Tyler Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Tyler Surname Meaning

Tyler’s origins are occupational, from a tiler or maker or layer of tiles.  Tiles were widely used in medieval times for floors and pavements, although they weren’t really employed in roofing until the 16th century.

Tyler Surname Resources on The Internet

Tyler Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England
  • to America and Australia

England.  Tyler as a surname appears to have emerged in the late 13th and 14th centuries.  Two early examples of the name were:

  • Geoffray and Ralph Tylere, who were recorded in Huntingdonshire in 1272 (they were tenants of the Abbot of Sawtry)
  • and Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Historians believe that he came from Essex and that he crossed the Thames to lead the revolt in Kent.

Kent  Much of northeast Kent was involved in Wat Tyler’s revolt of 1381.  But there is nothing to connect Wat Tyler with any more recent Tylers in that area.  Tylers in Edenbridge and the surrounding area can be traced to the early 1600’s.

One family line began with a Thomas Tyler, born there around 1715.  Captain Peter Tyler who fought with the army in Ireland married into the local gentry at Lynsted near Sittingbourne.  His son Admiral Sir Charles Tyler commanded with Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805.

Gloucestershire.  Another cluster of Tylers was to be found in the west country, in Gloucestershire.  The early Tyler wills there showed Tylers in the Forest of Dean, in Tytherington near Ichington, and in villages in and around Thornbury north of Bristol.  These Tylers were recorded as yeomen farmers, clothiers, weavers, and tanners.  A Richard Tyler ran the ironworks in the Forest of Dean for a period in the 1630’s.

Moses and Mary Tyler lived at Mill farm, Tytherington in the late 1700’s.  A Tyler family of masons in Tidenham dates from this time as well.

“A stone set in the west wall of Tidenham churchyard recorded the building of the wall by William Tyler in 1787.  A local legend has it that the stone marked the grave of a witch.”

And there were a number of Tyler trades people in the Bristol area by the early 1800’s.

The 19th century distribution of the Tyler name still reflected this east/west division.  Tylers were first in the southeast, around London, Kent and Essex; and then in the west, around Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

America.  America had two early and notable Tyler arrivals, one into Massachusetts and the other into Virginia.  Some have maintained that these two Tylers were related.  But there is no evidence that this was the case.

New England.  Job Tyler came to New England in 1640 with his wife Mary and settled in Andover, Massachusetts.  They had four sons, Moses, Hopestill, John and Samuel, from whom has come a large number of descendants.  Moses’ line included Daniel Tyler the Mormon and Moses Coit Tyler the historian.

Hopestill’s wife and daughter got caught up in the Salem witch trials.  His line subsequently went via eastern Connecticut to Daniel Tyler, the iron manufacturer, railroad president, and one of the first generals of the Civil War.  John’s line, meanwhile, eventually migrated to Ohio.  Willard Brigham’s 1912 book The Tyler Genealogy traced the various descendants.

Virginia  The other Tyler line began in Virginia with Henry Tyler from Shropshire.  He had arrived in 1652 and was a planter in York county in the outskirts of what is now Williamsburgh.  His descendants later moved to James City and then to Charles City where Judge John Tyler erected his Greenway plantation in 1776 (the house there still stands).

It was his son John Tyler, born in Greenway, who became by accident the tenth President of the United States, following the death of President Harrison in 1841.  John Tyler’s descendants are numerous.  He had two wives and fifteen children.

Maryland  There were also Tyler planters from the 1670’s in Maryland with Robert Tyler and his Brough plantation on the Patutext river and from the 1750’s in North Carolina with Moses Tyler and his plantation in Bladen county.  Moses’ son was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War.  Later Tylers moved onto Mississippi.

Australia.  Three early Tylers in Australia were from Gloucestershire.  John William Tyler had come from Bristol to South Australia in 1845 and was one of the first settlers at Burra, northeast of Port Augusta.

“John is understood to have been the first Australian farmer to import machinery from America for boring for water.  He in fact visited California to see the plant at work and to order the machinery.”

John and Charlotte Tyler also came to South Australia, arriving there on the Isabella Hercus in 1849. Meanwhile, Matthew Tyler and his family had got to Sydney in 1838.  These Tylers had been sponsored to emigrate to Australia by their local Bisley parish in Gloucestershire.

Richard Tyler came to Western Australia with his family in 1886.  His family has been cropping wheat in Korrelocking, WA for close on a hundred years.

Tyler Surname Miscellany

Tyler Surname Origins.  Tyler’s earliest appearance, in the late 12th century, appears to have been French in origin, an import therefore of the Normans. However, the French form does not seem to have survived and it was displaced by the Tyler from the Old English tigel leah. Tyler’s Historical and Genealogical Magazine gave the following analysis of the surname’s origin.

