Shepherd Genealogy

Shepherd, as its name
suggests, is an occupational name for someone employed to tend and
watch over
sheep.  Its origins are the Old English sceap meaning “sheep” and hierde meaning
“herdsman.”  The German equivalent is

Shepherd, Shephard, Sheppard, and Shepard are the main surname variants today.  Shepherd and Sheppard seem to divide geographically.  Shepherd has been a name of northern England and is also in Scotland; while Sheppard was more found in SW England.  Shepard is commoner in America than it is in England today.

Shepherd Resources on

Shepherd Ancestry

Shepherd and Sheppard surnames divide between
southern and northern England.

Southern England.  The earliest
Shepherd references appear to
have been in the south of England.  Some
have the surname originating in Dorset.  It is claimed that records from before the 10th
century showed a notable Shepherd family from Dorset with battle-axes
on their coat
of arms.

The Sheppard spelling tended to take preference in the south.  Shepherdes from
Cambridgeshire later became Sheppards.
William Sheppard acquired the Littlecote manor in
Buckinghamshire in
1507.  It remained in family hands until
the late 19th century.
  Two notable Sheppards were to be found at Oxford,
with affiliations to Magdalene College:

  • John Sheppard, a court composer at
    the time of Henry VIII
  • and Fleetwood Sheppard, a courtier and literary wit of
    the late 1600’s.

However, the Sheppard spelling generally had a more
westward direction.  The main numbers in
the 1891 census were in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Somerset:

  • in Wiltshire
    Henry Shepherd was born in Aldbourne in 1620.  The
    name here subsequently changed to Sheppard.  They
    owned the village bakery.  The Sheppards
    of Purton
    dated from the 1640’s; while the first recorded
    Sheppard in
    Figheldean was Nias Sheppard who was born there in 1733.
  • William Sheppard,
    Cromwell’s law reformer, was born in Whitminster, Gloucestershire in
    1595.  And Sheppards were prominent at
    near Stroud from the 1650’s.  Edward
    Sheppard who had made his fortune as a clothier built Gatcombe Park
    there in
    the 1770’s.  Unfortunately the family
    went bankrupt forty years later and the estate had to be sold.
  • while the
    Sheppards were an important family of Frome in Somerset as clothiers
    during the
    18th century. The first recorded was John Sheppard, a cardboard maker,
    who was
    born there in 1614.  The family history
    was recounted in Derek Gill’s The
    Sheppards and 18th Century Frome

Northern England.  Shepherds have been more
numerous in northern England, although there has been less record of

The earliest sightings were probably in
Westmorland.  One Shepherd family, dating
back to the 1500’s, became landed gentry from their home at Shaw End
Kendal.  Arthur Shepherd, Westmorland’s
oldest magistrate, died there in 1909.
His grandson Arthur
the heir apparent, perished in the Great War in 1917.
Another Shepherd family, dating to the
late 1600’s, was to be found at Sedbergh.
They migrated to Stanningley near Leeds in the 1830’s.

Henry Shepherd, a Beverley solicitor in the
East Riding of Yorkshire in the early 1800’s, is remembered for the
diaries he
kept at that time.  Frederick Shepherd
founded the Shepherd building company in York in 1900.
His descendants still feature in what is now
one of the largest privately-owned UK construction companies.

Channel Islands.
The Shepherd name also appeared in the Channel
Islands.  The first time it was recorded
was at the marriage of Lanvrenic Shepheard and Marie de Quetteville at
in Jersey in 1703

.  The Shepherd name also crops
up in NE
Scotland.  The form Scyphard
appeared in Elgin as early as 1363.  Shepherds
were later to be found on the Moray
coast and in Aberdeen and Angus.

In the Jacobite Rising of 1745
at least three
Angus Shepherds served in Ogilvy’s regiment, one of whom was later
to the American colonies.  Dr. John Leege
Shepherd departed Aberdeen for Iowa sometime in the 1880’s; while Nan
born just outside Aberdeen in 1893, made her name as a writer and poet

Ireland.   Shepherds
in Ireland were from England:

  • Thomas Shepherd from Shropshire was a captain with Cromwell’s
    army in 1649 who was awarded lands at Castle John in Tipperary.
    Castle John stayed with the Shepherds until the mid-1800’s.  One
    line of these Shepherds departed for America in the 1680’s.
  • another line of Shepherds, this time from Durham, were Quakers
    and came to Tyrone in the 1660’s because of religious intolerance at
    home.  Solomon Shepherd left for Pennsylvania in the 1720’s.

The few Shepherds in Ireland at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850’s
were mainly in Ulster – in Tyrone and county Down.

