Marshall Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Marshall Meaning
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 institute 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

Lord Marshals, Earl Marshals, and the Like.  A marshal originally meant a person who looked after the horses.  Its meaning progressed at one level to describe a farrier, blacksmith, or horse-doctor.  At another level, its meaning was elevated and
the name came to portray a very important personage within a royal or
noble household, one with either military or ceremonial

In England, William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, was one of the most
powerful men in the land and went by the name of Lord Marshal.
The title of Earl Marshal has continued into modern times, albeit in a
more ceremonial sense, with the Dukes of Norfolk.  In Scotland it
has been the Keith family which has held the ceremonial title of Earl
Marischal or Earl Marshal.

Marshals also grew in reputation elsewhere in Europe as they became
trusted members of the courts.  In France the Marshal, first
created in 1185, was one of the great offices of the Crown.  Some
rulers have used the “Marshal” title to reward military leaders.
Most famous of these were the Marshals of France that were created by
Napoleon.  Mussolini followed this practice in Italy in the
1920’s.  Marshal of the Russian Federation is the highest military
rank in Russia today. In the United States, the term marshal is used for various kinds of law enforcement officers. 

Ann Marshall’s Crime.  The Marshalls of Urswick were part of a small group of interlocking
families among the landed gentry of north Lancashire, the Stanleys,
Sawneys, Sandys and Harringtons.  When John
Marshall should look for a wife, it was natural that he look no
further than this circle.  In 1726 he married Margaret
Sawney.  It was an arranged marriage, the sole purpose
being to produce an heir.

This did not happen and Margaret died childless in
1740.  Within a year John had married Margaret’s unmarried cousin
Ann from Hawkshead.  This union soon produced two children and Ann
was expecting a third.

All was going well until 1746 when Ann was charged and
convicted of theft.  Just why Ann should steal is a mystery, given
the comfortable nature of their lives.  But the law was merciless
in those days.  Ann was sentenced to death.  She would have
to endure the spectacle of a head shaving and a public hanging.
It was only through the intercession of the two families that Ann’s
sentence was transmuted to life transportation to the Virginia colonies.

The family’s shame was visited upon Ann’s husband
John.  He was cast adrift from the family, disgraced, and forced
to join the aimless laborers seeking work around Lancashire.  He
and his three sons were ejected from the bosom of the family, never to

William Marshall of Scartho and Grimsby.  William Marshall was a farmer, shipowner, and he
established a milling business, the Cartergate mill, in Grimsby in 1817.

He was athletically built and used to walk most of his
journeys, frequently walking from Scartho to Gainsborough, from
Gainsborough to Cockerington, from Cockerington to Louth and back to
Scartho where he lived.

He was rather eccentric in some points of his
character.  He had his own tombstone placed in the churchyard over
thirty years before it was required.  Here he set forth the
virtues of his wife who preceded him.  He also had engraved some
emblematic representations of his work and progress in life.

Billy Marshall, King of the Gypsies.  Billy Marshall was born in Ayrshire in 1672 of Romany stock and claimed
to be King of the Gypsies in southeast Scotland for most of the
1700s.  He became famous as a boxer – and as a bandit.  He
was the so-called ‘King of the Randies,’ running a gang of gypsy
tinkers in Galloway and terrorizing much of the countryside.

His legendary exploits included deserting from the army no less than
seven times and from the navy three times.  He was reputed to have
married on 17 occasions, had countless children (both in and out of
wedlock), and fathered at least four children after the age of
100.  He was alleged to have lived to the age of 120, dying in
1792 and being buried in St Cuthbert’s churchyard in
Kircudbright.  His grave can be visited and a coin left for the
next gypsy who passes.

Reader Feedback – Thomas H. Marshall of Dayton, Pennsylvania.  Thomas Hindman Marshall was my great great grandfather and he lived in the
town of Dayton, PA.  There is a museum in
our little town of Dayton, PA with the house built by Thomas Hindman
Marshall and it has much history recorded.

The museum can be seen online at along with a family history of Thomas H Marshall.

Joyce Jamsion (

Robert Marshall, An Early Settler in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.  Robert Marshall was part of the Dumfries
contingent who came to the Highland colony of Pictou in 1776.  The
early times were harsh for him.  Robert initially neither the
tools nor the knowledge to farm, fish or hunt.   His wife
Elizabeth died and he had young children to raise.

