Select Snow Surname Genealogy

The surname Snow does come from the Old English word snow meaning "snow."  However, it did not have anything to do with snow. 

Instead Snow appears to have been a nickname for someone with a very pale complexion or someone with fair or white hair.  It could therefore have been a description of a Norseman. They were rarer and thus possibly more noticeable in the south of England where the surname seems to have originated.

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Select Snow Ancestry

England.  Early appearances as a surname were in the south of England - Richard Snow in Worcestershire in 1221, Robert Snow in Suffolk in 1239, Henry Snou in Buckinghamshire in 1273, and Gilbert Snawe in Essex in 1339.

Devon  Snows were to be found in sizeable numbers in Devon.  They appeared, as farmers, in Sandford and South Molton from the 1600's.  Snows were also cloth merchants in Exeter at this time, starting with Thomas Snow and then followed by his son Simon Snow who became mayor of Exeter in 1653.  A later Snow, Thomas Snow, was a wine merchant and partner in the local bank in the early 19th century.  His son, also Thomas, was mayor of Exeter in 1863.

Dorset  Snows in Dorset included some interesting families.  The children of Lieutenant Snow of Poole, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, included Parker Snow, the Arctic adventurer and writer, and Phillis Snow, who became a Buddhist monk. 

Another family, starting with the Rev. George D'Oyly Snow of Langton Lodge in Blandford Forum, has an interesting mix of military men and clergymen until the current generation of TV presenters - Peter Snow and his son Daniel of the BBC and his cousin Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news presenter.    

Yorkshire  The Snow surname also appeared in Yorkshire, although here it might have been a contraction of Snowden (a northern surname meaning "the hill where the snow lies long").  The Snows were clockmakers near Harrogate in the 18th century and John Snow, who did pioneering work on cholera in the 19th century, was from a York family.

America.  Three Snows came early to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts  First, Nicholas Snow arrived in Plymouth from London on the Anne in 1623, married Constance Hopkins who had come over on the Mayflower, and they settled in Eastham on Cape Cod. Nicholas was the town clerk there.  The family remained there for many generations.  Some Snows later migrated elsewhere:
  • Isaac Snow went to Duck Creek, Delaware in 1711 and his descendants were to be found in North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. 
  • Jabez Snow settled in Nova Scotia in 1763 (his line was traced in Stanley Corey's 1979 booklet Captain Jabez Snow and Some of His Descendants).  
  • while Jonathan Snow moved to Vermont in 1791 and Nathaniel Snow was a prominent local artist and writer in that state.
Then came Richard Snow and his wife Annis on the Expedition in 1635.  They settled in Woburn.  Benjamin Snow of this family was born in New Hampshire and fought in the Revolutionary War (his line was traced in Owen Wilcox's 1907 book History of the Family of Benjamin Snow); while later:
  • other Snows moved to Maine or crossed the border into Canada 
  • and there was also a line from Becket, Massachusetts into northern Ohio.  This line produced Lorenzo Snow of the Mormons who went out to Salt Lake valley in 1848.  
Lastly, there was a young west country boy called William Snow who went out as an indentured servant around 1637.  After his service ended, he settled in Bridgewater.  A descendant Thomas Jefferson Snow headed west and was a school principal during the 1840's and 1850's in Madisonville, Kentucky and Peoria, Illinois. 

Maryland and Virginia  Justinian Snow from Staffordshire came out with Lord Baltimore to Maryland in 1634 and was one of the founders of the new colony.  He, however, died at sea four years later. 

Thomas and Susannah Snow arrived in Virginia sometime in the 1680ís.  Their son Captain Henry and grandson Trooper John were born in Albemarle county.  Trooper Johnís children were named (1) Frost And Snow and (2) Ice And Snow, where ďAndĒ represented their middle

A line from the more conventionally named Thomas Snow also had some unusual names - Early Snow, born in 1800, and his son Laten Early Snow, born in 1831, who moved to Lewis county, West Virginia where he died in 1910.

"It was normal for Laten to have a horse, two cows, sheep, hogs and chickens on his farm.  He was a competent farmer and also raised fruit trees (apples, peaches, and cherries planted on the ridges of his farm) and oats etc.  This was productive 'subsistence' farming."
Canada.  Snows in Nova Scotia dated from the 1760's when French control ended there and English settlers started to arrive.  Some came overland from America and others arrived by sea from England, mainly from Devon it would appear.  These Snows were to be found on the South Shore, Eastern Shore, Cape Breton, and Yarmouth.  One Yarmouth family began with Joseph Snow, a late 19th century shipbuilder.  His son Alfred was a well-known sea captain.

There were also Snows in Newfoundland.  In fact this is where Snows are mostly to be found in Canada today:
  • John Snow was reported in Newfoundland as early as 1708.  He is believed to have been the forebear of the Snows in Conception Bay. 
  • the Harbour Grace Methodist church parish register recorded the children of Edward and Frances Snow being born between 1785 and 1798. 
  • while the lives of one Snow family of Salmon Grove in Port de Grave ended tragically in 1833.  
Snow in Canada could be of Indian origin.  Joseph Snow, who appeared with his family in the 1861 and 1871 censuses for Tuscarora, Ontario, was listed as an Onondaga chief.  His Iroquois name of "Drifted Snow" translated into English as Joseph Snow.

Australia.  John Snow came to Ballarat in Victoria at the time of gold fever in the 1850ís.  He built up a successful drapery business in the town.  His son Sidney, later knighted, became even more successful as a retailer in Melbourne.

Select Snow Miscellany

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

Select Snow Names

John Snow is considered one of the founders of epidemiology for his work in discovering the causes for the cholera outbreak in England in the 1850's.
Edgar Snow was an American jounalist best known for his articles and books covering China, Mao Zedong and the Communist Party during the 1930's.
Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger, was a country star of the 1950's.  He grew up in Nova Scotia.
CP Snow was an English physicist and novelist best known for his lament on the arts/science divide - The Two Cultures - in his 1959 lecture.

Select Snows Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 14,000 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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