Travers Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Travers Meaning
French origins, from travers meaning
“to cross” or “crossing.”  It was an
occupational name for a gatherer of tolls.  In 1285
the Bishop of Norwich claimed that he and his predecessors were
accustomed to
take “travers” at South Elmham in Suffolk.

Travers and Travis are the main spellings today.  Over time Travis increasingly displaced Travers in its heartland of Lancashire, as it has in America.  Travers has retained a foothold in the southwest, particularly in Dorset.

Travers Resources on

Travers Ancestry

Travers and Travis names combined are most numerous in Lancashire today
there are the earliest records there as well.

Lancashire.  A Travers family, Norman in origin, was said to
have taken over Tulketh castle near
Garstang, with the Travers chief marrying the Tulketh daughter Alison.  A later union took place around 1295 when
Travers married Isabel Nateby.  And so Travers came to hold both
the Tulketh and Nateby
estates for more than three hundred years.
Another old Travers family held Whiston manor until 1506 and
were recusants later.

Christopher Travers of
Doncaster in Yorkshire may have come from the Nateby family.  The linkage to the Travers of Halton
Hall in Cheshire appears much more definite, starting with Hamon
Travers in
1522.  John Travers of this family was a
merchant in London in Stuart times.
Travers from Nateby departed for Ireland in 1599 and for America
1627.  Nateby Hall itself was sold in 1626.

Travis spelling was already evident in Lancashire by 1600 and it had
become the main spelling by the late 1800’s.  The
principal concentration at that time was around Oldham.
John Travis’s 1893 book Genealogical Memorials of
the Travis Family
covered Travises in
this area.

Elsewhere.  John Travers
was Sheriff of London three times between 1215 and 1224.
There were reports that he was a merchant,
importing grain from Ireland, and an extensive landowner, but no clues
as to
his origins.   Richard Travers was a
merchant tailor at Cornhill in London in the early 1500’s.
His son Walter, a Puritan theologian, became
Provost of Trinity College in Dublin in 1594.

In Devon the Travers at Pille in the parish of Bishops Tawton date from
the 1460’s to the early 1600’s.  Walter Travers who married in
1526 was minor gentry
at Witherstone in Dorset.  Nearby is the village of Loders where
Travers have been traced from the early 1600’s to the 20th

Travers from Nateby, who had married a sister
of the poet Edmund Spencer, came to Ireland in 1598 and made his home
at Ballinamona
in west Cork.  His son Robert was killed in
1647 in the fighting during the English Civil War.

of Robert’s sons, John and
Richard, founded long-lasting branches of the Travers family at
Timoleague near
Bandon.  Many of their descendants were
distinguished soldiers, most notable of them being General Sir Robert
Travers in
the early 1800’s and his son General James Travers.  
was burnt down in 1920 during the Troubles.  The
Travers family subsequently built a new
house in 1926 close to the ruins of the 13th century Barry castle

Travers in Ireland can be an anglicization of O’Treabhair, a clan in Leitrim that
were erenaghs to the O’Rourkes of Breifne.  Cairbre O’Treabhair was
known as Charles Travers in Elizabethan timesTreabhair in Gaelic means a
ploughman and the Travers name was fairly common in north Leitrim and
south Donegal.

frequently became Travis in
America.  This was true for the Travers
family from Nateby in Lancashire that came to Virginia.
Robert Travis covered the family in his 1954
book The Travis (Travers) Family.

Edward Travers arrived in Jamestown in 1627
and ended up owning the entire east end of Jamestown island.  His descendants held that land until 1831.  His home there, Travis House, has been
preserved and is now a popular tourist site in Williamsburg.  Edward’s brother William Travers, who grew up in Ireland, came to
Virginia in 1655
and later settled in North Carolina.

Travis may have been related to the Lancashire line, although the
evidence is
elusive.  It appears that he arrived in
Virginia, aged twelve, sometime around 1760 as an indentured servant.  He moved to South Carolina in 1772 and later
ran a tavern in Edgefield.  His grandson
was the famous William Barrett Travis or Buck Travis, born in Edgefield,
died in Texas defending the Alamo in 1836.

Elsewhere.  William
Travers, a London merchant, came to
Maryland in the late 1600’s, making his home on Taylors Island
Dorchester county.  His son Matthew
became one of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the county and
wealth was handed down.  Samuel Travers
who lived there in 1875 published a dairy of his ocean-going journey to

Garrett Travis bought land in Westchester
county, New York in 1657.  He was called
Dutchman,” although there was no proof that he was.
His descendants generally remained in
Westchester county.  Nathaniel Travis, a
Loyalist, did depart for Nova Scotia in 1784.
Travis, possibly related to this family, was living in Westchester
county in
the early 1700’s.  His descendants
settled upstate in Putnam county

Canada.  One
Travers line in Canada
started with John Travers, an Irishman who was a soldier in the British
army. He was posted to New York at the time of
Revolutionary War.  After the war was
over, he moved with his family to Canada in 1784 and was granted land
in Bonaventure, Quebec.  His line extended
to Lawrence
Travers in the Gaspe region and his daughter Mary Rose-Anna who, as
Bolduc, was to achieve fame and fortune in the 1930’s as a folksinger

A Travis family from Westchester County, New York also crossed the
border at this time, heading for Nova Scotia with some Travises later
settling in St. John, New Brunswick.  William Henry Travis was a
customs officer there.  It was said that he was the seventh son of
seventh son.   Later Travises of his line moved to Milwaukee.

