Select York Surname Genealogy

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.  

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Select York Ancestry

England.  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 line. 

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:

  • 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 commanders.

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 concentration 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 Yorke 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 Granville 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 Kentucky 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 Texas 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 historical marker designates York's grave seven miles from town."

There 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 One. 

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.”

William’s son Josiah served as Constable of Carroll county and became a prosperous farmer there. 

.  Daniel York, born in Albany, New York of Dutch origins, was in search of new farming 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.

Select York Miscellany

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

Select 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 Yorks 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)

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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