Marshall Surname Genealogy

is an occupational name, coming from the Old French mareschal meaning “marshal” but
originally from the Old German marah
for “horse” or “mare” and schal
for “servant.”  Marshall therefore described someone who looked
after the horses, an important although rather low-level responsibility
in medieval times.
In the royal household, the term Lord Marshal originally related
to the
keeping of the King’s horses.  But by the 13th century the Lord
Marshal in England had come to describe a high-status person, one who
was the head of the King’s household troops.  A similar elevation
in status occurred in Scotland, in France, and in various other places
Europe.  It is from the
military connotation that the term Field Marshal developed.

Resources on

Marshall Ancestry

John FitzGilbert had been given the hereditary title of Lord Marshal
King Stephen in the 1140’s.  In 1194 the title then passed to
his younger son William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke,  He
lived through four monarchs, became one of the most powerful men in the
country, and made the Marshal name famous.  On his
death he had large land holdings.  However,
his sons died without issue and these Marshal estates were scattered.

William Marshal had founded the Cartmell priory in north Lancashire in
1189.  The Cartmell Marshalls claimed, perhaps wrongly, descent
from him; while the Marshalls of nearby Urswick said that they
were cousins.

William Marshall made his money from the
dissolution of
Furness Abbey at the time of Henry VIII.  He founded a free school
in Urswick and died in
1579 a rich man.  His grandson Nicholas, rector of Urswick, was
said to be the second wealthiest vicar in the land.  But the
Marshall fortunes took a dive in the 18th century when Ann Marshall
was tried and convicted of theft

Yorkshire and Environs
A Marshall family have been long-standing in Pickering in north
Yorkshire, ever since they had married into the Buys estate in the 15th
century.  William Marshall of this family started England’s first
agricultural instiute in the early 1800’s.  By that time, a branch
of the family had moved to Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire where they
were customs officials.

William and Alice Marshall were recorded in Humberston near Grimsby in
the early 1700’s; William
from Scartho in north Lincolnshire started flour
milling in Grimsby in the early 1800’s; Robert Marshall grew up at that
time in
Scotton near Gainsborough; and William Marshall began his engineering
works in Gainsborough in 1848 (they became famous for their

The Marshalls of Yeadon near Leeds in the East Ridings of Yorkshire
dated from the 1500’s.  Jeremiah Marshall was a linen draper in
Leeds in the 18th century.  His son John started out as a flax
spinner who purchased the rights for a new flax spinning machine.
He then built a huge
Egyptian-style mill at Holbeck in Leeds.

This enterprise made him
wealthy and his family, perhaps seduced by Wordsworth, bought up land
in the Lake District.  In 1850 the poet Tennyson quipped:

found the seat of a Marshall on almost every lake we came to.”

Margaret Armstrong’s 2002 book Linen
and Liturgy
described the story of the Marshall family in the
Lake District in relation to the parish church of Keswick St. John.

Elsewhere  There
were pockets of Marshalls elsewhere, such as in Little Tew in
Oxfordshire and in villages around Longborough in
Gloucestershire.  But the 19th century surname distribution showed
that Marshall was very much a northern name, centered around Yorkshire
and Lancashire.

Scotland.  The
Marshall name came to Scotland through the title of Earl Marshal
given to the Keith family (although the Keiths never adopted Marshall
as a surname).  But several of that name appeared in the Scottish
rolls of those swearing fealty to Edward of England in 1296 and
Marshall subsequently spread as a surname, although not necessarily
describing anyone of status.

The two best known Marshalls of the 18th century were in fact of humble

  • Billy
    the so-called “king of the gypsies” in Galloway
  • and William Marshall the butler, clockmaker and composer of
    music from Morayshire.

There was a cluster of Marshalls in the
late 18th century in Kilmaurs in Ayrshire.  The late 19th century
distribution showed the largest concentration in and around Glasgow.

Ireland.  The
Marshalls in Ulster are mainly a Scottish implant, originating at the
time of the Scottish plantations of the 17th century.  It seems
that they generally came from two places, Glasgow and Kelso on the
Scottish borders.

John Marshall was recorded in the sectarian violence in Antrim as early
as 1641.  Sir Gilbert Marshall was born on Belfast in 1680 and
lived to be 103, dying in Carnmoney, Antrim in 1783.  The Rev. W.F
Marshall, born in Omagh in 1888, wrote in the local Tyrone dialect and
was known as “the bard of Tyrone.”  His words adorn the monument
in Larne’s Curran Park which commemorates the Ulster Scots who
emigrated to America.

Early Marshalls appeared in Virginia.

