Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,744 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

688 total views, 5 views today



Sue Mastel

About the study

Mary Isabella (nee Adamthwaite) with her husband and three of their five children

When I started researching my family history almost twenty years ago, I kept returning to my maternal grandmother’s line – she was an Adamthwaite, and the name had always fascinated me.  I quickly discovered that her family had moved to County Durham from Westmorland in the 1870s, but I hit the proverbial brick wall with the marriage of John Adamthwaite and Isabel Keasley in 1753 in the parish of Ravenstonedale, where I was thrilled to discover that there is still an Adamthwaite Farm, located in a very isolated position to the south-west of Harter Fell.

After turning to the Adamthwaite surname list on Rootsweb, I soon met others who were stuck at exactly the same point.  I decided that if I collected details of ALL the Adamthwaites mentioned in the Ravenstonedale Parish Registers, I would be able to work out the identity of John Adamthwaite.  Thus begins the typical one-name study!

Working with those first Adamthwaite researchers I met through Rootsweb and lots more helpful folk we gathered along the way, we have now collected most of the factual data relating to the Adamthwaite surname (Census and BMD results, etc) in the British Isles, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.  However, this project is still very much a work in progress, as we continue to research individual past name holders in order to provide a flavour of the lives they led in the stories written in the Miscellany section of our website.

We currently have just over 100 members on our mailing list. The general aim of our group is to build a comprehensive set of worldwide Adamthwaite family trees and to that end we welcome anyone who has Adamthwaites in their family tree to join our mailing list and share information.

Variant names

Although there are no true variants of the surname, the spelling has evolved over time. The earliest occurrences of the name appear as Adamthwayt and Adamtwat, later becoming Adamthwait. The current form is usually Adamthwaite (occasionally Adamsthwaite), though the name is frequently mis-transcribed. However, I am assured that the correct pronunciation (in and around Ravenstonedale at least) is “Adamth’t”.  And, just in case you were wondering, Ravenstonedale is pronounced “R’zzendale” - and was often written as Russendale in older records. 

Name origin

The 1379 Lay Subsidy Roll for R'dale

It seems highly likely that the surname is locative – and that the earliest name-holders took their name from the hamlet called Adamthwaite in the parish of Ravenstonedale, in the old county of Westmorland, where they were living at the time that hereditary surnames were adopted in this part of the country.  This process is said to have taken place later than in more southern parts of England.  Unfortunately the Domesday Book does not include parishes as far north as Westmorland, so the earliest document in existence which lists individual tenants is the Lay Subsidy Roll, taken in 1379.   The roll for Ravenstonedale is badly damaged, so although we can see that there are 108 individuals listed, around 18% of the names are illegible.    Those which remain include a number of individuals holding names derived from personal names (such as Henrymayden, Atkindoghter). I was very disappointed not to discover a single Adamthwaite amongst the list!

The origin of the place-name Adamthwaite is probably derived from the old Norse ‘thwait’, meaning a clearing, and the personal name Adam (being the person who cleared the land or lived in the clearing).

Historical occurrences of the name

The Pipe Rolls of Cumberland and Westmorland for each of the years between 1235 and 1260 mention an individual referred to as AdamThwayt (earlier entries appear as Adam Cayt or Adam Kayet). Throughout this period, this person paid dues to Alexander of Kirkeby Yrloc (Kirkby Ireleth?)  In 1242, William of Ukmannesby seems to have paid the dues on Adam Cayet’s behalf.  For the years 1248 to 1251, a Thomas of Morland also appears in Adam Thwayt’s entry, paying four marks to capture wild animals. However, I have never found any records connecting this person to Ravenstonedale, so he may or may not have been connected to those families later found living at the hamlet named Adamthwaite. 

Apart from the AdamThwayt mentioned above, the earliest written record we have found for a person definitely holding the surname is for Roland Adamthwaite of Carlisle diocese, who was ordained at New College Chapel Oxford on 28 February 1461. He was the first of a number of Reverends Adamthwaite, a few of whom had somewhat worrying involvement in Yorkshire Academies which were later to be immortalised by Charles Dickens in 'Nicholas Nickleby'!

1770 map of part of the parish of Ravenstonedale

The next Adamthwaites we located, in 1541, were tenants of two hamlets in the parish of Ravenstonedale, Westmorland, England – Adamthwaite, located in an isolated position on the moors three miles from the village, and Artelgarth, much closer to the village itself (see map left, which dates from the 1770s).

They appeared in the first manorial document that survives for the parish, which is a conveyance dating from 1541 following the Dissolution of the Monasteries when the tenancies seized by Henry VIII from the Gilbertine Monastery which previously held the entire parish, were passed over to Lord Wharton, and the document lists the names of the current and former tenants of every property and the agreed payment.  By this time all names mentioned are clearly hereditary.  At Adamthwaite, the four current tenancies were held by Martin Futhergill, Leonard Futhergill, Robart Adamthwait and Rolland Adamthwait and at Artelgarth all three tenancies were held by Adamthwaites: Richard, Henry and William.  No other tenancies in the parish were held by Adamthwaites according to this document.

Adamthwaite Farm and Harter Fell

Both Adamthwaite and Artelgarth are still working farms today - though at Adamthwaite only the largest of the four original farmsteads survives - this was rebuilt by Thomas Adamthwaite in 1684 - but there are still the remains of one or two of the other buildings visible alongside the track leading down past Wandale towards Murthwaite.

Name frequency

We have identified a strong clustering of early records from Ravenstonedale in Westmorland, which reduces after 1800 as families move away from the dale. The following figures relate only to births or baptisms (and there is no guarantee that we have identified every birth/baptism prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1837!)

