Palmer Surname Genealogy

In the Middle Ages, when people came back from a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, they carried palm fronds to show where they had been. The
wearing of a badge with palms denoted the sign for people who had made
that journey. These pilgrims became known as “palmers.”However, not all “palmers” had really been to the Holy Land.
There was a very active trade in false souvenirs and the name also came
to be applied to a cleric who sold indulgencies.

Palmer Resources on

Palmer Ancestry

The first records of the Palmer name were Manfred Palmes living in
Taunton, Somerset in 1141 and Wiger le Palmer in the 1191 Lincolnshire
These two areas of England – the southwest and East Anglia – remained
the main two areas where Palmers were to be found in subsequent

SW England
Palmers were recorded as early as the 13th century in Gloucestershire,
in villages such as Tetbury, Tytherington and Upton St. Leonards.
Their presence in Bitton St. Mary was evident from the 1500’s and was
more long-lasting.

were also Palmers in Somerset. A
Palmer family built Fairfield Hall near Stogursey. They had
been Elizabethan adventurers, sailing with Drake and Hawkins in their
ecapades against the Spanish. In 1693, Nathaniel Palmer acquired the Alfred Jewel,
which had been discovered near his land, and bequeathed it to Oxford

A later Palmer family came from Wood Court, Ashill in Somerset. A
Palmer family of farm workers, dating from the 1720’s,
has traced their history from Wiltshire to Gloucestershire and then

East Anglia
Palmers could also be found in East Anglia, notably in
Cambridgeshire and Norfolk:

  • Palmers in Soham in
    Cambridgeshire date from the 14th century. One family accounts
    tells of a Palmer who was a soldier in the Peninsular War and brought
    back a Portuguese bride to his home in Burwell, Cambridgeshire.
  • while William
    and Mary Palmer’s marriage was recorded in Ranworth, Norfolk in
    1606. They were among the early settlers in New England.
    Another Palmer family in Norfolk traces itself to Old Buckenham.
    Palmer’s department store was started by Garwood Burton Palmer in Great
    Yarmouth in 1837 and has remained a Norfolk family-run institution
    until this day.

SE England
Palmers in the 15th and 16th centuries
were from:

  • Sussex – Angmering
    and Parham
  • and Kent – Snodland
    near Rochester and Owlets in Bekesborne.

One Palmer family,
originally from Angmering, were landed gentry at Wingham and sheriffs
of Kent
in Elizabethan times. In 1607 they inherited through marriage the
manor of
Dorney Court
near Windsor in Buckinghamshire. At that time these Palmers were
royalist supporters and Roger Palmer, who had married one of Charles
II’s mistresses, was a Catholic recusant. The family is still in
residence at Dorney Court, the property having passed from father to
son through thirteen generations.

Elsewhere There
were also Palmers recorded from an early time in Northamptonshire
and across the border in Leicestershire. The Palmers of Carlton
date from the 1400’s. They extended their landholdings under
Palmer, Charles II’s Attorney General.

Another Palmer family, originally from Staffordshire, made their money
in London and acquired the Wanlip estate in Leicestershire in
1626. These Palmers owned sugar plantations in the Caribbean but
later befriended William Wilberforce and supported his abolitionist
cause. They ran Wanlip Hall and the surrounding village on
semi-feudal lines until the death of the last Palmer, Lady Augusta
Palmer, in 1933. The Hall was demolished and the estate was then
taken over by the Palmer-Tomkinson family.

Wales. The Palmer
family of Llangwm in south Pembrokeshire may trace itself back to the
marriage of John Palmer and Anne Jones in 1765. Its best
known member was Dolly Palmer the fisherwoman.

Ireland. Palmers
came to Ireland as part of the English occupation. Two Palmer
brothers were said to have arrived in county Down from England in

A Palmer family
took extensive estates in Mayo through the royal land grants they
received in 1684. Later, Roger Palmer of this family married
Eleanor Ambrose,
one of the leading beauties of Dublin in her day, and was created a
baronet in 1777. Their Mayo family home was Castle Lacken and, in
more recent times, Keenagh Lodge.

Many Palmers were also to be
found in county Antrim and elsewhere in Ulster.

