Pearson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Pearson Meaning

The given
name Piers was adopted by the English from the Old French
“Pierre” and “Piers,” introduced by the Normans after the Conquest in
1066. In England, because of the
Biblical association with the apostle Peter, it was an early favorite. Piers Plowman, for instance, was a narrative
poem written by William Langland in the late 14th century.

Pierson, Peirson, and finally Pearson emerged
as surnames. The given name Piers to the surname Pierson seems a
natural progression. But some dispute this association.
Pierson’s origins in the northeast of England suggest a Viking
inheritance. Could there have been a hidden Viking name behind

Pearson Resources on

Pearson Ancestry

Scotland. The Pearson name was
thought to have originated
in Northumberland and migrated northwards. Wautier
Pieresoune, a landowner in Berwickshire, appeared in the
Ragman’s Roll of 1296. One hundred years
later, David Perisone and his brothers Alexander and John were recorded
as Comptollers
of the Customs for North Berwick.

Scottish branch of this family was said to have been founded about 1400
Christopher Peirson left that area for Wanlockhead near Dumfries. The family, spelt in various forms, was
later to be found in Dunfermline and Perthshire.

Thomas Pierson, who died in the early 1500’s,
was the forebear of the Pearsons
near Dunblane in Perthshire.
Their family history was covered in David Pearson’s 1891 book Pearson of Kippenross.

The 1881 census distribution of the Pearson name was:

  • Yorkshire 24%
  • Lancashire 16%
  • Durham 7%
  • and Staffordshire 5%.

has the largest number of Pearsons. Some
have argued that the Yorkshire place-name Persen
vanished) near Beverly
in the East Riding was in fact the source of the
name. In 1452 Thomas
Peirson was recorded as the sheriff of Yorkshire. He died in 1490
and was buried in York Minster. A line as Peirson or Pierson
appeared in Howden parish in the East Riding in the mid 1500’s.
And John Peirson lived at Lowthorpe nearby in the 1640’s.

The late 1600’s saw Pearsons in north Yorkshire, where William Pearson was rector of
Bolton Percy and chancellor of York Minster, and
in south Yorkshire, particularly around Rotherham.

By the 19th century, the Pearson presence had shifted to the
West Riding where the industry and the jobs were. Two examples of
Pearson enterprise then were:

  • In 1840 James Pearson began cloth manufacture in the village of
    near Huddersfield. He crammed all his
    relatives in the village to help him and Golcar soon had the highest
    concentration of Pearsons in the county.
  • Around the same time Samuel Pearson started a small engineering
    and construction business in Bradford. The business was
    transformed at the turn of the century into a large construction
    company by his grandson Weetman. The Pearson Group was then
    transformed again over the course of the 20th century into a
    conglomerate best known in recent years for its publishing arm.

The geography of the Pearson name probably stretched from
Durham in the north through Yorkshire and Lancashire into
Staffordshire. Anthony Pearson of Ramshaw Hall in Durham was an
early Quaker in the 1660’s. And the Pearson name was appearing in
the records of Kingswinford, Staffordshire near present-day Birmingham
by the 1670’s.

Ireland. Pearsons or Piersons in Ireland probably had a
past English connection. The
Pearsons at Kilmore in Armagh arrived in the 1600’s at
the time of Cromwell. Many of them were Quakers. Later,
from a family in north Yorkshire, came the Pearsons of Mountcross in
county Cork. Pearson in
Donegal possibly
derives from Pearsane.

America. Two of the early Piersons in America were
related and both came from the same family in Howden, Yorkshire:

  • The first – Henry born in Buckinghamshire – arrived in
    Lynn, Massachusetts on the Mayflower
    1639. Two related Piersons, the Rev. Abraham Pierson and
    Bartholomew Pierson, were on the same ship. A year later, Henry
    moved to Southampton, Long Island.
  • The second – Thomas from Dewsbury in Yorkshire – came in
    1661 and joined his uncle the Rev. Abraham Pierson in
    Branford, Connecticut. In
    1666 they left Branford to found the new town of Newark, New
    Jersey. Abraham’s son, also named Abraham, in 1701 became
    rector of what became Yale University.

