Select Warner Surname Genealogy

The surname Warner derived from the German personal name Warnier, comprised of the elements warin, meaning "guard," and hari, meaning "soldier" or "army."  The main surname to emerge was Werner. Meanwhile, the Warnier name was brought to England by the Normans after the Conquest.  A Robert Warnier was recorded in the Dorset pipe rolls of 1196.  In time Warnier became Warner.

Warner in England has another origin, from the French warriner, a keeper of hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants and the like.  The word warriner in fact stayed in English use up to the 17th century, as in one of Cobbe's prophecies of 1614:

"The warriner knows there are rabbits in breeding!"

The surname Warner here would designate someone who lived near a game park or was employed in one.

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Select Warner Ancestry

The Werner surname first surfaced in lower Saxony in SE Germany and was also to be found in Baden in SW Germany.  They came to America as Werners or Verners, Warners or even Wanners.

England.  Early English sightings of the Warner surname were in East Anglia in the 14th century. 

East Anglia  A Warner family held Warner Hall in Great Waltham, Essex at that time.  The Warner name continued to be found there.  One line of these Warners, who prospered as merchants in London, moved north to a country estate at Parham in Suffolk.   Meanwhile, there has been a Warner family involved in the silk industry in Essex since the 17th century.  Warner & Sons established themselves in Braintree in 1870 and operated there for just over a century.

Other Warners traced from Besthorp, near Shropham in Norfolk.  John Warner of this family, dying without heirs in 1374, left his possessions to a Cheshire knight under the condition that he assume the Warner name.  This he did and the line, based in Mildenhall in Suffolk, continued to Sir Edward Warner, the Lieutenant of the Tower of London during turbulent Tudor times.  Then Warners of this line, such as the gambler Edward Warner, frittered the family position away.

Later distribution of the Warner name showed it spreading south to London and the southeast and west into the Midlands.

London  Harmon Warner was a London merchant tailor in Elizabethan times.  His son, a royalist, was Bishop of Rochester (and the line then went via a nephew to the Lee-Warners of Walsingham in Norfolk).  Later London Warners included:
  • the Warner family who developed the Hornsey suburb in the early 19th century
  • another Warner family who developed Walthamstow in the late 19th century. 
  • then there was the Warner acting family, starting with grandfather James Warner, then father Charles Warner, and son H.B. Warner whose career straddled both silent and talkie movies.
Elsewhere  Warners in the Midlands included a Warner family who held Wasperton manor near Warwick in the 1660's.  Another Warner family was engaged in the lace industry in Coleorton, Leicestershire from the early 1700's.  The Warner family history of New Oxley House in Wolverhampton began in 1820.     

Ireland and Wales.  Warner in Ireland was probably an English implant, although in Cork it could be Irish, an anglicization of the Gaelic name O'Murmain.  Warners from Macroon in Cork date from the early 1700's.  One family history recorded a Warner family of farmers in Meath and Cork who moved to Swansea in Wales in 1840.  The Warners in Swansea included James Warner, a bare-knuckle boxer, and Larry Warner, a theater manager.

  The origin for Warners in America may have been from England, Ireland, Germany, or they may even have been Jewish.

English Warners  From England came Augustine Warner, who arrived in Virginia in 1628 at the age of seventeen.  He was the progenitor of the Warner Lewis family of Warner Hall, one of Virginia's leading colonial families. 

Another early Warner line began with John Warner from Essex who arrived in New England in the 1630's and was an early settler of Farmington, Connecticut.  Son Andrew was one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut (Lucien Warner's 1919 book The Descendants of Andrew Warner covered this line).  Descendants of these Warners included Colonel Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys, a Vermont militia group at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Warners settled in Pennsylvania as well.  Captain William Warner came in 1675 and started the Blockley plantation (named after his English home in Worcestershire).   Twelve generations of his family have been traced.  Hayward Dare Warner's 1971 book A Warner Family Narrative recorded this history. 

Benjamin Warner began a bookselling company in Philadelphia which expanded in the 19th century to a very large book publishing business.  He and his brother Joseph owned the Chamonix mansion in Fairmount Park.  They are believed to have been descended from the Joseph Warner who arrived in Philadelphia in 1726.

Irish Warners  From Dublin in Ireland came Wettenhall Warner sometimes in the 1760's.  He married, settled, and raised a family in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  Later Warners moved onto Louisiana and Texas.  A descendant J.T. Warner compiled a genealogy of the family in 1894 which was incorporated into Russ Williams' 1968 book Kinsmen All.

Some later Warners from Ireland were:
  • Henry Warner from Dublin who, it was said, "ran away and enlisted as a common sailor before the mast" and ended up in Pittsburgh
  • Warners who left Macroom in Cork for Boston in the 1830's
  • and a Warner family who went from Cork to Texas in 1852.   
German Warners  Christian Wanner's family had come to upstate New York from Germany in the 1700's.  He was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War.  When the War was over he changed his name to Warner and crossed the border with his family into Niagara, Canada.  

Other Warners who came from Germany were:
  • Anthony Warner, a brewer from Baden, who came with his wife Teresa to Nashville, Tennessee in 1835
  • Frank Warner from Baden who immigrated to upstate New York in 1852
  • Nicolis and Wilhelmina Warner from Hanover who went out to California in the 1860's
  • and George and Mary Ann Warner from Baden who came to New Orleans in the 1860's and later settled in Canton, Mississippi.
Then there was a Jewish family from Poland who changed their name from Wonsal to Warner on their arrival in America in the 1880's.  With his three brothers, Jack Warner founded the Warner Brothers movie studio in Hollywood after World War One.  Warner Brothers were one of the premiere filmmakers in Hollywood during the studio era.

It was a Suffolk man, Thomas Warner, who established the first British settlement in the Caribbean, in St. Kitts in 1624.  A later relative, Joseph Warner, rose to be one of the three leading English surgeons of his day and was the first member of the College of Surgeons that was founded in 1750.

Many of Thomas's descendants stayed in the Caribbean.  The Warner family dispersed over the Leeward Islands, some in Antigua, some in Dominica, some in St. Vincent, and some in Trinidad.  By the 19th century the Warners were one of the most powerful families in Trinidad.  Perhaps the best-known of this family was Sir Pelham Warner, the cricketing eminence grise.  His brother Aucher Warner wrote Sir Thomas Warner, a Chronicle of His Family in 1934.  A more recent Warner is Jack Warner, a controversial Trinidadian minister.

Australia and New Zealand.  Lieutenant Jonathan Warner arrived in Australia in 1826 on the Orpheus with the Royal New South Wales Corps.  He was posted to Newcastle, NSW and subsequently settled with his family near Lake Macquarie.  Warners Bay there was named after him.  Suzanne and Waldemar Lotocki's 2008 book The Story of Lieutenant Jonathan Warner and his Family narrates this family's story.

Warners from Alfriston in Sussex were early settlers in South Australia, arriving there in 1840.  James Warner of London, who had come to Sydney in 1837, became a surveyor and was the first to survey the northern territories of Australia in 1846.  One of his sons, also a surveyor, settled in Auckland, New Zealand.

Select Warner Miscellany

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

Select Warner Names

Sir Thomas Warner was a 17th century sea captain and explorer.  He settled in St. Kitts, which in 1624 was the first English colony in the Caribbean.
Ezra Warner was an American inventor who patented the can opener in 1858.
Sir Pelham Warner, generally known as Plum, was a leading English cricketer and administrator in the early 1900's.
Jack Warner was a Hollywood studio mogul, the driving force behind Warner Brothers Studios.  His family was of Polish Jewish roots.

Select Warners Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 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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