derived from the Greek word petros,
meaning “a rock,” and became well-established names because of St.
apostle of the New Testament.
and north German version was Pieters which often became Peters in
America. The Dutch Pieterse is a
Afrikaans name in South Africa. Peters
is also widely found as a surname in Nigeria.
Peters Resources on
- Robert Peters and Elizabeth Fuller
Peters in Sussex.
- Early Records of the Peters Family of
Early Peters in New England.
- The Peters Family Peters
from Germany to America.
Peters from Pieters is a fairly common name in northern
and Holland today. The German numbers
are estimated at 90,000. The name is mainly to be found in
Schleswig-Holstein, further east in Mecklenburg, and further west in
Hamburg. The Dutch numbers are about
25,000, mainly in
Gelderland and Limburg.
There was an early history of the name, as Petre
(pronounced Peter) or Peter in Devon in SW England.
The Petres were yeoman farmers at Torbryan in
Devon, going back to the late 1300’s. John Petre was “a rich
of Torbryan” in the early 1500’s. His son John was a founder
of the Exeter merchant adventurers in the 1560’s.
A younger son Sir William Petre
made it to London and the Tudor court, serving as Secretary of State
monarchs from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth. He
acquired Ingatestone Hall in Essex at the time of the dissolution
monasteries. Afterwards the Petres
became a high-profile recusant family:
- William, the fourth Baron Petre,
suffered under the Commonwealth as a Catholic and suspected Royalist,
time in the Tower of London.
- while Sir
Edward Petre, a Jesuit, was a highly unpopular privy councillor and
James II in the 1680’s.
Hall in Essex was
established as a Catholic refuge which it has remained under the Petre
until the present day.
The Petre spelling became Peter
with Thomas Peter who had married Elizabeth Mitchell, the heiress of
north Cornwall, in 1632. Their son Gregory
grandson Henry both served as the High Sheriff of
Peter was for a long time
imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell, but procured his release in 1653 through
assistance of his (so-called) maternal kinsman Hugh Peter.”
line established itself at Porthcothan on the north coast in Cornwall. And there was also a Peter family from the
17th century onwards at Poole Farm at Sheviock on the south coast near
Meanwhile William Dykeveldt
or Dickwood had arrived as a child in Devon during the 1540’s, “driven
Antwerp because of religion.” He and his
brother Thomas established themselves as merchants and changed their
Peter, perhaps because of some relationship they had with the prominent
family of Devon.
This family was fiercely Protestant. Thomas’s
son Hugh Peter, a committed Puritan,
spent some time in America in the 1630’s before returning to England at
time of the Civil War. For his role in
the king’s regicide, he was executed in the ancient barbaric fashion at
time of the Restoration in 1660.
The Peters name was to be found in
Cornwall, but later than Peter. One family
began with the marriage of Joseph Peters and Elizabeth Ford at
1780. Another west country Peters was James Peters who was born
Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire in 1800.
His son Ebenezer became a coal miner in south Wales.
Peters as a surname
has generally been more widely spread in England than Peter was.
Some early Peters in SE England were:
Peters (originally de la Pierre), a Huguenot surgeon who came to
England in 1658 and purchased the Blackfriars at Canterbury in Kent. He and his
descendants were physicians there.
- Charles Peters, born in London in 1695, who
became physician to George II in 1733.
- and Robert Peters who was married to
Elizabeth Fuller at Hastings in Sussex in 1716.
There were Peters also in
Lancashire, notably in Southport during the 19th century. Ralph
Peters, father and son, had been Town Clerks of Liverpool in the 1700’s. Later Peters were successful merchants and
made their home first at Platt Bridge near Wigan and then at Southport. Another Peters family were lifeboatmen at
Southport. Ralph Peters, then aged
sixty, and his son Ben died in the Mexico
lifeboat disaster of 1886.
America. Among the
early Peters of New England was Andrew Peters, a distiller in
Boston who in
his later years made his home in Andover, Massachusetts.
That was not a safe settlement in his time as
his two oldest sons – John and Andrew – were both killed during an
Among later lines were:
- from John Peters, who was born in 1695 and
later moved to Hebron, Connecticut, came Colonel John Peters and his
Colonel John and General Absalom. These
sons fought, one on the British side and the other on the American
the Revolutionary War. A different line
led to John Samuel Peters who was the Governor of Connecticut in 1831. The Governor never married and left no
- from another John Peters
who departed Andover in 1765 came the Peters of Maine.
Fifty years later this John built the John
Peters House at Blue Hill which is now listed on the National Register
Historic Places. John Andrew Peters and
his nephew of the same name were both US Congressmen for the area in
19th and early 20th centuries.
and William Peters, two sons of Ralph
Peters the Town Clerk of Liverpool, emigrated to Pennsylvania in the
1730’s. Richard was a contemporary
Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia and worked with him in setting up the
University of Pennsylvania. His nephew
and William’s son Richard – who held the family’s Belmont estate
Philadelphia – was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later a
This Richard’s grandson Richard
Peters, an early railroad developer, migrated to the South
the 1840’s he was instrumental in founding the city of Atlanta, Georgia. And that Richard’s son, Edward C. Peters,
bought and then sold off for development the land that is now the
of midtown Atlanta.
German. There are more German than English Peters
in America on the basis of the
origin of the Peters who came to America.
There were two early Jacob Peters who settled in Virginia:
- the first from Bavaria arrived sometime in
the 1730’s and made his home in Rockingham county.
His son Christian was the founder of
- the second was the father of three sons – Henry, John and
who settled in Scott county in the late 1700’s.
James Peters’ 1986 book Peters Family of Scott
County covered their lines.
Among those who arrived in the 19th century were:
- Christian Peters from Hesse who came to Ottawa,
Illinois with his family in 1868. After he
died, his wife Gertrude settled in
- and Charles Peters who left his
home in Prussia at the age of eighteen after the death of his parents. He came to Ashton, Illinois also in 1868 and
married and farmed there. He too moved to
Iowa in 1884.
The forebears of the French family were Jean and
Marie Pitre who had come to French Acadia sometime in the 1660’s. After the British had dispersed the French
Acadia, the Pitres settled in Rustico township in Prince Edward Island. By the 19th century some Pitres
began to call themselves Peters.
second source was the Peters family from Hempstead, Long Island. James Peters, a Loyalist leader,
departed in 1783 for Nova Scotia. The
would remain influential in the Maritime provinces for several
generations. Frederick Peters, a great grandson,
the sixth Premier of Prince Edward Island in 1891.
His son Fritz fought in both World Wars and was awarded the
Victoria Cross in 1942.
Australia. Wilhelm Peters had received theological training
in Pomerania in northern Germany before being sent out to Australia as
Lutheran pastor in 1877. His initial
assignment was to minister to the Chinese people working at the
Victoria. He based himself at Murtoa in
western Victoria where he founded Concordia College.
His son Albrecht became a doctor in Melbourne.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Sir William Petre was
an English Secretary of State in
Tudor times, from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth.
Thomas Peters, ex-slave and a Black Loyalist during the
Revolutionary War, was a founding father of the West African country of
Sierra Leone in 1792.
was the founder of the city of Atlanta in Georgia in the 1840’s.
Peters was an English runner who four times broke the
time in the 1950’s.
Tom Peters is an American
writer on business
management practices, best known for his book In Search of
- 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 56,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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