Jackson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Jackson Surname Meaning

Jack is believed to have derived from Janken, a pet-form of Jan or John.   Jankin shortened to Jacken and thence to Jack, a process that was completed by the beginning of 14th century.

Jack also came to be used as a synonym for man or boy, a usage that has continued to the present day – “I’m all right, Jack” being a popular catch phrase in England in the 1960’s.

Jackson is the patronymic name, meaning “son of Jack.”

Jackson Surname Resources on The Internet

Jackson Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire and Lancashire)
  • to America (incl. African Americans), Caribs (Barbados), Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England.  Adam Jackesonne and Adam Jakson appeared in the Staffordshire rolls of the 14th century.  But the name really developed as a surname further north in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Yorkshire.  The Eske hamlet in the East Ridings of Yorkshire was the ancestral home of a Jackson family which began with Richard Jackson in the early 1500’s.  Later generations were first Royalist sympathizers and then Cromwell supporters who were granted land in Ireland.

Descendants there were persecuted for their Quaker beliefs so Isaac Jackson removed his family in 1687 to the new Quaker settlement in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Isaac was a collateral relation to US President Andrew Jackson and, in a subsequent generation, to the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson.

Other Jacksons from Yorkshire were:

  • the Jacksons from the early 1600’s at Normanby Hall in Eston.  Robert Ward Jackson of this family was the man who built the town of West Hartlepool in the early 19th century.
  • then there were the naval Jacksons from north Yorkshire.  The journals of Ralph Jackson gave a unique insight into life in Cleveland in the 18th century.
  • and W.L. Jackson, who started off in the leather business in Leeds, rose to be a Cabinet minister in Lord Salisbury’s government.  His son, Stanley Jackson, became the beau ideal of the Edwardian cricketer.  He captained England against Australia in the 1905 Test series and headed both the batting and bowling averages.

One recent Jackson has had a less orthodox pedigree.  Michael Jackson, a beer champion in his writings, was born in Wetherby, Yorkshire.  But his background was Jewish Lithuanian.  His immigrant father Isaac Jakowitz had anglicized his name to Jack Jackson.

Lancashire.  Jackson is also a common name in Lancashire.  A Jackson family at Worsthorne near Burnley dates from the mid 1500’s.  They had 19th century descendants who emigrated to America.

Other early Jacksons came from Gorsey Bow near Wigan.

Three Quaker Jackson brothers arrived in the Calder valley in the 1830’s and built the Calder Vale cotton mill there.  Their Quaker Meeting House at Garstang still stands.

Ireland.  The Jackson name in Ireland was an English implant.  One story relates to Jacksons from Northamptonshire during Elizabeth’s reign who had been granted land in county Carlow.

Four Jacksons were said to have received land settlements on the heels of Cromwell’s victories in 1642:

  • Abraham Jackson, a cleric who had invested £300.
  • Alexander Jackson, a goldsmith from London who put up £100.
  • Joseph Jackson, who put up £100.
  • and Thomas Jackson, a pewterer from London who also put up £100.

These Jacksons were Protestant and, in some later cases, Quaker.

US President Jackson’s parents left Carrickfergus for America in 1765.  Later Jacksons were emigrants to Canada and Australia, as well as crossing the Irish Sea to England.

America.  Early Jacksons came to New England.

New England.  Robert Jackson had arrived in Massachusetts with his father in 1630 from Yarmouth in Norfolk.

“Tradition has it that Robert Jackson came to Watertown, Mass to Wethersfield and thence to Hartford, Connecticut, and finally to Hempstead which was perhaps the first English settlement in the western part of Long Island.”

His descendants have spread to all corners of the United States.

Other early Jacksons were to be found in Newton, Massachusetts.  Their original house there was built about 1670.  According to Francis Jackson’s History of Newton in 1854, this house “stood on the same spot now occupied by the mansion of William Jackson, a cold water man who has continued to draw from the old well which has served seven generations.”  The forebears of these Jacksons were two brothers, John and Edward, who had arrived from London in 1639 and 1642.

Two Famous Jacksons.  The seventh American President Andrew Jackson and the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson can both trace their lineage back to a Yorkshire Jackson family.  And both had an American frontier upbringing of their time.

Andrew Jackson’s father had come to South Carolina from Ireland in 1765.  Jackson’s formative years came during the Revolutionary War when he was captured by the British and lost his family.  Later, he began to practice law and soon was prospering in the rough-and-tumble world of frontier law.  Jackson was US President from 1829 to 1837.

