Thackeray Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Thackeray Meaning
place-name Thackray in north Yorkshire was the source for
Yorkshire surnames

  • Thackray being the largest in number
  • Thackeray being the
    most well-known
  • and Thackrah and Thackery being two other less known

The name derived from the Old Norse elements thak,
meaning “thatching reeds,” and vra, meaning a “nook”
or “corner.”
earliest documented appearances of the surname were Johannes and
Robertus de
Thakwra in the Yorkshire poll tax records

of 1379.

Thackeray/Thackray Resources on

Thackeray/Thackray Ancestry

surname spelling in
Yorkshire was becoming Thackwray by the 16th century.

“In the court at Ilkley in 1522, James Thackwray was
fined for taking greenwood in 1522 and William Thackwray was fined for
wood in 1571.”

North Yorkshire.
One family line, sometimes Thackwray, began with William
Thackray at
Fewston in the Harrogate district of Yorkshire around the year 1630.  And there was another line from another
William Thackray at Weston Otley recorded around the same time.

Nearby at Hampsthwaite in Nidderdale parish was the Thackeray/Thackwray
family of yeoman farmers.  They were the
ancestors of William Thackeray
the famous Victorian
writer.  His
line ran

  • the Rev. Thomas Thackeray, the Headmaster at Harrow
    School, and William’s
    father Richmond Thackeray, a high-ranking member of the East India
    Company in Calcutta.
  • and
    his daughter Anne, later Lady Ritchie, who became the custodian of his

Leeds and
.  The name also spread further south in the
West Riding, into the Leeds area.  The
spelling here was often Thackrah.
William Thackrah, for instance, was baptized at Mill Hill in
Leeds in
Thackrah, born in Leeds in 1795, was a pioneer in the field of

The main spelling here by the 19th century, however, was Thackray.  Charles Thackray was a pharmacist who opened
a chemist shop in Leeds in 1902.  In
less than a century the corner shop grew into one of Britain’s leading
companies.  In recognition his grandson
Paul Thackray opened the Thackray Medical Museum in
Leeds in 1997.

Meanwhile there were some Thackerays in Hull
where Thomas Thackeray was the mayor in 1604 and 1624.
Later Thackerays appeared at Sculcoates, a Hull

were two notable early Quaker families in
from Yorkshire with
the Thackara and Thackray names:

  • Thomas Thackara from Leeds who arrived with his
    wife Esther in New Jersey in 1681.  
  • and
    James Thackwray from Stockton who came to Bucks county, Pennsylvania in

William Thackwray from Wetherby
was with his
family one of the pioneer British settlers in South Africa in 1820.  He was allocated land in the Eastern Cape.

years 1828 and 1829 were disaster years for him.
son John Thackwray died during
elephant hunt
in 1828.  Another son
William was killed by Hottentots in 1829, just after his father William
died.  Joseph and James were the two
surviving sons.

Australia.  Elizabeth Thackery from Manchester was the last known
survivor of the First Fleet when she died in 1856.
She arrived in 1788 and was generally known
throughout her long lifetime as the first convict female to land in

1810 she married Samuel King, a soldier who had arrived with the First
Fleet.  They settled in the Derwent
valley and were married for forty-six years.

India.  Thackeray
is also an
Indian surname.  It was first adopted by
the Indian writer
Keshev Sitaram who became known
as Prabodhankar
Thackeray.  His son the politician Bal
Thackeray made the name even more well-known in India.


Thackeray/Thackray Miscellany

Four Yorkshire Surnames – Thackray, Thackrah, Thackeray, and Thackery.  The numbers in Yorkshire in the 1881 census were as follows:

  • Thackray – 1,100
  • Thackrah – 232
  • Thackeray – 203
  • and Thackery – 123.

Thackray has been by far the main spelling in the Leeds area.  Thackwray had become more or less obsolete by this time.

The Ancestors of William Thackeray

In Yorkshire (in Hampsthwaite in north Yorkshire)

Walter Thackeray.  Yeoman farmer who died in Hampsthwaite
in 1618.

– Robert Thackeray

— Thomas Thackeray (1628-1670)

— Timothy Thackeray (1662-1722).  Parish clerk at Hampsthwaite

In the London area

—- Rev. Thomas Thackeray (1693-1760).  Headmaster at Harrow School and Archdeacon of Surrey.

—– William M. Thackeray (1749-1813)

In Calcutta

—– Richmond M. Thackeray (1781-1815) arrived in India in 1798, married Anne Becher, and died of fever.

