Yates Surname Genealogy

and Gates are both surnames that derived from the Old English gatu, plural of geat, meaning “gate.” Since
medieval gates were usually arranged in pairs, fastened in the center,
the plural name came to be used. The surname described a
gatekeeper or one who lived by the gates of a walled town.
The Yates and Gates spellings developed separately
in different parts of
the country and probably reflected earlier pronunciation
differences. Yates has been more common in Lancashire and the
West Midlands, Gates in East Anglia and the southeast. Overall Yates as a surname has outnumbered Gates by a factor of more than
four to
one in England.
Yeats as a spelling spread to
Scotland and Ireland.

Yates Resources on

Yates Ancestry

Early examples of Yates or near-Yates as a surname were:

  • Hereward de Jette in the Gloucestershire piperolls of 1198
  • Philip del Yate in the Cheshire piperolls of 1260
  • Robert atte Yates in the Norfolk assize rolls of 1344
  • and Johannes atte Yate in the Yorkshire poll tax of 1379.

Yate name in Berkshire probably dates from about 1400.
The Yate
families of Lyford and Buckland
were notable Catholic recusants
Elizabethan times.
early Yates family in Yorkshire began with John Yates who died in
Sheffield in 1594. And another John Yates was a
Norfolk minister who converted to Puritanism in the 1640’s.

However, the surname has been most common in Lancashire (almost
half of all Yates in 1891), with smaller numbers in Yorkshire and

Lancashire. Many
of the Yates in Lancashire may have come originally from a single
place-name, Yate
near Blackburn. W.A. Abram’s History of Blackburn cites the

“James Yates of Blackburn, living in the first half of
the 17th century and descended probably from the older stock of Yate of
Yate Bank, had two sons, James and William. James died without
issue. William Yates of Blackburn, gentleman, was first noted in
1646. He married Ann, daughter and heiress of John Sharples of

Yates extended to Sir
Joseph Yates, a much-respected 18th century Manchester judge whose
family had
acquired the Peel Hall estate at Little Hulton in 1730.
There followed four generations of Joseph
Yates who were distinguished lawyers.

, the son of innkeepers in Blackburn, began in the 1760’s
as a calico printer and
business partner with the Haworths and the Peels of Bury. His
Emma married Robert Peel in 1783.
William then tried but failed to start a water-powered cotton
factory at Eccleshill. Much later, in 1874, his descendants
acquired the Boothstown cotton mill
Manchester. It stayed with the family until 1968

The poet
William Butler Yeats, born in Dublin, was
a descendant of Jervis Yeats,
a Williamite soldier who
became a
Dublin linen merchant. A later Yeats was Protestant rector of
in county Sligo in the heart of what is now known – as
the poet spent much of his childhood there – as Yeats country.
His father John
Butler and
his brother Jack were both painters, as was his daughter Anne.
His son Michael became a Fianna Fail politician.

Yeates seems to have been
the preferred spelling in Dublin. One line there traced back to Thomas
at Balscadden near Dublin in the late 1600’s.
Samuel Yeates established Yeates & Son, opticians, on
Grafton Street
in Dublin in 1832 which was later continued by his son George. The store had a little note of fame when it
appeared in James Joyce’s book Ulysses.
The year was 1904.

“Bloom crossed at the corner of Nassau
Street and stood before the window of Yeates & Son, pricing the

The surname Yates was also to be found in Ireland. In 1912
one Yates from Ulster – thirteen from Belfast, seven from Derry, and
one from Armagh – signed the Ulster Covenant. Today the spelling
in Ireland breaks down 55% Yeates, 40% Yates, and just 5% Yeats.

. Three early Yates in America had substantial
issue, first in Virginia, then in Maryland, and a third in New

Virginia. The
Yates genealogy in Virginia is a bit uncertain. There was a
family of planters, first in Virginia and then in Georgia and
Alabama. Other Yates, possibly related, have been traced to
Bladen county, North Carolina. John Yates of Dan river was a
owner near Gretna, Virginia in the 1760’s.

The second line began
with George Yates, from Lyford in Berkshire, who arrived in America in
early 1660’s and settled in Maryland.

Three generations later came Dr.
Michael Yates, a Revolutionary War veteran who moved his family to
Kentucky in
1788. The next generation migrated further west to Illinois in
1831 where
Richard Yates rose to become Governor of the state at the time of the
War. He was a stout supporter of Abraham Lincoln. His son
followed him into politics and also became Governor, in 1901.

New York.
Joseph Yates arrived in New York at or somewhat after the Dutch
surrender of the city to the English in 1664. He served as a
soldier in the upstate Albany garrison and later worked as a
blacksmith. Sons Christoffel and Joseph followed at their
father’s smithy. Christoffel, known as Colonel Stoeffel,
distinguished himself during the Revolutionary War. A number of
the next generation in
Schenectady educated
themselves and became lawyers.

Robert Yates was a prominent politician and judge, known for his
anti-Federalist views; his son John Van Ness the New York Secretary of
State from 1818 to 1826. Peter Waldron Yates was a delegate to
the Continental Congress of 1786; while Joseph Yates was briefly
Governor of New York in 1823.

Australia. Edward Yates,
born in Shropshire, was possibly the first Yates to arrive in
Australia, being transported to Tasmania in 1816 after having been
found guilty of forging bills of exchange. But he soon received
his conditional pardon and he ran the Government flour mill and then
his own mill on the island.

George Yates had started a seed business in Manchester in 1826 and his
grandson Arthur took it to Australia in 1893, launching there his range
of packet seeds for suburban home gardeners. He released Yates’ Gardening Guide as an annual
publication and this and the seed company (albeit under different
owners) have continued until the present day.

Yates Miscellany

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

Yates Names

The Rev. John Yates was
radical Puritan preacher from Norfolk in the 1640’s and 50’s.
Richard Yates was a
popular 18th century English comic actor.
Richard Yates was Governor of
Illinois during the Civil War and one of President Lincoln’s most
prominent supporters.
William Butler Yeats, born in
Dublin in 1885, is considered Ireland’s greatest poet.
Paula Yates was a British
media personality who died from a drug overdose in 2000.

Select Yates Today

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply