Jordan Surname Meaning, History & Origin
Jordan name was popularized at the time of the Crusades when soldiers
and pilgrims to the Holy Land would often return with flasks of water
from the Jordan river to use for christening purposes.
They also told stories, sometimes exaggerated, about their
exploits. Jordan itself derives from the Aramaic yarden, meaning “to descend” (in the
case of the Jordan river to the Dead Sea).
for nobility in Italy and later in France.
It also began appearing in various guises in the Spanish,
and Hungarian languages, as well as in English. Among the first
England were those of John Jorden of Cambridge in 1202 and Walter
Sussex in 1327.
Jordan Resources on
The Jordan clan in Ireland.
- Jordan Family Foundation
New England descendants of the Rev. Richard Jordan.
- Jordan DNA Project
Ireland. The Jordan name in Ireland began with Jordan
a younger brother of Sir
John De Courcy, who came with the Anglo-Norman invaders in 1170 and was
named because of his reported exploits in the Holy Land.
His line was first known as de Exeter as they were from Exeter
de Exeter, sheriff
of Connacht in the mid-13th century, was the forebear of the family in
Mayo that came to be known as MacJordan or MacSiurtain and later as
de Exeter Jordan. Jordan when anglicized sometimes came
The principal stronghold of the Jordans was Athleathan
castle in Gallen barony, built around 1180. The
castle remained with the family until the
1650’s when Cromwell confiscated their possessions. Father
Fulgenius Jordan of
the Jordan Duff line was martyred for his faith at Ballyhaunis in 1682. Jourdan,
one of Napoleon’s most successful
generals, was said to have been descended from the family through a
officer who left for France in 1691. The Jordan family in Mayo
remained Catholic during the time of the Penal Laws.
are most common in Mayo and Galway, but are to be found as well in
Down, Waterford and elsewhere
in Ireland (possibly from different lineages). Jordan’s Castle
was built in Ardglass, county Down in the md-15th century and was held
by Jordans during the 16th century.
Among present-day Jordans:
- Eddie Jordan, the former F1 racing driver, grew up in county Wicklow
- while Neil Jordan, the filmmaker and novelist, was born in Sligo (Connacht).
the Jordans in Exeter also came Jordan de Cantington, an early Norman
into Wales. These Jordans were once
prevalent in Pembrokeshire. But the male
line there seems to have ended in 1802 when Barrett Bowen Jordan of
England. Another legend from
the Holy Land gives the Jordan
name to Sir William Deardon who fought in the Crusades with Richard the
Lionhearted and lived in Devon. A Jordan
manor near Widecombe on Dartmoor is said to have been there
times. The present Jordan manor house
from the early 1600’s.
Early Jordans, sometimes
were to be found in Exeter and
along the coast in Dorset at Melcombe (Weymouth) and Lyme
Regis, as well as in
Somerset (from Jordaine near Ilminster).
The Jordan name is still
present in Devon. But
there are more in London,
Kent and the southeast. Jordans of Gatwick, landed gentry in
Surrey, date from the 15th century and contributed an early emigrant to
America, Arthur Jordan. There was another gentry family of Jordans at
Cranbrook in Kent by the 16th century.
America. Jordans in America
were at first English, later Irish. There were four main Jordan
lines in America in the 1600’s, one in New England and three in
New England representative
was the Rev. Robert Jordan who arrived in 1638 and, being Episcopal
than Puritan, settled in southern Maine. There
he married Sarah Winter, the governor’s daughter, and
became a substantial
landowner in the region. His family line
was covered in Tristram Jordan’s 1882 book The
first in Virginia was Samuel Jordan from Lyme Regis in
Dorset, called “an ancient planter” due to his arrival in Virginia as
early as 1610. He established himself
near Charles City on a plantation known as Beggars Bush at Jordan’s
(later Jordan Point). There he survived the
Indian raids of 1622 but died a year later. His
son Thomas, who had arrived in Virginia in 1618,
remained, as did his young second wife. Other
early Jordans in Virginia
Jordan and Richard Jordan (unrelated), who were to be found in Surry
Later came Jordan migrations to
the South. Richard
headed to North Carolina and then onto Georgia. William
Enoch Jordan’s forebears had left
Virginia for South Carolina and he and his family then moved onto
Georgia and Alabama in the
1830’s and 40’s. Levi Jordan
and John Jordan were early settlers in Texas.
Levi Jordan stayed
a successful plantation owner. John Jordan moved onto
The first Irish presence in America – probably in the late 18th century – came from county Down in Northern Ireland. Subsequent Jordan
arrivals came from different points in Ireland.
