Kendall Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Kendall Surname Meaning

The Kendall surname from the Lake District comes from the Kendal place-name in Westmoreland. Kendal was called Kircabikendala or Kirkby Kendal at the time of the Domesday Book and meant “village with a church in the valley of the river Ken.” The surname Kendall would denote someone who came from Kendal.

An alternative derivation, possibly for Kendalls in Cornwall, is an anglicized form of the Welsh name Cynddelw (meaning “exalted effigy”), born by a famous 12th century Welsh poet.

Kendall Surname Resources on The Internet

Kendall Surname Ancestry

  • from England
  • to America, Canada and Australia

EnglandThe place-name Kendal in Westmorland gave rise to Hugh de Kendall, a judge recorded there in 1265. Richard de Kendal, a local schoolmaster and well-known grammarian, lived in the 15th century. Probably related to him was John Kendal, a supporter of Richard III and, like him, killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Kendal or Kendall surname is still found in the area, mainly in the Appleby vicinity. There are more Kendalls further south in Barrow-in-Furness and around Lancaster. William Kendall, a Victorian civil engineer and local nature enthusiast, came from Barrow. Kendalls in Yorkshire may have originated from the Kendale place-name near Driffield. There were Kendalls in Ripon in the 1500’s and later in Durham.

Cornwall.  Kendalls here date from the mid-14th century. John Kendall was mayor of Lostwithiel in 1377. There was a long-standing Kendall estate at Pelyn near Lostwithiel which lasted for over 400 years.  Edward Kendall was a naval officer who worked with John Franklin in Canadian Arctic exploration during the 1820’s. 

Elsewhere. There were the Kendalls at Smithsby in Derbyshire, starting with Bartholomew Kendall in the early 15th century, who later took possession of the Austrey manor in Warwickshire. Their family history was covered in H.J.B. Kendall’s 1909 book The Kendalls of Austrey, Twycross and Smithsby.  

“The Kendall manor house at Smithsby still remains, although now a hotel. The adjacent church contains a memorial to Henry Kendall, his wife and 16 children, dated 1627.”  

By the 19th century the largest numbers of Kendalls were in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

America. Francis and Thomas Kendall came to Woburn and Reading, Massachusetts around the year 1640. The male descent is all from Francis as Thomas Kendall and his wife Rebecca had ten daughters and no sons.

Later Kendalls moved to Dunstable in the 1720’s and became prominent landowners there. They also owned the tavern where elections and town meetings were held and were very active in mobilizing anti-British sentiment prior to the Revolutionary War.

From Francis’s line came Deacon Jacob Kendall, a soldier during the Revolutionary War, who later settled in Mount Vernon, New Hampshire. His son George Kendall made his name in Louisiana and Texas.  Amos Kendall migrated west to Kentucky and rose to prominence as a journalist there with the Argus of Western America. Others moved north to Vermont and Canada.

Canada.  Isaac Kendall migrated north from Vermont to Buckingham, Quebec in the early 1800’s. Oren Kendall was born in Beebe Plain in 1817.  “Oren was reported to have been a wonderfully active man. He held the pole-vaulting championship of his country when he was 60 years of age. He had married his second wife at the age of 54.”

A later Isaac Kendall, born a generation later, was considered to be one of the greatest sawmill designers and builders in America.

Australia and New Zealand.  Thomas Kendall, a Lincolnshire schoolmaster, volunteered for missionary work and went out to Sydney in 1809. He departed for New Zealand five years later, making friends with the Maoris and learning their language well enough to compile a primer in pidgin Maori. Later he owned a small vessel in the timber trade but perished when the vessel was wrecked off Sydney in 1832.

His son Basil and grandson Henry grew up in Australia. Henry Kendall has been called Australia’s first poet.

Kendall Surname Miscellany

John Kendal, Secretary to Richard III.  John Kendal is believed to have been born in Appleby, Westmorland.  Little was known about him until the early 1480’s when he was designated ‘servant’ or secretary to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in a grant of 30 May 1483. 

Richard became Richard III and he became the King’s secretary. was then further rewarded by being made assayer of the mint, keeper of the palace of Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, ranger of the Forest of Dean, and a keeper of the prince’s wardrobe.  He acquired land in York and became the first to receive the honorary freedom of the city of York. 

His loyalty was then further rewarded by being made assayer of the mint, keeper of the palace of Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, ranger of the Forest of Dean, and a keeper of the prince’s wardrobe.  He acquired land in York and became the first to receive the honorary freedom of the city of York. 

Kendall accompanied Richard in 1485 on his northern progress and fell with the King at the Battle of Bosworth Field.   He was attainted at a traitor in the first parliament of Henry VII and his lands were confisacated. 

Kendalls in Pelyn, Cornwall.  The Kendalls in Cornwall were originally to be found at Treworgy in Duloe.  Richard Kendall de Treworgy was sheriff of Cornwall in 1385.  However, this line became extinct in the early 1600’s.  It was from a junior line beginning with Walter de Treworgy, a third son, that the Pelyn line began.       

Pelyn was a woodland estate west of Lostwithiel in Cornwall owned by the Kendall family for over 400 years. The Grade II house, built in 1601 with subsequent 18th century and Victorian additions, was home to this local gentry family which has produced many MPs, lawyers and clergy over the years.

The Kendalls had Royalist sympathies during the Civil War.  Colonel Nicholas Kendall led a troop of the King’s men into Bodmin where they succeeded in routing a band of Parliamentarian troopers who were raiding the county capital.  A short time later he lost his life in the siege of Bristol.