Virginia.  John
Marshall had been a captain of cavalry
under Charles I and had left England in 1650 after the Civil War
defeat.  He settled in Virginia and was the forebear of the
Marshall plantation-owning families of Virginia and Kentucky.

main line passed through “John of the Forest” to Thomas, who moved his
family to Kentucky in 1785, and then to John Marshall, the famous
jurist of the early days of the United States, and his cousin Humphrey,
the Kentucky Senator in 1801.  William Paxton’s 1885
book The Marshall Family
covered this family history.  Charles Marshall was an emancipated slave
from their Kentucky plantation near Greensburg.

Another large plantation owner was Levin Marshall from
Virginia.  He was a successful banker in Natchez, Mississippi, and
the owner of a hotel, a steamboat and five cotton plantations.  He
was one of the richest men in the antebellum South.  His son
George ran the
Lansdowne plantation
in Natchez which is still in Marshall
hands today.

Other Marshalls in or from Virginia were:

  • John Marshall who arrived from England sometime in the
    1720’s.  From his line came Riley Marshall, a farmer who moved to
    Indiana in 1817 and struck lucky when oil and gas was discovered on his
    land.  His grandson Thomas was Governor of Indiana and Vice
    President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson.
  • Gilbert and Martha Marshall who arrived from Antrim in 1751 and
    later moved onto Tennessee.   His sons fought in the
    Revolutionary War.  John Marshall built a palatial house for
    himself in Franklin, Kentucky.

Scots Irish.
Early Scots Irish Marshalls who came to America were:

  • William and Rebecca Marshall, Quakers, who were married in New
    Castle county, Delaware  in 1746. They soon moved onto North
    Carolina where they were joined by William’s brother John.
  • and William and Elizabeth Marshall who came to Adams county,
    Pennsylvania in 1748.  They later moved onto Indiana county after
    having experienced problems with the local Indians.  Thomas H.
    of this line was a prominent farmer in Dayton,

Other Marshalls.
Some Marshalls in America have come from other places.  One family
history begins with a George Marschall and his
family who came to America from Bavaria in 1833 and settled in Barry
county, Michigan. Another Marschall family who arrived at this time
from Bavaria were Jewish.  Their son Louis became a well-known
Jewish community leader and civil rights lawyer.  In both cases
the Marschall name changed to Marshall.

Anthony Marshall, the
father of the actors Garry and Penny Marshall, had changed his name
from Masciarelli to Marshall sometime in the 1930’s.

Canada.  Robert
, a weaver, left his native Galloway in Scotland in
1775 to seek a better life for himself in Canada.  He ended up in
the Highland colony in Pictou county, Nova Scotia.  The early
years were hard.  But his descendants later prospered.
David, his grandson, was a local merchant.  Another grandson
Robert migrated to New Brunswick and went into politics.  Some
Marshalls later headed West, in a number of cases to the American
West. The family story is narrated in Bryce Marshall’s 1975 book The Marshall Family of Pictou County.

Other early Marshall arrivals in Canada were:

  • Solomon Marshall, a Loyalist from Massachusetts who came with his
    family to Annapolis, Nova Scotia in the 1780’s.
  • John Marshall, who came to Burin county, Newfoundland in 1815 to
    build the Catholic church there.  He stayed and became one of the
    settlement’s leading merchants.  His home at Bell’s Cove remains
    with the Marshall family.
  • Thomas Marshall, a weaver from Lanarkshire, who arrived in Quebec
    with his wife Janet on the Alexander
    in 1820.  Later, his descendants headed west to Castor,
    Alberta in 1909.

Australia.  The first
Marshall to Australia was a sea captain, John Marshall from Kent, in
charge of the Scarborough in
the First and Second Fleet of convicts.  He had an unhappy time, a
threatened mutiny on the first voyage and a high convict death rate
(one out of every 3.5 convicts who boarded) on the second voyage – for
which he was blamed.  He kept a low profile thereafter.  His
name, however, was attached to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific
which he charted.

Marshall Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Marshall Names

William Marshal, the 1st Earl of
Pembroke, was a legendary figure in medieval lore, one of the most
powerful men in England in the early 13th century.
John Marshall served as Chief
Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835.  He helped to
shape American constitutional law and establish the position of the
Supreme Court.
Alfred Marshall was the
Victorian economist whose 1890 book Principles
of Economics
defined the classical theory of economics.
George Marshall was the
American general who led the allies to victory in World War Two.
As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan for
rebuilding Europe after the war.
Thurgood Marshall was the first
African American to sit on the Supreme Court.

Select Marshalls

  • 95,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 68,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 50,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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