Mason Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Mason Meaning
The surname Mason derives from the occupation of stonemason (the word
itself coming from the Old Central French word macon or masson).
The trade was a skilled and highly regarded one in medieval
England.  A mason was generally recognized as someone who had
already served his time as an apprentice to a master craftsman.
Mason craft guilds may have been the origin of the freemasonry which
began in Scotland in the early 18th century, but there is no strong
evidence that this was the case.

Mason Resources on

Select Mason Ancestry

England.  The Mason name
started to appear in the 13th century and had
become quite widespread
by the 14th century,
although with many different spellings.  Mason came to
predominate.  But the Norman form of Machin persisted, notably in
Gloucestershire and later in Nottinghamshire.  Machins accounted
for 7% of the Masons in England by the time of the 1881 census.

There were some early
Masons in south and eastern England:  

  • a
    Mason family resided at Necton Hall near
    Swaffham in Norfolk from the late 15th to the early 20th century.  Captain Arthur Mason of this family died in
    tragic circumstances at Gallipoli in 1915.  
  • Sir
    John Mason, the Tudor diplomat, was the son of a cow-herd in
    Abingdon in Berkshire.  John Mason School
    in Abingdon was named after him.  
  • while
    Mason at this time was a yeoman farmer at Monkton in Kent.
    He bequeathed to his son William 100 pounds
    with the instructions that he should educate himself.
    He did so and became a lawyer and an MP in 1626.   

however, Mason developed more as a
surname in the north of England.

Mason was born at Dent in the Yorkshire Dales in 1620 and his
became prosperous landowners there in the 18th century.
From these roots came Miles Mason, the
forebear of the famous Mason family of potters in

Hugh Mason, one of the prominent early 19th
century Lancashire mill owners, was the son of a family that had moved
from Derbyshire.

Christopher Mason from Sion
in Middlesex arrived in Waterford in 1627 and settled there.  His grandson John was four times mayor of
Waterford between 1696 and 1712.  Another
line via Robert Mason came to Galway in the 1690’s.  Their home
was Masonbrook.  This line became
the Monck Masons
and they made their mark as writers.

Scotland.  The Sinclairs of Rosslyn
laid claim to be the hereditary Grand Master Masons of Scotland,
although Sir
James of that family did resign his position there in 1736.
Masons in
Scotland have sometimes been thought of as a sub-sect of the Sinclair

Mason family line has been traced back to 1750 in Troqueer parish in
Ayrshire.  The Masons of Moredon in
Edinburgh were granted a coat of arms in 1795.

America.  The first Mason with connections to America
undoubtedly Captain John Mason, even though he
never set foot in New Hampshire.  But from his land grants came the Mason claim
to the state. 

New England.
Another Captain John Mason did come to Massachusetts
in 1632.  He later settled in Windsor,
and served as Deputy Governor of Connecticut.
He was the forebear of a large number of Mason descendants in
including Jeremiah Mason, the US Senator for New Hampshire, and John S.
Mason, a Union general during the Civil War.
There is a statue of him on the Palisado Green in Windsor.

Sampson Mason,
a Puritan caught up in the English Civil War in Lancashire made his
escape to
America in the late 1640’s and settled in Rehoboth,
Massachusetts.  He too
had many Mason descendants in America.

A notable 19th century Mason family in Massachusetts
included Lowell Mason, a leading figure in American church music, and
his sons
Henry and William and grandson Daniel, all involved in music in

Virginia.  George
Mason, a Royalist captain, fled
England after their defeat at Worcester and came to Virginia in 1652.  He was the progenitor of a powerful
landowning and political family in Virginia.
Their base was the family
plantation at Chopawamsic in Stafford county.

This line led to great grandson George Masonknown as “Father of
the Bill of Rights” and one of the “founding fathers of the United
States.”  His home was Gunston Hall in Virginia.
The Mason line then went via: 

  • his eldest son George who, however, died only
    three years after his father in 1795.   
  • his
    son John, the father of James Murray Mason, US Senator for Virginia
    from 1847
    to 1861 and a fervent supporter of the South during the Civil War.
  • and younger son Stevens, the US Senator for Virginia from 1794 to 1803.  Stevens’ two sons were also distinguished –
    Armistead as US Senator for Virginia (later killed in a duel) and John,
    important figure in the early history of Texas.  John’s
    son Stevens, known as the “Boy Governor,” became
    Governor of
    Michigan in 1835 at the age of 23.  Mason county in Michigan
    named after him

St. Helena.
Richard Mason arrived on the Atlantic island of
St. Helena sometime in the early 1700’s.
A later Richard Mason met Captain Cook when he visited the
island in
1775.  And William Mason was a British
officer guarding Napoleon at St. Helena after his defeat at Waterloo in
1815.  William then migrated back and
forth between St. Helena and South Africa before settling in Cape Town
in the
1850’s.  The main line of descent in South
Africa then was
via his eldest son Edwin.  A younger son
Richard died at sea in the 1860’s while en-route for Australia.

New Zealand.  George Mason from
Gloucestershire came on a
whaler to Kapiti island on North Island in 1837.
He married twice in New Zealand – first to Hemi Hamaka in 1842
and then to
Elizabeth Rix in 1854.  In total, there
were 21 children born to these two marriages.


Mason Miscellany

Early Masons in England.  The Mason name had started to appear in different forms in England by the
13th century.  But it is not quite clear from the examples below
whether the name is a surname or simply refers to the occupation.