Stonewall Jackson was descended from John Jackson, the son of a wealthy London merchant, and Elizabeth Cummins.  They had immigrated from England in 1749 and originally settled in Maryland.  Shortly after the birth of their first child, the Jackson brigade crossed the Alleghany mountains to become pioneer settlers in what is now NW West Virginia.  Elizabeth died in Clarksburg, West Virginia in 1825. having lived onto the ripe old age of ninety six.

Heading West.  Trapper Davy Jackson from West Virginia was one of the first Americans to head into the West.  Jackson Hole, his area for fur trapping in Wyoming, was named after him.  Two relatives John B. and Ulysses Jackson, sons of Henry Jackson, followed his overland trail in the 1840’s to settle in what was then Oregon country.

In 1871, William Henry Jackson took the first photographs of Yellowstone which encouraged the Government to create a national park there (even before Wyoming had been brought in as a state).

Jacksons in the South.  James Jackson, who had arrived in Savannah from England in the 1770’s, became a force in local Georgia politics and created something of a family political dynasty in the state.  Meanwhile other Jacksons were moving south in the early 19th century, many of them to start up plantations.

President Jackson’s own plantation was the Hermitage, near Nashville in Tennessee.  Other Jackson planters were:

  • James and Temperance Jackson who started their Jackson plantation in Autauga county, Alabama in 1818
  • there was another Jackson family which operated a smaller plantation in Georgia near Augusta.

in 1840 Virginia planter Abner Jackson brought his family and slaves to Brazona county in Texas where he started his sugar plantation at what is now called Lake Jackson.  Following Abner’s death in 1861, his two sons took over the running of the plantation.  However, the two sons fought.  George ended up decapitating John and throwing his head into the lake   As the plantation declined after the Civil War, the area became a black community.

African Americans.  There are African American Jackson accounts of the slave era in Virginia, the handed-down letters of Lethe Jackson in Abingdon and George Jackson’s slave narrative from Loudon County.

John Andrew Jackson, born a slave in South Carolina, fled north to Boston in 1846.  The book he later wrote, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina, recounted the suffering of his slave life.

Another Jackson story is equally uplifting.  Louise Jackson, born to a slave family in Mississippi, made it to college in Berkeley, California and became the first certified African American teacher of that state in the 1920’s.  Meanwhile Israel Jackson, born a slave in Amite county, Missouri, died there in 1934 at the age of ninety-six.

Jackson has become a prominent African American name.  Indeed latest census data estimates show that there are more black than white Jacksons in America today.

Leading Jacksons of today include: Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader; Frank Jackson, the mayor of Cleveland; Samuel L. Jackson, the actor; and Michael Jackson, the singer.

Caribbean.  John Jackson was an early settler in Barbados in the 1650’s.  Another John Jackson came to Jamaica in the 1770’s.  He married Elizabeth Witter and their descendants were prominent in the life of the colony during the 19th century.  Some of these Witter Jacksons had mixed race partners.

Canada.  John Jackson was first chaplain to the English garrison in Newfoundland in 1697.  The next Jackson arrivals into Canada were Empire Loyalists, such as James Jackson the Methodist minister.  He had crossed the border into Upper Canada with his father following the War of 1812.

A number of Jacksons came to Canada from Ireland:

  • three Jackson brothers, James, Launcelot, and Thomas, had set off from the Wexford region and settled in Lanark, Ontario (their father John had been killed in the Irish uprising twenty years earlier).
  • other Jacksons, from Monaghan and Kilkenny counties, arrived in the 1840’s.  A descendant, Samuel Jackson, set off to homestead in what was then the NW Territories in the 1870’s.

Australia.  John and Mary Jackson came to Melbourne from Liverpool with their four children on the Prince Arthur in 1853.  John ran a pub named General Jackson in the Fitzroy section of Melbourne, but he died in 1864 at the age of forty-eight.  Over time, however, his descendants multiplied in Victoria and they would congregate in the Melbourne suburb of Seaford for family picnics.

New Zealand.   The present Jackson winery estate in Marlborough dates back to 1855 when Adam Jackson first acquired land there.  He had arrived in New Zealand from Surrey in 1842.

A family story goes that there was a well born Scottish lady who was sent out to New Zealand with her husband Michael Jackson.  This man was chosen for her by her father in order to get her away from an undesirable romantic attachment with a Catholic man.

The settlement of Jacksons in the Westland district of South Island was in fact named after a Scotsman named Michael Jackson who had moved there in 1870 after spending time at the Otago goldfields.  Its hotel remained in Jackson hands until 1970.

Jackson Surname Miscellany

Eske and the Jacksons.  Eske is a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, about three miles northeast of Beverley.  It was the ancestral home of the Jackson family, starting with Richard Jackson in the first half of the 16th century.

