Rowntree Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Rowntree Meaning
The English
surname Rowntree derived from the rowan tree and meant a dweller
by such a tree. The name probably has
Viking origins. The rowan tree had been
a sacred tree for the Vikings and the Rowntree surname emerged in the
area of
NE England where the Vikings had settled. The origin of the
Rowntree surname
does appear to have been in north Yorkshire
in the vicinity of the village of Newby.

Spelling variants of Rowntree mainly to be found outside of England, are Rountree and Roundtree.

Rowntree Resources on

Rowntree Ancestry

England. The
northeast counties of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland accounted
for 85% of
all the Rowntrees in the 1881 census, with Yorkshire alone accounting
almost half.

Yorkshire. The
earliest record here was
Roberto Rountre at Newby in 1301.
Then there was John Rountrie at Borrowby,
some sixteen miles away from Newby, in 1521. The will of Lawrence
Rowntree of
Newby was recorded in 1557.

Rowntree of Easby was married in Ingleby Greenhow (not too far from
Newby) in
1614, although the church records there spelt his name as Rontre. He was the forebear of the early Rowntree
that became yeoman farmers at Risborough and
of the later Rowntree Quaker lines. Brightwen
Rowntree told this history in his 1940 book The
Rowntrees of Risborough.

We can trace from the early 1800’s three
separate later Rowntree lines
– two
based in the seaside town of Scarborough and the third and the most
which established itself in the county town of York.

The forebears of the Scarborough
lines were both named William Rowntree and were cousins:

  • the
    first William
    Rowntree, a corn miller in Gateshead, led to John W. Rowntree, a grocer
    mayor of Scarborough and his brother Fred Rowntree, an architect in the
    and Crafts style in the early 1900’s.
  • while
    from his cousin William Rowntree
    came William S. Rowntree, a draper in Scarborough,
    and later Kenneth Rowntree, a noted artist.

forebear of the York line was
William’s brother Joseph Rowntree, a master grocer.
His sons included:

  • Henry
    Rowntree who founded
    the famous Rowntree chocolate company in York in 1862.
    When it was acquired by Nestle in 1988 it was
    the fourth-largest confectionary manufacturer in the world.
  • and
    his brother
    Joseph Rowntree who took over the confectionary business in 1883 after
    death. Joseph gained renown as a Quaker
    reformer and philanthropist.
  • while
    Joseph’s son Seebohm Rowntree also became
    well-known as a social reformer.

Elsewhere. There have been other Rowntree branches in
England, apart from the famous Yorkshire Quaker Rowntrees.
Many of them were in Durham where there have
been sizeable numbers in Bishopwearmouth and Stockton. Graham
Rowntree, the
English rugby prop forward of recent times, was born in Stockton.

One line descends from Thomas Rountree who
was born in Sunderland in 1719. A number
of his descendants were mariners. Thomas
S. Rowntree, a master mariner and shipbuilder, departed Sunderland for
Australia in 1852.

Ireland. There appears to have been an
early mention
of the Rountree name in Ulster in 1376, but with no supporting

The first real mention of the Rountree name
was that of Thomas and widow Rowntry at Mulladry in Armagh in 1664. It is thought that they came from Yorkshire,
although there is no written proof.
Rountrees were to stay there until around 1900.
Meredith Rountree’s farmhouse remained after
he and his family emigrated to New Zealand in 1863. John
Rountree was still farming until his
death in 1889.

There was a line with
Charles Rountree that moved from nearby Kilmore in Armagh to
Killigriffe in
Cavan around the year 1730. His son
Thomas came to America in 1752 when he was nineteen.
Joe Rountree was an emigrant to New Zealand
in 1863. William Rountree of Cootehill
in Cavan produced a large family tree of this family in 1890.

America. The Rountree and Roundtree
established in Ireland, crossed over to America. There
were two main arrivals coming from
Ireland, although both probably had their roots originally in Yorkshire
they may have even been distantly related.

Francis Roundtree from Londonderry came to
Virginia around 1680 and settled in Nansemond county.
The line through his son Moses was to be
found in Goochland county and through his son William in North Carolina:

  • in
    1760’s Richardson Roundtree
    moved to
    the Edgefield district of South Carolina where he established himself
    as a
    wealthy planter.
  • four
    Rountree brothers headed for Burke county, Georgia in the
    1780’s. Some forty years later, James
    and Francis Rountree were pioneer settlers in Lowndes county, Georgia. James was murdered in 1834, but his
    descendants have remained in the area.
  • another
    line through Thomas Rountree migrated
    to Kentucky in 1795. His grandson John
    became a pioneer settler in Wisconsin, establishing the township of
    in 1841.

