Rowntree Surname Genealogy

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

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

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
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 Rowntrees 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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