New Zealand.  William Travers was an Irishman from county Limerick who
had joined the British army.  After his military service ended, he
moved with his family to Nelson in New Zealand in 1849.  He was
for many years a local politician.  But he is best remembered as
an avid explorer, often mounting expeditions into the less well known
parts of New Zealand.  The Travers Range, Travers Valley, and
Travers River were all named after him.


Travers Miscellany

Travers and Travis Today

Numbers (000’s) Travers Travis
UK     5     5
America     3    10
Elsewhere     5     3
Total    13    18

Travers’ Epitaph.  This epitaph,
probably fake, sought to demonstrate that their Norman ancestor came
over with
William the Conqueror and fought at the Battle of Hastings.  Travers
and his men
later took the towers of Tulketh Castle and he proceeded to marry the

Travers, by birth a
To gain victorious conquest
With William the Conqueror in I came
As one Chief
ruled among the rest.

querdon was a crown
And our subjects spoil
ransomed Tower and Town
Some planted English soil.

his castles and
My captives maulger were
His daughter and heir Dame Alison
I espoused to my

winters thus were worn
In spousals mirth and glee
begotten she had and born
Ere crowned was Beauclard Henry.

and Jordon
Fitz Travers
The one me succeeded, the other took orders
With Constance and
Blanch my daughters
The one to spousals, the other vowed cloisters.”

Christopher Travers in Shakespeare.  Christopher
Travers is thought to have been one of the younger
sons of Roger Travers of Nateby.  He was
probably born at Nateby sometime in the late 1300’s.
He may have shown up as a character in
Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two.  Northumberland’s
retainers in the first act
of that play were called Travers and Morton.
The timing works for him.  And
Travers had a brother-in-law named Morton from Bawtry.

He made his home at
Doncaster in south Yorkshire.  In 1466 he
was in London and, “knowing himself to be in imminent danger of death,”
his last will and testament in the presence of his brother Bryan.  He died soon afterwards and was buried at St.
Paul’s in London.  From this Bryan is
thought to
have come Richard Travers the London merchant tailor and his son Walter
Travers the
Puritan divine.

The Two Quaker William Travers.  There were apparently two William Travers Quakers living in the 1650’s, one living in London and the other in Bandon, county Cork.

The first William Travers opened a
tobacco shop at the Three Feathers on
Watling Street in 1636.  He had
married Rebecca Booth who later became a fervent Quaker.
He followed her in this belief as he was
mentioned several times in the Quaker books in London of the time.
However, he died in 1664.  Rebecca
remained passionately involved in the Quaker
movement until her death at the age of 79 in 1688.

second William Travers, from the Nateby
family in Lancashire, was living in Bandon at that time.  William
like his mother was an ardent Quaker
but faced persecution in Ireland.  In
1655 the Earl of Clancarthy and his soldiers were destroying the wall
and other
properties at Bandon.  William took
refuge in America, first in Isle of Wight county in Virginia where he
married Sary West and then in the 1670’s in
North Carolina.  He died at Pasquotank in
Albemarle county in 1685.

Buck Travis and His Son.  William Barrett or Buck
Travis ranks next to Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett as the immortal Texas
who defended the Alamo to the death in the cause of Texas Independence.
Bowie and Crockett stand out in the
popular conscience as the fierce frontiersmen who fought to the
last.  Buck Travis is forever remembered
for commanding the Texan garrison and drawing his famous
line in
the sand.

He may have been considered a
hero in Texas, but he had left a bad reputation in Alabama.  Apparently in 1831 he had killed a man over
his wife.  The judge there told him to
run and they would find someone else to take the rap. He
hurriedly left during the night and headed
for Texas, leaving behind his wife and two children.

this new-found adoration in Texas, Buck’s
son Charles might have had everything going for him.
It was not to be.  He did
start out with bright prospects as a
captain in the US Cavalry.  But he had
made enemies.  In 1856 he was arrested
for “conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman,” a not trivial
charge at
the time.  The charge was contested but
eventually stood.  Four years later
Charles died of TB, a forgotten man, and was buried in an unmarked grave. 

Taylors Island.  Taylors Island along
the Eastern Shore of Maryland was
one of the first settlements in Dorchester county.  John and
Thomas Taylor took ownership of about 400 acres on
the island in 1662 and initially called it Taylor’s Folly.
William Travers and his family and other early settlers
later joined them.

fertility of the soil, the
large holdings of slaves in the years before the Civil War, and the
profits on
shipbuilding and trading to Brazil and The Indies produced a state of
considerable prosperity for its inhabitants.
The dominant families were closely bound together by blood and
by almost
daily association.

parties were large and frequent.  Educational provisions were
quite good.  The children were usually sent to school in
Baltimore or taught by tutors in private homes.  The
water as well as the land furnished food
in abundance.  The houses were

neighborliness resulted
from the relative isolation of Taylors Island.   The
status of the island, its distance from the county seat and the almost
impossible roads prohibited
communication with other parts of the county. Connection
with the mainland was originally
by ferry.  It was not until 1856 that a
bridge was constructed.

lived on Taylors Island for many generations.



Travers/Travis Names

  • William Barrett Travis was
    the commander of the Texan garrison who died defending
    the Alamo in 1836.
  • P.L. Travers was the
    Australian-born author of the Mary Poppins series of children’s books.
  • Merle Travis was a well-known American country singer who was elected to the Country Music Hall of
    Fame in 1977.  Travis picking is a syncopated style of finger
    picking named after him.
  • Mary Travers was an American folk singer, part of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio that were popular in the 1960’s.


Select Travers/Travis Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Travers/Travis and Like Surnames

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




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