Lane Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Lane Surname Meaning

The surname Lane in England is topographical, from the Old English lanu or “lane,” and describing someone who lived by or in a lane (originally a narrow way between fences or hedges). Lane in England may in addition have originated as an occupational name for a worker in wool, from the old French laine meaning “wool.”

The surname was also to be found in Ireland. Here it was an anglicization of the Gaelic names O’Laighhin (from laighean meaning “spear”) or O’Luain (from luain meaning “warrior).

Spelling variants are Laine and Layne. Laine or de Laine could be a Huguenot name.

Lane Surname Resources on The Internet

Lane Surname Ancestry

  • from Western England and from Ireland (Cork and Kerry)
  • to America and Australia

EnglandThe surname Lane probably came from several different places in England. The following were some early pre-Tudor Lane lines:

  • Lane first appeared in records in Canterbury, Kent in 1387. Thomas Lane and his brother William were MP’s for Canterbury in the early 1400’s.  
  • William Lane held Orlingbury Manor near Thingdon in Northamptonshire in 1469. The estate passed onto Sir Ralph Lane in Tudor times. He married Maud Parr, a cousin of one of Henry VIII’s wives.  
  • The Lanes of Bentley Hall in Staffordshire date from 1428 when Richard Lone or Lane acquired the estate. These Lanes were Royalist during the English Civil War, with Jane Lane playing an important part in the escape of Charles II after his defeat at Worcester in 1651.

From Devon came Sam Lane who started the Britannia theatre in London in 1840. His wife Sarah Lane took over the theatre after his death and befriended the Lupino acting family (many of whom adopted her name). Also from Devon came the Lane publishing family. John Lane was born in north Devon in 1854. He moved to London where he helped hound The Bodley Head publishing house. His adopted son Allen started up Penguin books in the 1930’s.

By the late 19th century, the distribution of the Lane name was very much in western England, in a line stretching southward from Lancashire to Devon, with smaller numbers in London and the southeast.

Ireland.  Lanes in Ireland could be either of Irish or English origin. Irish Lanes appeared mainly in Cork and Kerry in SW Ireland. English Lanes included those at Tulsk in Roscommon, starting with Captain George Lane in the 1590’s, and at Lanespark in Tipperary, granted to a branch of the Northamptonshire Lanes in the 1660’s.

America.  There was an early and extensive coverage of the Lanes who came to New England in 1891 in James Fitts and Jacob Chapman’s three volume Lane Genealogies. The most noteworthy of these Lanes were the Lanes of Hingham, Massachusetts. Tradition has it that they were the descendants of the William Lane who arrived in Dorchester around 1635. But they might alternatively have been the descendants of another William Lane in Boston.

Richard Lane joined a Puritan colonizing project off Central America in 1632 and died there. His son Samuel was more fortunate, arriving in Maryland in 1664 and prospering there. Richard Lane moved his family from Maryland to Pittsylvania county, Virginia in 1746.

Other Lanes were early settlers in SW Virginia and NE Tennessee. Lambert Lane who fought in the Revolutionary War lived with his family in the Holston river settlement “in the wild woods near the Indians.”

Thomas Lane was an early settler in Surry county, Virginia. His descendants were to be found in Buncombe county, North Carolina where Joseph Lane was born in a log cabin in 1801. He moved with his family to Kentucky and then to Indiana where he fought in the Mexican War and entered politics.

President Polk appointed him as the first Governor of Oregon territory in 1849 and he subsequently served as one of its Senators. A son Lafayette was elected to Congress in 1875 and a grandson Harry was Oregon Senator in 1912, making Joe Lane the patriarch of one of the state’s most prominent political families.

Irish.  By the 19th century, there were more Lanes coming to America from Ireland than from England.

An early arrival in 1821, from county Cork, was Walter Lane. He fought in the Mexican war and on the Confederate side in the Civil War. He subsequently settled in Texas (his memoirs, The Adventures and Recollections of General Walter P. Lane, were published posthumously in 1928). The main number of Lanes came at or after the potato famine in Ireland. Many of these Lanes went missing.

Australia. Robert Lane and his family from Norfolk had an eventful passage on the Schomberg to Australia in 1855. The vessel was shipwrecked off the coast of Victoria on its maiden voyage. They survived. But they lost all their furniture.

Lanes from Ireland started arriving in Australia after the potato famine. An early arrival was Thomas Lane from Limerick in 1863 to work at the Victoria gold diggings. Later came a number of other Lane families from Clare and Limerick who also settled in Victoria.