Jordan is a notable African
American name. Whether its Biblical and
baptismal associations appealed at the time surnames were chosen or
there were other reasons, there have been a number of prominent African
American Jordans around in recent times – Michael Jordan the basketball
player, Barbara Jordan and Vernon Jordan the civil rights campaigners,
Jordan the poet and playwright, Louis Jordan the bandleader, and the
Jordan New Orleans family of musicians.
Caribbean. The Jordan
name features in the Caribbean. Edward Jordan was an early
settler in Barbados. His descendants ran the Black Rock
plantation in St. James’s parish. Another Edward Jordan was a
controversial figure in Jamaica, the first black Mayor in the 1850’s of
Kingston. There is a statue of him in St. William Grant Park.
Australia. James Jordan
was transported to Australia in 1791 on the first convict ship, the Queen, that departed directly from
Ireland. He served out his seven year term on Norfolk
Island and his descendants settled in Tasmania.
In different circumstances came Henry Jordan, a Methodist missionary
from an old Devon family, who arrived in South Australia in the 1850’s
with the intent of converting the local Aboriginals. But his
health was poor and he ended up in politics in Queensland.
Jordan de Courcy in the Holy Land. The name Jordan came about, it was said, because Jordan De Courcy, who originally had a different name, went as standard-bearer with the English Crusaders to the Holy Land.
In a great battle that took place
between the Christians and the Saracens on the banks of the river
Jordan, he was
so vigorously attacked by the Saracen host that on three or four
standard, which was the Banner of the Cross, almost disappeared from
of the Christians. They, feared for his
safety; but because of his extraordinary strength and the help he
his followers, De Courcy re-appeared with his standard, as if
dealt destruction to the enemy.
adoption of the personal name Jordan in memory of his remarkable
Jordan Manor on Dartmoor. Hutholes was
a medieval village near Widecombe on Dartmoor.
There were apparently turf buildings on the site before stone
built. One building was a manor farm
mentioned in the Domesday Book as being held in 1066 by a wealthy
Alric. Ownership had passed to William
de la Falaise by 1086. It
that this was the original Deardon or Jordan manor house before it was
in the early 1600’s one kilometer away along the West Webburn river.
Jordans in Devon and Dorset. Ignatius Jordan, sometimes spelt Jourdain, came from a Lyme Regis family in Dorset. Known as the “Arch Puritan,” he was an uncompromising figure in Elizabethan and early
Jordan dated his conversion
to Puritanism to his visit to the Channel Islands in 1576.
By the turn of the century he was taking a
leading part in Exeter’s municipal affairs, as Bailiff in 1599, Sheriff
1601, Mayor in 1617, and MP in 1625. His
final political demonstration took place in 1638 when he refused to
the King’s message denouncing the religious revolt in Scotland. Meanwhile Ignatius’s brother Silvester became
a prosperous merchant in Exeter and also served as Mayor of the town.
There followed in the next generation Captain
John Jourdain of the East India Company, Chief Factor in Bataam. This captain was buried in Lyme Regis in
1620, almost a year after he was reported to have been killed in battle
against the Dutch. Could it have taken a
year to bring his body home pickled in brine?
There are likely tie-ins with Samuel Jordan, the “ancient planter” in
Virginia who died in 1623, and Vice Admiral Sir Joseph Jordan, who died
1685, but none have been proven.
Jordan’s Castle in County Down. The Jordan
line in County Down may have begun in the late 12th century when Sir
Jordan de Sackville arrived with
John de Courcy and was given land in Ardglass near Downpatrick.
In the mid-15th century, an unknown merchant built
Jordan’s Castle, one of the tower houses used for the defense of
Thomas Jordan was using it as a warehouse in 1528. During
Tyrone’s Rebellion in 1598
Simon Jordan held out for three years against a siege on the
castle by O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone.
castle had many owners over the
centuries, but by the mid-1850s it had deteriorated and was no longer
inhabited. It was later restored by a private owner who
bequeathed it to the state
Reader Feedback – Jordans and Sheridans in Ireland. In browsing Jordan genealogies I have found
considerable confusion arising from the Anglicisation of Irish Gaelic
the end of the 17th century. As the Jordan d’Exeters of Gallen
(Athleathan) in the west of Ireland became Gallicized they adopted the
MacJordan and MacSiurtain.
