eighteen – was among the first to apply.   He was to thrive as a
seagoing officer.  In quick succession he
directed his marine detachment in forays against the Barbary pirates
and the

However, the other side of his personality also showed
itself.  When Allan MacKensie relieved one
of Gale’s
Marine sentries and placed him in irons, Gale’s Irish temper exploded.  Gale reportedly called MacKensie a rascal and
struck him across the face. The hapless Navy officer accepted a duel,
sealing his fate.  Gale killed MacKensie
in the duel.

1815, while commanding at Philadelphia, he fell out with
Franklin Wharton over the construction of barracks. Wharton had been accused of overspending on
the project, and he in turn charged Gale with building extravagant
quarters. Gale asserted that he had been given no specific plans and
Wharton had known what was being done. A court of inquiry cleared Gale
of wrongdoing,
but he was banished to a less desirable post in New Orleans where he
nursed a feeling of persecution and began to drink heavily.

Given this history, it was
somewhat surprising that he was elevated to be the fourth Commandant of
Marine Corps in 1819.  However, he was
removed from this office less than a year later after a court martial
“for conduct
unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
It was said that his antics were such an embarrassment to the
Corps that for years his name was seldom mentioned.
He departed from the pages of history.

In 1966
the Marine Corps initiated an investigation into what had happened to
after he was dismissed in 1820. They
suspected the small hills of south-central Kentucky where Gale lived
out his
final years.  But they were unsuccessful
in finding his burial site.

The Gale Doctors of Newport, Washington County.  A remarkable record of service in one profession
was accorded by the Gale family of Washington county, Ohio.  Three successive generations of the Gales
practiced medicine along the Ohio River, both in Ohio and West
Virginia, their
services extending for over a century.
The middle generation was represented by Dr. George Thomas Gale
Newport, Washington county.  Doctor Gale
practiced medicine where he was born in 1851 and where his father
began his career as a physician back in 1823.

Doctor Gale had the distinction of
being the grandson of an English dragoon of Irish birth who had come to
America prior to the American Revolution. He evidently was an
admirer of the great leader of the Revolutionary War as he named one of
his sons
George Washington Gale. In 1820 the Gale family moved over the
Alleghany mountains
to Raven Rock in what is now West Virginia, just six miles above the
location of Newport, Ohio.

Washington Gale, the pioneer of the family in the medical profession,
was born
on the Potomac river in Hampshire county, now West Virginia, in 1798.
started medicine in Baltimore under the famous physician, Dr. Nathan R.
Smith.  While his home was over the river
in West
Virginia, his practice from the first extended to the country on the
Ohio side,
including what is now Newport in Washington county.
Finally in 1840 he moved to that town and
lived there until his death in 1876.

was a fine type of the old country physician and surgeon, a man of
physique and great endurance with the utmost devotion to duty. His
extended up and down both sides of the river for a distance of forty
extending will back into the hills.  His
trips frequently took him away from home for days at a time, and he
back and forth over the Ohio river in canoes, swimming his horse
behind. In
spite of the exposure and hardships of such an occupation he reached
the good
old age of seventy-nine. He was a Democrat in politics; the family was

The Gale Family in Tasmania.  Aaron and Elizabeth Gale with their four adolescent
children arrived in Tasmania from Hampshire on the Coromandel in
1853. In 1856 they were living at Stanley and, three years later, Aaron
was the
first settler to take up land on the Cam Road in Elliott.
Descendants of his eldest son James still
farm in this area.

Another son Henry farmed near Montagu.  Six
of his children were early settlers at
Marrawah.  One son Alfred built the first
herring-bone milking shed in Tasmania, as well as a cheese factory.

About 2,000
descendants attended a family reunion in 1976.
In 1987 Delma Carne wrote a history of the family entitled 1853: The Gales Blow In.


Gale Names

  • Theophilus Gale was a 17th century English
    Puritan theologian.   
  • John Gayle was the Governor of Alabama from 1831
    to 1835. 
  • Joseph Gale was a fur trapper and pioneer settler in Oregon in the 1830’s.
  • George Gale founded Gales
    Brewery in Horndean, Hampshire in 1847.

Select Gale Numbers Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Gale and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.





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