Select Gale Surname Genealogy

The most likely explanation for the Gale surname is that it was a nickname for a cheerful or boisterous person.  The root may have been either the Old English gal or the Norman name Geil, both of which had that meaning.  It has also been suggested that Gale could have been an occupational name for a jailer, deriving from the French word gaiole. Gayle is a spelling variant of the name today.

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Select Gale Ancestry

EnglandEarly Gale sightings were in Yorkshire and the west country.

Yorkshire.  Gales at Scruton in north Yorkshire (in what was then Richmondshire) dated back to around 1500 and possibly earlier. 
Oliver Gale of Scruton had two sons who both made their mark in York – James as a merchant there and George by trade a goldsmith who was its mayor in 1534 and again in 1549.

George was the great great grandfather of that noted antiquarian Thomas Gale, born in Scruton in 1636, who himself had two antiquarian sons Roger and Samuel.  It was Roger Gale who built Scruton Hall which stood from 1705 to 1988.  However, in 1795 the direct Gale male line died out.

Other Gale lines from Scruton were:
  • John Gale who established the Gale family in Jamaica.  He had arrived with the first English colonists in 1655.
  • Miles Gale, another antiquarian whose son Christopher was Chief Justice of North Carolina in the early 1700’s.
  • whilst later Gale lines in Yorkshire were to be found at Bedale, Whitby and Hull.
The Gales of Whitehaven in Cumbria were possibly related as they shared similar coats of arms.  From Robert Gale came his grandson John Gale who grew up in Whitehaven where he was employed as Sir John Lowther’s steward from 1677 to 1707.  In this capacity he did tobacco business with Lawrence Washington in Virginia.  He was the father of Colonel George Gale who settled in Maryland.

West Country
The west country Gales have been more numerous and remain more numerous.  The first appearances seem to have been in south Devon.

William Gale, according to the Visitations of Devon, was living in Dartmouth in the mid/late 1400’s.  His descendant John Gale, born in Crediton in 1516, was a Devon MP in the 1540’s.
  The Devon origins of Theophilus Gale are uncertain.  He became vicar at Kingsteignton in 1620 and married Bridget Walrond as his second wife two years later.  His church had the following dedication to them.

“Here lieth Theophilus Gale, doctor of divinity and vicar of Kingsteignton, and Bridget his wife who both departed this life in the month of May 1639.”

Their son, born in 1628, was the famous Puritan theologian Theophilus Gale

The Gale surname subsequently spread eastward to Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. 

Gales were recorded in the Wiltshire village of Lacock from the late 1500’s.  They were carpenters in the 19th century.   John Gale built the camera obscura for Fox Talbot’s research into photography in the 1840’s.  Another Wiltshire family, based in Cliffe Pypard, began with the birth of Richard Gale in 1603.

The main base for the Gales in Dorset seems to have been the village of Powerstock.  The first Gale marriages appeared there in 1657.  John Gale was recorded in 1757 and later Gales held Knapp farm.  From Powerstock the name looks to have spread to Loders and Bridport.  Some were involved in the rope industry in Bridport in the 19th century and moved to Poole when the rope industry moved to Poole.

The Richard Gale who married Hannah Brown at Catherington church in Hampshire in 1759 was the forebear of the George Gale who established his brewery at Horndean nearby in 1847. 

“Gales Brewery took its water from its own well situated under the brewery which was fed from the South Downs.  The yeast and local water, coupled with the local brewing style, produced beers with a sparse head, quite dark in colour.” 

Gales remained independent until its sale to Fuller’s Brewery in 2005.

Isle of Man.  Gale can also be a Manx name.  It has Irish roots here, from the Gaelic giolla meaning “servant,” which could become Gale or Gell or Gill.  The Gale name has cropped up at Malew and Onchan.

.  The Ashfield Gales of Killabban parish in Queens county (now Laios) supposedly began with Colonel Oliver Gale who was said to have come to Ireland at the time of Henry VIII.

But it was Anthony Gale, more than a century later, who was the first holder of the Ashfield estate at the time of the Cromwellian confiscations.  A later Anthony Gale was the father of two Gales in America - Anthony and his younger brother Malachi - and of the Galway mayor Parnell Gale.  The Gales remained at Ashfield until 1851 when the family was impoverished by the potato famine.

Gale, sometimes called Gael, arrived in Massachusetts around the year 1640 and was one of the founders of the town of Watertown.  The line from his son Abraham led to: 
  • Jonathan Gale of Weston, a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  His grandson the Rev. Amory Gale was a Congregational minister at Norton in the 1850’s. 
  • and the Rev. Nahum Gale, minister at Westborough in the early 1800’s and his son Monroe, a foreman at the New York Times.
Some of the family moved to Vermont after the Revolutionary War.  George Gale, born there in 1816, was a pioneer settler, judge, and legislator in Wisconsin.

Colonel George Gale from Whitehaven, active in the trade of Virginian tobacco, had married George Washington’s grandmother, the widow Mildred Washington, in 1700.  Although she died of typhoid the following year, he did cross to America and started his Tusculum tobacco plantation in Kent county, Maryland.  His descendants George and son Levin Gale were Maryland Congressmen.

The line from Christopher Gale, the Chief Justice of North Carolina in 1703, became Gayle later in the century and led to John Gayle, the Governor of Alabama from 1831 to 1835.  His home in Greensboro, Alabama still stands.

IrishAnthony Gale of the Ashfield Gales arrived in 1798 and applied for and joined the US Marine Corps.  He was briefly in 1820 its Commandant before being dismissed. 

George Gale had been a captain of the Dragoons and came to America in 1799.  He moved around a lot with his family – first to Baltimore, then to Virginia and the Ohio River Valley, and finally to Missouri in 1840.  He left behind in Washington county, Ohio a remarkable succession of Gale doctors – his son George Washington, his grandson George Thomas, and his great grandson George Hays Gale

Caribbean.  Major John Gale who arrived in 1655 was the forebear of the Gale plantation-owning family of St. Elizabeth parish.  Gale’s Valley sugar estate in Trelawney appeared around the year 1800.  The Gayle spelling is also to be found in Jamaica, as with the cricketer Chris Gayle. 

John and Mary Gale were married at Bridport in Dorset in 1768 and later settled in western Newfoundland.  They are believed to be the ancestors of the Gales of Codroy and White Bay.

Australia.  There were two notable Gale arrivals in Australia from the west country in the year 1853: 
  • John Gale from Cornwall came on the American Lass initially as a Methodist missionary.  He settled at Queanbeyan, NSW and was there at various times a clergyman, printer, journalist and MP.  He was also known for promoting Canberra as the new federal capital.  He died in 1929 at the grand age of ninety eight.
  • while a Gale family from Hampshire came to Tasmania where they were farmers.  Their descendants held a family reunion in 1976.
Another Gale departed Australia that year.  Henry Gale had come out from Wiltshire in 1834 as a young sixteen year old in search of opportunity.  But in 1852 he and his family were baptized into the Mormon faith and the following year they departed on the Envelop for California and from there onward to Salt Lake valley.

Select Gale Miscellany

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

Select Gale Names

Theophilus Gale was a 17th century English Puritan theologian.  
John Gayle
 was the Governor of Alabama from 1831 to 1835.  
Joseph Gale
 was a fur trapper and pioneer settler in Oregon in the 1830’s.
George Gale founded Gales Brewery in Horndean, Hampshire in 1847.

Select Gales Today
  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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