From this family came Sir Richard Jackson, who saw service for James I, and Anthony Jackson, born in Eccleston near Chorley in Lancashire, who took the side of Cromwell during the Civil War and was rewarded with land in Ireland.  His descendants became Quakers.  Ephraim Jackson, born around 1658, set off for America (Delaware Co, Pennsylvania) in 1687.

Meanwhile, John Jackson had moved from Eccleston to London where he became a wealthy merchant.  His son John went to visit his uncles in Ireland and then crossed the Atlantic to New Jersey.

Ralph Jackson and His Diary.  Ralph was one of nine children born to George and Hannah Jackson of Richmond in North Yorkshire.  In 1749, aged thirteen, he was sent north to start a seven year apprenticeship with a merchant in Newcastle.

He then returned to North Yorkshire where he subsequently inherited his uncle’s property and business interests.  In the following years Ralph matured to become an integral part of Cleveland’s community and to fulfil the various roles incumbent upon a member of the landed gentry.  

Jackson was a contemporary and near neighbor of the explorer James Cook.  He never achieved anything comparable to Cook’s discoveries.  But he has received some renown because of the meticulous diary which he kept throughout his life.  His hand-made journals, written in a neat copper-plate style, provide a unique insight into life in Cleveland in the 18th century.  The diary describes his personal interests, business dealings, and social contacts with people throughout the region.

John Jackson and Elizabeth Cummins.  Most researchers agree that John Jackson was born in Ireland, near Coleraine in county Derry.  Some accounts claim that he was born in 1715, others as late as 1719.

All agree, however, that his mother died when he was very young and that he later moved, with his father and two brothers, to London.  At the age of 10, we are told, John was fortunate to be apprenticed into the builder’s trade.  In 1748 he contracted to build a house for as landowner in Maryland and sailed for America.

The tales surrounding Elizabeth’s immigration are somewhat more complex.  Most family histories state that Elizabeth was born in London in 1723.  Her own account, as recounted by her grandson, was that she was born in 1729.  This latter date would seem the more likely in that her last child was born in 1774.  It would mean, however, that she did not live past the age of 100.

According to early biographers, Elizabeth’s father owned land in Ireland and was the proprietor of a public house in London known as The Bold Dragoon.  Soma accounts say that her father died and Elizabeth’s mother married her own brother-in-law.   Others state that Elizabeth’s mother died and her father later married a woman that Elizabeth despised.  Whichever the case, Elizabeth is then said to have lost her temper, thrown a silver tankard at her step-parent, and fled to America.

John and Elizabeth are buried in the Jackson cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.  John is described there as an “Indian fighter and Revolutionary soldier.”  He lived to be 85.  Elizabeth has a marker indicating that she lived to be 105.  But this is unlikely to be the case.

Andrew Jackson’s Early Years.  His parents Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson were poor Protestant farmers who left their home in Boneybefore near Carrickfergus in county Antrim for the Carolinas two years before Andrew, their youngest son, was born in 1767.

His father died during his formative years and Andrew was brought up extremely poor. When Andrew was thirteen during the American Revolution, the British imprisoned him for running messages to the rebel army. When he refused to clean a British officer’s boots, the officer struck him with a sword, scarring him for life.

In the War of 1812 against the British, he was chosen to lead the American defense of New Orleans.  Despite being up against 10,000 professionals, he declared victory with just 4,000 troops at his disposal. This made him a national hero, creating a path to the Presidency in 1828.

The Jackson Sugar Plantation in Texas.  Abner Jackson came from Virginia in 1840 with his wife, children, and slaves to start a plantation in Brazona County, Texas.  First called the Lake Place, it later came to be known as the Lake Jackson plantation.

By all accounts, the plantation was an elegant complex, with a columned colonial-style main house, brick outhouses, ornamental gardens, and a state-of-the-art sugar mill.  The following was a description made by a descendant, Abner Jackson Strobel, in 1926.

“The residence was a two storey house in the shape of an “I,” with six galleries and immense brick pillars the length of the galleries.  Its cost, exclusive of slave labor, was some $25,000.  The sugar house was made of brick and the best of machinery for the making of sugar was obtained.  There was an artificial island in the lake said to have cost $10,000.  Fine orchards and gardens were on the plantations.”  

By 1850, the Lake Jackson plantation had grown to 3,744 acres. Prosperity and abundance ruled for a brief period.  In 1860 census takers listed Abner Jackson as owning 285 slaves, making him the second largest slaveowner in the state.

But death and the Civil War brought an end to the Jackson family fortunes.  Abner’s two sons fought over their inheritance. In 1867 George killed his brother John during a confrontation at the plantation.

