Skinner Surname Genealogy

in England and Scotland is an occupational name,
for someone who stripped the hide from animals that was to be used for
into leather. The root is the Old Norse skinn meaning a hide or pelt. In
medieval records this occupation can be
found in the form of “le skynner” or “le schimner,” written
after the Christian name for the individual being identified.

Skinner Resources on

Skinner Ancestry

The Worshipful Company of

was one of the great
medieval trade guilds, first recognized in 1327. Its
early use as a surname, such as Ralph Le
Skinnere in Hertfordshire in 1269 and Henry le Skyniar in Oxfordshire
in 1273,
was in a form to denote their occupation.

and the Southeast
. The Skinner
name and occupation was most common in large towns such as London. Thomas Skinner, for instance, was a London
and its Lord Mayor in 1596. His
forebears may have been skinners; but he himself was a prosperous
master of the
cloth-workers’ guild. His tombstone read
as follows:

lies the corps of Thomas Skinner late citizen
and alderman of London, born at Saffron Walden in Essex who in the 65th
year of
his age and on the 30th day of December 1596 being then Lord Mayor of
this city
departed this life, leaving behind him three sons and three daughters.”

were recorded in the small town of Reigate in Surrey in 1445. In 1542 John Skinner Jr and James Skinner,
“members of a long dynasty of Skinners,” represented this borough in
Parliament. Their father, John Sr, had
held the position of Clerk of the Peace there since 1488.

The 19th century
distribution of the Skinner name showed that it was mainly concentrated
in the
southeast around London. But there was
an outpost in the west country, with the largest numbers being in Devon.

Southwest. One
family began with the marriage of William and Anne Skinner in Newton
Abbot in
Devon around the year 1665. Another
began with the birth of Alexander Skinner at Chittlehampton in 1688. John Skinner was recorded at Ermington in
1692. William and Catherine Skinner were
married at St. Minver in Cornwall in 1726.

Skynners of Thorpe in Lincolnshire were said to have originated in
(although this has been disputed):

required of John Skynner in the
county of Lincolnshire, receiver of the honor of Bollingbroke, son and
heir to
Robert Skynner of Exeter in the county of Devon. The
gentleman to make search in the register
and records for the ancient arms and crest belonging to that name and
whereof he is descended and found the same.”

The line from John Skynner, mercer in Lincoln, led to Sir Vincent
Skynner, the Elizabethan politician, and to William Skynner, the mayor
of Hull
in 1665. His son Thomas was a merchant
in the Caribbean who died at a young age; his grandson William became
responsible for Britain’s fortifications and was appointed its Chief
in 1757.

The line from there moved to the Americas. William’s
son, Captain William Skinner,
drowned during a military engagement in
the Caribbean in 1761. One of his sons
William Campbell Skinner became a successful engineer in America. Another son Thomas came to Newfoundland in
1790 where he served as chief engineer.
His son Robert fought in the War of 1812.

Scotland. Skinner, a
surname found in the
NE Highlands of Scotland, appears to have the same occupational origins
as in
England. The name here would have closer
links with Viking-origin words. Alternatively,
it has been suggested that the name Skinner
derived from the word skene
meaning in Gaelic
a dirk or

Skinner has been a well-known
name among the fishing communities at Avoch and Easter Ross in
Ross-shire. The name has also extended
Aberdeenshire. Scott Skinner, the famous
19th century Scottish fiddler, came from the village of Arbeadie in

Skinning was an
occupation of the cattle trading clan Gregor of the Perthshire and
Highlands. When the persecution of the
MacGregor name began to be enforced in Perth in 1603, some MacGregors
thought to have adopted the Skinner surname.

This MacGregor-Skinner switching can be seen in the case of William
MacGregor who renamed himself William Skinner after the Jacobite defeat
in 1715
and left for Perth Amboy, New Jersey where he became the rector of St.

His son General Cortlandt Skinner
and grandson John MacGregor Skinner were both loyal to Britain during
Revolutionary War, the former departing for London in 1783 and the
serving with the Royal Navy in the Caribbean where he lost first his
arm and
then his eye. John moved to Holyhead in
Wales in 1793 and was a master on packet ships crossing the Irish Sea. He lost his life, aged 70, when he was washed
overboard from his ship Escape in

America. Early Skinners came
to New England and to Virginia.

England. John Skinner from Braintree
in Essex was a member of Thomas Hooker’s company which came to America
in 1635
and settled at Hartford, Connecticut a year later.
Among later descendants were:

  • Justin
    a seafarer who settled in Maine in the early 1800’s.
    His eldest son Austin also went to sea.
    After the Civil War Austin took command of a
    merchantman sailing between America and Europe/
  • Eugene
    Skinner who came to
    Oregon territory in 1846 and was one of its early settlers. He was the founder of the city of Eugene
    which was named after him.
  • and
    David E. (Ned) Skinner who co-founded the
    Skinner and Eddy shipyard in Seattle, Washington in 1916.
    This shipyard had a short life. But
    subsequent Skinners were to play a
    prominent role in Seattle’s civic life.

Thomas Skinner left his home in
Sussex for Malden, Massachusetts in 1650.
was for his times a remarkably long-lived individual (he died in 1702
at the
age of 85) who was the first person licensed to operate an inn which
“victuals and strong waters” in Malden.

Skinners of this line moved to Maine. Daniel
Skinner arrived in 1793 and founded
the Skinner settlement in Corinth. The
farmhouse there has remained with the family until recently. From another line, via Joseph Skinner, came
Maine lighthouse keeper Charles
. Richard Skinner moved to
Vermont and became Governor of that state in 1820.
His son Mark moved to Chicago and served
there as City Attorney.

The whole family
line from Sergeant Thomas Skinner was traced in Ira Skinner’s 2013 book
The Skinner Family History.

William Skinner was a
much later arrival, coming from London in 1843 and starting a silk
manufacturing business which, from 1874, was based in Hadley,
Massachusetts. Sons William and Joseph
carried on the business after his death in 1902. At
nearby Mount Holyoke the family legacies
are Skinner Park, Skinner Hall and the Skinner Museum.


Skinners of Elizabeth city
county, Virginia date from the 1670’s.
Later Skinners here settled in Darlington county, South Carolina.

Richard Skinner, first recorded in
Virginia sometime in the 1670’s, migrated in 1701 to Perquimans county,
Carolina where his descendants became prominent plantation owners and
politicians. John
Skinner’s Perquimans seat, known as Ashland, was located in the
Harvey’s Neck section of the county.
Considered one of the finest homes in northeastern North
Carolina, it
burned down in 1952.

Robert Skinner from Essex was in the 1870’s a factor at the
Bay Company trading post on Quesnel island in the extreme northwest of
Columbia. Sadly the records show that he
was dismissed from the company’s employ in 1887 for falsifying the
accounts. His daughter Constance moved
to California and then to New York where she became a writer of the

Australia and New Zealand. Martha Skinner came to Sydney with her
husband William Cole from Kent in 1838 and many other Skinners of
family were to make the same voyage over the next twenty years. They settled in Braidwood and elsewhere in

William Skinner left the comforts
of Melbourne in 1854 for the hardships of a gold prospector in Victoria. His wife Emily followed him to various
diggings, enduring the primitive huts and tents, isolation and
hardships of
that life. The family was plagued by
sickness and lost their first born when he was five months old. William had little success with his diggings
and he eventually gave up his dream of gold.
Emily’s recollections of those times were published in a 1995
book Emily Skinner, A Woman on the Goldfields.

Thomas Skinner, a butcher from Devon, was
one of the early settlers in New Zealand, arriving there in 1841 and
making his
home in Taranaki. His son William was a
surveyor who over his long life wrote about the history of the region
and was a
staunch supporter of its customs and heritage.
His son Henry became the director of Otago Museum.

Skinner Miscellany

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

Skinner Names

John Skinner
Aberdeenshire was an 18th century Scottish
historian and writer of popular songs.
B. F. Skinner
is a renowned
psychologist of the 20th century.
Dennis Skinner
is a British Labor Party
politician, known for his left-wing views and acid tongue.
He has been called “the Beast of Bolsover,”
the constituency which he represents

Select Skinners Today

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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