York Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select York Meaning
The York surname comes from the town of York, of great antiquity, in
northern England.  It was called Eboracum by the Romans.
When the Vikings captured the town in 962, they changed the name to
Yorvik. This name had become York by the 13th century. The surname would initially describe someone from York.  York and
Yorke are the main spellings.

York Resources on

York Ancestry

Yorks or
Yorkes may have come at one time from York.  There was one line
which began with Sir Richard Yorke, a successful merchant who was mayor
of York
in 1469 and again in 1482.  He was the
forebear of a colorful Yorke family

But that does not mean that
the Yorks should be in York.  Two Yorke families, possibly related
to each
other, came from the south of England:

  • William
    Yorke held the Manor House in Twickenham
    in Surrey from
  • while John Yorke of Ramsbury was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in
    1492 and his son Thomas followed him in that position in 1523, later
    residing for a time at Twickenham.

The Wiltshire visitations of 1623 showed a Yorke family resident at
Hannington.  It is believed that Simon Yorke left
Hannington for Dover in Kent just before the onset of the Civil
War.  He became a successful merchant in Dover and was the
forebear of a famous family of lawyers, politicians, and naval

Philip’s son Philip became Lord Chancellor of England and Lord
Hardwicke.  Cousin William became Chief Justice of the Irish
Common Pleas.  Philip’s son Charles was also made Lord Chancellor
and Philip’s other sons were an MP, a diplomat, and a bishop.
From son Charles came Sir Joseph Yorke and his son Charles, both
British naval commanders.

The Yorke spelling had
generally given way to York by the 19th century.  Yorks by that
time had
become mainly a name of the English Midlands, with a particular
in the county of Northamptonshire:

  • Yorks
    in Long Buckby went back to the 1600’s, the recorded family
    history beginning in the 1750’s.
  • Thomas York married Elizabeth Perkins at
    Yelvertoft in the late 1700’s.  
  • Henry
    York of this family
    emigrated to
    Canada in 1844.
  • while the York name was
    also to be found at Ashby St. Ledgers, Duston and Southwick in the
    county then.

America.   There were
Yorkes in Dover, England but also in Dover, America.  Richard
arrived in Dover, New Hampshire as early as 1635.

Jeremiah York, recently
widowed, came to Chester county, Pennsylvania from Buckinghamshire in
1717.  There he married again and he and
his family first migrated to Frederick county, Virginia and then to
county, North Carolina.  His son Semore, a
Tory, was
imprisoned during the Revolutionary War.
After the war, one line of these Yorks migrated to Kentucky: 

  • John and Nancy York arrived
    there in the 1780’s and settled in Fayette county  
  • and their son Bartlett who grew up there fought
    in the War of 1812. 

There were several other
Yorks in Kentucky in the early 1800’s.  One York line went from
to Arkansas and later onto Oklahoma.  James York took his family
to Texas
in 1821, settling in Austin county.  His son John fought in the
Revolution and became a famous Indian fighter.

“Captain York died in October 1848 in a battle with the
Indians who
had raided the settlement of what was to become Yorktown.  A
marker designates York’s grave seven miles from town.”

was a York line from the 1750’s in Surry county, North Carolina.  James York fought in the Revolutionary War
and his son Thomas migrated west to Tennessee.
A descendant was Sergeant Alvin York,
born in a log cabin
in Tennessee, who was the most decorated American soldier of World War

William York of Randolph county, North
Carolina also moved to Tennessee after the war.
The land lottery then drew him to Georgia.

“In 1827 the York and Philpot families,
numbering about fifty souls, traveled by ox-drawn wagons 150 miles to
settle on
the border of the Creek and Cherokee Indian nations in Carroll county,
Georgia.  At that time it was a heavily
forested wilderness.  Wolves howled at
night and wildcats, bear,
deer and turkey were found in abundance.”

son Josiah served as Constable of Carroll county and became a
prosperous farmer

Canada.  Daniel
York, born in Albany, New York of Dutch origins, was in search of new
land and crossed the border into Ontario with his family in 1806.  He ended up squatting on land in Lennox and
Addington county as he was unable to prove that he was a Loyalist
entitled to a
land grant.  His descendants have held
regular reunions since 1984. 

Henry York
emigrated to Canada from
Northamptonshire with his family in 1844.
Sadly his wife died soon after their arrival.
He did eventually remarry seven years later
and settled in St. Vincent township in Ontario.


York Miscellany

Yorkes of Twickenham.  It was in 1381 that John York, possibly from Greenwich, acquired land where Twickenham
in London now stands.   Ownership was not
without its problems.  In 1410 it was
recorded that John Warden of Winchester College was apprehended to
answer to
John York on a plea of arrest and unlawful detention and seizure of
cattle on
Whitton Marsh.

