Lambert Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Lambert Surname Meaning

The Lambert name has been widespread in Europe and goes back at least to the 5th century. Because of its antiquity, the root of Lambert is uncertain. Some have the name derived from the name Landbehrt, possibly meaning “bright land.”            

St. Lambert, the Bishop of Maastricht in the Low Countries in the 7th century, was highly venerated and a source of the name’s popularity. In the next four centuries the name could be found as widely spread as Italy, where Lambert the Bishop of Ostia was elected Pope, to Louvain in present-day Belgium, and to Poland where a Lambert was king in the early 11th century.

The Lambert name came to England after the Norman invasion in 1066.

Lambert Surname Resources on The Internet

Lambert Surname Ancestry

  • from England (East Coast), France and Ireland
  • to America, Canada and New Zealand

Lambert as a surname in Europe is mainly found in Belgium and France. The following are the approximate numbers there today:

  • 20,000 in Belgium
  • and 60,000 in France.

In Belgium the main numbers have been in French-speaking Wallonia; in France in the Loire area and in eastern France. The most well-known Lambert has probably been the 18th century physicist and astronomer Johann Heinrich Lambert from the eastern province of Alsace who is associated today with Lambert’s Law.

England.  There were early reports of the Lambert name in southern England, in particular in Hampshire. Richard Lambert appeared in the 1148 pipe rolls of Hampshire. Later Lamberts in Hampshire were:

  • Sir Nicholas Lambert, Lord Mayor of London in 1537, came from a family of wool merchants in Maiden Bradley. William Lambert, the MP for Old Sarum around this time, was probably from the same family.
  • another Lambert family in Hampshire was based at Laverstoke.
  • William Lambert of Southampton was the father of Oliver Lambert, a soldier of fortune who became Governor of Connacht in Ireland in 1601.
  • while Christopher Lambert became the MP for Winchester in 1593, but only, it appears, because his sister Jane was the mistress of the Marquess of Winchester.

Sir John Lambert, born in France, had come to London as a merchant in the 1690’s and was an important financier to the English Government in the early 1700’s. He was created a baronet in 1711.

Eastern England.  However, the Lambert name has been found more frequently along the east coast of England, with the main concentrations being in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and East Anglia. That pattern would suggest a Viking or more probably a Saxon origin for Lamberts. The earliest sighting was probably Lambert as the prior of Kyme in Yorkshire around the year 1185.

One line began at Skipton in the West Riding of Yorkshire. William de Lambarte was recorded as being born there in 1285. John Lambert of this line came into possession of Calton Hall in Kirkby Malham at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. Calton Hall was the home of John Lambert, Cromwell’s famous general during the Civil War. Lambert’s rise was spectacular. So was his fall at the time of the Restoration.

“In 1659, when General George Monck marched south to restore Parliament, Lambert marched north in an attempt to negotiate or stop him by force but was abandoned by many of his soldiers. Lambert was then tried for treason and banished to the island of Guernsey. He was later imprisoned on Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound where he died in 1683.”

Lamberts have been a presence at Manningham near Bradford since the early 1600’s. The name has subsequently spread across the county. It has also been a fairly common name in Lincolnshire and Suffolk. From the Lamberts of Kirton in Lincolnshire came Richard Lambert, the Sheriff of London in 1568. One family line has been traced back to Philip and Martha Lambert in 1690 at Hasketon near Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Ireland.  There was an old Catholic Lambert family in Wexford, first recorded in the 14th century, which was Norman in origin and may have dated back to the time of Strongbow. In the 18th century they were landowners at Carnagh.

Oliver Lambert came to Ireland with the Earl of Essex’s army in 1599. His successors were created Earls of Cavan. Another line, originating from Calton in Yorkshire, came to the parish of Athenry in Galway. John Lambert, an officer in Cromwell’s army, made his home at Creg Clare in 1669. There were subsequent Lambert homes at Castle Lambert and Castle Ellen. The family story was recounted in Finbarr O’Regan’s 1999 book The Lamberts of Athenry.

America.  Lambert arrivals in America by ship were almost half from England, but also included Lamberts from Ireland, Germany and France.

Thomas Lambert from Dorset came to Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1631 and died at Barnstable on Cape Cod in 1663. He was possibly the earliest Lambert immigrant into America and probably the one with most descendants.