the British drive to anglicize all Gaelic
names in the 18th century the latter name was mistranslated into
Sheridan. Hence west of Ireland Sheridans are virtually all
have no connection with the O’Sheridans of Ulster, to which family
Richard Brinsley Sheridan and General Philip Sheridan. My
to the MacSiurtains of Gallen but – like all of the name in
of Ireland – have been erroneously called Sheridan for
Regards, Vivian MacSiurtain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jordans in America by Country of Origin
Levi Jordan in Brazoria, Texas. Levi Jordan
was born in Georgia in 1793. According
to family stories, he was an orphan and ran away from a cruel guardian
early age. When he was twelve years old he applied for a land grant in
Georgia lottery. At nineteen he joined
the army and served for six months. He
then worked as an overseer on Jesse Stone’s plantation and eloped with
later owned adjoining plantations on the
Louisiana-Arkansas border with his son-in-law, James Campbell McNeill. In 1848 both families decided to uproot
themselves to Texas. They traveled there
in wagons with their slaves walking alongside. After killing a mountain
his first campsite, Jordan established his sugar and cotton plantation
Four Forks area on the San Bernard river, not too far from Brazoria.
quickly became a rich man. He lived
frugally. When he decided to build a
house – often a flamboyant expression of a planter’s grandiosity –
settled for a respectable structure that was
functional and simple to the point of
built in 1854 from oak
timber, with some of the timber being brought down the San Bernard
schooner. In addition to the house,
there was a smokehouse, a sugar house, stables, and brick slave
quarters. The sugar house was supposed to
largest sugar-making machinery in the county. The house and slave
recently been restored. An account of
life on the plantation can be found in Sallie McNeill’s diaries of
Levi was reputed, in
family stories, to have owned 365 slaves at one point – one for every
the year. But only 146 were on the tax
rolls at one time. After 1865 Jordan
shifted to a farming system which employed many of his former slaves
descendants in a system of sharecropping and tenancy.
Levi died aboard a steamer going to Galveston
in 1873. He was buried in the Cedar Lake
cemetery near his plantation.
John Jordan’s Crossing of America. John Jordan was born and grew up in Illinois.
In 1833 he and his wife Eliza Jane decided to
migrate to Texas while it was still part of Mexico.
John was a Texas Ranger during the war. Texas
gained independence in 1836 and, later
in 1848, when Van Zandt county was created, John was elected its County
However, California came calling.
In March 1850 the Jordans left on a wagon train of which John
the captain. The train comprised sixty
and two hundred pioneers. They took the
southern route and arrived in San Diego five months later.
John and Eliza Jane eventually had twelve children. The first was born
in Illinois, the next eight in Texas, and the remaining three in
California. After staying in San Diego
for several months, they moved to San Juan Bautista where they built a
and store. By 1857 they had moved to the
Jordan homestead near Exeter in Tulare county.
Here John raised hogs and took up mining.
James Jordan, An Irish Convict to Australia. The Dublin court records have been lost. So
there is no account of the crime for which
James Jordan was tried and convicted there in 1789.
All that is known is that he was given the sentence
of seven years transportation.
three years before he was to arrive at the place where he was to
sentence. He was first dispatched to
Newfoundland; but then brought back and put on the Queen
in Cork in 1791, the first Irish transport to leave Ireland
and embark directly for Australia. He
must have been very strong to survive the terrible hardships that
on these voyages. On the Queen
it transpired that the second mate
had deliberately reduced the convict meat rations by half during the
voyage. They arrived in Australia in a
state. Less than half the convicts who
were on board the ship were alive a year later.
Fortunately Norfolk Island, where James ended up,
was not then the hell-hole for convicts that it was later to become. He met Mary Butler, a convict also from
and they co-habited, she in time coming to call herself Mrs. Jordan. Their eldest son Richard was born in 1794 and
other children were to follow. James received his conditional pardon in 1797.
He looked after Government boats and had
a farm of his own and they lived a normal family life with apparent
happiness for about twenty years.
Mary Jordan died in 1813, shortly before the people of Norfolk Island
were evacuated and
resettled in a place called Norfolk Plains, later Longford, in
Tasmania. James lived on in Tasmania until
1840. His descendants are still there. They held a bicentennial celebration of his
- Jordan de Exeter was a 13th century Anglo-Norman knight and forebear of the MacJordan clan in Mayo.
- Dorothea Jordan was an Anglo-Irish actress, courtesan, and companion of the future King William IV.
- Louis Jordan was a pioneering African-American musician, songwriter, and bandleader who enjoyed great popularity from the late 1930’s to the early 1950’s.
- Vernon Jordan was a leading figure in the civil rights movement and later a close advisor to President Clinton.
- Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was instrumental in popularizing the game around the world in the 1980’s and 90’s.
Jordan Numbers Today
- 34,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 69,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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