Hemingway Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hemingway Surname Meaning

The Hemingway surname has its origin in a now lost place-name in the West Riding of Yorkshire, possibly in the vicinity of Halifax to judge by the early distribution of the name.  Hemingway combines the Danish personal name Hemming with the Middle English way meaning “way” or “path.” It appeared as a surname in the 1379 Yorkshire poll tax returns. 

Hemingway is the main spelling. Variants have been Hemmingway and Hemenway.

Hemingway Surname Resources on The Internet

Hemingway Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire)
  • to America and New Zealand

England.  Hemingway as a surname seems to have first made its appearance in the vicinity of Southowram and Hipperholme sometime in the 1300’s.  It then spread along the Calder valley between Brighouse and Dewsbury:

  • William de Hemingway appeared in Brighouse court in 1391 for cutting green wood in Brynescoles forest.
  • Robert Hemingway of Overbrear, born in Northowram in 1539, was said to have been a usurer and grown wealthy as a result.
  • John and then Daniel Hemingway resided at Coley Hall until Daniel died there in the 1640’s.
  • while Abraham Hemingway of Southwood House in Northowram married the maid Ann Brefitt in 1703.

An earlier line from Robert Hemingway, born in Northowram in 1460, has been traced to Dewsbury in the mid-16th century and was still there in the late 19th century.

The Hemingway population remained concentrated in this part of west Yorkshire until well into the 19th century. Thomas Hemingway was a blanket manufacturer in Dewsbury in the early 1800’s.  Other Hemingways were masons and contractors in Dewsbury, the best known being John Hemingway who undertook the masonry for the Menai bridge in the 1840’s.  Many of these Hemingways were to be found in the Earlsheaton district of Dewsbury.

Of the 2,150 Hemingways in the 1891 UK census, more than 80% of them were recorded in Yorkshire.

America. The forebear of many of the Hemingways in America was Ralph Hemenway or Hemingway who came to Roxbury, Massachusetts and married Elizabeth Hewes there in 1634. 

Many reports show Ralph as having been born near Bradford in Yorkshire in 1603. However, no such record of his birth nor of his parents exists there.  The descent from Ralph was covered in Patricia Hemingway’s 1988 book The Hemingways. Of his descendants:  

“The first US census taken in 1790 used the Hemenway spelling in Massachusetts and the Hemingway spelling in Connecticut.”  

Massachusetts.  The line via Ralph’s son Joshua was to be found in Framingham, Massachusetts. Jonathan Hemenway was an early settler there in 1700. Jeffrey Hemenway, born around 1738, was an adopted foster child of these Hemenways. Today Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham commemorates the Hemenway name.

Connecticut.  Another son Samuel, a deacon, moved to the New Haven colony of Connecticut in the 1660’s. Many of his Hemingway descendants remained in the area. The Hemingway family was one of the founding families of the Hotchkiss boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1891.

Allen Hemingway, however, moved his family to Chicago in 1854.  Three of his sons fought on the Union side during the Civil War. Anson Hemingway and his son Clarence, a doctor, lived at Oak Park outside Chicago. In 1909 Anson gave his grandson Ernest Hemingway, who was later to become the famous author, a special tenth birthday present of a 20-gauge shotgun. This was believed to have sparked Ernest’s lifelong interest in hunting pursuits.

Hemingways in the South. The largest number of Hemingways today in America is in South Carolina. One forebear here seems to have been Thomas Hemingway who arrived from Aughton in east Yorkshire sometime in the 1790’s. He died in Horry county in 1820.

From that line, it is believed, came J.A. Hemingway, born there in 1812, who became a plantation overseer and later a plantation owner in Williamsburg county. His brother the Rev. W.A. Hemingway served as chaplain to Confederate troops during the Civil War. Three later Hemingway brothers after the war were cotton growers and merchants at Lambert, which was renamed Hemingway after them in 1913.

Other Hemingways moved onto Mississippi. William Hemingway was a judge and mayor of Jackson in the early 1900’s. He was also the athletics director of Mississippi University and his name is commemorated in the Vaught-Hemingway stadium of Ole Miss.

William Hemingway came to South Carolina from Yorkshire in 1829. His family later migrated to Mississippi.

Australia and New Zealand.  Wilfred H. Hemingway, born in 1879, was an Auckland lawyer who co-founded the Hemingway Robertson Institute, a pioneer in correspondence courses. He moved across the Tasman Sea to Sydney in 1920. His daughter Dorothy was a theatrical producer there. His son Bill played rugby for Australia.