John York’s son, also
John, inherited.  He died in 1413 and in
1445 William Yorke, possibly his grandson, obtained Twickenham Manor.  William, a fishmonger and wool merchant of
London, died in 1476 leaving his widow Elizabeth in possession of more
than 300
acres of land around Twickenham.  A
descendant of this line was later said to have moved to Ramsbury in

The Yorkes from York.  The Yorkes
were an extremely successful mercantile family from the city of York.  The first Sir Richard Yorke had been both
mayor and MP for the city in the 1480’s.

successors blazed a colorful trail through history.
Sir Richard’s grandson was knighted by Edward
VI before being thrown into the Tower by Mary Tudor.
Sir Edward Yorke repelled the Armada and then
circumnavigated the world with his cousin, Sir Martin Frobisher.  Sir John Yorke, a staunch Catholic, was
implicated in the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot of 1605.

Simon and Philip Yorke of Dover.  Simon Yorke was buried in St. James’s Church in 1664 and his son, Philip, an attorney and some time Town
Clerk of Dover, resided at a house of many gables on Snargate
Street.  The
Yorke’s house was on the corner of the street and, although somewhat
pretentious in appearance, was not a large mansion.  Philip Yorke,
although attorney and Town Clerk, was not rich.

Richard Yorke of Dover, New Hampshire.  Richard Yorke
is believed to have come to America from Shropshire.
He was on The James with thirty other
emigrants from Shropshire under Thomas Wiggins that arrived in Salem,
Massachusetts in 1633.  Two years later
he had settled in an area of New Hampshire then known as the Oyster
settlement, but now known as Dover, New Hampshire, where he married and
until 1672.  He was survived by his wife
Elizabeth and his sons John and Benjamin.
The eldest son John was killed by Indians in 1690.

Descendants were to be found in Dover in New
Hampshire, Falmouth in Maine, and Gloucester in Massachusetts.

Henry York, Canadian Immigrant.  In 1844, Henry York and his wife Ann and their five children left their home in Long
Buckby, Northamptonshire and sailed for Canada in search of a better life.  Henry’s dream was to farm his own land. They
sailed on the ship Cairo, arriving at
Grosse Ile, Quebec in September, 1844.

Ann, who had been ill for half of the journey, spent about three
in the infirmary there and died.  Henry,
grief stricken and feeling very alone, made his way with the five
children to
Picton, Ontario, where he and his son Frederick found work.

Many of Henry’s letters home at this time
have survived.  The following is one

“They live different here. They eat butter and cakes, pickles
and preserves, plums and cherries which grow in great quantities in the woods.  I have been out to supper several
times this winter and have had meat, potatoes, pickles, preserves, apple sauce, and pumpkin pie all heaped on my plate at once, like a mess for a mad dog.  All very good if kept separate, but such a mixture I don’t like.

We have butter and meat allowed us while at work three times a day, and tea without sugar.  If a man is ever so poor here, he may still get plenty of bread and meat and if industrious he will get himself some cattle. They are easier to get than money. When a man has some pigs, which nearly keep themselves, and a cow or two, his family has something to depend on beside his labor.

But with all these prospects there is an aching void on my part, for the loss of my wife embitters everything and is always uppermost on my mind.”

It was December 1851 before he remarried, to Elizabeth Prentice.  Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage resulted in
the birth of nine children between 1853 and 1872.  Happily
settled now, Henry lived in the St.
Vincent township area for more than 30 years.

Sergeant York.  Sergeant York was a 1941 biographical film about the life of Alvin York, the most-decorated American soldier of World War 1.  It was directed by Howard Hawks and was the highest-grossing film of that year.

York, played by Gary Cooper, was a poor Tennessee hillbilly.  He was an exceptional marksman, but a
ne’er-do-well prone to drinking and fighting.
He then underwent a religious awakening when he was struck by
during a late-night rainstorm and it turned his life around.

He tried to avoid induction into the Army for
World War I as a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs,
but he got
drafted into the Army nonetheless.

York wanted nothing to do with the Army and killing.
But pinned down by German fire on the Western
Front, his self-doubt disappeared.  He
worked his way around behind German lines and shot with such deadly
effect that
the Germans surrendered.  He and the
handful of other survivors ended up with 132 prisoners.
York became a national hero and was awarded
the Medal of Honor.

Returning to
Tennessee after a ticker tape parade and celebration, the people of
purchased the bottomland farm he tried to get before the war and paid
for a
house to be built on the land where Alvin and his wife Gracie were to
their married life.



York Names

  • Philip Yorke, the 1st Earl of Hardwicke, was an English lawyer who served as Lord Chancellor
    in the 1750’s. He introduced the Marriage Act in 1753 which instituted
    the calling of banns before marriage.
  • J.W. York was a 19th century American musical instrument maker noted for his innovations.  His York tuba sound is considered by most tubists to be the defining timbre of a quality instrument.
  • Peter York, born Peter Wallis, is a British style writer best known for co-authoring The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook.   
  • Michael York is an English stage and film actor.

Select York Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Leicestershire)
  • 18,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select York and Like Surnames

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





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