AmericaThe extent of the Shepard name presence in America
may well have been attributable to three early Shepard arrivals in New
– Ralph, Thomas and Edward.  The family
lines of these Shepards were covered in Gerald
Shepard’s 1973 book The Shepard Families
of New England

New England.  Ralph Shepard and his wife Thanklord
(or Thank ye the Lord) had married in London in 1632 and they departed
for New
England on the Abigail
years later.  After several moves they
eventually settled in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-1660’s.  Two of their sons, Isaac and Jacob, were slain by Indians in 1676.

Shepard, a Puritan minister from Northamptonshire, came on the Defence in 1635 and settled in
Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Although his
life in America was not long (he died in 1649), he was regarded in New
England as one of the foremost Puritan ministers of his time.  Three of Shepard’s sons followed him into the
ministry – Thomas, Samuel and Jeremiah.
Edward Shepard from Essex, a sea captain, also settled in
arriving four years later in 1639.  He
lived there until 1680.

William Shepard
from Suffolk was another Shepard immigrant around this time.  It was said that his son John had been
brought to Westfield, Massachusetts as an infant after William had been
by a shark in Boston harbor. John’s
grandson William, whose statue can be found in Westfield, distinguished
in the Revolutionary War.

John Shepherd
from Yorkshire came to Massachusetts around 1690.  His
son John adopted the Shepard spelling
and made his home in New Hampshire.  A
descendant is the astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to walk in
in 1961.

Virginia.  Robert Sheppard
from Gloucestershire arrived at the Jamestown colony on the Hopewell
in 1624, aged 20. His children, including
the Rev. John
Shepherd, became Shepherds.  Another Rev.
John Shepherd, related to the New England Ralph and Thomas Shepards,
was a
pastor in Middlesex county from 1668 to 1683.
Later Shepherds here settled in Anson county, North Carolina.

Sheppard acquired the Meadow Farm property in Henrico county in 1713.  Seven generations of the Sheppard family
lived at Meadow Farm until it was donated to Henrico county as a museum
in 1975.

Uriah Shepherd meanwhile migrated from Lee county, Virginia to eastern Kentucky in the
early 1800’s and later settled in Alabama.

.  In 1683 various Shepherds
from Ireland came
to what was then West Jersey and settled along the Cohansey river in

  • branches of the family also
    made their home in North Carolina and Maryland.
  • Shepherdstown in West Virginia
    was named after Thomas Shepherd who died there in 1776.
  • elsewhere the family
    spelling often became Sheppard.  The
    Quaker Sheppards in Philadelphia, Loyalist during the Revolutionary
    War, lost
    much of their property at that time.  But
    Moses Sheppard later prospered as a merchant in Baltimore.

From Philadelphia,
born in 1728, also came John Shepherd, a
Revolutionary War veteran
who lived to the grand old age of 117.

Thomas Shepherd died in Charles county, Maryland
in 1817.  Five years later his son
Alexander left to seek his fortune in Washington DC, the new nation’s
capital.  But it was Alexander’s son
Alexander Robey Shepherd, known as Boss Shepherd, who was to leave his
mark on
the city in the decade after the Civil War

There were early Shepherds at Harbour Grace in
Newfoundland, beginning with Francis Shepheard from the Channel Island
Jersey.  He may have been trading at
Harbour Grace as early as 1705.  A later Francis Shepherd reported
in 1775 that
his family had been living there “for upwards of ninety years.”  Another early settler, Martin Shepherd, came
from Guernsey.

The spelling on Newfoundland could be either Shepherd or
Sheppard.  John Sheppard from Dublin
settled in Spaniard’s Bay sometime in the 1770’s.  His
Sheppards were Protestant.

Australia and New Zealand.  James
Shepherd was convicted of horse
stealing in Surrey in 1785 and spent six years in cramped convict
before being transported to Australia on the Matilda
in 1791.  Three years
later he received his conditional pardon, married, and spent the rest
of his
life as a farmer on his Thorn Farm at Kissing Point near Sydney.  He died in 1847 at the good age of 84.

From Kissing Point came Isaac Shepherd a farmer and his son James Shepherd an Anglican

“James Shepherd and
his family advertised in the Sydney
in 1821 that they were soon to leave the colony in the Brig Hope for New Zealand as

William Horder Sheppard
was born in Fordingbridge in Hampshire in 1829 and emigrated with his
James to Australia and later to New Zealand in the 1850’s, settling in
Taranaki district

Shepherd Miscellany

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

Shepherd Names

Fleetwood Sheppard was a notable English courtier and literary wit
of the late 1600’s.

Thomas Shepard
 was a prominent Puritan minister in early 17th
century New England.

Nan Shepherd was a Scottish novelist and poet whose work first
appeared in the 1920’s. 

Alan Shepard was an American astronaut,
the first American to travel in space in 1961. 

David Sheppard was a high-profile Anglican Bishop of Liverpool who
had played cricket
for England as a young man.
Sam Shepard
is a highly acclaimed
American playwright, actor, screenwriter and director.

Cybill Shepherd
 is a well-known American actress.

Select Shepherds Today

  • 65,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 51,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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