Marsh Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Marsh Meaning
of the Marsh surname is the Old English word mersc
meaning “marsh.”  It would
describe someone who lived by a marsh or fen.  Early
spellings of the surname were Merse, Marsch
and Marsh
.  In some cases there may have been a Norman
origin of the name, the Norman de Marisco becoming Marsh.

Marsh Resources on

Marsh Ancestry

sightings of the Marsh name linked to the de Marisco name in Bath and
Somerset and in Cambridgeshire might suggest a Norman origin of the

However, there
were early non-Norman Marshes as well.  Sir
Edward Marsh lived in Lancashire in the early/mid 1200’s and was
to be
Saxon in origin.   The
Marsh family at East Langdon near Dover in Kent was
also said to have been Saxon.  William
atte Mershe of Marston in East Langdon was born around
1380 and was still living in 1440
The vast expanse of
Romney Marsh lay just twenty miles away to the west from his

This Marsh
reappeared in East Langdon records in the 1600’s.  One line led to Hannington
in Wiltshire and to Ireland; another to George
Marsh, Commissioner of the Navy in the late 1700’s, and to John
Marsh, Postmaster of Jamaica in the early 1800’s.  Joseph
Green’s 1903 book was entitled History of the Ancient
Family of Marsh

Kent.  The Marsh
name in Kent was also to be found along the coast at Ringwould near
and at Folkestone in the 17th century, as well as in villages around
Canterbury.  There were 126 Marshes recorded in Folkestone in the
1881 census.

In Womenswold church near Canterbury, the following monument
was erected for Thomas Marsh who died in 1659:

“To the memory of
Thomas Marsh esq, Lt. Colonel of the militia of the Cinque ports,
captain of Sandown castle and Lt. of Dover castle.” 

was the forebear of John Marsh the gentleman composer, born in 1752,
whose journals were recently discovered and published in 1998.

Captain Richard Marsh founded the Shepherd Neame brewery at Faversham
in 1678.  Another Richard Marsh was the vicar at Faversham in the
1750’s.  His son Herbert Marsh studied on the
Continent and was later a bishop.

East Anglia.
There were early Marshes recorded in Cambridgeshire and its
environs.   Bu the most notable Marsh came from outside the
region.  Thomas
Marsh from Stanmore in Middlesex had been a notary at Queen Elizabeth’s
Star Chamber.  He acquired
in Cambridgeshire
1580.  His family remained there until 1701.

Marsh in the North.
There were marshes in the north and the Marsh name has
been common in Yorkshire and Lancashire:

  • the Marsh family of Dairy House at Darton in south Yorkshire
    (near Barnsley)
    probably dates from the marriage of Edward Marsh and Isabel Saville in
    1498.  Their son Thomas lived at Dairy
    House until his death in 1573.   
  • while George Marsh, the son of a yeoman farmer at Dean in
    Lancashire, was a Protestant martyr at the time of Queen Mary in 1555.  
  • and a
    Marsh family was to
    be found at Wigan in Lancashire in the 1570’s.  Peter
    Marsh was a mercer and alderman in the town.
    One line of this family moved south to

did account for 20% of the Marshes in the 1881 UK census.
The main location of these Marshes was in the
towns and villages around and to the north of Manchester.
One family line traced itself back to Peter
Marsh who was born in St. Helens in 1765.
They were leading drapers in the town in the 19th century.  A Marsh family came to Westleigh Old Hall
through marriage in the late 1700’s.
They made money in the silk and textile industries and became
benefactors of the town.

The de Marisco family appeared in Ireland from the
time of Strongbow’s invasion in 1170, sometimes as Marsh.  Geoffrey de Marisco, a man it was said of some
villainy, was
the justiciar or viceroy of Ireland from 1215 to 1228.   He did not
appear to leave any descendants.

Marsh arrivals were in the 1600’s and from Wiltshire (and
originally from Kent
with a Saxon ancestry). Epaphroditus Marsh
moved to Fethard in Tipperary, his younger brother Narcissus to Dublin
where he
was the Anglican Archbishop.  Marsh’s Library in Dublin is
his legacy.

America.  The Genealogy of the Marsh
by the Marsh Family Association in 1886 looked at the family lines of
six early

  • John Marsh of Salem, Massachusetts in 1633
  • John Marsh of Hartford,
    Connecticut in 1635
  • Samuel Marsh of New Haven, Connecticut (with his brother
    Jonathan) in 1643
  • Alexander
    Marsh of Braintree, Massachusetts in  1654
  • John Marsh of Boston in 1669
  • and William Marsh of Plainfield, Connecticut in 1675.