Hemingway Surname Miscellany

Hemingway Origins.  Charles Bardsley in his 1901 Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames gave the alternative spellings of Hemingway as Hemmingway, Hemmaway, and Heminway.  He commented on the origin of the name as follows:

“Of Hemingway – i.e. the road that led to Hemming’s house; from Hemming (or Hemingfield, a village near Wombwell in Yorkshire).  Representatives of this name will be met with in nearly every town and village in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  I have not discovered the precise spot.  Two of the individuals referred to above lived in Southowram.”

Richard Hemingway of Overbrear.  In 1613 Robert Hemingway of Overbrear gave forty pounds towards the maintenance of a preacher at Coley Chapel, to be bestowed at the discretion of his executors.

John Hemingway, Stomemason.  John Hemingway was a stonemason by trade.  Born in Dewsbury, he travelled about, working on the various railway engineering works of the time.  He was honored, he said, to work alongside Robert Stephenson on his innovative design and assist in working out such a project.

He lived at Craig Owen by the Menai Bridge with his second wife Sarah and his family. His daughters were married from there. Sadly both his sons died at a young age and thus the Hemingway named died with him.

Through his daughter’s descendants, a portrait of John Hemingway has survived.  After restoration it now hangs as part of the exhibition at Menai Heritage.

Ernest Hemingway and His Descendants.  Ernest Hemingway was married four times but only three children came out of these marriages.

  • Elizabeth Richardson (married in 1921) – John (Jack) Hemingway (1923-2000) who was an avid fly fisherman and a longtime resident of Idaho.
  • Puck Whittlesey; three children resulted from this marriage Joan, Margaux and Mariel (Margaux was a model, Mariel an actress)
  • Pauline Pfeiffer (married in 1927)  – (1) Patrick (born 1928) who farmed in Africa and then lived in Montana  (2) Gregory Hemingway (1931-2001) who later became the transsexual Gloria.

There were eight children resulted from his four marriages.  John and Lorian were writers, Edward a children’s book illustrator, Patrick a professional photographer.

  • Martha Gellhorn (married in 1940) – no children.
  • Mary Welsh (married in 1946) – no children.

A biographer wrote: “Hemingway could never sustain a long-lived, wholly satisfying relationship with any one of his four wives. Married domesticity may have seemed to him the desirable culmination of romantic love, but sooner or later he became bored and restless, critical and bullying.”

He committed suicide in Idaho in 1961.  There were in fact five suicides in the Hemingway family over four generations – Hemingway’s father, Clarence; siblings Ursula and Leicester as well as Ernest himself (and apparently also his third wife Martha); and grand-daughter Margaux.

Reader Feedback – William Earl Hemmingway.  I am a descendant of William Earl Hemmingway Sr. Studying our genealogy I learned that somewhere around the time of my great or great great grandfather’s time we are related to Ernest Hemingway. Also somewhere in my great grandfather’s life the spelling of our line’s name went from Hemingway to Hemmingway. I am just not sure as to when.

I am likely a little over a year younger than Mariel Hemingway.  Growing up once my classmates found out that I was a Hemmingway/ Hemingway.  I kept having the boys ask me to fix them up with Mariel.  Sadly I had to tell them that I didn’t know her.  Ah – to dream the dreams of youth!  Now I would just like to meet her some time and see if we could get along as members of the same family though quite distant.

Douglas Hemmingway (kansasscout0002@gmail.com)

Hemingway, South Carolina.  Hemingway was created from a crossroads community named Lamberts in 1911 by Dr. W. C. Hemingway in an effort to secure a depot for the proposed Seaboard Air Lane Railroad which was to run from Mullins to Andrews. Land owned by Dr. Hemingway was surveyed and the lots auctioned off.  Subsequently the railroad established a Hemingway depot and the post office name was changed to Hemingway.

Hemingway today is a relaxed southern town with a population of 570 and a heritage of cotton and tobacco farming.  It has been called the barbecue capital of the world. 

Hemingway Migration to Mississippi.  William Hemmingway, a plasterer from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, left England on the Majestic for Charleston, South Carolina in 1829.   He settled initially in the Camden area.

By the time of the 1860 census, however, one of the “m”’s had been dropped from their name and they had migrated to Madison county, Mississippi. William and his wife Henrietta raised five children, all daughters.

Hemingway Names

  • Ernest Hemingway was an American author who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.  Many of his works are considered classics of American literature. His fame was accentuated by his virile public image and his love of adventure.

Hemingway Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in South Carolina)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Hemingway and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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