Select Marshall Surname Genealogy

Marshall is an occupational name, coming from the Old French mareschal meaning "marshal" but originally from the Old German marah for "horse" or "mare" and schal for "servant."  Marshall therefore described someone who looked after the horses, an important although rather low-level responsibility in medieval times. 

In the royal household, the term Lord Marshal originally related to the keeping of the King's horses.  But by the 13th century the Lord Marshal in England had come to describe a high-status person, one who was the head of the King's household troops.  A similar elevation in status occurred in Scotland, in France, and in various other places in Europe.  It is from the military connotation that the term Field Marshal developed.

Select Marshall Resources on The Internet

Select Marshall Ancestry

England.  John FitzGilbert had been given the hereditary title of Lord Marshal from King Stephen in the 1140's.  In 1194 the title then passed to his younger son William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke,  He lived through four monarchs, became one of the most powerful men in the country, and made the Marshal name famous.  On his death he had large land holdings.  However, his sons died without issue and these Marshal estates were scattered.

Lancashire  William Marshal had founded the Cartmell priory in north Lancashire in 1189.  The Cartmell Marshalls claimed, perhaps wrongly, descent from him; while the Marshalls of nearby Urswick said that they were cousins.

William Marshall made his money from the dissolution of Furness Abbey at the time of Henry VIII.  He founded a free school in Urswick and died in 1579 a rich man.  His grandson Nicholas, rector of Urswick, was said to be the second wealthiest vicar in the land.  But the Marshall fortunes took a dive in the 18th century when Ann Marshall was tried and convicted of theft.

Yorkshire and Environs  A Marshall family have been long-standing in Pickering in north Yorkshire, ever since they had married into the Buys estate in the 15th century.  William Marshall of this family started England's first agricultural instiute in the early 1800's.  By that time, a branch of the family had moved to Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire where they were customs officials. 

William and Alice Marshall were recorded in Humberston near Grimsby in the early 1700's; William Marshall from Scartho in north Lincolnshire started flour milling in Grimsby in the early 1800's; Robert Marshall grew up at that time in Scotton near Gainsborough; and William Marshall began his engineering works in Gainsborough in 1848 (they became famous for their tractors).     

The Marshalls of Yeadon near Leeds in the East Ridings of Yorkshire dated from the 1500's.  Jeremiah Marshall was a linen draper in Leeds in the 18th century.  His son John started out as a flax spinner who purchased the rights for a new flax spinning machine.  He then built a huge Egyptian-style mill at Holbeck in Leeds. 

This enterprise made him wealthy and his family, perhaps seduced by Wordsworth, bought up land in the Lake District.  In 1850 the poet Tennyson quipped:

"We found the seat of a Marshall on almost every lake we came to." 

Margaret Armstrong's 2002 book Linen and Liturgy described the story of the Marshall family in the Lake District in relation to the parish church of Keswick St. John.

Elsewhere  There were pockets of Marshalls elsewhere, such as in Little Tew in Oxfordshire and in villages around Longborough in Gloucestershire.  But the 19th century surname distribution showed that Marshall was very much a northern name, centered around Yorkshire and Lancashire.    
Scotland.  The Marshall name came to Scotland through the title of Earl Marshal given to the Keith family (although the Keiths never adopted Marshall as a surname).  But several of that name appeared in the Scottish rolls of those swearing fealty to Edward of England in 1296 and Marshall subsequently spread as a surname, although not necessarily describing anyone of status.

The two best known Marshalls of the 18th century were in fact of humble stock:
  • Billy Marshall the so-called "king of the gypsies" in Galloway
  • and William Marshall the butler, clockmaker and composer of fiddle music from Morayshire. 
There was a cluster of Marshalls in the late 18th century in Kilmaurs in Ayrshire.  The late 19th century distribution showed the largest concentration in and around Glasgow.

Ireland.  The Marshalls in Ulster are mainly a Scottish implant, originating at the time of the Scottish plantations of the 17th century.  It seems that they generally came from two places, Glasgow and Kelso on the Scottish borders.

John Marshall was recorded in the sectarian violence in Antrim as early as 1641.  Sir Gilbert Marshall was born on Belfast in 1680 and lived to be 103, dying in Carnmoney, Antrim in 1783.  The Rev. W.F Marshall, born in Omagh in 1888, wrote in the local Tyrone dialect and was known as "the bard of Tyrone."  His words adorn the monument in Larne's Curran Park which commemorates the Ulster Scots who emigrated to America.