These and other early Pearson lines in New England, as
well as their antecedents in England, were described in Richard
Pierson’s 1997 book Pierson

There were Quaker Pearsons. Thomas Pearson and his brother
John came from Cheshire to Philadelphia in 1683. Samuel Pierson from Yorkshire was
there by 1699. Another
immigrant with Quaker roots was Peter Pearson in
Cumberland. He sailed to Virginia in 1701. He was a
shoemaker by trade, but left his local Quaker community when he married
a non-Quaker. His descendants settled in Perquimans county,
North Carolina. Meanwhile another Quaker, Joshua Pierson from Armagh,
came with his son to Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1760.

Pearsons in America included
Pearsons from England, Scotland, and Ireland, a number from Sweden, and
a few from Germany.

Swedish. The
Swedish-American name could be Person, Persson, or Pearson or even
possibly Peterson.

Many Pearsons settled
in Iowa
in the early 1900’s. Louis Person
arrived in Colorado at that time with his four brothers, Andrew, Nels,
Sam, and Peter. Interestingly, Nels, Sam and Peter kept the
Person spelling; while Louis changed his name to Peterson and Andrew to
Pearson. There was also a case of a Per Mortenson who changed his
name to Martin Pearson.

Many of the Pearsons living in Québec are
descended from Charles Pearson. Charles
Pearson, born in London, came to Quebec on a ship on which he was
forcibly detained
in 1808. He settled in the area of
Rivière-Ouelle and became the town’s miller. René Lévesque, the
former Premier
of Québec, was a descendant of one of Charles Pearson’s daughters.

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearsons’s roots were in Ireland and the
Methodist church. His grandfather, the Rev. Marmaduke Pearson,
had arrived from Ireland in the 1870’s and was the Methodist minister
at Collingwood, Ontario. His father Edwin was an itinerant
preacher and would move his family around southern Ontario a great deal.


Pearson Miscellany

The Pearsons of Kippenross.  James Pearson,
the minister at Dunblane, brought a successful civil suit against James Kinross of Kippenross
for arrears of vicarage dues in 1626.
With the proceeds, he built a comfortable house over the ancient
of Kippenross,
which was gradually extended over time.

a descendant William Pearson,
who had got into financial difficulties, lost the freehold to one John
of Kippendavie in a game of dice or cards in 1778.
It was, as someone recalled at the time, on
the night of the worst storm in years.
But that was nothing compared with the storm that erupted when
he told his wife.

Pearsons in Rotherham and Stainton.  Dr. George Pearson, the well-known physician who popularized the cowpox
vaccination, had been born in Rotherham in
1751.  His grandfather Nathaniel for years had been vicar in the
nearby village of Stainton.
He died there in 1767 at the age of 88.  Contemporary Pearsons in
Stainton were Thomas Pearson who held the Car House Farm
and Joshua Pearson who had held the Holme Hall Farm until his death in

His uncle George, after whom Dr. Pearson was
named, had been a wine merchant in Doncaster and twice mayor of the

Pearsons in Golcar.  The name of Pearson
features prominently in a display at the Colne Valley museum at Cliffe
Ash at Golcar, a Yorkshire village on the outskirts of
Huddersfield.  A row of three cottages, known as Spring Rock and
built into the hillside, was put up by James and Sally Pearson,
independent cloth manufacturers, in the village between 1840 and 1845
and have now been restored.  The datestone, which is located on
the chimney stack of the end cottage, is inscribed “J&SP 1845.”

They were weaver’s
cottages.  The museum provides an insight into what life was like
for a weaver in the early 1850’s. The museum includes a clog maker’s
workshop, a handloom chamber, a spinning room, a cropping room,
kitchen, and living rooms.

