Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland

One of the biggest books I own is Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E. R. Seary.

I heard about this book about a dozen years ago but never back then did I think I’d own a copy. The original edition must have been a good seller because second-hand copies I found on the Internet were priced well over one hundred dollars. Last year, I was pleased to find the book reprinted and selling at $61.75 (plus tax).

Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland was originally published in 1977. The newest edition has been reset and incorporates additions and corrections. In the extensive introduction, E. R. Seary “discusses the historic and linguistic origins of Newfoundland surnames and their cultural sources – notably English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French, Syrian, Lebanese and Micmac.”

The body of the book contains a dictionary of family names. The research for each surname includes variant spellings, countries of origin, meanings and other references.

Family Names of the Island of NewfoundlandFor example, Cove is “a surname in England from the English place names North and South Cove (Suffolk) or Cove (Devon, Hampshire).” Also, “The Cove family came from the north of England to Petty Harbour in the mid-17th century.” And “Early instances: Robert(t), ? of St. John’s, 1796; Robert, of St. John’s, 1821; Thomas, of Petty Harbour, 1871.”

Although I didn’t note the references for these Cove individuals, the book does note sources, so readers can both verify the information and see if there is more to learn from the records.

The modern status for each surname is listed. For example, the surname Sweetland is ‘scattered, especially at Bonavista.” and the German surname Steinbrink is “unique, at St. John’s.”

If a surname gave birth to a place name, the location is recorded. For example, from the surname Burnell came Burnell Beach (Labrador) and Burnells Brook, and the English surname Gaulton resulted in Galton Island and Galton Point.

Family traditions have also made their way onto the pages. For example, the surname Duncan states: “Between 1785 and 1800, Lieut. Alexander Duncan, R.R. deserted his ship at Anchor Point (St. Barbe district) to marry Mary Watts and assumed his mother’s maiden name GOULD to avoid detection.”

The back of the book contains the Order of Common Surnames – listing White as the most common – and Surnames Recorded Before 1700.

This book should be used as a guide. Although much of it may prove true, the individuals tracing the names were more interested in the name origin than the actual family. Their research may have been extensive but not thorough. I give my Appleby family as an example.

Appleby: a surname of England, from Old English œppel and Old Norse by – (dweller at the) apple-farm, or from the English place name Appleby (Westmorland, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire), (Bardsley, Cottle). Traced by Guppy in Northumberland, Yorkshire NR and ER, Derbyshire, Durham and Essex.

In Newfoundland:

Family tradition: The Applebys of Path End and Lewins Cove (Burin district) (Electors 1955), subsequently at St. John’s, probably arrived about 1880. (Family).

Early instances: –, planter and merchant, from Exeter (Devon), at Renews in the mid-19th century (Matthews).

Modern status: Rare, at St. John’s, Lewins Cove and Burin Bay Arm.

From my research, I found the Appleby name had arrived long before the 1880s. The son of Thomas Appleby (the first Appleby I found with this name in the province) was born c.1840 at Burin. When Thomas arrived on the island is yet to be determined, but obviously it was before 1840.

The Appleby family married into the Grandy family, creating my grandfather.

Grandy: a surname of England, Ireland and the Channel Islands, and as Grandin of Jersey (Channel Islands), from the French surname Grandin – the little big one.

Tradition in Newfoundland states the Grandys moved from St. Pierre to Garnish and elsewhere on the Burin Peninsula after the Treaty of Paris. The nearest connection I can see on the list of early settlers is John Grandy of Frenchman’s Cove (Burin), 1871.

Interesting enough, the eldest person recorded on my Grandy family tree so far is Thelma Alvina Grandy who married Edward Thomas Appleby between 1871 and 1877. However, it appears she was in the area long before then. According to the 1921 Census she was born at Burin in 1856.

My grandmother’s maiden name was Taylor. She was born in 1904 at Burin Bay.

Taylor: a surname of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Channel Islands, with Tayler of Guernsey from Old French Tailleor, Anglo-French Tailleur – tailor. The name is wide-spread in England and Scotland and in Ulster and Dublin.

There were a few different lines of this family which settled the island of Newfoundland. For my family, the book notes: John Taylor, of Burin Bay, 1860.

According to the 1921 Census, John Taylor (my great great-grandfather) was born May 1843 at Bridgeport, England. All his children, who were born at Burin, were born after 1869, so it easy to conceive he arrived somewhere around 1860.

The Taylor family married into the Brewer family, creating my grandmother.

Brewer: a surname of England, from Middle English brewere – brewer, or from the French place name Bruyère (Calvados). Concerning the Brewer name in my family, the book notes: in Newfoundland: Edward Jr., fisherman and Edward Sr., planter of Burin. In modern status the name is found at St. John’s and dispersed elsewhere, especially Epworth.

I have Edward Sr. Brewer listed as the eldest with this surname in Newfoundland. He lived at Spoon Cove (now Epworth) until his death around 1888.

Epworth, NL Cemetery

The cemetery in Epworth where many Brewer family members are buried (August 2008).

Newfoundlanders have cast their nets far and wide across Canada. They have settled in every province and in some instances every corner of a province. Anyone with roots drawing ancestral blood from the Atlantic island will find this book useful for genealogical research and for general interest.

4 thoughts on “Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland

  1. Family Names of Newfoundland sounds like a book that i should purchase. Is there much about the Trinity Bay area?

    Your column that is in the Bridgewater Bulletin is one of the first that I read when the paper comes in.

    Wilf Morley

    • The book isn’t organised by communities but by surnames. In other words, you look up a particular surname and the basic information regarding them is on that one page.

      Thank you for reading my column. I appreciate it.

  2. interesting the Applebty and Grandin families intermarried earlier in Jersey

    08 Jun 1734

    (B) (My)

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