Select Richardson Surname Genealogy

Richard (meaning powerful and brave) was a favorite name amongst the Normans and from this source came Richards and Richardson.

However, these names do seem to have developed separately in different parts of the country.  The Richards name was and is mainly to be found in the west and southwest; Richardson, by contrast, in the northeast and in Scotland.

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England.  A number of records suggest that the name Richardson originated in the county of Cheshire.  A younger son of a Norman family there, John, was said to have taken the paternal name of Richardson when he moved across the Pennines to Durham sometime around 1400.  Richardsons can be traced there from Elizabethan times.

They also settled at Bierley in the heart of Yorkshire’s wool trade.  Nicholas Richardson was recorded there in 1494.  These Richardsons were active in the wool business for several centuries and later, in Barnsley, in linen production.

The Quaker movement begun by George Fox seems to have struck a chord with these Richardsons, first in north Yorkshire, notably in Whitby and then in Newcastle (where they formed was a close-knit Quaker community in the 19th century).

The Richardson name appeared in Cheshire as a well-known family of clockmakers, starting with Richard Richardson at Aston near Great Budworth in the 1730’s.

Scotland.  Other Richardson branches were to be found in Scottish border country, in and around Dumfries.

Gabriel Richardson, a friend of the poet Robert Burns, was a brewer in the town in the 1780’s.   His house on Nith Place stayed in the family until recently.  Gabriel’s son, John, made three journeys of exploration to the Arctic Ocean and published his studies on the animals he discovered there.  Afterwards, he became a mentor and advisor to younger naturalists such as Darwin and Huxley.

Ireland.  Richardsons in Northern Ireland were a Protestant import and were to be found mainly in county Armagh.  One Quaker Richardson family became prominent in the linen industry in Lisburn.

America.   Mary Starbuck became a Quaker convert on Nantucket in 1702 thanks to the persuasions of a charismatic Quaker preacher  John Richardson.  There were also Quaker Richardsons in Pennsylvania by that time.  A number seem to have been personal friends of William Penn and prospered accordingly.

Many Richardsons in America headed south.  There was a sizeable Richardson presence in North and South Carolina during the 18th and 19th centuries, and in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.  Richard Richardson was the forebear of a prominent South Carolina Richardson family.

In fact, by the end of the 19th century, the state of Texas had the largest number of Richardsons in the United States.  Many plantation owners had fled there to escape Unionist retribution after the Civil War. They were and are mainly to be found in East Texas, in and around Henderson county, and in Galveston.

Canada.  The earliest Richardson settlers in Canada were Scots active in the fur trade.  A Scots/Canadian Richardson connection has continued since that time.  James Richardson founded his grain merchandising business in Kingston, Ontario in 1857.

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

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Richard Richardson, who grew up in a wool family in Yorkshire in the 1660’s, was one of the first Englishmen to take an informed interest in botany.   Samuel Richardson can be considered the first writer of the English novel, with his books Pamela in 1740 and Clarissa in 1748.  Samuel Richardson, a Quaker, helped build the city of Philadelphia in the early 1700’s.   Sir John Richardson trained as a doctor in Dumfries in the 1830’s and had a long career as a physician, an Arctic explorer, and a naturalist.   James Richardson founded his grain business in Kingston, Ontario in 1857.  It remains privately owned and family controlled.  Now based in Winnipeg, the company office dominates the city skyline.  Sir Ralph Richardson, who made his professional debut in 1921, was one of the leading stage actors of his generation.

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