Some Lamberts in Massachusetts migrated via Connecticut to Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the 1740’s. Three brothers settled near Coryell’s Ferry in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. The oldest Thomas, however, made his home in Hunterdon county, New Jersey. From his line came John Lambert, the US Senator for New Jersey from 1809 to 1815. A later John Lambert became President of the American Steel and Wire Company. The Lambert coal mine in Fayette county was named after him.

Matthias Lambert (originally Lambard) came from the Rhine Palatine in Germany and was one of the many Palatines fleeing religious persecution at home. Matthias arrived in Philadelphia on the Sally in 1733 and first made his home in York county, Pennsylvania. Later Lamberts of this family moved to Maryland and Virginia. John Michael Lambert, who arrived in 1764, settled in Bucks county, Pennsylvania.

Canada.  French Lamberts first came to Canada, or more specifically to what was then New France and is now Quebec. Eustache Lambert arrived there with his family from Boulogne in the 1640’s. Aubin Lambert from the Perche region came about twenty years later. The Lambert Dumont family were seigneurs of Mille-Iles from about 1743 and they subsequently owned large tracts of forest and farmland in the Saint Eustache region of Quebec north of Montreal.

Patrick Lambert and his family departed Wexford in Ireland, first for Newfoundland and then for Quebec City in 1816. Thomas and Margaret Lambert, also from Wexford, came there around 1828. Some of their descendants later moved to the Ottawa area.

A Lambert family were keepers of the Chantry Island lighthouse on Lake Huron for almost fifty years, from 1858 to 1907.

New Zealand.  There were Lamberts who came to New Zealand from England, Scotland and Ireland:

  • Albert Lambert who arrived with his family from Essex in 1853 and settled in the Porangahau region.
  • John Lambert who came with his family from the Scottish borders area in the 1860’s. They settled in the Wanganui area. John unfortunately died in a riding accident in 1870 at the age of just 36.
  • while William Lambert and his family came from Galway in Ireland in 1875. They settled in Wairoa. William was an Anglican clergyman there, his son Thomas a medical practitioner and later a local reporter and writer.

Lambert Surname Miscellany

St. Lambert of Maastricht.  Saint Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht from 670 until his death about thirty years later.   He had been born into a noble family of Maastricht, a protégé of his uncle Bishop Theodard.

But Lambert lived in turbulent times.  Bishop Theodard was murdered in 670 and the councillors of Childeric II then made Lambert Bishop of Maastricht. After Childeric himself was murdered in 675, the faction of Ebroin, a power behind the throne, expelled Lambert from his see in favor of their candidate Faramundus.

Lambert spent seven years in exile at the recently founded Abbey of Stavelot.  With a change in the political situation, Lambert was then able to return to his see. 

General John Lambert’s Ancestry.  Sometimes ancestry claims can be dubious.  This appears to have been the case of the ancestry of John Lambert, the famous Commonwealth general.  His grand-daughter and heiress held their family pedigree “on which were transcribed forty-two charters, which were solemnly attested at the foot thereof by all three of the Kings of Arms and by one of the heralds.”

It was said that Radulph de Lambart was a companion of William the Conqueror and was the father of Hugh, father of Sir William, who married Gundred daughter of William, Earl Warren, by Gundred, daughter of William the Conqueror; Sir William and Gundred had Henry Lambart. standard-bearer to Henry II, who married Alice, sister of William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and had issue John, who resided at Skipton, and Sir Edmund, whose grandson John lived at Long Preston, and had Godfrey, who had John, married to Elizabeth daughter of Giles Whitaker, Esq., by whom he had Thomas Lambert of Skipton.

As one reviewer put it:

“The former part of this descent is sufficiently magnificent, but clouds and darkness rest upon it.  It is well for the compilers however that their authorities are yet extant.”

A well known antiquary had in fact handled two of the originals of these charters and bluntly pronounced them to be forgeries.

Daniel Lambert the Heavyweight.  Lambert was, at the time of his death, the heaviest man around!  The Leicester man still retains a place in the Guinness Book of Records for his size.