Rountree from Cavan came to America in 1752 when he was
nineteen. He then went back to Ireland to
marry Eva Sturgess before returning. He
settled in Orange county, North Carolina where he died in 1805. His son John moved to Williamson county,

Georgia and Florida are the states with the most Rountrees and
Roundtrees today.

Rowntree. There
was a Rowntree from the Yorkshire Quaker Rowntrees in America. His name was Bernard Rowntree and he had come
to Kansas City, Missouri in 1884. It
his wife Lester from another English Quaker family, whom he married in
who is the better remembered today. A
self-proclaimed “lady gypsy,” she became a renowned field botanist and
was a
pioneer in the study, propagation, and conservation of California’s

New Zealand. The spelling here was mainly Rountree because of
Irish immigration. Meredith Rountree
came with his family from Armagh to Auckland on the Portland
in 1863. The family
settled to farm at Mangapai where the local roads were little more than
tracks at that time.

One son Gilbert
was able to join
the staff of the
Auckland Savings Bank, eventually becoming its manager.
Gilbert’s son Harry moved in 1901 to London
where he established a reputation as a cartoonist and illustrator.


Rowntree Miscellany

Origin of the Rowntree Name.  This story is probably not true, but it does make interesting reading.

According to one source, the first child to have this name was a child who was found under a rowan tree, a mountain ash that grows in Yorkshire. The child, a boy, was dressed in fine cloths.  He was found on the grounds of an estate owned by a nobleman.

This nobleman took pity and compassion on the child and raised
him as
his own son, naming him Rowantree after the tree under which he was
found.  Who the child was or where he came
from, he
never found out.

Rowntree and Spelling Variants

On the Rowntree spellings, Fred Rowntree wrote in 2004 as follows:

main variants of the name, other than Rowntree, which is the
version in England, are Rountree and Roundtree.

Both of these are the more usual spellings in the US, while
Rountree is the more usual in New Zealand.  Ireland
is split in the main between Rountree and Rowntree, as is Australia.  It should be noted, however, that around
Dublin in the Republic of Ireland the name Roantree occurs quite often.

In the
English church registers in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were at
least 26
different spellings of the name.  The
variation often appeared to be down to the whim of the local priest or

good example is that of Francis Rowntree, who in the Guisborough,
Society of Friends (Quakers) registers of the 17th century, had the
surnames of
Rowntree, Rountry, Roantry, Rountree and Roantree over a period of

In England the Rowntree
surname did not really take root until the 17th century.
Today the spelling breakdown is approximately
Rowntree 90%, Rountree 8%, and Roundtree 2%.

In America the breakdown is
Rountree 55% and Roundtree 45%, with Rowntree hardly to be seen.  Perhaps the name has been spelt as to how it
sounds rather than to any historic relationship to a rowan tree. 

The Early Rowntree Family Tree in Yorkshire

Peter Rowntree (1590-1620) m. Phyllis Wright

– William Rowntree in Easby (1617-1681) m. Ann

— John Rowntree (1664-1738) m. Jane

— William Rowntree (1700-1736) m. Dorothy

—- William Rowntree (1727-1798), yeoman farmer in Risborough, m. Hannah Hebron

—– John Rowntree (1757-1827), grocer in Scarborough, m. Elizabeth Lotherington

—— William Rowntree (1787-1846), corn miller in Gateshead, m. Rachel Watson

—— Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859), master grocer in York, m. Sarah Stephenson.

The Later Rowntree Family Trees in Yorkshire

The Line of Joseph Rowntree

Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859), Quaker and a master grocer in York, m. Sarah Stephenson

– John S. Rowntree (1834-1907), Quaker writer, m. Elizabeth Hotham

— Arnold S. Rowntree (1872-1951), Quaker and York MP, m. Mary Harvey

— Michael H. Rowntree (1919-2007), social campaigner, m. Anna Crosfield

– Joseph Rowntree (1836-1925), Quaker reformer and philanthropist, m. Emma Seebohm

— John W. Rowntree (1868-1905), Quaker and chocolates, m. Constance Naish

— Seebohm Rowntree (1871-1954), social reformer, m. Lydia Potter

– Henry I. Rowntree (1837-1883), founder of Rowntree chocolates, m. Harriet Osborn

The Line of William Rowntree

William Rowntree (1787-1846), corn miller in Gateshead, m. Rachel Watson

– John Rowntree (1821-1894), grocer in Scarborough, m. Ann Webster

— John W. Rowntree (1854-1935), grocer and mayor of Scarborough, m. Eliza Gravely

— George Rowntree (1855-1940), grocer in Scarborough, m. Priscilla Wallis.

— Frederick Rowntree (1860-1927), Arts and Crafts architect, m. Mary Gray.