Plaques to the family can be found in the nearby Lanlivery church:

“In memory of Walter Kendall of Pelyn, who was interred in the grave of his father Nicholas Kendall of Pelyn the 5th day of September 1696 at the age of 70;  

And also in memory of Joan Kendall, relict of the said Walter Kendall.  She was married to the said Walter the 17th day of July 1650 and erected this monument in the 70th year of her age on the 12th day of July 1703, desiring she may be buried in the grave of Embline Kendall, mother of her deceased husband;  

By the side of the said Walter Kendall lies interred Nicholas Kendall, son of the Rev. Canon Kendall who died the 7th of October 1702.  

To think of death and duly to prepare for its approach should be your chiefest care.”

The last of the line was Nicholas Kendall who was buried in Lanlivery church in 1994.

Reader Feedback – Kendalls in Hampshire.  I live in Western Australia.  My grandfather Arthur Walter Kendall was born in 1892 and lived in Crow in Hampshire.  I am having difficulty going back in generations before William Kendall who was born in 1794 and married Mary Mist.

Joyce Chapman (

Thomas Kendall of Reading, Massachusetts and His Ten Daughters.  Francis Kendall remembered in his will the eight children of his brother Thomas – one of the first settlers of Reading and a deacon of the church there – who were living when he, his said brother died.  It seems that this brother of Francis Kendall of Woburn, Deacon Thomas Kendall of Reading and Rebecca his wife had had ten daughters, but no son that lived.

These daughters, in order to preserve their maiden name Kendall among their posterity, directed each of them, when married, that her first born son should have the given name, Kendall, prefixed to his surname. Thus Kendall Peirson, Kendall Boutwell, Kendall Eaton, Kendall Briant etc.

This gave occasion to the following lines respecting these daughters in a poem written by Lillie Eaton of South Reading and published upon the 200th anniversary of the founding of Reading.  

In mentioning the venerable matron, their mother, he observed: ‘She had ten daughters; and each one, when married, christened her first son Kendall; And thus we may infer Why ’tis these names so oft occur.”

George Kendall, War Correspondent and Rancher.  George Wilkins Kendall, born in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, in 1809, learned the printer’s trade with Horace Greeley while still a boy and used this as a means of making his livelihood.  Kendall co-founded the New Orleans Picayune newspaper in Louisiana in 1837.  Through this newspaper, Kendall provided readers with accounts of his travels.

Kendall joined an expedition from Austin, Texas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, that claimed to be searching for new trade routes in the west.  However, the party was captured by Mexican officials and forced to march to Mexico City where the members of the expedition would spend the next two years in prison.  The 1844 Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition Comprising a Description of a Tour Through Texas was based on Kendall’s experiences during this time.

War between the United States and Mexico was declared in 1846 and Kendall sent news from the front lines back to the New Orleans Picayune.  Kendall attached himself, at various times, to the Texas Rangers under Ben McCullough and was the first known war correspondent. His 1851 manuscript The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated was an account of his experiences during this time.

After traveling extensively in Europe and living in Paris, where he met his wife Adeline de Valcourt, he and his family moved back to the United States; first to New Orleans, where the family only spent one year, and later to Boerne, Texas where Kendall would take up sheep ranching and introduce Merinos sheep to the region.  He died at his ranch in Boerne in 1867.

Isaac Kendall – from Vermont to Canada.  Charles Edmund Kendall recounted in later life the travails of his grandfather Isaac Newton Kendall:  

“Isaac Newton Kendall came from Vermont into Canada while the War of 1812 was on.  Vermont people were strongly antagonistic to the war against Canada, but Isaac would have nothing to do with it.

My mother used to tell me of the difficulties he experienced through the antagonism of Canadians against a “damn Green Mountain Yankee” as they called him.  He, however, paid no attention to them except that once or twice he soundly thrashed men who were inclined to go beyond all bounds of insult, after which he became known as a man that it was well to leave alone. He was of medium heavy build, stood about 5 ft. 10 in. in his bare feet and weighed around 185 pounds. He was used to the hard labor of the pioneer.  

Mother used to tell of the early days at Buckingham – how grandfather used to haul a load of grain to the Basin with ox team, load the grain into a canoe and paddle 30 miles to Bytown where there was a grist mill at Rideau Falls, get his grain ground and paddle back to the Basin with his flour.  On these trips he worked and travelled night and day without rest or sleep on the round trip.

Henry Kendall’s The Muse of Australia.  Henry Kendall has been called Australia’s first poet.  This is his Muse of Australia 

  • “Where the pines and the needles are nestled in rifts,
  • And the torrent leaps down to the surges,
  • I have followed her, clambering over the clifts,
  • By the chasms and moon-haunted verges.
  • I know she is fair as the angels are fair,
  • For have I not caught a faint glimpse of her there;
  • A glimpse of her face and her glittering hair,
  • And a hand with the Harp of Australia? 
  • I never can reach you, to hear the sweet voice
  • So full with the music of fountains!
  • Oh! When will you meet with that soul of your choice,
  • Who will lead you down here from the mountains?
  • A lyre-bird lit on a shimmering space;
  • It dazzled mine eyes and I turned from the place,
  • And wept in the dark for a glorious face,   
  • And a hand with the Harp of Australia!”

Kendall Names

  • Richard de Kendal were a Westmorland schoolmaster and renowned grammarian of the 15th century.
  • Thomas Kendall was an early English missionary to New Zealand. His grandson Henry Kendall was an Australian bush poet.
  • George Kendall covered the 1836 war between the US and Mexico and is believed to be the first newspaper war correspondent.
  • Kay Kendall was an English film actress, married to the actor Rex Harrison, who died in 1959 of leukaemia at the young age of 32.
  • Felicity Kendal is an English theater and TV actress. Her father adopted the Kendal surname from the town of his birth.

Kendall Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)





Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *