Walker Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Walker Meaning
The surname Walker is an occupational name that derives
from the term used to describe a fuller of cloth. Wool was cleaned and
thickened by being soaked in water and then trampled underfoot, the
“walking” on the wool. This “walking” is manly a north of England
Elsewhere in England, different
occupational names for a walker developed, Fuller in southern and
England, Tucker in the southwest.

Walker Resources on

Select Walker Ancestry

England. In the traditional textile heartland of
northern England, the workers – from the Old English wealcan
walkers. A Robert le Walker was recorded in the Yorkshire assize
rolls of
1260. Records of a Walker family at Birstall,
and Nidderdale
began with the birth of William Walker around
the year 1468.

The Walker name has been most common in Yorkshire and
have been particularly numerous as a surname on Teesside and in the
towns of Leeds and Wakefield (which had the largest number of Walkers
in 1881):

  • Thomas
    Walker was vicar of Wakefield in 1655.
  • William Walker around this time bought Walterclough Hall near Halifax
    and the family
    remained there
    through four generations.
  • the
    family in Whitby

    was Quaker and
    many of them were merchants and shipowners. Captain
    Cook the famous explorer was an apprentice to John Walker in the 1720’s.
  • Robert Walker married Rachel Spence in Leeds in
    1779 and they were part of a Quaker community at Netherdale in which
    Walkers played a part for over 150 years.
  • while another family history began
    with Richard and Ann Walker who were married around 1740 and lived in
    Yarm, a
    small village near Stockton-on-Tees. Son James was a flax
    merchant and
    mayor of Stockton in 1809.

James Walker was a merchant in
Manchester whose son of the same name moved in the 1750’s to Cottingham
in the
East Ridings. His family became
landowners and country gentry there.

The Rev. Robert Walker, born in Seathwaite
in 1706, was a parish priest in the Lake District until his death in
1799. The poet Wordsworth wrote his
praises in his Duddon Sonnet. His
sons through four generations were called
Zaccheus Walker.

Scotland. The surname in Scotland
originated from Waulker, “son of the Fuller or cloth maker.”

There are
waulking songs (from the Gaelic orainluiadh) that were sung in
the Outer
Hebrides during the “walking” process for tweed-making and which are
still performed today. A Highland clan, initially called
McNaucator and based in
the forested area of Knapdale in Argyllshire, changed their name to
Walker in
the 18th century.

There were also Lowland Walkers. Johnnie Walker, a
Kilmarnock grocer, was the inspiration behind the Johnnie
Walker Black Label
whisky blend created by his son
Alexander in 1867 which became world-famous.
By the time of the 1881 census Glasgow and its environs were
where most
Walkers were to be found.

Ireland. Walkers had arrived in Ulster by the 17th century, the
most famous of them being the Rev.
George Walker
. Born in county Tyrone of English parents,
he became
governor of Derry. He led the successful defense of Londonderry
the siege in 1689. A year later he was
slain at the Battle of the Boyne

at Carnew in county Wicklow go back to 1713 when Yorkshireman John
arrived there to work on the Shillelagh estate.
The talk show host Graham Norton, whose real name is Graham
Walker, has
family roots in Carnew.

America. Captain
Richard Walker from London is the earliest known Walker immigrant to
arriving in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1630.
He was a maltster by trade and later kept a tavern in Woburn. Captain Samuel Walker who arrived in 1637 was
found in the same towns, but the two Walkers were not related.

Thomas Walker had immigrated to
Boston from England and his son Thomas settled in Sudbury,
Massachusetts around
1660. He was an inn-keeper there with the
only liquor license in town.
His line led after six generations to Hiram Walker who was born
on a
family farm in Douglas, Massachusetts in 1816.
Hiram Walker was to make his mark in Detroit as a whisky
distiller whose
business boomed during the Civil War

Walkers from Londonderry later came to America:

  • John
    Walker, grandson of the
    Rev. George Walker, arrived in Delaware in 1720. His
    son John was a well-known Indian fighter.
  • Robert
    Walker was in Baltimore by 1725. His
    descendants migrated to Pennsylvania, then Ohio, before heading west
    again to
    Johnson county, Iowa
    in 1840.

from county Down came to Chester county,
Pennsylvania in 1730. Their descendants
were to be found in Virginia and Alabama.

T.B. Walker’s start to life in 1840 in
Xenia, Ohio did not promise much for the future.

Walkers had bought a ranch
near Lexington in Missouri. On the way
there, the family and their servants were stricken with malaria and
Platt Walker
was obliged to sell out and return to Xenia.
When gold fever came in 1849, Walker left for California after
$75,000 on covered wagons and horses. He
died on the way.”

In 1863 he came out to Minnesota and began to acquire
timberlands and set up sawmills throughout the state.
He later expanded into northern California
and his company became one of the largest forest products companies in
country. Descendants of his son Clinton
Walker have continued to live in northern California.
They own 140,000 acres of timberland
there known as Shasta Forests

Canada. A
Walker family of Orange
county, North Carolina was divided in its loyalties during the American
Revolutionary War. Many stayed there
after the war. But William Walker brought
his family to Lincoln county, Ontario in 1794.
In his application for a land grant he stated:

“He had been in the army
of Lord Cornwallis and had just arrived with his family from North
Carolina. He had eight hundred acres of
land taken from him and sold by the rebels.
He had suffered everything but death by the American Revolution.”

He did get a land grant, at Grimsby township
on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Walker was a maker of watchcases in London who, after the loss of his
wife and
four children, decided to emigrate to Canada.
He came to Ontario with his remaining children in 1834. His grandson Edmund made his mark as a banker and was
President of the Canadian Bank of Commerce from 1907 to 1924.