He was born in Leicester into a a family of gamekeepers, huntsmen and field sportsmen.  He was athletic as a young man but then began to put on the pounds.  In 1806 the Stamford Mercury reported that Daniel was having a carriage made specifically to transport him to London where he intended to exhibit himself as a natural curiosity.  He ended his days living in his London apartments where people would pay a shilling just to see him.

He died at an inn in Stamford and his body had to taken out of the building by removing a wall.  By that time he was aged 39 and weighed a massive 53 stones.  His waist measured in at over nine foot.   His coffin was built on wheels and it took more than 20 men to lower it into his grave.

While Daniel may have been ridiculed for his vast size if he’d been around now, back in Georgian times he was celebrated as a British champion and the pride of Leicester.

The Shooting of Captain Lambert.  Captain Giles Eyre Lambert was the landlord of Moore Park, a Lambert estate located next to Castle Lambert. In 1869 he was shot by Peter Barrett whose parents had lived on the estate but had recently been evicted. It was said that Barrett hid in a lime tree outside of Castle Lambert and waited for Captain Lambert to come out.  When he did he shot him in his heart.  Lambert slumped and Barrett left him for dead.

However, the bullet was stopped by his gold watch and although unconscious for a time, he fully recovered. Barrett made his escape catching the train to Dublin, where he was arrested.  When the trial opened in Galway it attracted worldwide coverage and was seen at the time to be the trial of the century.

The jury, however, failed to reach agreement and there was a re-trial in Dublin. Again there was disagreement.   At the third trial he was found not guilty, on the basis that he could not have been able to shoot Lambert at the time his watch stopped and then still be able to board the Dublin train at the time he apparently did.

After the trial it emerged that a railway employee had lied about the train’s time, which had in fact been some six minutes late.  It also seems that Captain Lambert’s watch had continued ticking for at least ten minutes longer after it was hit!

Lamberts Coming to America.  The table below shows the number of Lambert coming to America based on their point of origin, according to shipping records.

Country Numbers Percent
England    582    49
Ireland    239    20
Germany    179    15
France    145    12
Elsewhere     49     4
Total   1,215   100

Lamberts at Coryell’s Ferry in Pennsylvania.  While Thomas Lambert moved to Hunterdon county, New Jersey in the 1740’s, his three younger brothers – Jeremiah, Gershom and John – settled in Pennsylvania.  They made their home in Bucks county, some two miles outside the town of Coryell’s Ferry (which is now called New Hope).

Gershom and John died there within days of each other in 1763.  John Lambert bequeathed his plantation to his three sons.  He called himself “of Amwell” and said that his plantation or homestead “could be rented out to an orderly man” at the discretion of the executors with “prudent care over the timber and other things so that nothing be destroyed or wasted.”

During the Revolutionary War, John’s son Gershom went to George Washington’s headquarters at Coryell’s Ferry and aided the American forces in crossing the river and then took supplies to their army at Morristown.

The Lamberts of Chantry Island.  Duncan McGregor Lambert had been first mate of the steamer Bruce Mines when it sank near Stokes Bay on Lake Huron in 1854.  He it was who was largely responsible for ushering the crew into two small boats and safely seeing them to Owen Sound, a voyage of over a hundred miles.

Duncan took charge of the lighthouse on Chantry Island on Lake Huron near Southampton harbor in 1858.  He was to remain its lighthouse keeper for 22 years and with his wife raise eleven children there.  His saddest time came in 1879 when the Mary and Lucy foundered on a reef south of Chantry Island.  During the rescue attempt, two would-be rescuers were drowned, including one of his sons Duncan, whose boat overturned.  Ironically all aboard the Mary and Lucy reached shore safely.

When Duncan retired in 1880 his son William took over and held the post until 1907.  His children and grandchildren lived in Toronto but would spend every summer in Southampton to be near their father and grandfather.

Lambert Names  

  • Saint Lambert was Bishop of Maastricht from 670 to 700 and much revered after his death.   
  • John Lambert was Cromwell’s leading general during the English Civil War. He also helped establish the Protectorate in the years that followed. 
  • Sir John Lambert was a French-born merchant in London who was instrumental in financing the British government in the early 1700’s.   
  • John W. Lambert was an American automotive pioneer, inventor, and manufacturer in the early 1900’s.

Lambert Numbers Today

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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