Ives Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Ives Surname Meaning

The Ives surname derived from the Old French name Ive, meaning “yew” or “bow,” and has its modern equivalence in the French Yves. The name was introduced by the Normans into England at the time of the Conquest – although the place-name St. Ives in Cornwall was apparently named after a 5th century Irish female saint.

Ives Surname Resources on The Internet

Ives Surname Ancestry

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

England.  The Ives surname has mainly cropped up on the east coast of England – from Yorkshire in the north down to Essex and London.

An Ives family were prominent merchants in the woollen industry in Norwich in the 18th century. Four Jeremiah Ives were mayors during that time:

  • Jeremiah Ives, the mayor in 1733
  • Jeremiah Ives the elder
  • Jeremiah Ives of St. Clements
  • and Jeremiah Ives of St. George’s Tombland.

The last of these Ives built Catton Hall and died there in 1820, aged sixty six.

Jeremiah Robert Ives bought Bentworth Hall in Hampshire in 1848. After his death, his widow Emma raised their illegitimate grandson George at the house. George, a friend and supporter of Oscar Wilde, became a writer, penal reformer and early gay rights campaigner.

Another Ives family were Norfolk landowners and merchants at Great Yarmouth. John Ives, born there in 1751, was an antiquarian and an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London, although he did not leave a good impression on everyone.  “Mr. Ives possessed a quick and lively fancy, but seems to have been deficient in sound antiquarian learning. He died in 1776 at the early age of 25 years.”

The 1851 census for Norfolk showed 358 Ives individuals living at 130 different addresses. One family account traces an Ives family from Burnham in rural Norfolk who migrated to Lancashire in search of jobs at the cotton mills.

An Ives family owned the New Inn in Ealing in the 17th century where that ran a coaching service to London. Another Ives family were curriers in Cratfield near Halesworth in Suffolk. In 1864 two brothers of this family, Walter and Charles, started the manufacture of boots. Six generations later, John Ives runs the family shoe business in Woodbridge, Suffolk.

America. William Ives left London in 1635 aboard the Truelove bound for New England. In the years that followed, he married Hannah Dickerman and was one of the co-founders of New Haven, Connecticut. William and Hannah had nine children and are considered to be the progenitors of the largest Ives family in America.

The family produced an unusual number of noteworthy descendants. As Arthur Coon Ives put it in his 1932 book Genealogy of the Ives Family:

“A member of our family was the first explorer of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, one is president of a large insurance company, one ranks among America’s best known publishers, one became a member of the Canadian Parliament, one is known for his ability as a railroad builder, one rose from humble circumstances to the office of lieutenant governor, and one – the black sheep – became a famous horse thief and bandit.”

Prominent bearers of the Ives name in Connecticut in the 19th century – not necessarily all are related – include:

  • Chauncey Ives (from New Haven), the neo-classical sculptor.
  • Edward Ives (from Bridgeport), the toymaker. He and his son Harry were the subjects of Louis Hertz’s 1950 biography Messrs. Ives of Bridgeport.
  • Frederick Ives (from Litchfield), a pioneer of color and stereoscopic photography. His son Herbert headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T.
  • Henry Ives (from Litchfield), the so-called “Napoleon of Finance,” a stock manipulator responsible for a brief but spectacular Wall Street scandal in the 1880’s.
  • and Charles Ives (from Danbury), the modernist composer. He was the son of George Ives, a bandleader during the Civil War.

A more recent genealogy has been Dorothy Gilmore’s 1988 book The Migrating Ives and their Descendants.

Canada.  Joel Ives left his home in New Haven, Connecticut with his family for Quebec in the early 1800’s.  His grandson William, a lawyer, entered politics, representing Sherbrooke from 1882 to 1897.

Meanwhile Dr. Elam Ives departed New Haven for Ontario in 1815.  He was said to have been the first saddleback doctor between Kingston and Toronto.  Elam died in 1848 and was buried in Salem cemetery where most of the Ives and early pioneers of Colborne were buried.

Ives Surname Miscellany

Ives in England.  The following was the distribution of the Ives name in the 1891 census.

County 000’s Percent
Yorkshire   0.5   13%
Norfolk   0.3    9%
Suffolk   0.1    3%
Essex   0.3    8%
London   1.0   26%
Elsewhere   1.5   41%
Total   3.7  100%

The Ives at Belton Church in Suffolk.  There are several inscriptions to the family of Ives in Belton church, including:

  • John Ives, of Great Yarmouth, merchant, who died in 1758, aged 74
  • John Ives Esq., who died in 1793, aged 74
  • and Mary, his second wife, who died in 1790, aged 72.

There is also a memorial to John Ives, Esq., Fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and Suffolk Herald Extraordinary.  He was son of John Ives, Esq., who died in 1793, and was extensively known as the author of a work on the Roman Antiquities in the adjoining village of Burgh, entitled Remarks upon the Garianonum of the Romans – the Site and Remains Fixed and Described.  He also published three numbers of Select Papers relating to English Antiquities.

Jeremiah Ives of St. George’s Tombland.  At the beginning of his first mayoralty of Norwich in 1786, there were two ex-mayors of the name of Jeremiah Ives then living. In documents they and he were distinguished thus:

  • Jeremiah Ives the elder (mayor in 1756),
  • Jeremiah Ives of St. Clement’s (mayor in 1769),
  • and Jeremiah Ives of St. George’s Tombland (mayor in 1786 and again in 1801).

In January 1802 he and Mrs. Ives gave an elegant ball to three hundred ladies and gentlemen in honor of the short-lived peace. It was thus described in the Jerningham Letters:

“The mayor’s ball was very splendid as to numbers, the dancing very much crowded in the Tea Room and a cold supper with hot soups in the Great Room, three tables from top to bottom and above 50 people not sitting.  Mrs. Ives’ dame d’honneur sat by her at supper, on the other side sat Miss Drake and by her that handsome fair Quaker Gurney from Earlham.”

Jeremiah Ives built Catton Hall as his home and he died there in 1820, aged sixty-six. There is a memorial to him in St. Margaret’s Church, Old Catton.

William Ives of New Haven.  There is no birth record for William Ives, but the best estimate has him born in Norfolk in 1607.  That would make him 28 when embarked for Boston on the Truelove in 1635, arriving there two years before Davenport and the main party of  New Haven settlers came on the Hector.

In 1639 he was listed in the original New Haven Civil Compact as one of 63 signers of the Fundamental Agreement of Quinnipiac (now New Haven).  William and “Goodwife Ives” had nine children there.  He died in 1648. The inventory at his death included:

“His wearing clothes; one bed furniture to it; one trundle bed with bed & bolster; two cheats; one box; 3 pars of sheets; 2 pars pillow covers; 6 napkins; one board cloth; table; stools & chairs; old brass pot; iron pot; iron kettle; 2 skillets; 1 bake pan; a mortar and pestle; 1 skimmer; 2 ladles, warming pan; pewter; 2 candlesticks; wooden ware; one hower glass; 1 gridiron; 1 pair of bellows; 1 pot; hooks, pair of hangers; frying pan, fire shovel & tongs; cooking ware; musket and sword; bondoleers and sheaf; working tools etc; 2 wheels; 1 sheep and yews; the house home lot and all upland and meadow; 3 cows, 2 oxen, 2 horses, 3 swine.”

Ives Toys.  An obscure New Englander named Riley Ives launched into the metal stamping business in Plymouth with a small shop in the 1850’s. By the time of the Civil War Ives was making buttons for the uniforms of federal troops.  At one point the shop in Plymouth began making what were eventually called hot air toys.  Basically the toys became animated with the steam provided by the family’s hot stove. They also worked with any other source of hot air.

However, the first really innovative product at the Ives operation was the clockwork operated toy locomotive developed by his son Edward.  Early in the 1870’s Ives production was moved to a larger facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  By 1874 the Ives firm had even perfected a moving clockwork locomotive train that whistled.

Edward Ives later built some of the finest clockwork toys on the market.  In 1901, Ives made mechanical trains that ran on tracks.  The trains became very popular and by 1907 Ives opened a factory on Holland Street in the city’s West End.  The slogan of the company became “Ives Toys Make Happy Boys.”  This became the popular slogan found in all of their catalogues.

However, the toys became less popular later on and Ives Toys filed for bankruptcy in 1929.

Henry Ives, from Hero to Zero.  According to the New York Times in 1894:

“Henry Ives’s career as a financier was rapid, brief and bewildering in its reckless daring.

Rising suddenly from obscurity to the ranks of the millionaires, he for a short time posed as one of Wall Street’s most noted men.  His audacity and nerve, aided by the temporary success of some of his railroad schemes, invested him for a while with a degree of importance that completely overshadowed the ordinary conservative capitalist of that day.

Experienced bank and railroad presidents were commonplace individuals as compared with this youngest of all ‘the Napoleons of Finance.’”

During his time at the top, Ives was a liberal spender of money and enjoyed all the luxuries of a multi-millionaire, including a large mansion in Brooklyn and an $80,000 yacht.

However, he overreached himself in his railroad stock acquisition schemes.  In early 1889 he was arrested and indicted on the criminal charge of the over-issuing of stock.  Ives was subsequently convicted and he served out his term in Sing Sing prison. When he was released in the summer of 1893 he was but a shadow of his former self.

Ives Names

  • James Ives co-founded with Nathaniel Currier the American printmaking firm of Currier & Ives in 1857.
  • Charles Ives was an American modernist composer, widely regarded as one of the first American composers of international renown.
  • Burl Ives was a well-known American folk-singer, writer, and actor.
  • Jony Ive has been the Chief Design Officer of Apple, producing such products as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Ives Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Ives and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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