New England.  The
first three Connecticut Marshes were probably related as they all came
from Braintree, Essex in England.
  Samuel later moved to
New Jersey, Jonathan to Norwalk, Connecticut.  Dwight Marsh’s 1895
book Marsh Genealogy covered
the line of John
Marsh from Hartford

line from Hartford led to Joseph Marsh who moved
north in 1772 to what became Vermont at the time of the Revolutionary
War.  He was a prominent farmer, landowner
and politician who served as the state’s first Lieutenant Governor in
1778.  His son
Charles and grandsons James and George were also prominent in Vermont

There were Marshes in Vermont at that time from two of the other Marsh

  • Mathias
    Marsh from the Plainfield line came to Dorset, Vermont in the
    1770’s.  His son William took the British side in the
    Revolutionary War and fled to Canada.  
  • while
    Moses Marsh from the Braintree line was in
    Rockingham by 1779.  He joined its
    Universalist church in 1791. Today
    one of the pews has a brass plate on it for the Marsh family, put there
    by descendants

John Marsh of the Salem
line, who had studied medicine at Harvard, migrated west in 1836 via
the Santa Fe Trail to southern California.  He is credited as
having been the first person to practice western medicine in what was
still Mexican territory.  He later became one of the wealthiest
ranchers in California and one of the most influential men in the
establishment of Californian statehood under the American flag.

Elsewhere.  Among
other early Marshes in America were:

  • Gilbert
    Marsh who was born in Maryland in 1694.   His descendants
    were farmers in Baltimore county through the 18th and 19th
  • Richard
    Marsh who was born in Spotsylvania county, Virginia around the year
    1730.  He later settled in Chatham county, North Carolina.
    His son William, who held the rank of captain in the Revolutionary War,
    died in 1860 at the remarkable age of 103.  Later Marshes of this
    family made their home in Georgia.
  • and
    a Marsh Quaker family which had settled in Armagh in northern Ireland
    in the late 1600’s due to the religious turmoil in England.
    Joshua Marsh and his family made the move to Chester county,
    Pennsylvania in 1736.  His son William migrated to Baltimore and
    later to Ohio in the early 1800’s.

Canada.  Samuel
Marsh from the Braintree line moved
with his family to Nova Scotia in the 1760’s.
They settled in Economy, Colchester county and were to remain
through five generations.  Charles Marsh
built a mill at Carr’s Brook in 1827.

Loyalist was Colonel William Marsh in Vermont who
undertook intelligence work for the British during the Revolutionary
War.  He and his family departed for Canada
in 1788.  William later returned.  But his children remained to start new lives
in Hastings county, Ontario.  Matthias
Marsh attended the first town meeting in Sidney, Hastings county in
1790.  Their story was recounted in
Jennifer Brown’s
2013 book Colonel William Marsh.

Australia and New Zealand.  The
story of Ann Marsh
is well-known in Australia, the convict
woman who arrived with the Second Fleet in 1789, survived a tough
regime and
prospered in her way.

Rev. Matthew Marsh, Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, had two sons who came
out to Australia.  Matthew and Charles
arrived in Sydney in 1840.   Matthew
prospered as a sheep farmer and NSW politician, but
returned to live in England in 1855.
Charles remained to look after his brother’s properties and
lived on at
until 1871.

Marsh, a bootmaker,
and his family from Dorset were among the early New Zealand settlers,
there on the Timandra in 1842 and 
settling in New Plymouth district, Taranaki.
Esau, aged five on the voyage across, died there at the age of
93 in
1929.  He was the last survivor of those
who had come over on the Timandra.


Marsh Miscellany

De Marisco and Marsh.  It was said that the de Mariscos were a Norman family that had come to
England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Their name became a
in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Ireland, as well as in Cambridgeshire
and Norfolk in East Anglia.  By
late 12th and early 13th century de Marisco was in certain places being
with Marsh, suggesting that perhaps the de
Marisco Norman name was a precursor to the Marsh English
name.   De Marisco did mean in Norman French “of the marsh.”

Richard de Marisco or Marsh held
the office of Sheriff
of Somerset in 1212 and was later appointed Bishop of Durham.  His nephew Adam de Marisco or Marsh, based in
inherited his estate.  He was a notable
scholar and theologian of his time.

Stephen de Marisco or Marsh and his son Jeffrey of Newton Manor
were prominent figures
Walsoken and Ely in East Anglia
in the late 1100’s.  In 1240 Jeffrey’s
daughter Desiderata married Sir Roger de Coleville, the lord of the
manor at
Colville.  Many of the Marsh estates then
passed into the de Coleville family. 

The Marshes of Pampisford Hall.  Thomas Marsh from Stanmore in Middlesex, north of
London, was a notary in the Star Chamber during the reign of Queen
Elizabeth.  He acquired Waresley manor in
Huntingdonshire from
Dorothy Burgoyne in 1572 and, a few years later, Pampisford
Hall in Cambridgeshire from
Eustace Cloville.