“Mark Antony Lower stated in his Patronymica Britannica that the surname of Tyler or Tiler was derived from the occupation of the first man in England to whom this surname became applied.  The learned etymologists, however, tell us neither when nor where in England the surname originated, nor who were the first to be known by that surname.

These points are determinable.  One may note that Lower declared that the surname of Tileman (Tillman) originated from exactly the same causes as did the surname of Tyler; also, that he described “Tylor” as a “genteel form of Tyler.”

Bardsley, the more recent etymologist, agreed with Lower that the first Tyler was a tiler, a maker or layer of bricks, “one who bakes clay into tiles,” he further averred.  Also he agreed with Skeats, author of an etymological dictionary, that the word tiler is from the Anglo Saxon tigele which antedates all British surnames.  The Latin form is tegula, from tegere, meaning “to cover.”

Henry Harrison, the most scholarly of the etymologists, agreed with those predecessors and added that “tylee” or “tiley” was a dweller at a tile field and derived from the Old English tigel leah.

An inquiry in England in 1272 showed that there were five adult males surnamed Tyler at a place called Sawtry near Huntingdon. ‘Thus Galfridus (otherwise Geoffray) le Tylere and Radulphus (otherwise Ralph) de Tilere with another were cottars, tenants of three cottages each with a few acres of land rented to them by the Abbot of Sawtry who was the resident ecclesiastical lord of the district and the representative of the monastery of Great Sawtry.’

Sawtry was upon the old Roman road from London to York, about eight miles north of the shire town of Huntingdon.  The earth is flat in that region and clay abounds in vast quantities.  Ely Cathedral was the mother church of the first Tylers.”

Wat Tyler and the Peasants’ Revolt.  Little is known of Wat Tyler with the exception of his fame as the leader of the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.  He was said to be a tiler from Essex who had become involved in the uprising after a tax collector had assaulted his daughter.  The commons of Kent, after taking Rochester Castle, chose him as their captain. Under him they moved to Canterbury, Blackheath and then to London.

Tyler’s group had joined another group led by two itinerant priests named John Ball and Jack Straw and they rose 100,000 strong to invade London.  The enraged mob burned many houses.  They broke open every prison and beheaded every judge and lawyer they could capture.  Flushed with their success, they went on to take the Tower of London by force and behead the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Richard II, who was at the time only fourteen years of age, bravely emerged to meet with Wat Tyler at Smithfield.  Tyler advanced in front of his strong force to speak with him and he showed no deference.  This angered the royal party.

When Tyler asked for a drink of water and then spat it out, the King told William Walworth, the mayor of London, to “set hands on him.”  Tyler was stabbed through the throat with a short sword and, as he lay writhing in agony on the ground after falling off his horse, was stabbed through the belly.

Walworth was a fish dealer as well as the Lord Mayor of London and he donated the dagger with which he had killed Tyler to the Fishmongers guild.  The dagger is still to be found in Fishmongers hall in a special glass case.  Nearby there is a life size Walworth standing with dagger in hand.

Early Tyler Wills in Gloucestershire

1544 John Tyler St. Briavels, near the Forest of
1569 John Tyler Tytherington, near Ichington *
1586 John Tyler Blakeney, in the Forest of Dean
1591 Henry Tyler Thornbury, north of Bristol
1613 John Tyler Frampton Cotterell, north of
1616 William Tyler Alveston, north of Bristol
1638 John Tyler Pucklechurch, north of Bristol

*  This was the first of a number of Tyler wills in Tytherington.

Tyler Surname Distribution in England and Wales.  The Tyler surname has been concentrated around London and the southeast of England.  The table below shows the distribution from the 1891 census.

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
London     2.0     24%
Essex     0.7      8%
Kent     0.4      5%
Worcestershire     0.5      6%
Gloucestershire     0.4      5%
Elsewhere     4.5     52%
Total England and
    8.5    100%

Reader Feedback – Job Tyler’s Arrival.  Until very recently we thought that Job Tyler first went to Rhode Island in 1638.  Now, for the first time, we know that Job left London, along with 161 passengers, bound for Virginia on the Pinnace Globe.  The ship left London on August 7, 1635 and arrived first at the Massachusetts Bay colony.  Job’s name appears on the Pinnace Globe’s manifest.

Regards, David Sitomer (tolstoy@erois.com) 

The Tyler Family and the Salem Witch Trials.  In 1692 the Tyler family of Andover found itself both accuser and victim in the witchcraft hysteria centered in Salem village.  During the hysteria Moses Tyler and Joseph Tyler, the son and grandson of Job Tyler, accused three men and two women of Andover of witchcraft.   And the two Tyler women caught up in a web of suspicion were Mary Tyler, wife of Hopestill Tyler, and Johanna (Hannah) Tyler, their daughter.  Both women, under great pressure, confessed to the sin of witchcraft.