Walker Miscellany

A Walker Family at Birstall, Batley, and Nidderdale.  One Walker family history in Yorkshire has an ancestry that have been traced back to 1468 and William Walker of Littletown, a hamlet
near Liversedge manor in the parish of Birstall.
Several generations lived thereabouts before
a move to the neighboring parish of Batley.

In about 1714 John Walker became a Quaker so
that he could marry his Quaker bride Sarah Chappell. Thus began a long
line of
Quaker Walkers that has continued in some cases to the present day.  His grandson Robert moved to Darley in
Nidderdale around 1780.  The Walkers
prospered there for the next hundred years, as gentlemen, farmers, land
and mill owners.

The Walker clan has
since scattered.  Many of them emigrated
to Canada, America, or Australia.

The Walkers of Walterclough Hall.  The first recorded of these Walkers, William Walker, lived
in the village of Scholes in Yorkshire and died in 1628.
His son, also named William, in 1654 acquired
Walterclough Hall in the Walterclough valley southeast of Halifax.

The estate
passed through three generations before John Walker became its squire
master in the mid-18th century.  He was a
woollen factor of great prestige and wealth.
While he and his wife had four children, they had also adopted
nephew, an orphan Jack Sharp, into their household.
It was this Jack Sharp that later took over
the Hall and brought it to ruin.

the other Walker line
at Crow Nest continued to prosper and do good.  In
1775 William Walker brought Russian timber to the Yorkshire coast, and
eventually to Brighouse by canal, for the construction of the
church and mansions in the area.  On his
death in 1809 it was said: “He
was a gentleman of
the strictest integrity and honor, a kind and affectionate master, and
liberal benefactor to the poor, by whom his loss will be long and

The Whitby Walkers.  There was said to have been an old family of Walker merchants from Whitby on the Yorkshire coastline who traded between
Holland and
England.  Family tradition has it that
these Walkers were Quakers at one time.
Subsequently three sets of Walkers could be identified, although
it was
not clear what the relationship with each was.

The best known Whitby Walkers were the brothers John and Henry
who were shipowners and engaged in the coal trade between Newcastle and
London.  John Walker was close to the
famous explorer
Captain Cook in his formative years at Whitby.
Cook stayed in John Walker’s house during his apprenticeship and
supported and encouraged by John during his career.

Richard Walker was thought to be descended
from another family of Whitby Walkers, but by the mid-18th century, he
living in Yarm, a market town on the Tees.

Elizabeth Walker was the daughter of another
John Walker.  She married Abel Chapman
who came from another prominent Whitby family.
During succeeding generations, a number of descendants of Abel
and Elizabeth Walker married descendants of James Walker.

Walkers in the 1881 Census

Walkers (000’s) Numbers Percent
Yorkshire    21    24
Lancashire    13    15
Durham     5     5
London     9    10
Elsewhere    39    46
Total    87   100

The largest concentration of Walkers at that time was in
where their numbers totaled 1,350.

The Rev. George Walker and the Siege of Londonderry.  The Rev. George Walker led the successful defense of Londonderry during its siege by Jacobite forces in 1689.
The relief was palpable, not just in
Londonderry but in the capital London, when the siege ended.  Walker became famous after his diary of the
was published.

applause which immediately followed the publication of Walker’s
in London was unbounded. The heroic author basked in
the sunshine of royal and popular favor, seldom beaming on the head of
any one
man at the same time, however great his worth or important his

It was
said that Bishop Walker’s portrait was in every house in London.
Recollection of the siege was kept alive by the Walker and Campbell
clubs of

The Walker Monument, which was erected in Londonderry
in 1828 by the Protestant Apprentice Boys to commemorate the siege, was
up by republicans in 1973. 

Walker Pioneers in Johnson County, Iowa.  The name Robert Walker goes through this family, starting
with Robert Walker who was born in Glasgow in 1610 and through at least
ten of
them through the generations to those now in Johnson county.  Robert Walker it
was who came to
Baltimore by 1725.  Another Robert Walker fought in the
Revolutionary War. Walker descendants migrated to Ohio
after the War before heading west again to
county, Iowa in 1840.  Robert
Johnson was among the first of the settlers there.

According to family legend, the Walkers were
kicked out of Portage county, Ohio for being poor.
Robert’s younger brother Henry then made a
fortune in the California Gold Rush.  It
was said: “He brought back so much gold that he couldn’t carry it all
in one

The Walkers remained stalwarts of their community through
the 19th
and 20th centuries.  Robert
Walker carried
on the Walker family tradition of large families when he and his wife
had 15
children. They make up a sixth generation of Walkers born in Johnson
although only a few of them still live in the area.

Walkers have been buried in an old
cemetery high on a hill in south Johnson county.  The
four Walker brothers who first settled in
Johnson county – Robert, Joseph, Samuel and James – are all buried
there.  Some stones are so old that they
have toppled
over, the inscriptions now eroded with age.


Walker Names

  • John Walker, a professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University,
    was one of the leading lights of the 18th century Scottish
  • John Walker of Stockton on Tees
    invented the friction match in 1827.
  • Hiram Walker began the production of Canadian Club whisky at Walkerville in Canada in 1858.
  • Johnnie Walker a Kilmarnock grocer, was the inspiration behind the famous Johnnie Walker whisky brand.
  • Jack Walker developed Walker Steel as the largest steel stockholder in Britain by the 1980’s.  He owned and invested in his home-town football club, Blackburn Rovers. 
  • Alice Walker is an acclaimed American writer and feminist, best known for her novel The Color Purple.

Select Walker Numbers Today
  • 195,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 180,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 82,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Walker 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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