Ryder Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Ryder Surname Meaning

One origin of the Ryder surname is the place-name Ryther in north Yorkshire between Selby and Tadcaster.  This gave rise to the medieval Ryther family where the spelling became Ryder in the 16th century.

Ryder could also have been the name for a messenger or a mounted warrior – from the Old English word ridere, meaning “to ride,” or from the old German word rutter of similar meaning.  An old song went as follows:

  • “Rutterkyn has come into our town
  • In a cloak without coat or gown
  • Save a rugged hood to cover his crown
  • Like a rider.”

The main spellings today are Ryder and Rider. German and Dutch equivalent names are Ridder and Ritter.  The name here may also have originated from an area known as Reiderland on the German/Dutch border.

Ryder Surname Resources on The Internet

Ryder and Rider Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire and Lancashire), Holland and Germany
  • to America, Canada and New Zealand

England. The Ryther family in Yorkshire, based initially at Ryther near Selby, dated back to the mid-12th century.  

“Walter de Rythre witnessed a charter of Alice de St Quintin to Nun Appleton priory around the years 1148-61, the date being after the death of the grantor’s first husband and at the latest before the death of archbishop Theobald who had confirmed the gift.”  

Rythers.  His line produced knights, including a Crusader knight, and barons of the realm.  Sir William Ryther who died in 1440 was several times Sheriff of Yorkshire.

In 1563 the family estates devolved to James Ryther, a distant cousin who had been born in Kent and brought up in Northamptonshire.  However, his Catholic sympathies made him unpopular in Yorkshire and he ended up indebted and in prison where he died in 1595.  There were two related lines who adopted the Ryder name and had better fortunes:

  • one line led to William Ryder who was Lord Mayor of London in 1600.  He held London for Queen Elizabeth against the rebellion of the Earl of Essex and was rewarded with a knighthood.  He died without surviving male issue.
  • another line led to John Ryder, also in royal favor.  He moved to Ireland in 1597 where he became Dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin and later the Anglican Bishop of Killahoe.

Ryders.  Ryther became Ryder in the 16th century also at Epworth in Lincolnshire, Newbury in Berkshire, and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. The Rev. Dudley Ryder from Wisbech lost his estate in 1661 when as a nonconformist minister he was ejected from his living at Bedworth in Warwickshire for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. His two sons became tradesmen, one in Warwickshire and the other in London; his grandson Dudley later rose to high eminence.

Dudley Ryder, the second son of a London draper, was a lawyer and MP who became the Attorney General in 1737 and was the forebear of the Ryders of Harrowby Hall in Lincolnshire.  He was offered a peerage in 1756, but died the following day. A later Dudley Ryder, a political supporter of William Pitt, served as his Foreign Secretary and was made Earl Harrowby in 1809.  His family seat was at Sandon House in Staffordshire.  There were some distinguished Ryders in this family in the 19th century.

Ryder has remained very much a north of England name. Some 40% of the Ryders were to be found in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the 1891 English census.  The spelling in Lancashire was invariably Ryder.  In Yorkshire it was about 50/50 Ryder and Rider.

One Ryder family resided at Blackley near Manchester in the 18th century and were prominent bleachers of wool and cotton.  The first of these Ryders was Robert Ryder who moved into the area with his family in 1717.  A later Robert Ryder started his bleachworks at nearby Bradford in 1780.  Thomas Ryder was listed as an iron founderer in the 1772 directory for Manchester and Salford.  It appears that he came originally from Great Budworth in Cheshire.

America.  Ryders and Riders in America could be of Dutch, English, German, or Irish origin.

Dutch.  Some early Ryders in America were Dutch.  Peter Hollander Ridder, as the name suggests, was the Dutch-born governor of the Swedish colony of New Sweden in Delaware from 1640 to 1643.

Barent Ryder from Reiderland emigrated to New Amsterdam in 1658 and was a Justice of the Peace in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1600’s.  His descendants were to be found on East 28th Street in Brooklyn until the late 19th century, as well as elsewhere in New York state.

Samuel Ryder and his family lived on the Dutch Van Rennsselaer estate in eastern New York in the late 1700’s.  His son David migrated to new lands in Livonia township, Michigan in the 1820’s.  Alfred and John Ryder, both born there, perished in the Civil War. Another pioneer to Michigan was Joseph Rider, born in New York of Dutch roots, who had come via Pennsylvania to Michigan in 1833, settling in Genoa township.  He and his wife Isabella raised ten children there.  

