Select Yates Surname Genealogy

Yates 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.

Select Yates Resources on The Internet

Select Yates Ancestry

England.  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.
The Yate name in Berkshire probably dates from about 1400.  The Yate families of Lyford and Buckland were notable Catholic recusants in Elizabethan times.  An 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 Staffordshire.

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

"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 Blackburn." 

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. 

William Yates,
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 daughter Emma married Robert Peel in 1783.  William then tried but failed to start a water-powered cotton spinning factory at Eccleshill.  Much later, in 1874, his descendants acquired the Boothstown cotton mill in Manchester.  It stayed with the family until 1968.

Ireland.  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 Drummcliffe iin 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 Yeates 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 field glasses."

The surname Yates was also to be found in Ireland.  In 1912 twenty 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 York. 

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 tavern owner near Gretna, Virginia in the 1760's.
Maryland.  The second line began with George Yates, from Lyford in Berkshire, who arrived in America in the 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 Civil War.  He was a stout supporter of Abraham Lincoln.  His son Richard 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.       

Select Yates Miscellany

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

Select 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 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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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