Their trials took place in February 1693.  The women pleaded not guilty, recanting their confessions.  The juries found Mary and Johanna not guilty of all charges and their long, terrible ordeal was over.

Grandmother Tyler’s Book.  Grandmother Tyler’s Book was undertaken by Mary Tyler in her eighty-third year at the request of her children and grandchildren.  It is a series of vivid reminiscences of her girlhood and marriage. Through the efforts of her descendants, it was finally published in 1925.

The earliest stories, dealing with the events of the Revolution in and around Boston, are interspersed with quotations from her mother’s memoirs.  Although too young to remember it, Tyler had been told of her father’s participation in the Boston Tea Party.  Her mother actually describes her fright when he came home in his Native American costume.

From the age of nine, Tyler had admired her father’s friend, Royall Tyler.  She discloses the story of his disastrous love affair with Abby Adams (daughter of John Adams), which ended as a consequence of his having “lived too gay a life.”  When they did marry, the marriage was kept a secret for a while, owing apparently to the opposition of Tyler’s mother.

During the time Tyler was secretly married, pregnant and waiting at home for her husband to establish a law practice in the wilds of Vermont, she suffered a great sense of sinfulness and a crisis of faith.  This was resolved after many months by a dream in which she was chased by wolves to the edge of a precipice only to be rescued at the last minute by the figure of Christ.  He encircled her waist with his arm and said, “Lean on me and I will save you.”

From this time on, Tyler’s profound faith sustained her through many trials, including the lingering and painful cancer which killed her husband and the consequent poverty and reliance on friends and neighbors to sustain the family.  She accepted good and bad fortune alike with the comment that all was God’s will.

President John Tyler and His Descendants.  John Tyler was the most prolific of all American Presidents.  He had fifteen children and two wives.

In 1813, Tyler married Letitia Christian, the daughter of a Virginia planter.  They had eight children.  She was an invalid when Tyler became President and made only one public appearance, at her daughter Elizabeth’s marriage in 1842.  She died in the White House in September 1842.

A few months later, Tyler began courting 23-year-old Julia Gardiner, a beautiful and wealthy New Yorker. When they were married in New York City on June 26, 1844, Tyler became the first President to be wed while in office.  He was thirty years older than his bride.  As First Lady, the new Mrs. Tyler captivated Washington with the size and brilliance of her White House receptions.

John Tyler, like his father and grandfather before him, had studied law at William and Mary College in Virginia.  His son Lyon Gardiner Tyler, as its 17th president, built up the college after its dark days following the Civil War.  The Tyler Family Garden, funded by the family, is their memorial.  Another family legacy is the Sherwood Forest plantation, which President Tyler acquired in 1842 and has remained with the family.

President Tyler’s Grandson is Still Alive.  This is quite amazing when we consider that John Tyler was born in 1790 and was US President from 1841 to 1845.

The explanation for this fact is:

  • first, that John Tyler married twice and that his second wife Julie Gardiner, born in 1820, was thirty years younger than him.
  • and second, that their son Lyon, born in 1853, also married twice and that his second wife Sue Ruffin, born in 1888, was thirty five years younger than him.

Their second son Harrison Tyler, born in 1928, is still alive.

Tylers to Australia.  Matthew Tyler had been a weaver in the Gloucestershire village of Bisley who had been impacted by the collapse of the woollen trade in the 1830’s.  He and his wife Mary Ann and their children were sponsored by the parish to migrate to Australia under the terms and conditions of the Poor Law Amendment Act.

The Layton, a barque of 513 tons, left Bristol carrying 121 adults and 110 children, touched at the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at Sydney on 19 January 1838.  The voyage was rendered horrendous by an outbreak of the measles immediately after leaving the Bristol Channel which caused the death of one adult and 68 children, including 17 of the 42 from Bisley. Two of the Tyler daughters, Martha and Maria, had died on the voyage.

The surviving passengers were delayed off Pinchgut Island (Sydney) for a day and were then accommodated at the Immigrants Barracks at the corner of Bent and Phillip Streets, Sydney.

Tyler Names

  • Wat Tyler was the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.
  • Royall Tyler, the son of a Boston merchant, was a lawyer and, with The Contrast in 1787, America’s first playwright of note.  His wife Mary Tyler wrote the child care manual The Maternal Physician and a memoir Grandmother Tyler’s Book.
  • John Tyler became in 1841 the 10th President of the United States.
  • Bonnie Tyler, born Gaynor Hopkins, is a popular singer from Wales, with 1980’s hits such as Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Tyler Numbers Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 21,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

Tyler and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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