Manning Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Manning Surname Meaning

The Manning surname in England is thought to have derived from the old Norse word manningi, meaning “brave” or “valiant.”  However, an early Manning family in Kent claimed instead that their name had come from the German place-name of Mannheim in Saxony.  

In Ireland the Gaelic name of O’Mannin often anglicized as Manning.

Manning Surname Resources on The Internet

Manning Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Kent and East Anglia) and from Ireland (Galway)
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England.  The Manning name had appeared in different forms in two main places in England by the 13th century – in Kent in the southeast and in the counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire in East Anglia.

Kent.  The first record of these Mannings was Stephen de Manning who was mentioned in deeds in Kent during the late 13th century.  They came in possession of Downe Court during Tudor times.  Henry Manning held a position at court as Marshal of the King’s Household from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Elizabeth.

A line of these Mannings moved to Greenwich near London in the late 16th century. Other Mannings remained at Kevington nearby until the 1750’s.

One descendant William Coventry Manning was a London West India merchant and a planter in St Kitts during the 18th century.  He made his home at Copped Hall near Totteridge in Hertfordshire:

  • his son William, who joined his father’s firm in 1791, served as Governor of the Bank of England in the early 1800’s and was an MP for more than thirty years.
  • his grandson Henry, ordained as an Anglican clergyman, became a leader of the Oxford Movement.  He was appointed the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster in 1865.

East Anglia.  The name appeared in early times as Maninge or Mannyng:

  • Henry Maninge appeared in the Hundred rolls of landowners in Cambridgeshire in 1273.
  • Robert Mannyng from Bourne in Lincolnshire was a Gilbertine monk at St. Edmund’s priory in Cambridge in the early 1300’s.  His history chronicle, Mannyng’s Chronicle, was completed sometime in the 1330’s.
  • John Manning from Great Ellingham in Norfolk was mayor of Norwich in 1413.
  • while the will of John Maninge was recorded at Swaffham in Cambridgeshire in 1631.

The Manning name had by this time spread southward to Suffolk, Essex and London.  In the late 19th century the largest number of Mannings were in London, followed by Suffolk and then Essex.

The Manning name was first recorded in the village of Orlingbury in Northamptonshire in 1673.   Owen Manning, born there in 1721, was a clergyman and antiquarian who moved to Surrey and came to be known as the historian of Surrey.

Ireland.  Manning is the English version of a Galway family who were formerly chiefs of Sodhan, a district co-extensive with the barony of Tiaquin.  They were a pre-Gaelic Sodhan race with roots similar to the Picts of eastern Scotland.

O’Mainnín, the king of Sodhan, was mentioned in the Chronicon Scotorum as early as the year 1135.  The O’Mainnins continued to form a distinct clan until the early 1600’s, their chief residing at Menlough castle in Killascobe parish. They lost their estates at the time of Cromwell, had some of them restored during the Restoration, but then lost everything when James II was defeated in 1690.

Later many of these O’Mainnins became Mannion or Manning.  These names spread from Galway into Roscommon. The name of Dennis O’Mainnin from Kilbride in Roscommon was anglicized to Dennis Manning when he joined or was press-ganged into the British navy in 1825.

Manning in Ireland can also be an English implant, mostly found in Dublin and Cork. Thomas Manning held the Rockfield estate in Dublin in the mid 18th century.  A Manning family in the Dunmanway area of Cork dates from the early 1800’s.

America.  Mannings came to both New England and Virginia in the 1630’s.

New England.  The earliest Manning in America was probably William Manning from Essex who came to Boston in 1634. His son William was one of the founders of Harvard College in the 1670’s.  It was his son Samuel who acquired some 225 acres at Billerica where he built the family homestead, Manning Manse, in 1696.  Over the next hundred years or so, Manning descendants had spread to Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and Ohio.

Manning Manse deteriorated during the 19th century until it was acquired and restored by a Manning descendant, William H. Manning, in 1902.  William H. Manning was also the author of the 1902 book Manning Families of New England. At that time it was estimated that there were some 4,000 descendants of the original William Manning.

Another early Manning was Captain John Manning, a soldier in the British army, who had arrived in Boston in 1656. Eight years later he was Commander at Fort Albany after the British had taken it over from the Dutch.  His Government granted him the island adjacent to Manhattan in the East river now known as FDR Island (it was once called Manning’s island).  His descendants settled in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Virginia.   John Manning from Cambridgeshire came to Virginia in 1635 at the age of 20 with his brother Thomas on the Globe from London.  John and his wife Lydia made their home on the eastern branch of the Elizabeth river in Norfolk county.