The Experience of A Slave in South Carolina.  John Andrew Jackson was born a slave on a plantation in Sumter County, South Carolina.  His mother was named Betty, and his father was known as ‘Dr. Claven’ for his practice of folk medicine in the slave community.  Jackson, a field hand, was owned by a Quaker family and was harshly treated.  When he was separated by sale from his wife and child in 1846, he fled slavery.

Jackson worked briefly as a Charleston dockhand and then stowed away on a vessel bound for Boston.  He settled in Salem, Massachusetts and worked as leather tanner and part-time sawmill operative.  But passage of the Fugitive Slave Law awoke his fear of being returned to slavery, and, assisted by Harriet Beecher Stowe, he left Salem for Canada.

Jackson settled in St. Johns, New Brunswick, married a former slave from North Carolina, and worked as a whitewasher. In the spring of 1856, still seeking to purchase family members in slavery and hoping to add to the funds he had already saved for that purpose, Jackson returned to Boston to obtain personal references from Stowe and a number of Boston businessmen.

In the spring of 1857, he journeyed to Britain with his wife to solicit contributions.  He lectured in Scotland and England with the assistance of several antislavery leaders. Jackson and his wife established a residence in London and remained abroad until after the Civil War, but eventually returned to live in South Carolina.

In 1893, describing himself as “old and feeble,” Jackson raised money for an orphan home and school for destitute children in Magnolia, Sumter County.

Jackson’s book The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina is a powerful testimonial of the sufferings and toils of black people in the 19th century America.

Peter Jackson the Black Heavyweight Boxer.  Born in the Virgin Islands in 1861, Peter Jackson started out his boxing career in Australia.

He won the Australian heavyweight title in 1886 with a knockout of Tom Leeds in the 30th round. Having difficulty securing bouts in Australia and eager to prove his worth, Peter traveled to the United States in 1888. But most top fighters shunned him for racial or for competitive reasons.  John L. Sullivan the heavyweight champion stated: “I will not fight a Negro. I never have, and I never shall.”

He knocked out George Godfrey, another black fighter, and several white opponents who agreed to fight him as he traveled across the country. He then journeyed to England where he beat Jem Smith in two rounds to claim the championship of the British Empire.

Back in the U.S., Jackson found an adequate foe in future heavyweight champion James J. Corbett. In 1891, at the California Athletic Club in San Francisco, the two battled to a 61-round draw.

Over the next several years he fought when he could obtain a match, acted, and ran a boxing school in London. Around 1900 he returned to Australia to fight the tuberculosis which would ultimately kill him.

The Jacksons in Oregon.  Moving into the Oregon country as western representatives of the Jackson family of western Virginia, three sons and one daughter of Henry Jackson exhibited traditional propensities for land acquisition, milling, and public involvement with a tendency towards litigation. 

The compelling hunger for land that led John Jackson and his sons across the Virginia mountains in 1768 was continued through the pioneer period in the Pacific Northwest.   The overland trail across the Great Plains had been proven by their fur trading cousin, Davy Jackson, in 1830.  But it was another eleven years before the first immigrants to Oregon took the trail.  In 1843, John B. Jackson edged towards the jumping off place on what was called “the coast of Missouri.” 

The Jacksons came to exploit the Donation Land Law in Oregon with four claims and then went on to acquire the whole or part of ten additional locations.  Considered later to be the largest landowner in Washington County, Ulysses Jackson held title to 2,680 acres. 

A granddaughter and her husband continued the public lands tradition as late as 1910 when they filed for land in Montana under the Homestead Act.  By then available free land in the West was getting scarce and a great bonanza was coming to an end.  During a little less than a hundred and fifty years, federal policies had drawn the Jacksons across the continent.  Their history was representative of the national westward movement.

Jackson Names

  • Andrew Jackson was the 7th President of the United States.
  • Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate General during the Civil War.
  • Hughlings Jackson from Whixley in Yorkshire was a Victorian physician often called the father of English neurology.
  • Peter Jackson, born of a slave family in the West Indies, became a champion heavyweight boxer in the 1880’s, known and admired for his sportsmanship.
  • Jesse Jackson, born in South Carolina, joined Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement in 1965 and has remained a prominent black leader and politician.
  • Glenda Jackson was an acclaimed British actress who was later an MP.
  • Michael Jackson of the Jackson Five burst into the national spotlight with his crossover album Thriller in the early 1980’s.
  • Ketanji Brown Jackson became in 2022 the first black American to be appointed a US Supreme Court Justice.

Jackson Numbers Today

  • 174,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 220,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 80,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Jackson 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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