Select Chamberlain Surname Genealogy

Chamberlain is an occupational surname describing an official who was in charge of the private chambers of his master.  It evolved into a title of high rank.  There have been Lord Chamberlains of the Royal Household since 1399.  The root is the Old French word cambrelane or chambrelain brought to England by the Normans.  The Chamberland spelling cropped up in Normandy.

Chamberlayne was an early surname spelling in England.  Martin le Chamberleyn was recorded in Cambridgeshire of 1232.  Chamberlain and its variant Chamberlin are found today.  The surname Chambers also exists; although this might have denoted a lower-ranking person

Select Chamberlain Resources on The Internet

Select Chamberlain Ancestry

England.  Early Chamberlaynes were said to have sprung from the Tankarvilles who had come to England from Normandy at the time of William the Conqueror.  The first of that name, William Chamberlayne, was chamberlain to King Henry II in the mid-12th century.  His descendants were to be found at Stoke-near-Nayland in Suffolk.

There was also an early Chamberlain line at Wickenby in Lincolnshire, reputedly descended from Herbert, the chamberlain of Scotland in 1130.  Descendants here held Pletsoe manor in Buckinghamshire.

Both the Chamberlain and Chamberlayne names featured in Oxfordshire: 
  • Sir Edward Chamberlain of Shirburn was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1505.  His son Leonard guarded Princess Elizabeth during her imprisonment at Woodstock in the reign of Queen Mary.  He was from a Catholic-sympathizing family.
  • meanwhile the Chamberlaynes of Wickham were descended from William Chamberlayne who had ventured to Ireland and from his son Sir Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice of Chester in 1616.  Thomas of the next generation became a baronet in 1643 because of his Royalist support during the Civil War.
The Chamberlain name had become more predominant at this time, although the Chamberlayne name did persist into the 20th century – notably at Weston on the outskirts of Southampton where they were gentry and local MP’s.

Henry Orland Chamberlain
of uncertain origins was an English diplomat in Portugal made a baronet in 1828.  He married twice:
  • his first marriage produced Henry, the second baronet, who became a British army officer and an artist of some repute.
  • his second marriage produced British army and naval officers as well.  The line from William, his eldest son here and a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy, led to three notable sons – Henry, another naval officer; Basil, a leading Japanologist of his time; and Houston, who would be considered racist for his writings today.
  • two other sons - Crawford and Charles - were officers in the Indian army.  Charles's son Francis is credited with having invented the game of snooker while stationed in India in 1875.
The line of Joseph Chamberlain, the British politician and statesman of the late Victorian era, began in Wiltshire with Daniel Chamberlain, born in 1688, who was a maltster in Lacock.  His son William came to London in the 1730’s to pursue a trade as a cordwainer (shoemaker).  Three Joseph Chamberlains followed, the last of whom settled in Birmingham.

“Joseph Chamberlain made his career in Birmingham, first as a manufacturer of screws and then as a notable mayor of the city. As a self-made businessman, he had never attended university and had contempt for the aristocracy.

He was the father by different marriages of the politician Sir Austen Chamberlain and of the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlen was a Huguenot name, brought to London from Paris in 1569.  Peter Chamberlen and his sons were “barber surgeons,” practitioners in midwifery.  They attended the royalty of the time.  Either Peter or one of his sons was the inventor of obstetric forceps, something that they kept as a closely guarded secret for over a hundred years.  Their instruments, rediscovered in 1813, were given to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.

has been a variant spelling.  It seems to have first cropped up in the Barnstaple area of Devon in the early 1500’s.  But the largest numbers have been in Norfolk.  Henry Chamberlin from Hingham in Norfolk emigrated to America in 1638.  A much later Henry Chamberlin started a department store in Norwich in 1815 that lasted until the 1950’s.  George Chamberlin was three times Mayor of Norwich between 1891 and 1918.

America.  There were some notable Chamberlain lines coming to Massachusetts and to Pennsylvania.

.  Two Henry Chamberlins apparently arriving in Hingham, Massachusetts in the 1630’s.  One returned to England, the other – a blacksmith – stayed.  A descendant line has been traced through thirteen generations to Richard Chamberlin in Georgia, a recent member of the House of Representatives there.

Three Chamberlain brothers from Norfolk made their home in Billerica, Massachusetts in 1654, although only William remained there.   His wife Rebecca was caught up in the Salem witchcraft trials and died in prison in 1692.  William lived onto 1706. 

Some of his descendants migrated to New Hampshire and then to Maine.  Joshua Chamberlain, born there in 1828, served with distinction at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War and afterwards was elected the Governor of Maine.  Another descendant line was to be found in Alton, Illinois.

.  There were two Chamberlain lines in Chester county, Pennsylvania – one through Robert originating from England and coming in 1692 and the other through Jonas from Ireland in 1731.  The line from Robert Chamberlain extended to:
  • Dr. Joseph Chamberlain of Newark, Delaware in the early 1800’s
  • his son Charles, also a doctor, who moved south to Natchez, Mississippi in 1837
  • and his son George who migrated to Oregon and became its Governor in 1902 and Senator in 1908.
There were Irish Chamberlains headed by Jeremiah Chamberlain in York county, Pennsylvania by the 1740’s.  A later Jeremiah Chamberlain of this family also headed south to Mississippi, in his case in 1830, where he founded Rodney Presbyterian church and Oakland college.  However, he was foully murdered on the college campus in 1851.

The Chamberlain family association of America
was founded in 1897 by Joshua Chamberlain of Maine.  It has continued on and off until today.

.  The Chamberland name appeared in Normandy as early as the 12th century.  Simon Chamberland departed France for Quebec in 1663 where he married Marie Boileau.  His main line of descendants remained in Quebec.  But some crossed the border into America, changing their name in the process to Chamberlain or Chamberlin.

David and Polly Chamberlin departed Connecticut for Hatley, Quebec in 1794; while John and Jane Chamberlain came from Lincolnshire in England in 1837 and were early settlers in Nobleton, Ontario.  Many of their descendants remain there.

New Zealand
.  John Chamberlain, a farm laborer from Hampshire, and his family were early arrivals in New Zealand, coming on the Sir Charles Forbes in 1842.  They settled in the Tasman district, SI.  Charles Chamberlin came in 1854 and purchased an island east of Auckland, now known as Ponui Island, for his family to farm.  They are still there.  Brian Chamberlin’s 2006 book was entitled Ponui and Beyond: 150 Years of Chamberlins

Select Chamberlain Miscellany

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

Select Chamberlain Names

Sir Thomas Chamberlayne was a distinguished diplomat in Elizabethan times, serving as ambassador in the Low Countries.
Joseph Chamberlain
 was a prominent British politician and statesman of the late Victorian era.  He was first a radical Liberal and then a leading imperialist in coalition with the Conservatives.
Neville Chamberlain
 was British Prime Minster from 1937 to 1940, most remembered for his appeasement policy towards Hitler.
Edward Chamberlin
 was an American economist best known for his book The Theory of Monopolistic Competition published in 1933.
Wilt Chamberlain
was an American basketball player who still holds many NBA records in scoring and rebounding.  He is widely considered one of the greatest and most dominant players in NBA history

Select Chamberlains Today
  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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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