Early Marshalls appeared in Virginia.

Virginia.  John Marshall had been a captain of cavalry under Charles I and had left England in 1650 after the Civil War defeat.  He settled in Virginia and was the forebear of the Marshall plantation-owning families of Virginia and Kentucky. 

The main line passed through "John of the Forest" to Thomas, who moved his family to Kentucky in 1785, and then to John Marshall, the famous jurist of the early days of the United States, and his cousin Humphrey, the Kentucky Senator in 1801.  William Paxton's 1885 book The Marshall Family covered this family history.  Charles Marshall was an emancipated slave from their Kentucky plantation near Greensburg.

Another large plantation owner was Levin Marshall from Virginia.  He was a successful banker in Natchez, Mississippi, and the owner of a hotel, a steamboat and five cotton plantations.  He was one of the richest men in the antebellum South.  His son George ran the Lansdowne plantation in Natchez which is still in Marshall hands today.

Other Marshalls in or from Virginia were:
  • John Marshall who arrived from England sometime in the 1720's.  From his line came Riley Marshall, a farmer who moved to Indiana in 1817 and struck lucky when oil and gas was discovered on his land.  His grandson Thomas was Governor of Indiana and Vice President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson.
  • Gilbert and Martha Marshall who arrived from Antrim in 1751 and later moved onto Tennessee.   His sons fought in the Revolutionary War.  John Marshall built a palatial house for himself in Franklin, Kentucky.
Scots Irish.  Early Scots Irish Marshalls who came to America were:
  • William and Rebecca Marshall, Quakers, who were married in New Castle county, Delaware  in 1746. They soon moved onto North Carolina where they were joined by William's brother John.
  • and William and Elizabeth Marshall who came to Adams county, Pennsylvania in 1748.  They later moved onto Indiana county after having experienced problems with the local Indians.  Thomas H. Marshall of this line was a prominent farmer in Dayton, Pennsylvania.
Other Marshalls.  Some Marshalls in America have come from other places.  One family history begins with a George Marschall and his family who came to America from Bavaria in 1833 and settled in Barry county, Michigan. Another Marschall family who arrived at this time from Bavaria were Jewish.  Their son Louis became a well-known Jewish community leader and civil rights lawyer.  In both cases the Marschall name changed to Marshall. 

Anthony Marshall, the father of the actors Garry and Penny Marshall, had changed his name from Masciarelli to Marshall sometime in the 1930's.
Canada.  Robert Marshall, a weaver, left his native Galloway in Scotland in 1775 to seek a better life for himself in Canada.  He ended up in the Highland colony in Pictou county, Nova Scotia.  The early years were hard.  But his descendants later prospered.  David, his grandson, was a local merchant.  Another grandson Robert migrated to New Brunswick and went into politics.  Some Marshalls later headed West, in a number of cases to the American West. The family story is narrated in Bryce Marshall's 1975 book The Marshall Family of Pictou County.      

Other early Marshall arrivals in Canada were:
  • Solomon Marshall, a Loyalist from Massachusetts who came with his family to Annapolis, Nova Scotia in the 1780's.
  • John Marshall, who came to Burin county, Newfoundland in 1815 to build the Catholic church there.  He stayed and became one of the settlement's leading merchants.  His home at Bell's Cove remains with the Marshall family.
  • Thomas Marshall, a weaver from Lanarkshire, who arrived in Quebec with his wife Janet on the Alexander in 1820.  Later, his descendants headed west to Castor, Alberta in 1909.
Australia.  The first Marshall to Australia was a sea captain, John Marshall from Kent, in charge of the Scarborough in the First and Second Fleet of convicts.  He had an unhappy time, a threatened mutiny on the first voyage and a high convict death rate (one out of every 3.5 convicts who boarded) on the second voyage - for which he was blamed.  He kept a low profile thereafter.  His name, however, was attached to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific which he charted.

Select Marshall Miscellany

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

Select Marshall Names

William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, was a legendary figure in medieval lore, one of the most powerful men in England in the early 13th century.
John Marshall served as Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835.  He helped to shape American constitutional law and establish the position of the Supreme Court.
Alfred Marshall was the Victorian economist whose 1890 book Principles of Economics defined the classical theory of economics.
George Marshall was the American general who led the allies to victory in World War Two.  As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after the war.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court.

Select Marshalls Today
  • 95,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 68,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 50,000 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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page