Myers Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Myers Surname Meaning

The English derivation of the surname Myers was from the Old Norse myre or mire.  The surname Myre, Myres and most commonly Myers is a locational name in the north of England for a dweller by swampy, low-lying lands.

However, in America, Myers will also have come from German surnames such as Meyers, Meyer, Mayer, Maier, or Moyer.  The root here is quite different – from the German meier, a status name for a steward, bailiff or town magistrate.  It came later to denote a tenant farmer.

There is also the Jewish Myer or Myers, from the Hebrew personal name meir, meaning “light” or “enlightener” and found with Rabbi Meir back in the second century.  Later spellings were Meyer and Maier in Germany and Mayer in France and Germany, as well as patronyms such as Meyerson.

Myers Surname Resources on The Internet

Myers, Meyers, Meyer and Mayer Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire), Switzerland, Germany and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America, Caribs (Jamaica), Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England.  Willelmus del Mire was recorded in the Yorkshire poll tax returns of 1379 and Myers has been a Yorkshire surname since that time.  The county accounted for nearly half of the Myers in England in the 1891 census.

Yorkshire.  Myers from Guiseley near Leeds date from the 1650’s.  A Francis Myers married Sarah Emmerson in Rotherham in 1757.  Their descendants are now to be found all over Yorkshire and further afield.  Other Myers were market gardeners from the 1780’s at Hornsea and nearby villages in the East Ridings.

One line in Dewsbury began with William Myers, born around 1751.  His son Isaac served as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars and later worked as a clothier, but died in the Dewsbury poorhouse in 1838.  Isaac’s son Thomas was convicted of stealing cloth in 1833 and transported to Australia.

Two Myers families have been very prominent in the small village of Wheldrake near York.  A family of joiners started there with John and William Myers in 1778 and continued until 1920.  More impressive has been the Myers family of funeral directors, in place since 1701 and still going strong.

A Myers family of Flemish weavers had come to England in the 17th century and purchased land at Dunningwell in Cumbria.  The Rev. John Myers from this line amassed a fortune in the 18th century by marrying well no less than four times.  Through his fourth wife Alice he acquired Shipley Hall in Yorkshire.  His descendants subsequently emigrated to New Zealand.

Elsewhere.  A Myers business in Lincolnshire started with Charles Myers from Cawthorpe who began baking his Lincolnshire plum loaves in 1901.  This business has continued through four generations.

Jewish.  Then there were Myers Jewish immigrants:

  • Naphtali Hart Myers had arrived from New York in the 1770’s, married into the family of the Chief Rabbi, and was a considerable figure in London Jewish circles.  His son Joseph Hart Myers studied medicine in Edinburgh and became a prominent English physician in the early 1800’s.
  • Joseph Myers came to the East End of London in the 1820’s.  Later Myers here emigrated to Australia.
  • and another Myers immigrant, originally David Mankunsky from Lithuania, settled in Sheffield in 1899.

Ireland.  Myers appeared in SW Ireland as an anglicized form of the Gaelic name O’Meidhir meaning mirth.  In Antrim, the Myers were more likely to have come from England.

America.  Most Myers and related names would seem to have come to America from Germanic countries rather than from England.  They may have been Meyers from lowland Germany, Mennonite Meyers and Moyers from Switzerland, or Mayers from Austria.  In most cases their arrival point was Philadelphia and many had become Myers by the 1780’s.

Among the arrivals were:

  • Johannes Meyers from Germany in 1717
  • Christian Moyer from Switzerland in 1719.
  • Elias Moyer from Germany in 1732
  • Peter Meyer from Switzerland in 1741
  • and Mattheus Meyer from Rotterdam in 1741.

Early surname spellings in Pennsylvania could vary considerably.

Myers in New York.  Many Myers came via New York.  The Myers family of Albany, New York were from an old Dutch family, their forebear being a Stephanus Myers who had arrived from Holland and settled in what was then New Amsterdam.

Christian Myers arrived in 1710 with German Palatine refugees being settled in the Hudson river valley.  He and his wife Ann (who met on the voyage across) ended up in Saugerties, New York and raised a large family there.