A line through Moses Manning moved south to South Carolina and had received land grants in Georgia by the year 1800.  One line from Moses extended to Drew, a small town in Mississippi where Archie Manning grew up in the 1950’s.  He became a famous NFL quarterback; as were his two sons Peyton and Eli.  The family story was recounted in the 2013 documentary The Book of Manning.

Irish Arrivals.   Laurence Manning came from Killarney to Pennsylvania and fought on the American side with General Lee’s Legion Infantry during the Revolutionary War. 

His son Richard I. Manning, grandson John L. Manning, and great grandson Richard I. Manning III all became Governors of South Carolina.  John and his wife Susan had their Millford plantation near Pinewood built in 1839.  The house survived destruction during the Civil War and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Most Mannings from Ireland arrived during the 19th century.  Among them were:

  • Michael and Elizabeth Manning from Cork who came in 1844 and settled in upstate New York, later moving onto Illinois and then Arkansas.
  • Patrick Manning from Galway who came to the Carolinas in 1849 and fought with the Confederacy in the Civil War.
  • and George and Bridget Manning from the Aran islands in Galway who came to Boston in the 1850’s.

Canada.  Peter Manning with his wife Nancy and large family came from Ireland via Philadelphia to Nova Scotia in 1770.  Six years later Peter was tried, convicted, and hanged for murdering a neighbor.  His third son Edward had a wild unruly childhood before, after a “Great Awakening,” becoming a Baptist preacher of much force and persuasion.

George Manning arrived much later, in 1896, and from England.  His son Ernest Manning, born and raised in a small farm on the Canadian Prairies, rose to be the long-serving Premier of Alberta – from 1943 to 1968.  Apparently it was the evangelical broadcasts of future Premier William Aberhart which inspired him to follow that path.  Ernest’s son Preston was the founder and leader of the Canadian Reform Party.  

Australia.  John Manning, a baker, and his wife Margaret were Irish immigrants from county Cork who came to Darlinghurst, NSW in the 1840’s.  Their son William prospered in finance in Sydney where he became mayor in 1891 and was later knighted.

Henry Manning, a London builder, was in 1840 an early landowner in the Swan river colony in Western Australia. He in fact had designed the pre-fabricated Manning timber cottages that were used by the first settlers.  His younger brother Charles came out to manage the estates in the early 1850’s.

John Daniel Manning came about this time too and was a dairy farmer in the area. Their name has been perpetuated in Manning, now a suburb of Perth.

Manning Surname Miscellany

The Manning Family of Kent.  Some historians have made Mannheim in Germany the cradle of this family.  They were said to have begun their history with Ranulph or Rudolph de Manning/Mannheim of the Palatine court who, having married Elgida, aunt to King Harold I of England, was granted lands in Kent.  His grandson Simon de Manning went off on a Crusade to the Holy Land with Richard the Lionheart in the late 12th century.

The Mannings came into property in Kent twice through marriage:

  • first Bertrey castle through the marriage of William Manning and Joan de Cherfholt around the year 1320.  By 1405 these Mannings also owned land in Downe parish near Cudham.
  • and then Downe Court through the marriage of John Manning and Agnes Petley around the year 1510.

Downe Court was later sold.  Other Mannings remained at Saint Mary Cray and Kevington some five miles away.  The following inscription for Richard Manning who died in 1605 and his wife Rachel was found on a brass memorial in Downe church:

“Here Richard Manning lies, who the son of the Mannings came.  He dwelt and died at Manning’s Hall old homestead to the name Zealous of God’s truth hating sin to honest men right kind Housekeeper good and enjoyed much to welcome foe and friend Good wife a helper fit he had assisted with God’s grace In full ripe years he died and hath a blessed place.”

Another brass shows the family arms and motto and records that Edward, the son of the last Manning buried in Downe, died in 1622 at the age of 20, having been page to Prince Charles, later King Charles I. 

Irish Manning Lore.  There is an old and well-founded tradition that all the Mannings in the world are descended from a King of Ulster who ruled around the year 450.  This king was very wealthy and was called the Maoin, which translates as riches or wealth.  The clan of Maoin was said to have been converted to the Catholic faith by Saint Patrick himself.

Sometime between the 10th and 13th centuries many of these Maoins crossed the English Channel and settled in Kent.  According to English law, they were forced to give their name an English form.  A number chose Manning. Some of them, dazzled by English gold, gave up their faith and soon advanced to a high position in the English nobility.

