Select Carver Surname Genealogy

Carver as a surname derived from the occupation Ė a carver in wood or in stone (i.e. a sculptor), with the former being the more likely explanation.  The root of the name was the Middle English kerven, meaning ďto cutĒ or ďto carve.Ē  Gerard le Kerver was recorded in Essex in 1209 and Richard le Kerver in Lincolnshire in 1275.

Some Carvers were not from England.  There were Protestants who came from Flanders Ė Deryk Carver from Dilsun who took refuge in England in 1545 and John Carver who departed from Leidun for America on the Mayflower in 1620.  And some came later from Germany or Switzerland with like-sounding names such as Gerber (meaning ďtannerĒ) that became Carver in America

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Select Carver Ancestry

EnglandThe Carver surname seems to have first surfaced in East Anglia.  The name looks to have then spread north and westwards (into Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lancashire) and also southwards (to Bedfordshire, London and the southeast).

Great Yarmouth in Norfolk had one concentration of Carvers.  Robert Carver, the emigrant to New England in 1638, had come from the village of Filby near Great Yarmouth.  Thomas Carver, born in 1711, was a tenant farmer with a thatched cottage in Hardley, a village on the Norfolk Broads near Norwich.  He had three sons - Thomas, John, and James.  Some of their descendants have remained in Norfolk, others have emigrated.

One family line in Nottingham dates back to the marriage of William Carver and Joan Walker in 1696.  There has been some suspicion, although no proof, that John Carver, the Mayflower emigrant, came from Nottingham.

The Carvers were cattle and sheep farmers at Ingarsby in fox-hunting Leicestershire in the 1700ís.  William Carver was living at his home there at Old Ingarsby in the 1840ís.  One branch of the family which had moved around this time with the Creswells to Gibraltar expanded into other areas.  As a descendant Humphrey Carver recalled in his 1975 memoir Compassionate Landscape:

ďIn Gibraltar, the Carver business prospered, shifting their attention from buying port and sherry for the hunt in Leicestershire to exporting cotton goods to Morocco.  This then became Carver Brothers, buying raw cotton in Egypt and exporting it to the Lancashire mills."

ManchesterCarver Brothers were based in Manchester, but included Benjamin Carver in Gibraltar and Sydney Carver in Alexandria.  Meanwhile the line from cotton merchant Harold Carver, who had worked for Carver Brothers after World War One, led to Field Marshal Lord Carver, a highly decorated combat veteran of World War Two who went on to hold the most senior posts in the British army.

There was a second Carver family in Manchester based on cotton.  This began when two brothers Thomas and John Carver, financed by their father William, bought the Hollins mill at Marple near Manchester in 1858.  It was Thomasís son William who married Kate Armitage, the daughter of another cotton manufacturer,and then increased the family wealth substantially.  He was able to buy the stately home of Cranage Hall in Cheshire.

ďThe 1901 census showed that William and Kate had three children and could afford to employ eight live-in servants - a housekeeper, cook, nurse and five maids.Ē

Two of Williamís sons died in World War One, including Oswald, a rower who competed in the 1908 Olympics (interestingly his widow Elizabeth went on to marry Field Marshal Montgomery).   Joyce Donaldís 1970 booklet The Carver Family covered this family.

Sussex.  Sussex on the south coast had the highest concentration of Carvers in the 1881 census.  There were two notable Carver families there, one coming from the outside and the other apparently home-grown.

Deryk Carver
was a Protestant refugee from Flanders who came to Brighton, then a small fishing town, around 1545.  However, when Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553, England was no longer a Protestant haven and Deryk was burnt at the stake.  Despite his death his descendants remained a presence in Brighton in the following centuries.

Carvers were yeoman farmers in West Sussex from about 1600 onwards, first at Sutton near Petworth and then at Tillingham near Findon.  John Carver was recorded as marrying Ann Scotcher at Sutton in 1679.  Much later, during the agricultural recession of the 1830ís, George Carver departed Tillingham for a new life in Canada.  Some of his letters home have been preserved.

SomersetThe Carver name has also cropped up in the Somerset village of Buckland Dinham near Frome.  John Carver married Mary Ayers in 1757 and ten other Carver marriages were recorded there in the next eighty years.  The progenitor of these Carvers may have been John Carver who had moved there from Norfolk in the 16th century.