English.  Samuel Ryder from Buckinghamshire in England was first recorded at Yarmouth on Cape Cod in 1639.  His descendants often adopted the Rider spelling. Many of these Riders were seamen (Thomas Rider drowned at sea in 1778).  The line was covered in Fremont Rider’s 1959 book Genealogy of Rider (Ryder) Families.

According to family lore, John Rider was the son of one of three Rider brothers who had come from England in the 17th century. John himself was born in 1698 and made his home on the eastern shore of Maryland.  He allegedly lived to be a hundred.  His descendants settled in Bath county, Virginia.  Gordon Ryder’s 1993 book The Rider-Ryder Family from Virginia reviewed the Bath county line.

GermanRider has been the more common spelling in Pennsylvania. Many of these have been of German origin.  Here the early spelling was Reider or Reiter, as with Heinrich Reiter who came to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1732.  Later Riders farmed in Columbia county.  Lloyd Rider was a veteran of the Civil War. 

Also of German origin was Michael Rider who came to Fayette county to farm in the 1830’s.  Meanwhile Wilhelm Reyder became William Rider in Texas after he immigrated there in 1846.

Irish.   Andrew and Mary Ryder came to America from Ireland in 1833 and later settled in Illinois.  Peter and Elizabeth Rider were also Irish immigrants, first to Pittsburgh and then in 1851 to Iowa.  

Canada.  Solomon Ryder was a sea captain who was thought to have migrated from Massachusetts to the Argyle region of Nova Scotia sometime in the 1780’s.  His son John was a Yarmouth merchant engaged in West Indies trade, a shipbuilder, and a local politician.

Australia and New Zealand.  William Ryder from London tried his luck in the Australian goldfields and then emigrated in 1854 with his new wife to New Zealand.  They made their home at Riwaka in Nelson, SI.  He and his sons were butchers there later.  A Ryder descendant penned memories of the old homestead in 1960.

Ryder and Rider Surname Miscellany

Ryther in North Yorkshire.  Ryther is a village in north Yorkshire six miles from Tadcaster in one direction and six miles to Selby in the other.   It originated as a parish in the wapentake of Barkston Ash in the West Riding.  It is bounded on the north by the Wharfe river and has often been at the risk of flooding.

Ryther is the site of the 13th century All Saints Church, a Methodist chapel, public house (the Rythre Arms), and a village hall.

From the 12th to the 16th century, the village was the site of Ryther Castle, the principal seat of the ancient de Ryther family, the Lords of Scarcroft who inherited Harewood castle in 1388 (which they held for some 200 years).  Several of the de Ryther knights have effigies at the All Saints Church in Ryther.

The village once had several shops and many farms. Census returns show how many residents were farm laborers or had jobs in nearby Cawood.  There were two public houses, but only one remains.

The Estates of Sir William Ryther.  In 1440 Sir William Ryther of Ryther in Yorkshire died.  Born in 1380, he had been the son of Sir William Ryther of Ryther and his wife Sibyl, the daughter of Lord Aldeburgh.  As a young man he had survived the political turmoil with the accession of Henry Bolingbroke and been granted a pardon for alleged treason and felony in 1405. Although not a major landowner himself Sir William Ryther had standing in his community and had been Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1426, 1430, 1434 and 1438.

His family had taken their name from Ryther, about 6 miles northeast of Selby, and been associated with the place since about 1166. if not before.  However, their manor at Ryther was not in good condition in 1440, according to the post mortem inquisition. The capital messuage and two gardens were worth nothing, along with eight waste messuages worth nothing and eight waste cottages worth nothing.  The main value of the estate was some 700 acres of attached meadow and woodland.

In 1280 Sir William’s ancestor, also named Sir William, had acquired Scarcroft manor near Leeds and made it his chief address.  By 1388, after the death of Lord Aldeburgh, Harewood manor – also in the vicinity of Leeds – came to the Ryther family.  In 1440 the Rythers also held other estates at Spofforth near Harrogate in Yorkshire and at Keal Cotes in Lincolnshire.

The barony of Ryther fell into abeyance in 1543 with the death of Sir Henry Ryther.  But the family line continued through his second cousin William Ryther. His descendant John Ryder would move to Ireland in 1597 and become Dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin.

Some Distinguished 19th Century Ryders.  Nathaniel Ryder, created Baron Harrowby in 1776, had some very distinguished offspring.

His eldest son Dudley was a political supporter of William Pitt and served as his Foreign Secretary.  He was later made Earl Harrowby in 1809.  His second son Richard was Home Secretary from 1809 to 1812 and his youngest son Henry served as Bishop of Gloucester and Bishop of Lichfield between 1815 and 1836.

Henry’s line included both clergymen and soldiers. Among his sons was Alfred, a naval officer who became Admiral of the Fleet.  Among his grandsons were Henry Ignatius Ryder, part of the Oxford movement who became a Catholic priest in 1863; Sir George, a civil servant in the Treasury; and Charles a colonel in the Royal Engineers.

Ryders and Riders Today

Numbers (000’s) Ryder Rider
UK    11     3
America     6     7
Elsewhere     7     1
Total    24    11

Michigan Ryders in the Civil War.  The Ryder family first arrived in Michigan in December 1827. David and Polly Ryder and their children had moved from New York state where they had been tenants on a large Dutch patroon estate.  They brought their goods across New York on a flatboat on the Hudson river through the newly opened Erie Canal and then across Lake Erie on a sailing boat.

Polly and the children spent the winter in Detroit while David scouted for land, making his purchase of 80 acres in what would become Livonia township and starting a cabin before bringing the family there in early 1828.

Their first grandson Alfred was born in Livonia township in 1840. With the onset of the Civil War, he enlisted in the First Michigan cavalry company. He was taken prisoner at Bull Run, Virginia in 1862, but later paroled. However, the next year he was badly injured at the Battle of Gettysburg.

His last letter, written on July 8, was dictated to a friend from the hospital:

“I was wounded in the side by a ball. I am not without hope. My brother John is here also in one of the hospitals but not badly wounded.”

He died just over two weeks later.  And his brother John also died of his wounds.

Both Alfred and John Ryder were buried at Gettysburg with wooden markers on their graves.  In November 1863 the Ryder family arranged to have the bodies exhumed and returned for local burial.  They were buried in the family plot of the Newburgh cemetery in what is now Westland, Michigan.  They each have simple white headstones, as well as a larger shared monument.

William Rider in Texas.  According to family legend, Heinrich Reyder’s parents were killed in a mountain slide while farming.  The children were all young adults and chose to emigrate to Texas after the tragedy.  Another story has it that the sons of the family fled to Texas to avoid conscription in the Prussian army.

They left Prussia with many other German immigrants under a contract known as the “Verein Papers” arranged by the Texas Government, the German Emigration Company, and Fisher-Miller Colony. This contract provided for the reception of ten acres upon immediate arrival to the Colony for his personal use. He would later receive a donation for 320 acres after the appropriate surveys were made and fees were paid. He paid a total fee of 93 guilders for the trip from Antwerp to Galveston along with a one dollar hospital fee.

Wilhelm and his brother Daniel departed from Antwerp and arrived in Galveston on the Colchis in 1846.  They traveled to Mexico but later moved to Fredericksburg, Texas where there was a community of German immigrants with many German customs.

Wilhelm wished to become more Americanized and changed his name to William Henry Rider. He left Fredericksburg for the same reasons and moved to Nacogdoches county where he obtained 120 acres along the Naconiche Creek.

William Ryder and His Gold Adventures.  William Ryder grew up in London, the son of a baker. Around the age of twenty he heard of the gold finds in Australia and rushed off there.  He followed the herd to Ballarat and Bendigo.

He may not have found any gold.  However, before his return to England, he was a partner with another man in buying stock from graziers and driving them to the diggings and selling the meat to the miners. This venture was evidently successful as he was able to buy a return passage to England.

All travel in those days was by sailing ship.  Gold was used as a currency.  As the accommodation on the ship was crowded, the captain persuaded all the passengers to deposit their canvas bags of gold with him for safekeeping in his cabin. While taking on supplies of fresh water in Rio de Janeiro, all of the bags went missing.  So William Ryder arrived back in London in 1853 with only the gold which he carried in the pouches of a canvas belt which he wore around his waist.

He married Ann Cousins back in England and, undeterred by his past misadventures, departed for New Zealand with his bride later that year.

Ryder Names

  • Sir Dudley Ryder, appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1754, was the forebear of the Ryder peers of Harrowby.
  • Samuel Ryder was an English businessman and golf enthusiast who donated the cup for the first Ryder Cup golf contest between Britain and America in 1927. 
  • Jim Ryder founded the American truck rental company Ryder in Florida in 1933. 
  • Sue Ryder from Leeds in Yorkshire developed the Sue Ryder charities of homes and hospices after World War Two for those displaced or later for those with life-threatening illnesses. 
  • Winona Ryder, born Winona Horowitz, is a well-known American actress.

Ryder Numbers Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Ryder and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from Yorkshire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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