America. Walter Palmer
arrived in Salem, Massachusetts from Dorset in England in 1629.
He helped
found the settlements of Charlestown and Rehoboth in Masachusetts and
New London in Connecticut. The Stonington chronicle described
Palmer as:

“the patriarch of the early Stonington
settlers, a vigorous giant – 6 feet 5 inches tall. When he
settled at Stonington he was 68 years old, older than most of the other

Descendants have included:

  • William Palmer, Governor of Vermont
  • Nathaniel

    the whaler and seal hunter
  • Thomas Palmer, a Senator
    from Michigan
  • and Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War General and later
    American President.

Another Palmer,
William Palmer, arrived in New England in the 1630’s
and settled in Weatherfield, Connecticut. His descendants moved
first to upstate New York and then headed West, to Illinois. Two
grandchildren went onto Kansas, eventually arriving in Oklahoma
territory during the great Indian land rush of the 1890’s.

Also from original Connecticut stock via Canada came Daniel Palmer,
the chiropractic
pioneer. He started his practice in Davenport, Iowa in the 1880’s.

Palmers in the
. Captain Thomas Palmer,
from west country roots, came with his familyon the Tyger
to the Jamestown settlement in 1621. His
descendants later settled in Richmond and
Halifax counties, Virginia.

Among other Palmers to be found in the South were:

  • Elias
    Palmer, born in Virginia in 1725, who was the patriarch of a Palmer
    family that
    migrated southward to South Carolina and then, in 1818, to Georgia.
  • Paul Palmer,
    first recorded as being married in Virginia in 1717, who is considered
    founding father of Baptists in Virginia and North Carolina.
  • Joshua Palmer who
    came to South Carolina from England sometime in the 1760’s. He became a farmer there and later an
    itinerant Baptist minister. He moved to
    Indiana in 1807 where he continued his ministry. After
    his death in 1845, his widow and
    children resettled in Missouri.
  • and William Palmer who came to Charleston in
    1845 and was prominent there as a merchant and ship-owner in the years
    prior to
    the Civil War. A slave owner, he fought
    on the Confederate side in the Civil War but died in the fighting in
    1862. Curiously, his father John was an
    abolitionist whose farm in Ohio served as a station on the underground

Canada. Early Palmer
arrivals were Loyalists from America, leaving Boston in one case for
New Brunswick and New Jersey in another for Grimsby, Ontario. The
former family headed West to Calgary later in the 19th century, the
latter returned to America and Kansas and Florida.

Another Palmer
family which straddled both Canada and America were the descendants of
William and Barbara Palmer from Prince Edward Island. This family
ended up in the early 20th century on the West Coast in Winoma,

Charles Palmer arrived from England to homestead in the Marriott area
of Saskatchewan in 1906. His youngest daughter, Agnes M. Weicker,
has recorded her recollections of prairie life in the early 20th
century in her recently published book, A Walk Down Memory Lane.

Caribbean. The Palmers
were well-to-do sugar planters in Jamaica who had, however, become
overextended by debt by the end of the 18th century. Their
plantation house, the Rose Hill Great House, was destroyed during the
slave rebellion of 1831, but not before it had become the stuff of
legend (as the home of Annie Palmer, the white witch of Jamaica).

Australia and New Zealand.
The Palmer name appeared early in Australia’s history. John
Palmer arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 and soon became the
commissary of the new colony. He built Woolloomooloo Farm, one of
the colony’s first permanent residences where the Palmers entertained
lavishly. Another early settler was Charles Palmer who arrived in
Sydney in 1802 and received a generous land grant.

Charles Palmer ran away from his home in Suffolk
in the 1830’s and went to sea. He was one of the earliest
settlers in New Zealand, arriving at New Plymouth in 1841. The
1975 book Palmer Family History
by Ivan Skipworth records this family history.

Palmer Miscellany

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

Palmer Names

Barbara Palmer was a
royal courtesan and a mistress of Charles II.
Nathaniel Palmer was a 19th
century whaler, said to be the first American to see Antarctica.
Charles Palmer started Palmer’s
shipbuilding company in Newcastle in the 1860’s.
Daniel Palmer in Iowa was a
pioneer of chiropractics in the 1880’s.
Vera Jane Palmer was the
original name of the actress Jayne Mansfield.
from Pennsylvania was the great American golfer of the
1950’s and early 1960’s.

Select Palmers Today

  • 76,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Nottinghamshire)
  • 58,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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