.  Carver is an Irish surname of uncertain origin found almost only in the county of Cork:
  • Thomas Carver, born in Cork in the mid-1700ís, moved to Limerick where he operated a dairy farm.  His descendants returned to Cork.
  • Cornelius Carver, born in 1802, was a bookseller in Cork city.  
  • while other Carvers were to be found in the New Market area of Cork.  
All of these families had Carvers who emigrated to New York or Massachusetts in the mid/late 1800ís.

  Not that much is known about John Carver who came on the Mayflower in 1620 and was the first Governor of the Plymouth colony.  He lasted less than six months in Plymouth and left no descendants.

There were two Carver arrivals around 1638, Richard from Norfolk and Robert of uncertain origins. Richard settled in Watertown but soon died, leaving only daughters.  Robert made his home in Marshfield.  He was a sawyer by trade.

Although Robert Carver had only one known child (named John), he had a number of grandsons to continue the family name: 
  • the eldest was William, born in 1659, who lived in Marshfield to the age of 102.  The Marshfield homestead stayed in Carver hands until the early 1900ís.  
  • Deacon Eleazer was born in 1668.  His descendant Eleazer migrated north to Vermont in the 1790ís.  This line was covered in Fred Carverís 1971 book Genealogy of the Rev. Eleazer Carver Family.
  • and Ensign David was born in 1669.  He later moved to Weymouth and to Canterbury, Connecticut.  His son Jonathan was an early explorer in the 1760ís of the American West.  Carver county in Minnesota was later named in his honor.  
Virginia.  William Carver was a merchant mariner who was master of a ship engaged in trade between the English port of Bristol (probably his native city) and the colonies.  His name first appeared in Virginia records in 1659 when he patented land in Lower Norfolk county.  He got caught up in Baconís Rebellion against the Governorís rule in 1676 and was hanged for his efforts.

However, William left descendants in Virginia, many of whom settled in Albemarle county.  Richard Carver migrated from there after the Revolutionary War to Spartanburg, North Carolina and later Carvers settled in Georgia.  Morgan Carver meanwhile departed for Kentucky where he died in 1863 at the grand age of 108. 

Pennsylvania.  John Carver was a Quaker from Hertfordshire who came with William Penn on the Welcome in 1682.  A maltster by trade, he took up land at Byberry near Philadelphia.

ďIt was said that his eldest daughter Mary was born in a cave on the site of Philadelphia, the first child of English parents in the province.Ē

John Carverís farm
remained in the family for five generations, descending from father to son (all of whom were named John) until 1864. 

Johnís brothers William, Joseph and Jacob Carver arrived in Pennsylvania at around the same time as John.  Joseph married and moved to North Carolina near Carvers Creek; Jacob died unmarried; while
William traded in his farm at Byberry for land in Bucks county.  His line was covered in Frank Caligiuriís 2018 book The Carver Family of Bucks County.

Other Carvers.  Two Mennonite Gerber families from Switzerland came to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania around the year 1735.  Their name was often spelt Garber and, in many cases, became Carver.

Michael Gerber did become Michael Carver sometime after his arrival in Pennsylvania in 1751.  His son Christian fought in the Revolutionary War and later settled in Ohio.  Christianís sons Moses and Richard, born there, migrated by covered wagon to Missouri in 1838.  Richard later moved onto Kansas. 

Moses Carver
, however, stayed on in Missouri as a plantation owner and slave-holder.  He is remembered today because of a slave on his plantation named George Washington Carver. 
After slavery was abolished, Moses and his wife Susan raised George and his brother James as their own children.  George later became renowned for his work at Tuskegee University in his advocacy of crop rotation.  Mosesís farm in Newton county is now known for its George Washington Carver National Monument.

Nova Scotia has the largest concentration of Carvers in the country today.

Christopher Carver had arrived in Nova Scotia sometime in the 1830ís and made his home in Baker Settlement, Lunenburg county.  His son Hiram, born in 1841, was like his father a woodsman.  He married Mary Baker and, in so doing, inherited the Baker homestead.  Carvers remained at the homestead until the 1980ís.

The Carver name had spread to Queens and Shelburne counties in Nova Scotia by the time of the 1901 census

Select Carver Miscellany

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

Select Carver Names

Deryk Carver was a Protestant martyr who was burnt at the stake in Lewes in 1555.
John Carver
who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620 was the first Governor of the Plymouth colony.  He died less than a year later.
George Washington Carver
, born a slave, became famous in America for his work as a botanist and his advice on crop rotation.

Michael Lord Carver
was a highly decorated combat veteran of World War Two who went on to hold the most senior posts in the British army.
Raymond Carver
was an American short story writer of the 1980ís.

Select Carvers Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina) 
  • 4,000 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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