He was known as “the deacon” and was a man of strong religious
beliefs.  Stories of his strong convictions have survived in the
many books and histories about the Pictou county settlers.  Before
the arrival of a permanent minister, he would conduct Sabbath services
in English and counsel neighbors whenever they had problems.

When the Rev. James MacGregor arrived in 1786, he described his meeting
with Marshall as follows:

“Robert Marshall and his family
suffered everything but death in Prince Edward Island by hunger and
nakedness; for though they had plenty of clothes of all kinds when they
came he had to part with every article of them that could be spared for

Soon after he came to Pictou he lost a most amiable consort and for
some time had a great struggle in bringing up his family.  But he
was filled with the joy and peace of believing and abounded in hope not
only of everlasting happiness, but of hearing the joyful sound of the
gospel in Pictou.

He was afterward an elder and a great comfort for me, but for many a
day he had to go to hear the sermon in an old red coat which an old
soldier had given him and a weaver’s apron to hide the holes and rags
of his trousers.”

George Marshall and the Mississippi Lansdowne Plantation.  
Both George Marshall and his wife Charlotte Hunt came from prominent
Natchez planter families.  George Marshall’s father Levin was a
millionaire, among the top ten wealthiest individuals in Natchez
district and one of the only thirty five millionaires in the country at
the time.

Beginning in 1852, their Lansdowne plantation was part suburban
Natchez estate and part cotton plantation.  They replaced the
original house with a finer one.  Many of the twenty two slaves
there would have worked to support the house, a butler, a cook, house
maid, nurse for the children, someone to wash the clothes, someone to
care for the yard and garden, etc.  The rest would have worked on
the limited cotton operation on the plantation.

George went to fight in the Civil War and was quickly wounded in
Tennessee in the Battle of Shilo.  He paid someone to finish
fighting the war in his place.  After the war George and Charlotte
were much less well off than before.  They worked hard to make
Lansdowne as productive as it could be, even selling butter and eggs
in town themselves.  As a result, they were able to keep
Lansdowne and pass it on to their descendants.

Pilgrimage house tours have finally brought in money to preserve
Natchez big planter homes such as Lansdowne.  The story goes that
there were pots on the floors to catch the rain water at the time of
the first tours.

The big house and 120 acres of the original 600 acres of Landsowne are
still with the Marshall family today.

“Time has almost stood still at Lansdowne since the
1850’s.  For example, the drawing room is decorated as it was back
then with the original Zuber wallpaper, the double set of Rococo
Revival rosewood furniture covered in rose brocade, the Aubusson
carpet, the gilded cornices and copies of the first brocaded damask
lambrequins.  The imported white marble mantel is decorated with
an unusual carved calla lily design.  The house also contains
black Egyptian marble mantels in the bedrooms and rosewood bedroom
furniture, original glass and silver and many antique objets d’art.”

It is a private residence, but open during the spring pilgrimage tours
in Natchez each year when descendants of the original owners will host
a dinner for invited guests.

Charles Marshall, Emancipated Slave.  Charles Marshall was born into slavery in 1841 on the Marshall
plantation near Greensburg, Kentucky.  He served as a volunteer
soldier in the Union forces during the Civil War.  After the war
he was one of the many slaves to be given his freedom along with
several acres of land near Greensburg.

In subsequent years racial tensions ran high in this area.
Spiteful white neighbors would set fire to the barns on his farm
because he was a black landowner.  He and his wife Hariette
endeavored to stay but finally, fearing for their safety, they sold up
in 1898 and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana.  Charles was able to
purchase land north of the city limits and they raised a family of
eight there.

In the 1980’s Charles Marshall was honored postumously at Crown Hill
cemetery at the African American Civil War soldier tribute in
Indianapolis.  Members of the Marshall family conducted the
ceremony, descendants who still lived in the Indianapolis area.



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 Marshall Numbers Today

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


Select Marshall and Like Surnames

These were status positions within the feudal position of that time – usually positions serving noble families, lords of the manor, or in the church.  Here are some of these status position surnames that you can check out.




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