Jewish Myers.  The Myers name could also be Jewish, such as the Myers of colonial New York which included the noted silversmith Myer Myers.  Later from this family came Gustavus Myers, a lawyer and a leader in the political life of Richmond, Virginia until the Civil War.  It is possible that the legendary hunter and trapper Hunter John Myers, a converted Catholic who was born around 1765, might have come from this family.

Hyam Myers was a Jewish merchant from Amsterdam who came to New York in the 1740’s.  His son Moses operated an import/export business first in New York and then, from 1787, in Norfolk, Virginia.  Moses’s son Samuel would become the first Jewish graduate of William and Mary College.

Their family firm of Myers & Company survived the Crash of 1819, became one of Norfolk’s leading antebellum businesses, and would contribute much to the reconstruction of Norfolk after the Civil War.  Barton Myers would then guide Norfolk’s progress into the modern era of the 20th century.  Five generations of the Myers family lived in the Moses Myers House in Norfolk from 1795 until 1931.

Mordecai Myers, born in Rhode Island, went south to Charleston, South Carolina to make his living.  After his marriage, he would not speak of his parents as Jewish – but that his father Myer Benjamin was Hungarian and his mother Rachel Austrian.  He was the founding father of the Georgetown mercantile community in Charleston.  His son Abraham Myers fell from grace during the Civil War.

Myers in Pennsylvania. The largest concentration of Myers in America, however, has been and continues to be Pennsylvania.  Many who immigrated there stayed.  This applied in particular to the Mennonite immigrants.  Others moved on:

  • Hans Meier from Germany came with his wife Ana to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania around 1715.  Their Myers descendants later moved to Ohio and Texas.  The family history was recounted in Dorothy Adams’ 1987 book Myers History.   
  • in the 1780’s Christian Myers and his family moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, while George and Margaret Myers headed for Kentucky where they raised fifteen children.
  • another family line traces Myers to Ohio from the 1790’s and then to Calloway county, Kentucky from the 1820’s;  while a Quaker family that came to Columbiana, Ohio produced three Myers sisters in the 1850’s who were pioneer female doctors.  Mary also operated an underground railroad station for escaped slaves.

David and Jane Myers set out from South Carolina in wagon trains in 1820 for Texas, but ended up in Alabama.  Their family cemetery in the Eight Mile hamlet near Mobile was established in 1849 and remained functioning until the early 1950’s.

Caribbean.  Two Jewish Myers brothers, Michael and Fred, left Portsmouth in England for Jamaica in the early 1800’s.  Fred was the founder of Myers’ Rum.  Some of Michael’s descendants emigrated to New York during the 1930’s.

Canada.  The early Myers in Canada were of varied origin.

Hans Waltimeyer or John Walden Meyers, probably of German origin, was a Loyalist belligerent in upstate New York during the Revolutionary War.  Afterwards, he crossed over to Canada and helped found the town of Belleville, Ontario.  His story was recounted in Jane Goddard’s 1980 book Hans Waltimeyer.

Later, David Myers, together with his mother and step-brothers, left upstate New York for Innisfil and Barrie, Ontario in 1830.

By sea came:

  • Thomas Myers, nicknamed Pappy, to Hampton, Prince Edward Island in 1817.  He was of lowland German origin.
  • Thomas Mairs from Ireland had come to Chapel Cove, Newfoundland in 1801.  Another Thomas Myers. from Ireland stopped off in New Brunswick sometime in the 1820’s.
  • around the same time the Brockmeyers from Alsace/Lorraine in France reached Quebec province.  This family changed their name to Myers in the 1860’s.

Australia and New Zealand.  David Myers set out from Yeadon in Yorkshire for Australia with his large family in 1848.  They became sheep farmers in a property near Cooma in New South Wales.  Other Myers from Yorkshire followed them.

Jewish Myers.  There was a sizeable Myers Jewish representation down under as the 19th century proceeded.  It probably started with Judah Myers, a crockery merchant in Nelson and then Wellington, New Zealand.  He and his wife Eve raised twelve talented children.  Their grandson Michael later became Chief Justice of New Zealand.