The curious fact, perhaps recognized by the participants
themselves, was that in 1240 the Newton Manor held by Marsh in
Cambridgeshire was ceded to Coleville by marriage; while in 1580
Pampisford Hall held by Cloville (undoubtedly a descendant) in
Cambridgeshire was ceded to Marsh by money.

died in 1587
and his tombstone at Waresley read as follows:

lies interred the body of Thomas Marsh esq.
who died in Stanmore in the county of Middlesex, being of the age of 59
where he was buried the 17th of September 1587; and seven years
afterwards his bones were taken up and removed hither.  He
was Clark of the Council of the Star
Chamber for the space of twenty years together.  His
care and providence in raising up his
posterity ought not be buried in oblivion.”

Thomas, sheriff of
Cambridgeshire in 1594, held it until his death in 1624 and was then
by his son Thomas, sheriff in 1648.  The
third Thomas died in 1657, leaving Pampisford (Waresley had been sold
by this time)
to his grandson Thomas.  Thomas was
knighted by Charles II in 1661 and died in 1677.  When
Sir Thomas’s son Edward died in 1701,
Pampisford went to the Parker family through their marriage to the

Herbert Marsh of Faversham.  Herbert Marsh,
bishop and bête noire of Napoleon Bonaparte, was born in 1757, the son
Richard Marsh, Vicar of Faversham.  He
was a pupil at Faversham Grammar School, where in 1767 he carved his
name and the
date on paneling.  His handiwork can
still be seen in the Old Grammar School.

Marsh studied and wrote at Leipzig. The
influence of his political texts in support of Britain during the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars led Bonaparte to proscribe him.  To avoid arrest at Leipzig, Marsh lay hidden
for several months in a merchant’s house.  After
being elected in 1807 Lady Margaret
Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, he married his Leipzig protector’s

Marsh was made Bishop of
Llandaff in 1816 and later served as Bishop of Peterborough.

Marsh’s Library in Dublin.  Marsh’s Library
was built for Narcissus Marsh, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin
formerly Provost of Trinity College.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral had agreed in 1701 to provide a plot of
land for
a library at St. Patrick’s Close adjacent to the Cathedral.

commenced in 1703.  The First Gallery and
the Old Reading Room
seem to have been completed in 1705.  The
Library was formally established by Act of Parliament in 1707 and the
Gallery was added during the course of 1708 or 1709.

was built to the order of Archbishop Marsh
and has a collection of over 25,000 books and 300 manuscripts.  Marsh himself donated his own library composed
largely of Oriental works, regarded as
one of the finest in England, of over 10,000 volumes.
When it was opened in 1707 it was the first public library in

Marsh lived to see the Library
completed.  He died in 1713 and was
buried just beyond the Library, in the grounds of the Cathedral.

John Marsh of Hartford and Hadley.  John Marsh
came with the Rev. Thomas Hooker to Hartford, Connecticut and was one
of the town’s founders in 1639.  The next
year he married Ann Webster who was the
daughter of Governor John Webster, the forebear of Noah Webster of
spelling book
and dictionary fame.

1659 he moved with
his wife and seven children to Hadley, Massachusetts with the
“withdrawers” under the lead of his father-in-law John Webster.  There he was to experience two shocks.

came the death of John Webster in April 1661.
It turned out that two of his sons in
were not thrifty and John Marsh had to step in as a father figure for
them.   And a
to one of the sons was abused in the town and accused of witchcraft.

came the death of his wife Ann in June 1662.
A flock of motherless children was about
him and after two years he married again, to the widow Hepzibah Lyman. 

The Story of Ann Marsh.  Ann Marsh, born in Devon,
was 21 when she was convicted of stealing a bushel of wheat and
to seven years “beyond the seas” to the new penal colony at Botany Bay.  In 1789 she joined 229 other women and
six of their children on the infamous Lady
.  The steward on the ship
observed: “When we were fairly out to sea, every man on
board took a ‘wife’ from among the convicts, they nothing loath.”

Ann’s partner
and protector was the ship’s surgeon who fathered a child by her.
But the child died and the ship’s surgeon had
returned to England and Ann was in need of another protector.  For a time she found him in John Irving.  He died in 1795 and she turned next to
Flannagan and then (after he had absconded) to William Chapman.  After these various liaisons she had nine
children in tow.

Apart from bearing this
large family, she managed a small goods and passenger boat service
Sydney to Parramatta, employing men to handle the boat.
She also assisted Chapman in his various
business activities.  After his death in
she held a wine and spirit licence for the King’s
Head Tavern
, a replica of which has been built as part of Old

An adventurous and busy life
came to an end when Ann died in 1823 at the age of 54.   Her
resting place has not been identified.
But oral family history says that her eldest son John Irving
caused her
to be buried with his father in the old St. John’s graveyard in


Marsh Names

  • Narcissus Marsh was
    the Archbishop of Dublin in the early 1700’s and established Marsh’s Library there.   
  • John Marsh was the most prolific English composer
    of the late 1700’s.  His own catalog of compositions
    amounted to over 350 works.   
  • Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand crime writer considered as one of the four Queens of crime during
    the 1920’s and 1930’s. 
  • Terry Marsh was an English world boxing champion in the light welterweight division who retired undefeated in 1987.

Select Marsh Numbers Today

  • 41,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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