The Line of William Rowntree

William Rowntree was the son of Joseph Rowntree from Risborough and the cousin of the above-mentioned Joseph and William Rowntree.

William Rowntree (1806-1901) of Scarborough m. Mary Stickney

– William S. Rowntree (1848-1939), Quaker and draper in Scarborough, m. Anna Doncaster

— Howard D. Rowntree (1879-1974), Quaker and conscientious objector, m. Nora Priestman

— Kenneth Rowntree (1915-1997), artist, m. Diana Buckley.

William Rowntree’s Scarborough Reminiscences.  In 1935, when he was an old man, George Rowntree
put pen to paper about an earlier Rowntree, William Rowntree, and about
recollections that were then more than a century earlier in time.

reminiscences, may I include an evening when William Rowntree, the
father of
William Stickney Rowntree, invited a number of ‘Friends’ to his house
in 1886 on his eightieth birthday.  I can
see him now, sitting at his dining room table with a large magnifying
glass in
his right hand and a sheet of foolscap in his left, telling us of his
own early

around 1812 he was sent by his parents from Pickering to
Ackworth School he rode on a horse behind his elder brother, Robert, a
saddle having been made for the small boy’s comfort.
On arrival at York, they put up for the night
with John Mason and then rode on to Ackworth the next morning where the
boy William was left.  William Rowntree
stated that the next three days were the most miserable of his life.

story he told us was how a messenger on horseback rode into Scarborough
York, bringing the news of the victory at Waterloo in 1815 and how the
that were in Scarborough then assembled and fired from the castle a
volley of
shots to celebrate the occasion.  William
Rowntree then put his hands down on the table with the words: ‘So much
for my
youthful days.”

Richard Roundtree Durng the Revolutionary War.  Richardson Roundtree was living in the Edgefield district
of South Carolina at the time of the Revolutionary War.
He joined the Patriot army, serving there as

He was known to be a man of wealth and believed to be
possessed of no
small amount of money.  This was a
tempting bait to the Tories who, learning of his presence at home,
and captured him.  They then attempted to
force him to divulge its hiding place.
With determined courage he held out against them, although they
went to
the desperate extreme of tying and leaving him in the swamp.  After the Tories left, a faithful negro
released him after he had been in the swamp two days and saved his life.

lived to raise a large family. This remarkable man had a family of
children. Among his surviving sons James and Daniel remained in South
Thomas moved to Alabama and William to Tennessee.  Daniel’s
son Andrew, writing in the 1890’s,
gave the account of his grandfather’s service during the Revolutionary

Rountree Twin Brothers in Georgia.  Joshua and
George Rountree were twin brothers from North Carolina who around 1800
to Emanuel county in Georgia, seeking a new place to build their

was said that they were so much alike that if they were dressed alike
it was
difficult for their wives to tell them apart. They loved each other
very much.  The first one up in the morning
would go out
and holler and, if it was calm, the other would hear and answer him.  They were members of the old Canoochee
Church, which stood then near the crossroad north of the Bartley

married Zilphia Durden and George married Lavina Neal. They reared
families of ten children each.  One of
their sons built the John Rountree Log House around 1830 which is still
standing today.

Gilbert Rountree’s Obituary.  The New Zealand Herald reported on September 10, 1918:

an old and well-known resident
of Auckland, Mr. S. Gilbert Rountree died at his residence at Bayswater

Mr. Rountree, who was 67 years of age, came to Auckland from Ireland
as a boy of ten.  He was on the Thames
goldflelds in the early days and subsequently joined the staff of the
Savings Bank. In 1877 he was appointed accountant, a
position which
held until 1912. Upon the retirement of the late Richard Cameron, Mr.
was appointed manager of the bank. He retired in 1916 after 41 years’

was a prominent worker in various religious and philanthropic
movements.  He held the positions of
deacon and elder of the Baptist Tabernacle and was superintendent of
the Sunday

Rountree is survived by his wife and by two sons and five
daughters.  The sons are Mr. Harry
Rountree the well-known artist of London, and Mr. E. G. Rountree, of
N.Z.E.F. London section.”


Rowntree Names

  • Joseph Rowntree who ran the family
    chocolate business in York from 1883 until his death in 1925 was a well-known Quaker
    reformer and philanthropist of his time.
  • His son Seebohm Rowntree was
    also a social reformer whose studies on poverty helped to create the British welfare state. 
  • Lester Rowntree was a renowned American field
    botanist, a 20th century pioneer in the study, propagation, and conservation of California’s native plants. 
  • Gil Rowntree has been one of Canada’s most successful thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers. 
  • Graham Rowntree was England’s rugby prop forward of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Select Rowntree Numbers Today

  • 2,500 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia)
  • 1,500 elsewhere (most numerous in New Zealand)



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