Laurence Manning During the Revolutionary War.  Laurence Manning was born in Killarney in Ireland in 1757.  He had come to America with his widowed mother and settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

He began his army career in the 2nd Canadian Regiment and was a sergeant with that unit in late 1776.  He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Staten Island in 1777, but was back the next year with his regiment as ensign and later as lieutenant.  In 1780 he was transferred to Harry Lee’s Legion Infantry where he served until the end of the war.

“A painting of Lieutenant Manning, which now hangs in Yale University Art Gallery, portrays him in a conventional blue army coat with red collars and facing and silver epaulettes.”

After the War, he made his home in Sumter county, South Carolina and married Susannah, the daughter of General Richard Richardson.  Their son Richard Irvine Manning became Governor of South Carolina. Laurence Manning died in 1804.

Dennis Manning in the British Navy.  Dennis Manning had grown up in a poor Catholic tenant farming family in Roscommon in the early 1800’s.  The family probably lived in a one roomed cabin built of mud and earth sods, the first two or three feet being made of stone without mortar.  Potato was their staple diet.

Potato crop failures occurred in 1816 and again in 1822, resulting in much poverty, starvation and death.  Dennis left this blighted countryside, walking the hundred or so miles from Roscommon to Dublin in search of a ship that would take him away.

He ended up in London where, in 1825, he was recruited or press-ganged into the British navy.  It turned out that he did not join the British navy to fight enemies abroad but to combat nuisances at home.

He became part of the crew of H.M.S. Hyperion, a wooden sailing frigate carrying forty-two guns, as a landsman (probably at the time the lowest rank in the British navy).  The Hyperion was stationed at Newhaven and was part of the Sussex coast blockade to prevent smugglers landing and disposing of their contraband goods on the south coast of England.

For three years he served as a sentinel on this ship at Rye harbor on the mouth of the river Rother. An incident in which he would probably have been involved occurred in April 1826 when a galley with illegal spirits on board beached on the east hills at the entrance to Rye harbor and a large body of armed smugglers came over the sand hills. An affray commenced between the smugglers and the blockade party.  The blockade party ultimately seized the galley and fifteen tubs, but the smugglers escaped.

After three years he was discharged from the navy and returned to London.

Reader Feedback – James Rial Manning at Custer’s Last Stand.  James Rial Manning was a blacksmith who died at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer’s Last Stand. How can I find out if he was from Ireland or England or Scandinavia?

Paul Manning (

Ernest Manning’s Christian Awakening in the Canadian Prairies.  According to his son Preston:

“One Christmas, Ernest and his brother Bill assembled a three-tube radio set they had ordered through a mail-order catalogue.  Listening to the radio my father became acquainted with the religious radio ministry of William Aberhart, a high school principal and Christian layman in Alberta.  Aberhart was a pioneer in the use of radio to communicate Christian teaching.  His broadcasts were heard across western Canada in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

As a result of listening to Aberhart, my father decided to leave the farm in 1927 to study at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, Aberhart’s training school.  He was the school’s first graduate and became Aberhart’s assistant.

Had he not bought that old tube radio or listened to William Aberhart’s broadcasts, the political landscape of Alberta and indeed Canada may well have been very different.” 

The Book of Manning.  Archie Manning was born and grew up in the small town of Drew, Mississippi in the 1950’s.  His father Buddy worked at a farm equipment store and his mother was a homemaker.

In the SEC documentary The Book of Manning screened in 2013, the story of Archie and his wife Olivia was told – how they met and fell in love at Ole Miss, the folk hero quarterback and the homecoming queen.

And it is also a story of how their three boys – Cooper, Peyton and Eli – followed in their dad’s footsteps and signed to play football in the SEC. Two of the boys became NFL star quarterbacks who won Super Bowls, Peyton with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and Eli with the New York Giants in 2007.  The Book of Manning utilized a trove of Manning home movies from their childhood to give an insider’s look at how both Peyton and Eli’s on-field personalities were shaped.

The film also went a little deeper into some of the family’s darker times, including the suicide of Archie Manning’s father Buddy in 1969 when he was a 19-year-old star quarterback at Ole Miss and the life-threatening spinal condition that ended Cooper Manning’s collegiate career.

Manning Names

  • Robert Mannyng was the author of Mannyng’s Chronicle, an early English history, in 1338. 
  • Thomas Manning was the first Englishman to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa in Tibet in 1811.
  • Cardinal Henry Manning was a leading Anglican figure of the Oxford Movement in early Victorian times who later converted to Catholicism.  He became the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster in 1865. 
  • Archie Manning was a star American NFL quarterback in the 1970’s and 1980’s and father of two star quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli Manning. 
  • Patrick Manning was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for thirteen years between 1991 and 2010.

Manning Numbers Today

  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 28,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 18,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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