Select Tyler Miscellany

Here are some Tyler stories and accounts over the years:

Tyler Surname Origins

Tyler's earliest appearance, in the late 12th century, appears to have been French in origin, an import therefore of the Normans.  However, the French form does not seem to have survived and it was displaced by the Tyler from the Old English tigel leah.

Tyler's Historical and Genealogical Magazine gave the following analysis of the surname's origin.

"Mark Antony Lower stated in his Patronymica Britannica that the surname of Tyler or Tiler was derived from the occupation of the first man in England to whom this surname became applied.  The learned etymologists, however, tell us neither when nor where in England the surneme originated, nor who were the first to be known by that surname.

These points are determinable.  One may note that Lower declared that the surname of Tileman (Tillman) originated from exactly the same causes as did the surname of Tyler; also, that he described "Tylor" as a "genteel form of Tyler."  Bardsley, the more recent etymologist, agreed with Lower that the first Tyler was a tiler, a maker or layer of bticks, "one who bakes clay into tiles," he further averred.  Also he agreed with Skeats, author of an etymological dictionary, that the word tiler is from the Anglo Saxon tigele which antedates all British surnames.  The Latin form is tegula, from tegere, meaning "to cover."  Henry Harrison, the most scholarly of the etymologists, agreed with those predecessors and added that "tylee" or "tiley" was a dweller at a tile field and derived from the Old English tigel leah.

An inquiry in England in 1272 showed that there were five adult males surnamed Tyler at a place called Sawtry near Huntingdon.

'Thus Galfridus (otherwise Geoffray) le Tylere and Radulphus (otherwise Ralph) de Tilere with another were cottars, tenants of three cottages each with a few acres of land rented to them by the Abbot of Sawtry who was the resident ecclesiastical lord of the district and the representative of the monastery of Great Sawtry.'

Sawtry was upon the old Roman road from London to York, about eight miles north of the shire town of Huntingdon.  The earth is flat in that region and clay abounds in vast quantities.  Ely Cathedral was the mother church of the first Tylers."

Wat Tyler and the Peasants' Revolt

Little is known of Wat Tyler with the exception of his fame as the leader of the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381.  He was said to be a tiler from Essex who had become involved in the uprising after a tax collector had assaulted his daughter.  The commons of Kent, after taking Rochester Castle, chose him as their captain. Under him they moved to Canterbury, Blackheath and then to London. 

Tyler's group had joined another group led by two itinerant priests named John Ball and Jack Straw and they rose 100,000 strong to invade London.  The enraged mob burned many houses.  They broke open every prison and beheaded every judge and lawyer they could capture.  Flushed with their success, they went on to take the Tower of London by force and behead the Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Richard II, who was at the time only fourteen years of age, bravely emerged to meet with Wat Tyler at Smithfield.  Tyler advanced in front of his strong force to speak with him and he showed no deference.  This angered the royal party.  When Tyler asked for a drink of water and then spat it out, the King told William Walworth, the mayor of London, to "set hands on him."  Tyler was stabbed through the throat with a short sword and, as he lay writhing in agony on the ground after falling off his horse, was stabbed through the belly.  

Walworth was a fish dealer as well as the Lord Mayor of London and he donated the dagger with which he had killed Tyler to the Fishmongers guild.  The dagger is still to be found in Fishmongers hall in a special glass case.  Nearby there is a life size Walworth standing with dagger in hand.

Early Tyler Wills in Gloucestershire

John Tyler
St. Briavels, near the Forest of Dean
John Tyler
Tytherington, near Ichington *
John Tyler
Blakeney, in the Forest of Dean
Henry Tyler
Thornbury, north of Bristol
John Tyler
Frampton Cotterell, north of Bristol
William Tyler 
Alveston, north of Bristol
John Tyler
Pucklechurch, north of Bristol

*  This was the first of a number of Tyler wills in Tytherington.

Tyler Surname Distribution in England and Wales

The Tyler surname has been concentrated around London and the southeast of England.  The table below shows the distribution from the 1891 census.

Numbers (000's)
Total England and Wales     

Reader Feedback - Job Tyler's Arrival

Until very recently we thought that Job Tyler first went to Rhode Island in 1638.  Now, for the first time, we know that Job left London, along with 161 passengers, bound for Virginia on the Pinnace Globe.  The ship left London on August 7, 1635 and arrived first at the Massachusetts Bay colony.  Job's name appears on the Pinnace Globe's manifest.