In 1851 James and
Sally Pearson lived in one cottage, together with their five unmarried
children.  One married son, Edwin, lived nearby.  All the
children were hand-loom weavers, but later became power-loom
weavers.  The other two cottages were occupied by relatives –
including Henry Pearson, a grand nephew of James and Sally Pearson,
with his wife Hannah and their seven children.

James’s son John
stayed with the textile industry and made an unusually good living out
of it.  He managed to buy a part share in Victoria Mill and by the
close of the century his four sons jointly owned the whole mill.

The Rev. Abraham Pierson at Branford and Newark.  In
1647 the Rev. Abraham Pierson with part of his congregation attempted a settlement
on the Connecticut shore where they organized and formed the town of
Branford.  There, for 20 years, he
“enjoyed the confidence and esteem not only of the ministers, but the
prominent civilians connected with the New Haven colony.”
It was said that he early interested himself
in the Indians, made himself familiar with their language, and prepared
catechism for them that they might know of God.

However, in 1665 he opposed the union of the
two colonies of Connecticut and New Haven.
Consequently he departed Branford with most of his congregation – including his nephew Thomas Pierson – for the Passaic river in New
Jersey where
they purchased land from the Indians and laid the foundations for the
town of

1666 and 1667 some
sixty five men came from Branford and two neighboring towns to Newark.  Each man was entitled to a homestead lot of
six acres.  They brought their church
organization with them from Branford, which became the First Church of
Newark, and
afterwards became a Presbyterian church.  At
Newark, for 12 years, Abraham led his flock
of devoted followers.

A Quaker Pearson Line.  Lawrence Pearson of Pownall Fee in Cheshire was an early follower of George Fox.  His son Thomas and
wife Margery came to Philadelphia in 1683, one year after William
arrival.  Their descendants migrated to
Virginia in the 1730’s and later to Newberry county, South Carolina
where there was a Quaker colony.

South Carolina was a slave state and
Joseph Pearson uprooted his family in 1809 because of his religious
and moved them to southwest Ohio.
Pearsons are still to be found there.

Pearsons in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
England   1,054    72
Ireland     179    12
Scotland      95     6
Sweden     112     8
Germany      27     2
Total   1,467   100

Pearsons from Sweden in Iowa.  Many Pearsons from Sweden settled in Iowa in the early 1900’s,

  • Peter Pearson who came to America in 1877 and was subsequently
    living in Clinton, Iowa.
  • Magnus Pearson who arrived in America in 1887.  In the 1900
    census he was recorded as a railroad track foreman in Cherokee,
    Cherokee county.
  • Oatal Pearson who immigrated in 1895 and appeared as a farm
    laborer in the 1900 census in Silver Creek township, Ida county.
  • Lars Pearson who arrived in 1904 and in 1918 as a janitor in
    Denison, Crawford county.
  • Olof Pearson who was registered as a laborer in Denison, Crawford
    county in 1909 when he filed a declaration of intention for
  • Peter Pearson who came to America in 1913.  He was recorded
    as a farmer in the 1920 and 1930 censuses in Liberty township, Cherokee
    county.  He died there in 1952 at the age of 63.

Alfred J. Pearson, born in Sweden
in 1869, was a Professor at Drake University in Des Moines and
subsequently served as US Minister to Poland and Finland in the
1920’s.  The Pearson Distinguished Professorship in Swedish
Studies at Bethany College in Kansas was endowed by a generous gift
from Gerald Pearson of Okoboji, Iowa (whose parents were Swedish


Pearson Names

  • Weetman Pearson expanded his family’s firm
    in Yorkshire into one of the world’s largest construction companies in the early 1900’s. He was ennobled as Lord
  • Karl Pearson has
    been credited with establishing the discipline of mathematical
    statistics. He founded the world’s
    first university statistics department at University College London in 1911. 
  • Lester B. Pearson was Canada’s Prime Minister from
    1963 to 1968 and the man who introduced universal health care there.

Pearson Numbers Today

  • 63,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 41,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Pearson and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.






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