Select Garner Surname Genealogy

There are French explanations, more than one, for the English surname Garner.  

The name could have derived from the French word gernier meaning “granary” (and describe someone who was in charge of a grain storehouse); or from the personal name Garnier brought by the Normans; or be a contraction of the Gardiner surname.  

The Gardiner-to-Garner contraction
might well have accounted for many of these Garners, but may have occurred at a later date.  Gardiner, derived from the northern French word gardin, was an occupational name for the person responsible for cultivating the food from the garden.  It was in
the 16th and 17th centuries that the Gardiner name started being shortened to Gardner and, in some cases, to Garner.

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Select Garner Ancestry

England.   Some early sightings of the Garner name were in East Anglia.  Geoffrey Gerner was recorded in Essex in 1272.

However, the later concentration of the name was to be found further north in a westward arc of the country – from Leicestershire in the Midlands onto Staffordshire and Cheshire and then to Lancashire.  These four counties accounted for 45% of all the Garners in the country in the 1881 census.

  The Garner name was cropping up in the 18th century in villages around the county – in Burbage near Hinckley, Hoby near Melton Mowbray, and Fleckney near Harborough.  Three prominent figures in Primitive Methodism – the Revs. John, William, and James Garner - grew up in the early 1800’s in the village of East Leake near Loughborough.

Staffordshire.  The Garners of Lane End were a notable family in Stoke during the 18th and 19th centuries.  A large tomb in the grounds of the Church of St. Peter Ad Vincula commemorated members of the family who died in 1789 and 1837.  Robert Garner and his son Robert had been prominent potters in nearby Longton.

Cheshire.  Garners, according to the writer Alan Garner, have been living at Alderley Edge near Macclesfield since the late 16th century.  They were stonemasons and blacksmiths.  Their local knowledge fed Alan Garner’s imagination and he created a fantasy world of the area in his award-winning novels.

Lancashire.  Garners have been more numerous in Lancashire but less conspicuous.  The name was to be found in the early/mid 1700’s in Northenden and Timperley, now suburbs of Manchester.

.  John Garner is thought to have arrived in Virginia as a young lad from Shrewsbury in England possibly around 1650.  He married Susanna Keene in 1660 and they settled in the Northern Neck of Virginia in Westmoreland county where John was a tobacco planter.  His line was covered in the 1972 book The Garner-Keene Families of Northern Neck by Ruth Ritchie and Sudie Rucker Wood.

One line through a grandson John Garner, also a tobacco farmer, led in the 1760’s to the Garners of Moore and Randolph county, North Carolina.  The Garner House in Moore county, still standing, was built by either John or his son Lewis.

However, the main line remained in Virginia until after the Revolutionary War.  Afterwards there was a scattering, some heading west to Tennessee and Texas and others south to the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama.

One Gardiner line that had come to Maryland became Garner in the early 1700’s.  From John Garner, a planter in Charles county, came Captain Hezekiah Garner who fought in the Second Seminole War and died in Florida of yellow fever in 1841.

Texas.  Sam Houston had made the move from Tennessee to Texas and so did Garners.  There were Garners involved in the battle of Texas independence.  John Garner helped Deaf Smith blow up the bridge at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. 

The Garner family from Rutherford, Tennessee came to Texas in 1851. 

“In 1851 John Nance Garner was just six when he made the long 700-mile trip with his widowed mother and two brothers and three sisters to Blossom Prairie, Texas in a covered wagon.” 

John subsequently fought as a cavalryman on the Confederate side in the Civil War.  His son John Nance Garner, born in 1868, became the US Vice President under Roosevelt in 1933.  This story was recounted in Bascom Timmons’ 1948 book Garner of Texas. 

German.  German names such as Gartner and Baumgartner could become Garner in America.

Henry Gartner from Luxemburg came with his family to North Carolina in the 1740’s, becoming Henry Garner there.  His grandson David, born in 1768, lived to be 104.  He and his wife Jane followed their sons to Illinois in the 1830’s where they encountered the Mormons and joined the Mormon Brigade.  They departed for Iowa rather than Utah, however, and were among the first settlers of
Pottawattamie county where Garner township was named in their honor.

Peter Baumgartner, probably from the Rhine Palatinate, came as Bumgarner, also in the 1740’s, and settled in North Carolina as well.  The line from Woodford Bumgarner, three generations later, went first to Georgia and then to Arkansas and Oklahoma.  It was only in the 1950’s that Bumgarner became Garner – in the case of those well-known brother actors Jack and James Garner.

Australia and New Zealand
.  John Garner from Thetford in Norfolk departed London for Wellington on the Oriental in 1840 and settled in Wanganui a year later.  He was one of the earliest Europeans in the area and has been called the father of Wanganui.

Two later Garner immigrant arrivals to Australia were:
  • James Garner and his family from London who came in 1856 and settled in Sydney.
  • and Hezekiah Garner and his family from Yorkshire who arrived on the Alfred a year later.
Select Garner Miscellany

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

Select Garner Names

Margaret Garner was an enslaved African American woman in pre-Civil War America who was notorious – or celebrated – for killing her own daughter rather than allowing the child to be returned to slavery.
John Nance Garner
was the US Vice President from 1933 to 1941.
Erroll Garner
 was an American jazz pianist and composer known for his swing playing and ballads.
James Garner
, born James Bumgarner, became well-known as an American TV and film actor during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Alan Garner
has been a popular English writer of fantasy fiction, based on the legends and stories in his native Cheshire.
Joel Garner
was a fast bowler in the highly regarded West Indies cricket teams of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s

Select Garners Today
  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 6,000 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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