David Sitomer (

The Tyler Family and the Salem Witch Trials

In 1692 the Tyler family of Andover found itself both accuser and victim in the witchcraft hysteria centered in Salem village.  During the hysteria Moses Tyler and Joseph Tyler, the son and grandson of Job Tyler, accused three men and two women of Andover of witchcraft.   And the two Tyler women caught up in a web of suspicion were Mary Tyler, wife of Hopestill Tyler, and Johanna (Hannah) Tyler, their daughter.  Both women, under great pressure, confessed to the sin of witchcraft.

Their trials took place in February 1693.  The women pleaded not guilty, recanting their confessions.  The juries found Mary and Johanna not guilty of all charges and their long, terrible ordeal was over.

Grandmother Tyler's Book

Grandmother Tyler's Book was undertaken by Mary Tyler in her eighty-third year at the request of her children and grandchildren.  It is a series of vivid reminiscences of her girlhood and marriage.  Through the efforts of her descendants, it was finally published in 1925. 

The earliest stories, dealing with the events of the Revolution in and around Boston, are interspersed with quotations from her mother's memoirs.  Although too young to remember it, Tyler had been told of her father's participation in the Boston Tea Party.  Her mother actually describes her fright when he came home in his Native American costume.

From the age of nine, Tyler had admired her father's friend, Royall Tyler.  She discloses the story of his disastrous love affair with Abby Adams (daughter of John Adams), which ended as a consequence of his having "lived too gay a life."  When they did marry, the marriage was kept a secret for a while, owing apparently to the opposition of Tyler's mother.

During the time Tyler was secretly married, pregnant and waiting at home for her husband to establish a law practice in the wilds of Vermont, she suffered a great sense of sinfulness and a crisis of faith.  This was resolved after many months by a dream in which she was chased by wolves to the edge of a precipice only to be rescued at the last minute by the figure of Christ.  He encircled her waist with his arm and said, "Lean on me and I will save you." 

From this time on, Tyler's profound faith sustained her through many trials, including the lingering and painful cancer which killed her husband and the consequent poverty and reliance on friends and neighbors to sustain the family.  She accepted good and bad fortune alike with the comment that all was God's will.

President John Tyler and His Descendants

John Tyler was the most prolific of all American Presidents.  He had fifteen children and two wives.

In 1813, Tyler married Letitia Christian, the daughter of a Virginia planter.  They had eight children.  She was an invalid when Tyler became President and made only one public appearance, at her daughter Elizabeth's marriage in 1842.  She died in the White House in September 1842.

A few months later, Tyler began courting 23-year-old Julia Gardiner, a beautiful and wealthy New Yorker. When they were married in New York City on June 26, 1844, Tyler became the first President to be wed while in office.  He was thirty years older than his bride.  As First Lady, the new Mrs. Tyler captivated Washington with the size and brilliance of her White House receptions.

John Tyler, like his father and grandfather before him, had studied law at William and Mary College in Virginia.  His son Lyon Gardiner Tyler, as its 17th president, built up the college after its dark days following the Civil War.  The Tyler Family Garden, funded by the family, is their memorial.  Another family legacy is the Sherwood Forest plantation, which President Tyler acquired in 1842 and has remained with the family.

Tylers to Australia

Matthew Tyler had been a weaver in the Gloucestershire village of Bisley who had been impacted by the collapse of the woollen trade in the 1830's.  He and his wife Mary Ann and their children were sponsored by the parish to migrate to Australia under the terms and conditions of the Poor Law Amendment Act. 

The Layton, a barque of 513 tons, left Bristol carrying 121 adults and 110 children, touched at the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at Sydney on 19 January 1838.  The voyage was rendered horrendous by an outbreak of the measles immediately after leaving the Bristol Channel which caused the death of one adult and 68 children, including 17 of the 42 from Bisley.  Two of the Tyler daughters, Martha and Maria, had died on the voyage.  

The surviving passengers were delayed off Pinchgut Island (Sydney) for a day and were then accommodated at the Immigrants Barracks at the corner of Bent and Phillip Streets, Sydney.

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