William Lane, the son of a drunken Irishman, came to Australia via Canada and America in 1885. There he pursued a career as a radical journalist, organizing the Queensland trade unions into the Australian Labor Federation. He then led 220 believing followers to found a new colony in an unsettled part of Paraguay in South America which he named New Australia.  The colony turned out to be a failure and Lane retreated in his later years to New Zealand.

Lane Surname Miscellany

The Lanes of Bentley Hall.  The forebear of these Lanes was said to be Adam de Lona of Wolverhampton.  Richard Lone or Lane married the Hyde heiress of Blymnill in 1414 and later, as Richard Lone de la Hyde, acquired Bentley Hall in 1428. By the time of Thomas Lane in the early 1600’s, the manor was surrounded by two parks, both of which contained deer when the King visited.  These Lanes were ardent Royalists.

On the night of September 10 1651, King Charles II took shelter at Bentley Hall. The English Civil War had just ended with Charles’s defeat at the Battle of Worcester and he was now fleeing for his life from Oliver Cromwell’s victorious troops.  The King was helped by the then owner Colonel John Lane and his sister Jane Lane.  The next day she took Charles, disguised as her servant, to Bristol.  From there he continued what became over a 600-mile escape route to France.

Bentley Hall near present-day Walsall was later renamed King’s Bromley manor. There were three manor houses on the site.  But nothing remains today except a cairn stone. 

Richard Lane’s Misfortunes on Providence Island.  Richard Lane, who grew up in Herefordshire, had what was considered at the time unorthodox Puritan views – which he was not afraid to express.  Thus it might not be a surprise to learn that, after a seven year apprenticeship as a merchant tailor, he decided to emigrate with his family.

They in fact departed for the Caribbean in 1632, joining a Puritan group intent on establishing a colony on Providence Island off the coast of Central America.  Richard’s task was to introduce and supervise the growing of the plant madder, the root of which was used to make red dye.

In 1641, Richard Lane came under criticism for his Puritan views.  He, along with two clergymen, was arrested and brought to trial in London.  However, at the hearing, the charges were found to be unmerited and he was able to return to his duties.  That year in fact he was nominated, unsuccessfully as it turned out, as Governor of Providence Island.

In 1657 Richard and his son Oziell were drowned off Eleuthera island.  His widow Alice petitioned the company for a pension and she and her remaining children returned to London.  The eldest son Samuel, unsettled in England, emigrated to Maryland in 1664.

Lanes in Hingham, Massachusetts.  A gravestone in the older part of the Hingham cemetery bears the following inscription:

“In memory of Captain George Lane who died May 3, 1790, aged 59; Peter Lane lost at sea 1779, aged 22; Ferdinand Lane died at New York September 10 1793, aged 25.” 

Sarah Lane and the Lupino Family.  Sam Lane had started the Britannia theatre in Hoxton, east London in 1840.  On his death in 1871 his wife Sarah succeeded him as proprietor and manager until her own death in 1899.  During this time she also appeared regularly as the principal boy in the Britannia’s annual pantomimes.

Among the performers at the Britannia, and a favorite of Sarah Lane, was the actor Henry Charles Lupino.  He came from a long line of Lupino actors, said to have started with an Italian puppeteer immigrant to London in the 1620’s.  Lupino’s son adopted the Lane name and as Lupino Lane made his fame and his fortune in the musical Me and My Girl.

Lanes in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Ireland    1,066    50
England      889    42
Elsewhere      169     8
Total    2,124   100

Lost Lanes.  At the time of the potato famine and later, many Lanes left their impoverished lives in Ireland for a new home in America.  A number, however, got lost in the process.  The register in The Search for Missing Friends, generally placed by relatives, is voluminous at this time.  The following is a snapshot of some of the Lane entries.

November 1849.  Bridget Lane, aged 24, who arrived in Boston on August 14, 1848 on the Harriet and Jane from Youghal in county Cork.  Miss Lane has a brother now residing in Benson, Vermont, who is very anxious to hear from her.

November 1851.  Jeremiah Lane, who had lived with lived with his uncle, Thomas O’Keefe in Cruckanmore parish in county Cork, from which place he came to America.  Any information respecting him will be thankfully received by his sister, Ellen Lane, of Hampton, New Hampshire.

