Select Walker Surname Genealogy

The surname Walker is an occupational name that derives from the term used to describe a fuller of cloth. Wool was cleaned and thickened by being soaked in water and then trampled underfoot, the "walking" on the wool.  This “walking” is manly a north of England term. 

Elsewhere in England, different occupational names for a walker developed, Fuller in southern and eastern England, Tucker in the southwest.

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England.  In the traditional textile heartland of northern England, the workers - from the Old English wealcan - were walkers.  A Robert le Walker was recorded in the Yorkshire assize rolls of 1260.  Records of a Walker family at Birstall, Batley and Nidderdale began with the birth of William Walker around the year 1468.

The Walker name has been most common in Yorkshire and Walkers have been particularly numerous as a surname on Teesside and in the Yorkshire towns of Leeds and Wakefield (which had the largest number of Walkers in 1881):
  • Thomas Walker was vicar of Wakefield in 1655.
  • William Walker around this time bought Walterclough Hall near Halifax and the family remained there through four generations.
  • the Walker family in Whitby was Quaker and many of them were merchants and shipowners.  Captain James Cook the famous explorer was an apprentice to John Walker in the 1720’s.
  • Robert Walker married Rachel Spence in Leeds in 1779 and they were part of a Quaker community at Netherdale in which the Walkers played a part for over 150 years.
  • while another family history began with Richard and Ann Walker who were married around 1740 and lived in Yarm, a small village near Stockton-on-Tees.  Son James was a flax merchant and mayor of Stockton in 1809.
James Walker was a merchant in Manchester whose son of the same name moved in the 1750’s to Cottingham in the East Ridings.  His family became landowners and country gentry there.

The Rev. Robert Walker, born in Seathwaite in 1706, was a parish priest in the Lake District until his death in 1799.  The poet Wordsworth wrote his praises in his Duddon Sonnet.  His sons through four generations were called Zaccheus Walker.

.  The surname in Scotland originated from Waulker, "son of the Fuller or cloth maker."

There are waulking songs (from the Gaelic orainluiadh) that were sung in the Outer Hebrides during the "walking" process for tweed-making and which are still performed today.  A Highland clan, initially called McNaucator and based in the forested area of Knapdale in Argyllshire, changed their name to Walker in the 18th century.

There were also Lowland Walkers.  Johnnie Walker, a Kilmarnock grocer, was the inspiration behind the Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky blend created by his son Alexander in 1867 which became world-famous.  By the time of the 1881 census Glasgow and its environs were where most Walkers were to be found.

Walkers had arrived in Ulster by the 17th century, the most famous of them being the Rev. George Walker.  Born in county Tyrone of English parents, he became governor of Derry.  He led the successful defense of Londonderry during the siege in 1689.  A year later he was slain at the Battle of the Boyne.

Walkers at Carnew in county Wicklow go back to 1713 when Yorkshireman John Walker arrived there to work on the Shillelagh estate.  The talk show host Graham Norton, whose real name is Graham Walker, has family roots in Carnew.

.  Captain Richard Walker from London is the earliest known Walker immigrant to America, arriving in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1630.  He was a malster by trade and later kept a tavern in Woburn.  Captain Samuel Walker who arrived in 1637 was found in the same towns, but the two Walkers were not related.

Thomas Walker had immigrated to Boston from England and his son Thomas settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts around 1660.  He was an inn-keeper there with the only liquor license in town.  His line led after six generations to Hiram Walker who was born on a family farm in Douglas, Massachusetts in 1816.  Hiram Walker was to make his mark in Detroit as a whisky distiller whose business boomed during the Civil War.

Scots Irish Walkers from Londonderry later came to America:
  • John Walker, grandson of the Rev. George Walker, arrived in Delaware in 1720.  His son John was a well-known Indian fighter.
  • Robert Walker was in Baltimore by 1725.  His descendants migrated to Pennsylvania, then Ohio, before heading west again to Johnson county, Iowa in 1840.
Walkers from county Down came to Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1730.  Their descendants were to be found in Virginia and Alabama.

T.B. Walker’s start to life in 1840 in Xenia, Ohio did not promise much for the future.

“The Walkers had bought a ranch near Lexington in Missouri.  On the way there, the family and their servants were stricken with malaria and Platt Walker was obliged to sell out and return to Xenia.  When gold fever came in 1849, Walker left for California after spending $75,000 on covered wagons and horses.  He died on the way.”

In 1863 he came out to Minnesota and began to acquire timberlands and set up sawmills throughout the state.  He later expanded into northern California and his company became one of the largest forest products companies in the country.  Descendants of his son Clinton Walker have continued to live in northern California.  They own 140,000 acres of timberland there known as Shasta Forests

Canada.  A Walker family of Orange county, North Carolina was divided in its loyalties during the American Revolutionary War.  Many stayed there after the war.  But William Walker brought his family to Lincoln county, Ontario in 1794.  In his application for a land grant he stated:

“He had been in the army of Lord Cornwallis and had just arrived with his family from North Carolina.  He had eight hundred acres of land taken from him and sold by the rebels.  He had suffered everything but death by the American Revolution.” 

He did get a land grant, at Grimsby township on the shores of Lake Ontario.   

Thomas Walker was a maker of watchcases in London who, after the loss of his wife and four children, decided to emigrate to Canada.  He came to Ontario with his remaining children in 1834.  His grandson Edmund made his
mark as a banker and was President of the Canadian Bank of Commerce from 1907 to 1924.

Select Walker Miscellany

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

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John Walker, a professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University, was one of the leading lights of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment.
John Walker of Stockton on Tees invented the friction match in 1827.
Hiram Walker began the production of Canadian Club whisky at Walkerville in Canada in 1858.
Johnnie Walker  a Kilmarnock grocer, was the inspiration behind the famous Johnnie Walker whisky brand.
Jack Walker developed Walker Steel as the largest steel stockholder in Britain by the 1980’s.  He owned and invested in his home-town football club, Blackburn Rovers.
Alice Walker is an acclaimed American writer and feminist, best known for her novel The Color Purple.

Select Walkers Today

  • 195,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 180,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 82,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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