Another dynasty revolved around Sir Arthur Myers, New Zealand’s Minister of Munitions during World War One.  Sir Arthur himself was devoutly Jewish.  But religious observance in the family faded with the succeeding generations.  The family story was recounted in Michael Bassett’s 2007 book The Myers.

The merchant Lewis Myers was a leader of the Jewish community in Melbourne in the 1860’s and 1870’s. Arriving there in 1899 (escaping Tsarist Russia and its Jewish pogroms) was the Sydney Myer who started the famous Myer department store.  He died prematurely and unexpectedly in 1934 at the age of 56. Newspaper reports of the time described the seven mile route of his funeral procession being lined with 100,000 mourners.

Myers Surname Miscellany

The Myers Origin in England.  There  was a place in Lancashire from the old Norse word Myrrkogr from which the original bearer of the surname Myers may have derived his name.  The name has also been spelt Myre, Mire, Mirers, and Myres.  Early records of the name mention Richard de Mirecroft, recorded in Lanashire in 1273, and David Mire, documented during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).  Willelmus del Mire was listed in the Yorkshire poll tax of 1379.

John Myers and His Wives.  John Myers was a man who, starting from a low beginning, acquired a large fortune.  He married four times and, through his fourth wife Alice (the widow of Anthony Wrightson), acquired Shipley Hall in Yorkshire.  He subsequently became a Justice of the Peace for Yorkshire.

In his convivial hours, when the number of bis wives was mentioned, he would jocularly say: “If I survive, I will have five.”  Death, however, prevented his fulfilling his wish as he survived his fourth wife by only a few days.  He was living in  Cumberland when his fourth wife died in 1821 and he went to Yorkshire for the funeral.  He was taken ill on the way and died as soon as he reached Shipley Hall.

Myer Myers, New York’s Colonial Silversmith.  Myer Myers was born in New York City in 1723, the son of Solomon and Judith Myers.  The family lived one block away from Shearith Israel’s synagogue on Mill Street, where Solomon and his sons were active members of the congregation.  After the traditional seven year apprenticeship, Myers became the first Jewish person in the British realm to establish himself as a working retail silversmith.

His renown as an artisan came from his ability to execute superb custom order work for the wealthiest patrons.  His New York workshop was one of the few that supplied such labor-intensive, richly ornamented forms as candlesticks, pierced bread baskets, covered jugs, and cruet stands, and stood alone in the production of such specialized work as Torah finials.

Myers’ output was not, however, confined to these style-conscious forms.  From the mid-1750s his shop generated a steady income by satisfying the demand for more modest forms of hollowware and flatware from a larger, less affluent clientele.

The summer of 1776 brought his activities as a silversmith and entrepreneur to an abrupt halt.  George Washington had made New York his headquarters and British troops were besieging the city.  Myers and his family moved with other Jewish families to Norwalk, Connecticut.  However, in July 1779 a British force attacked and burned the town, leaving the residents homeless and Myers without his tools. The family then settled in Stratford, Connecticut for the remainder of the war years and, despite his losses, it is evident from extant objects that Myers continued to work as a silversmith.

Samuel Myers and the Shooting.  Samuel Myers was one of twelve children born to Moses and Eliza Myers of Norfolk, Virginia.  His was a wealthy Jewish family which sat at the pinnacle of Virginia society.

In May 1811, Samuel shot and killed Richard Bowden, a former business partner of his father.  Richard had beaten Moses in the market square, claiming that he had been cheated. Charged with manslaughter, Samuel was released on bail and he stayed with friends in Philadelphia as he awaited trial.

Acquitted a year after the shooting, Samuel went with his sister Adeline to upstate New York in the summer of 1812 to recover from the ordeal.  He then went abroad for two years and was not to return to Norfolk, Virginia until 1815.  He lost heavily during the Crash of 1819 and took his family to Pensacola, Florida to try to make a fresh start. There he ran a legal practice for several years before returning to Virginia.

Fort Myers and Abraham Myers.  Fort Myers, built as a military fort in Florida in 1850, was named after Colonel Abraham Myers who had been stationed in Florida for the previous seven years.

Myers was a Confederate General during the Civil War but fell from grace after the Battle of Gettysburg.  The Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, removed him from office because of his failure to supply the southern armies with needed shoes, coats and blankets.  Myers felt humiliated by the termination and remained bitter for the rest of his life.