July 1852.  William and John Lane (aged 16 and 14), natives of Fermoy parish in county Cork, who landed in some part of British America in August, 1848 with their father who died at Quarantine soon after landing.  The two lads were taken by a gentleman of the name of Howell to some part of Upper Canada.  Any information respecting them will be thankfully received by their sister, Honora Lane.

July 1854.  James Lane of Kenmare in county Kerry, who came to the United States two and a half years ago and has not been heard from since.  Information of him will be received by his daughter, Mary Lane, care of Patk IGO, Jefferson city, New Orleans.

February 1864.  Michael Lane of the parish of Tourneena in county Waterford who left home on the 19th of March, 1853 or 1854, landed in New York, and when last heard from was in St Louis or Chicago.  He is about 38 years of age and about five feet six inches in height. He is in this country ten years next March.  Any information of him will be thankfully received by his brother, William Lane of Wayne county, Pennsylvania, who came to America in 1863.

May 1865.  Patrick Lane, native of the parish of Killmurry in county Cork, who emigrated to Quebec in 1846.  When last heard from, about 17 years ago, he was in Youngstown, New York.  Also of Jane and Susan Lane who emigrated to this country about 15 years ago and are supposed to be in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Any information of all or any of them will be thankfully received by their sister, Bridget Singleton, in Litchfield county, Connecticut.

The Amazing Lanes.  The saga of the Lane family began in Montréal with three brothers, Thomas, Hondo, and Lazarus Lane. The brothers’ forebears were British Loyalists who had come to Canada after the Revolutionary War.

Hondo Lane operated in the American Southwest from the mid 1860’s to about 1875. Hondo was the grandfather of New York débutante Barbara Lane, as well as of Barbara’s cousins, the sisters Lois and Margo Lane.

Hondo had left home at a young age and traveled North America, finally ending up in Arizona by the 1860’s. He took an Apache wife, but tragically she was killed. In the early 1870’s he met a woman named Angela Lowe who with her young son had been abandoned by her husband. Hondo and Angela left Arizona and moved to a ranch in California where they were married. Hondo also adopted young Johnny.

This Johnny, when he grew up, was attracted to the theater and eventually became known as the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. He took the stage name Drury after the famous London theater.

When deafness forced Drury Lane to quit the theater, he retired back to his estate on the Hudson which he had inherited from his father.  Drury had one daughter, the maverick socialite Barbara Lane, who was briefly married to Gotham City Police Detective James “Wildcat” Gordon.

Reader Feedback – Robert Lane to Australia in 1855.  I read somewhere that the earliest written record of the Lane surname was Bartholomew Lane in 1192 (Suffolk).

It was Robert Lane who sailed on the Schomberg to Australia in 1855. It was then the British colony of Van Diemens Land (now the state of Tasmania).

His father, my great great great grandfather Richard Lane had been sentenced on 4th July 1832 at Norwich Assizes to 14 years transportation for “running stolen goods (wheat).”  He was conditionally pardoned after seven years (which meant he had to stay another seven years, but he was free), but returned to England afterwards. I migrated to Australia and only discovered this in the last few years.

Sincerely, Richard Lane (

The Obituary of Thomas Lane.  Thomas Lane of Crossley, Victoria died in 1917.  The local newspaper in Australia reported his death as follows:

“An old and respected colonist died at his residence, Crossley, in the person of Mr. Thomas Lane who arrived in Victoria about 54 years ago.  He was identified with the early days of the gold diggings and 35 years ago he purchased land at Crossley, where he was engaged in farming until the time of his death which occurred at the age of 74 years.  He leaves a widow and grown up family to mourn their loss.

The late Mr. Lane was the eldest son of Mr. John Lane of Firhill, county Limerick in Ireland and was very highly respected throughout the district.  The funeral took place last Saturday, when considerably over 100 vehicles followed the remains to their last resting place, the procession being about a mile and a half in length.  The Rev. P. Lennon conducted the service at the grave.”

Lane Names

  • Sir Ralph Lane was an English explorer of the Elizabethan age who led an unsuccessful attempt to establish a colony on Roanoke Island in North Carolina in 1585. 
  • Sir Allen Lane was the British publisher who found Penguin Books in 1936. 
  • Lupino Lane was the English singer and dancer who made his name with the show Me and My Girl in 1937 which popularized The Lambeth Walk.
  • Lois Lane was a fictional comic book character in America, the girlfriend of Superman. 
  • Frankie Laine, born Francesco LaVecchio, was a successful American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years.

Lane Numbers Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 25,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Lane and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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