Select Savage Surname Genealogy

The surname Savage comes from the French sauvage, a nickname for someone with a wild disposition and fierce temper.  Another interpretation of the name was as follows:

"When first born as a surname, Le Sauvage signified, probably not the ferocious but the forester, as distinguished from the inhabitants of fortified towns."

Le Sauvage was the name of a Norman family.  The name is believed to have crossed the Channel at or after the time of the Norman Conquest.   

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Select Savage Ancestry

England.  The first le Sauvage in England appears to have been Robert le Sauvage, recorded at Broadwater in Sussex in the Domesday Book of 1086.  This family later migrated to Stainsby in Derbyshire and subsequently to Clifton in Cheshire.  Another early Savage line was to be found at Stockbury and Bobbing in Kent.  Sir Arnold le Sauvage of this family, who died in 1410, was twice elected as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Cheshire  By the late 14th century the main Savage line was to be found at Clifton in Cheshire.  John Savage fought for Henry VII at Bosworth Field in 1485; Thomas Savage was Archbishop of York in 1501; and another Savage branch began at Elmley castle in Gloucestershire at this time.  Sir John Savage had Rocksavage, a great showpiece Elizabethan mansion, built at Clifton in 1568. 

In the 17th century the Savages were ennobled as Earl Rivers.  John Savage, the second Earl and a Catholic, played a prominent part in raising troops for the King during the Civil War.  Richard Savage the poet was the illegitimate son of Richard, the fourth Earl.  Meanwhile, two 19th century English poets, Walter Savage Landor and Alfred Lord Tennyson, have Savage descent.

Yorkshire  There has been a notable Savage presence in Yorkshire, dating back to the 1360's when Will Savage was the rector at St. Helens, Treeton near Rotherham. 

Sir Edward Savage of the Cheshire Savages became bailiff of Hatfield near Doncaster in 1495 and his arms are to be found in the local church there.  Savages in and around Sheffield date from the 1600's.  George Savage was a razor grinder in the town in the early 19th century.

Ireland.  The county Down family of Savage - Savage of the Ards - was planted there by William le Sauvage from Kent who had served under de Courcey in his Ulster invasion in 1177.  He built his castle on the summit of the hill at Ardkeen in the region of county Down known as the Ards.  Over time, the Savages became fully part of the Irish landscape (the Gaelic version of their name was Mac an tSabhasaigh) and were constantly at war with other Irish clans in the area, in particular with their arch-rivals, the Clandeboye O'Niells.

The Savages at Portaferry established themselves as the Lord Savages of Arde by converting to Protestantism in the 16th century.  They changed their name to Nugent in 1812.  This prompted one disgruntled member of the family to retort that he would "rather be an old savage than a new gent!"  Lady Dorcas Savage, who died in 1835, was the last of these old Savages. 

The story of the family has been told in GF Savage-Armstrong's 1888 book The Ancient and Noble Family of the Savages of the Ards.

  Savage was an early name in Virginia history:
  • Ensign Thomas Savage was just thirteen when in 1608, soon after his arrival in Jamestown, he was given to Powhatan as a hostage by Captain Newport so that he could maintain Powhatan's friendship.  Later Thomas made his family home at Savage's Neck on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  He died around 1627 but left a son, Captain John Savage.  Some of his Savage descendants have remained on the Eastern Shore.
  • and "Carpenter" Thomas Savage, who arrived possibly in the early 1630's, was a prominent figure in early Northampton and Accomack county histories.  He was known as a builder of watercraft, a manufacturer of casks and barrels, and a large plantation owner.    
New England.  Another Thomas Savage came to Massachusetts on the Planter in 1635.  The line from his son Habijah led to Thomas Savage and his son Thomas, noted silversmiths of Boston and Bermuda.  From this family came:
  • Edward Savage, a famous portrait painter best known for his painting of George Washington in 1790.  His son John became a wealthy ship-owner and merchant in Philadelphia trading with the Caribbean.  A later John Savage resigned his commission during the Civil War and ended up living on a reduced inheritance.
  • and the Bostonian James Savage who was to start the first American savings bank in 1816. 
John Savage was in Middletown, Connecticut by the 1650's.  His descendants included Empire Loyalists, David Savage who joined the Mormon church, and George and Georgetta Savage, early settlers in Washington state on the West Coast.

Canada.  Jans Sauvage from Brittany in France came to Canada around the year 1780 and made his home in Nouvelle Longueuil, Quebec.   Some eighty or so years later the family name became Savage.

Australia and New Zealand.  Richard Savage emigrated to Melbourne from county Down in the late 1850's.  He and his wife Johanna raised eight children, the youngest being a son Michael.  Finding work hard to get in Victoria, Michael emigrated to New Zealand in 1907.  He involved himself with the Labour party there and was one of its first MP's following the 1919 election.  He became New Zealand's first Labour Prime Minister in 1935.

Select Savage Miscellany

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

Select Savage Names

William le Sauvage was in 1170 the first of the Savages of the Ards in county Down.
John Savage, the 2nd Earl Rivers, was Catholic gentry from Cheshire.  He was a key supporter of Charles I during the Civil War.
Jim Savage was the California pioneer who discovered the Yosemite valley.
Michael Savage, of Irish parentage, was the first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, taking office in 1935.

Select Savages Today
  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hertfordshire)
  • 18,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 9,000 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.

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