Select York Surname Genealogy

Here are some York stories and accounts over the years:

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 Wiltshire.

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. 

His 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 River settlement, but now known as Dover, New Hampshire, where he married and lived 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 weeks 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 extract: 

“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. 

Alvin 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 lightning 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. 

Initially 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 Tennessee 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 start their married life.

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