His wife Marion hadn’t helped his cause.  Her sharp tongue had made her many enemies.  She had once said that the President’s wife Varina Davis looked like “an old squaw.”  There was sniping at her and her husband as Jews who they said owed their first loyalty to “the party of Moses” and “the tribe of Levi.”

Blamed for losses on the battlefield and losing the war in the parlors of Richmond as well, Abraham Myers was passed over for promotion and replaced as Quartermaster General.  Between that and being on the wrong side in the Civil War, he pretty much lost everything.  But he would always have Fort Myers.

Myers and Related Names in America.  Most Myers in America were probably of German, Swiss or Austrian origin, having anglicized their names in America.  There were 87,000 Myers and related names in the 1920 US census.


Surname Numbers
Percent Most
Common In –
Myers 34    39 Pennsylvania
Meyers 13    15 Pennsylvania
Meyer 23    27 New York
Mayer 9    10 New York
Maier 2     2 New York
Moyer 6     7 Pennsylvania

Reader Feedback – The Life of Hunter John Myers.  This book, entitled Leather and Silk, was written in 1854 by the writer John Esten Cooke whose brother was Phillip Pendelton Cooke.  His cousin was Secretary of the Navy John Pendelton Kennedy.  This Myers family was Catholic with ties to the Jewish Myer Myers family in Richmond, Virginia.  A study was done on this family by Stanford University in the mid 1930’s.  

Whomever they are, they seem to be related to the Virginia Pendelton family, CSA Jeb Stuart, Thomas Jefferson then his grandson Confederate Secretary of War George W Randolph and CSA General Robert E Lee if not the writer John Esten Cooke himself. 

Another good book is Reflections in a Silver Spoon by Pittsburgh banker Paul Mellon since a Mellon relative did support research on Hunter John Myers.  John Esten Cooke was related to Jack Kent Cooke who married Barbara Jean Carnegie who was a close friend of Rachael Bunny Mellon.  Rachael married Pittsburgh banker Paul Mellon.  Jack Kent Cooke owned the Washington Redskins and is buried with the Pittsburgh Mellon family.  All these records are at the John Heinz Carnegie Mellon University on 5000 Forbes Street in Pittsburgh. 

Lawrence John Myers (

Napoleon Boneparte Myers.  White Myers of Fort Blount, Tennessee was obviously a fan of the French Emperor.  He named his first son, born in 1846, after him. When Napoleon grew up and married, he owned a house on 53 acres overlooking the Cumberland river in Granville.  It was a large and ornate house with stain-glass windows, gingerbread trim, and large hand-hewn stones for the foundation.  In the entrance hall was the mural of a pear tree bedecked with doves and with the names of everyone in the family.  Napoleon and his wife were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in Carthage.

Some researchers have Napoleon’s full name as Philip Napoleon Boneparte.  Perhaps he didn’t like the Napoleonic connection.  According to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, he was listed simply as Philip.  All other records show him as Napoleon Boneparte or N.B.

David and Tsivia Mankunsky/Myers from Lithuania.  David and Tsivia and some of their siblings came to England from Lithuania and Poland in the 1880’s and 1890’s.  They spoke no English.  David went to night school and learned to read and write.  His wife spoke Yiddish and only very poor English and was illiterate in that language all of her life.  They settled in Sheffield.  However, David caught tuberculosis from the terrible conditions in which they lived and worked and he died in 1910. His widow was left without skills, with no communication outside of her own community, and with three small children.

The family moved to Leeds and she made a precarious and physically very difficult living selling poultry. Although illiterate her respect for education was enormous and both of her sons, Joshua and Charles, went to university.

Myers Names

  • Myer Myers was a prominent silversmith in colonial New York.
  • Frederick Myers was a pioneer of psychical research in England in the late 19th century.
  • Charles Myers, the British psychologist, coined the word shell shock after World War One.
  • John Myers invested with William Bristol in an upstate New York drug company at the turn of the century. That company became the pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers.
  • Sydney Myer, born Simcha Baevski in Russia, started the famous Myer department store in Australia.

Myers Numbers Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 88,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 25,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Myers and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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