Yates Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Yates Meaning
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

The Yates of Lyford and Buckland in Berkshire.  The Yates of Lyford and Buckland in Berkshire were notable Catholic recusants during Elizabeth’s reign.

Some have traced the
Yate name in Berkshire back to William Yate living at Charney around
1400.  Richard Yate had married Joan
Ashenden in
Lyford in 1477 and later Yates were resident at Lyford Grange, a moated
near the Ock river.  John Yate of Lyford
a Jesuit missionary in Brazil.  Francis
Yate, the owner of Lyford Grange, spent time in prison in the 1580’s
refusing to conform to Anglicanism.
During his absence the Catholic priest Father Edmund Campion was
captured in a secret chamber at the manor by priest hunters.  He was later tried and executed in London.

These Yates of Lyford were related to the
Yates of Buckland Manor who lived just four miles away.

The Buckland Yates were also actively
supporting the underground Catholic clergy during the later Elizabethan
period.  In 1577 Buckland Manor was raided
by a priest
hunter.   Father
William Hopton, who lived with the
Yates, hid in a priest-hole and only narrowly avoided capture.  John Yate senior died less than a year later
and his eldest son Edward inherited Buckland Manor.
Like his father, he had been a student at the Middle Temple and
authorities had noted his absence from Anglican services.

Yate Bank.  Yate and Pickup Bank is a township in Whalley parish, Lancashire, some four miles
southeast of Blackburn. There were some
200 houses there in the 19th century and a population of
just over
1,000.  It had some small cotton mills, a
large reservoir, and a national school.
Yates was the number two surname in Yate Bank at the time of the
1881 census.

William Yates and His Calico Printing Business.  Jonathan Haworth had ventured to London to learn the trade and on his return became the first calico printer
in Lancashire.  The story goes that the
secrets were learned from a Dutchman named Voortman who had settled in
to print cloth for the East India Company.

An Excise officer who had to visit
Voortman’s premises to stamp the printed pieces observed how carved
blocks of
wood left an indelible mark if applied to cloth previously treated with
salts of iron. The secret was to fix colors by using iron acetate as a
with the help of hot calendaring.  The Excise officer was later to
stay at the
Black Bull Inn in Blackburn tenanted by John Yates.

In 1764 Jonathan Haworth,
his brother-in-law Robert Peel, and John Yates’s son William, then aged
24, established the firm of Haworth, Peel & Yates.
This firm went from strength to
strength in a short period of time.  With
the help of the
Hargreaves spinning jenny their plant at Brookside produced an
improving quality of cloth
which they
printed themselves.  They became the
fathers of the printing trade in Manchester.

However the partnership did not
continue for long.  Tragically in 1768
the machinery of the firm at Brookside was destroyed by mobs indignant
at the
progress of technology and the factory system.

Reader Feedback – William Yates of Blackburn.  I’m afraid the early Yates families in Blackburn are a bit of a headache to sort.  I’m almost continually researching to find documentary evidence which would get me
back another couple of generations.

I am descended from William the calico printer.  His
father was a John Yates, innkeeper of the
Old (or Black) Bull, the principal inn in Blackburn.  John’s
father was another William Yates who
was again an innkeeper.

Best wishes.  David Yates (davidjyates@talktalk.net)

Yates Mill at Boothstown.  The Yates
cotton firm had been begun by John Yates in 1793 in partnership with the Peels of
Bury.  William Yates, born in 1816, took
over the running of the company later and oversaw the acquisition of
Boothstown mill in 1874.  Changes were
made in 1910
when the old Lancashire looms were scrapped and 320 of the automatic
changing American Northrop looms were installed.

the Second World War, Yates Mill made
officer shirting material, and pyjama cloth for the South African navy.  In 1946 all machinery was converted to
electric drive, the mill lodge was filled, and a massive new weaving
shed was
erected.  When fully equipped the mill
held 460 of the Northrop automatic looms.

the 1950’s the mill was one of the most modern in the country. Yet –
Yates having a good reputation for cloth and as an employer – company
led to the closure of the Boothstown mill in 1968.

The Yeats Family of Dublin.  Jervis Yeats
who died in 1712 was a citizen of Dublin whose origins are obscure.  A supposition that he may have come from
Yorkshire is supported by the fact that in his will he bequeathed sums
of money
to two aunts in Yorkshire.  Jervis was a
wholesale linen merchant in Dublin, a man apparently of some substance.  Benjamin, his son, was apprenticed to the
linen trade under his widowed mother’s care.

However, it was his son Benjamin who really prospered, marrying
into the
well-to-do Butler family.  And it was his
son John who was able to attend Trinity College in Dublin.
He took orders with the Protestant Church of
Ireland and was appointed as rector to Drummcliffe in county Sligo.  His son William – grandfather to the poet
William Butler Yeats – also became a rector, this time at Portadown in
county Down.

Joseph Yates, Early New York Governor.  Joseph Yates
was born in Schenectady in upstate New York, the son of Colonel
Stoeffel Yates,
a prominent fighter on the New York frontier during the Revolutionary
War.  Joseph grew up in peacetime and
advanced in
New York politics, becoming successively the mayor of Schenectady,
senator, state Supreme Court justice, and in 1823 the seventh Governor
of New

In the course of his days he took
three wives: the first was for love: Ann, the widow of James Ellice;
the second
was for money, Maria, the daughter of John Kane; the last was for
clout, as he
required it to further his ambitious political career, and it was
Elizabeth De Lancey,
the daughter of the influential John De Lancey.

The home he inhabited in Schenectady while the state’s chief
still exists on Front Street in the city’s Stockade District.  As Governor, Yates sat for a portrait by John
Vanderlyn, famed for his rendition of such eminent historical figures
as George
Washington and Andrew Jackson.  The
is owned by the City of New York.


Yates Names

  • The Rev. John Yates was a 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 Numbers 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)




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