In London

—— William M. Thackeray (1811-1863) the famous writer.  He returned to London after the death of his father.

Note that the family name in Hampsthwaite was sometimes spelt Thackwray.  Joseph and Thomas Thackwray, father and son in this family, held the parish clerkship office there between 1725 and 1804.

The Thackray Medical Museum.  The Thackray Medical Museum, founded by Paul Thackray, is situated on the outskirts of Leeds in a
former Victorian workhouse building.  It
commemorates the work of his grandfather Charles Thackray whose small
shop in Leeds shop grew into one of Britain’s principal medical
manufacturing drugs and medical instruments and pioneering the hip

The museum opened in 1997 and
won “the Museum Award of the Year” in the following year.

Reader Feedback – Two Notable Early Quaker Families in America.  

Thomas Thackara

Thomas Thackara was a native of Leeds who was imprisoned In York castle for his
beliefs.  He was a weaver by trade and
ended up in
Dublin due to persecution.  He with his family and friends sailed
in 1681
from Dublin to West Jersey on the basis of a deed from William
Penn.  He
was a member of the first Legislature of Burlington and became the
first Judge
of Gloucester county.

His wife Esther, having made the long and dangerous
journey from Ireland to New Jersey, drowned in the Delaware river eight
later in 1689.  She was in a canoe when a
large sturgeon leaped into the canoe, tipping Esther out.

James Thackwray

James Thackwray was noted as being at a Quaker monthly meeting in
Stockton in 1719 shortly before emigrating in 1720.
He settled in Bucks county, Pennsylvania
where he died in 1779.

Warren Thackwray, South Africa  (

Reader Feedback – William Thackwray in South Africa.  William Thackwray had a younger sister Margaret (later Margaret Greenwood) who also came to
South Africa and whose letter written in 1826, in which she requested bringing
her husband and ten children to South Africa, gave some family history.

She herself was born in Wetherby, Yorkshire
in 1784, the son of John a laborer.  William had been born five
earlier in 1779.   He left the Wetherby area to pursue an
apprenticeship as a wheelwright and master carpenter.  He married Dorothy
Pownall from Cheshire in 1801.  Thier first son John was born a
year later.  The family subsequently moved around as William sought work
opportunities, first in Salford near Manchester and then in Sheffield before
leaving for South Africa in 1820.

I am descended from one of their sons Joseph Ebenezer Thackwray.  He moved
north from Grahamstown to Cradock where he raised his family and was

Warren Thackwray, South Africa  (

John Thackwray’s Death in South Africa During an Elephant Hunt.  John Thackwray stopped to visit his old friend George Wood on his way to an
elephant hunt in the nearby Ecca Forest in February 1828.  When he was there his Hottentot after-rider
came to tell him that he had located a herd of elephants in the forest.

A few
hours later his broken body was brought back to the Woods’ house to
wait for
transport to Grahamstown.  He had been killed by an elephant. It
seems he had
shot the elephant which had fallen.  But
when John and a Hottentot went up to it, it suddenly sprang up and
caught him
with its trunk and began to run away, with John firmly caught up in the
He was found soon after, quite dead.

Why Bal Thackeray in India Had an English Surname.  It was Bal Thackeray’s father Keshev Sitaram who took the English surname Thackeray.  Keshav’s father had previously adopted the surname
Panvelkar according to the old family tradition.
While admitting his son to school in the early 1900’s, he gave
him the
surname Thakre, which was apparently their traditional Marathi family
name prior
to the Dhodapkar of his grandfather.

Keshav then anglicized this
surname’s spelling in order to convey his admiration for the
British author of Vanity Fair.  And
when Keshav Thackeray launched a
fortnightly magazine named Prabodhan
(meaning enlighten), he became famous as Prabodhankar Thackeray.

His son Bal
Thackeray continued the literary tradition by working first as a
cartoonist for
The Free Press Journal and then
by starting his own cartoon weekly.  In
he launched the Shiv Sena party in Maharashtra, a Hindu right-wing
Marathi ethno-centric party, which he led until his death in 2012.  His fiery speeches and editorials from his
newspapers made him a combative local politician.


Thackeray/Thackray Names

  • Charles Thackrah, a surgeon from Leeds, was an early 19th century pioneer in the field of
    occupational medicine. 
  • William Thackeray was a famous Victorian writer, best-known for his novel Vanity Fair which came out in
    serialized form in 1847. 
  • Bal Thackeray was a fiery Indian politician in the state of Maharashtra until his death in 2012.

Select Thackeray/Thackray Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Thackeray and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.





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