1200 Roger le Mason Oxfordshire (Oseney Abbey)
1203 Godfrey le Mascun Essex fines
1279 Osbert le Masson Oxfordshire rolls
1279 Adam le Machon Northumberland assizes
1284 Richard Machen Staffordshire assizes

The Machen and Machyn spellings would probably reflect the Norman pronunciation.

A clearer example of the occupation becoming a surname is shown in the 1379 Yorkshire rolls by John Mason, a mason in Ripon.

Machins/Machens in Gloucestershire.  The forebear of these Machins was said by some to have been Robert Machin
of Bristol, the man who might have discovered Madeira (the island not
the wine)
back in the 1340’s.  This Machin may be a character of invention
rather than of fact as there have been many tales weaved about
him.  Still, the town of Machico on Madeira is thought to have got
its name from Machin.

Machin was a
mercer of Gloucester who was three times its mayor in the 1570’s.  He died in 1614, leaving a considerable
estate.  A monument to him survives, one
of the more elaborate to be found in Gloucester Cathedral.
In it he is represented kneeling in his
mayoral robes, facing his wife.  Also
featured are their thirteen children.

coat of arms was granted to his son Edward Machen a year later.
Machens established themselves at Eastbach Court in Bicknor parish,
close by the Forest
of Dean.  They remained there until the
when Charles Machen of the family moved to Bicknor Court nearby. 

The Mason Potters.  It was,
as the Masons said, both luck and love that
got Miles Mason started in the ceramics business.  He
had come to London in the 1770’s to work
as a clerk for his uncle on Chigwell Row.
By chance, his next door neighbor
was Richard Farrar, a prosperous glass and china merchant who sold
porcelain imported from China.  Farrar’s
daughter, Ruth, was only nine when her father died in 1775 and she
his fortune.  Seven years later, when she
was sixteen, Miles married her.

started his own porcelain business, firstly in partnership with others
later with the assistance of his three sons.
It was his third son Charles James (known as CJ) who was
destined to
become one of the outstanding figures of the Staffordshire pottery
industry.  His most famous work was a
porcelain known as Ironside China.
His business boomed, both in England and

But the boom was only to be
short-term.  In England his type of
porcelain went out of fashion.  In
America it began to be copied at a cheaper price by others.  In 1848 CJ went bankrupt.

The Monck Masons.  The first
of the Monck Masons was John Monck Mason, born in 1726 and the son of
Mason of Galway and Sarah Monck of Dublin.
He was an Irish politician and a man of letters (his works
Shakespearian commentaries).  He died
without issue.

Via another line through his
brother Henry came Henry Monck Mason, also a writer and the founder of
Irish Society (although he spoke no Irish).
Then there was Thomas Monck Mason who was a flute player,
writer, and
balloonist.  He was reported to have
crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon in 1835.  This
turned out to be a hoax.  Thomas
impoverished himself in the 1840’s
when he rented out London theaters to stage operas.

were Monck Masons who had more
conventional careers.  George Monck Mason
went out to India and served as the British Resident at Jodhpurs.  He was killed in the 1857 Indian Mutiny.  A later George Monck Mason of this family, a
noted Orientalist, was British consul in Iraq, but was killed during
the riots in
Mosul in 1939.

The Mason Claim to New Hampshire.  Captain John Mason from Norfolk, an early explorer and
cartographer in the New World, is considered the founder of New Hampshire, even
though he never set foot in the territory.  He did start a colony
the Piscataqua river in 1629.  His family
inherited this property on his death five years later.  They
then pursued a claim for the state of New
Hampshire that was off and on for the next hundred years.

It was John’s grandson Robert who initiated this
Mason claim.  Then in 1691 the family
sold out their interest.  A later John Mason of this family, who
himself as a mariner of Boston, revived the Mason claim in 1738.  He subsequently his rights to a group called
the Masonian Propriety.  The claim
petered out. 

George Mason, US Father of the Bill of Rights.  Although
highly respected by his peers Washington,
Jefferson and Madison, Mason did not aspire to public office in the
1770’s.  When he was asked to take Washington’s seat in the
legislature, a slot vacated when Washington was named Chief of the
Army, Mason reluctantly agreed.

1776 he was Fairfax county’s representative to the Virginia Convention
and was
appointed to the committee to draft a “Declaration of Rights” and a
constitution to allow Virginia to act as an independent political body.

Complaining about the “useless members” of
the committee, Mason soon found himself authoring the first draft of
Virginia Declaration of Rights.  Drawing from the Enlightenment
philosopher John Locke, Mason produced words that have since become

“That all men are by nature equally free and
independent and have certain inherent rights, among which are the
enjoyment of
life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property,
pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

His document was the first in America to call
for freedom of the press, tolerance of religion, proscription of
searches, and the right to a fair and speedy trial.

1787, Mason was chosen to attend the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia, where he was one of the most vocal
Distressed over the amount of power being given to the Federal
Government and
the Convention’s unwillingness to abolish the slave trade, Mason
refused to
sign the Constitution.  One of three dissenters, Mason’s refusal
support the new Constitution made him unpopular and destroyed his
with Washington, who later referred to Mason as his former friend.


Mason Names

  • Sir John Mason was a  prominent diplomat and councillor for
    four Tudor monarchs in the 16th century.
  • George Mason through his
    drafting of the Declaration of Independence is considered one of the
    founding fathers of the United States.
  • Perry Mason was the fictional lawyer in the TV series based on the books of Erle Stanley Gardner.
  • James Mason was a well-known
    British actor of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
  • Jackie Mason, born Yacov Moshe Maza, has been an American stand-up comedian for over forty years.

Select Mason Numbers Today

  • 74,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 45,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Mason and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.



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