It should also be noted that during the 17th and 18th centuries, many Adamthwaites were known dissenters, and though they usually married in their local parish church, their baptisms and burials are often not recorded – though our birth/baptism figures below do include many events we have located in Quaker and Congregational records:

1571 - 1600 1601 - 1700 1701 - 1800 1801 - 1900 1901 - 2000
22 96 91 376 318
All births located in Ravenstonedale, apart from two which took place in York. 66 in Westmoreland - all but two of these in R'dale); 18 in Yorks West Riding and 11 in London/Middx 62 in W'land (37 of them in R'dale); 25 in Yorks WR plus two in London and two in Dublin       This century saw a dramatic shift in distribution, with a major shift from North to South: - there were 139 in London/Surrey and 63 in W'land (only one in R'dale).  59 in Yorks, 40 in Lancs, 28 in Durham   remainder spread across nine other counties                 173 in London and the SE, 94 in the NE, 26 in the NW, 14 in the Midlands and 11 in Eastern regions.  Plus 5 in Scotland/Wales.     

The Public Profiler website for Great Britain reports that there were 116 people with the surname Adamthwaite living in Great Britain in 1998; the accompanying distribution map shows the highest concentrations of the surname in London and the south east with another small pocket in West Yorkshire. 

The Public Profiler website for World Names reports a Frequency per million of the surname in the following countries as:

  • United Kingdom       2.43
  • New Zealand           0.71
  • Canada                   0.23
  • United States          0.08

However, the most populous country is known to be Australia – missing from the Public Profiler data altogether!

Distribution of the name

Distribution maps for each of the 1841 - 1911 UK censuses are shown on our website together with information about migration within England and passenger records for those Adamthwaites who made the journey to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.  This illustration shows the distribution in 1841 in England and Wales, at the beginning of the period of greatest movement of Adamthwaite families towards London and the South East of England.


The Resource section of our Adamthwaite Archive website includes comprehensive BMD and census data for Britain (with a growing amount of BMD and Census/electoral data for Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada), as well as Indexes to Wills and Probate records, Apprenticeship records, Passenger Lists, Hearth Tax, Tithe Records, Trade Directories, Electoral Registers, Military Records, Newspaper references, copies of historic wills and other historical documents.

By cross indexing the BMD and census records, together with invaluable information gleaned from early wills, we have been able to reconstruct ten family lines - all of which originate in Ravenstonedale (Westmorland) or nearby towns, or just across the county border in Sedbergh (West Riding of Yorkshire). Both places are now in the county of Cumbria. A vast majority of BMD events between 1700 and 1950 and virtually all census records have been classified into one of these family lines and are clearly identified on the spreadsheets using a colour-coded system, which is also used on all other spreadsheets throughout the resource section. Amongst the international membership of the Adamthwaite mailing list we have at least one representative of each of these family lines:

ADAMTHWAITE/McEVER - violet line             origins in Sedbergh, Yorks This is the oldest line we have reconstructed, and can trace it back with some degree of certainty to William Adamthwaite of Holebeck in Frostrow, Sedbergh largely because of the very helpful wills left by a whole dynasty of Sedbergh Adamthwaites.  This William was buried in 1696, and would have been born before 1619; it now looks as if he was descended from a line of Adamthwaites who lived at Adamthwaite farm in Ravenstonedale.
ADAMTHWAITE/STEPHENSON - yellow line origins in Ravenstonedale, Westmorland William (1706-1756) married first a Dorothy ? and second Agnes Metcalf in 1742.  Their son William (1744 - ?) married Jane Stephenson in Ravenstonedale in 1767, but after 1800 all members of this line appear in and around London after their two sons Edward and Matthew allegedly walked to London (though nothing more is known about Matthew).
ADAMTHWAITE/VIPOND -  orange line           (a branch of the violet line)                       origins Sedbergh, Yorks  The discovery of the will of one of the violet line Adamthwaites (William of Branthwaite) established that the Vipond Adamthwaites were almost certainly a branch of that line - but the line moved off in a different direction altogether (socially & geographically), so we have kept them separate!  Thomas Adamthwaite (1748-1816) married Lucy Vipond and he moved to London where he was a Notary Public.  As far as we are aware, there are no surviving Adamthwaites of this line in the UK but we are in contact with some in the USA.
ADAMTHWAITE/KEASLEY - olive green line   origins Ravenstondale, Westmorland This John Adamthwaite was born in about 1725 and married Isabel Keasley in Ravenstonedale in 1753, when they were both described as 'of this parish' - but we can't find a birth for him.  It is known that he was a nonconformist, and I have a strong suspicion from newly discovered documents that he was a son of Thomas 'of Murthwaite' who married Isabel Baylife in 1710 (Isabel died in 1736) though no baptisms for children of this couple appear in the parish registers .  One branch of this line emigrated to Australia, but a number of descendants still live in England.
ADAMTHWAITE/PEARSON -  teal line           place of origin unknown                                         Originally we though this was part of the OLIVE line, but we now know from our DNA program, that Thomas Adamthwaite, who married Mary Pearson in Kirkby Stephen in 1774 shared a common ancestor with both the BLUE line and the YELLOW line. However, we have not yet found a baptism for Thomas, though he does not appear to be a Dissenter.  A number of descendants of this line now live in Australia.
ADAMTHWAITE/STEEL -  grey line               origins Brough, Westmorland This line is headed by a William Adamthwaite, born before 1750 who married a Jane Devis in Brough under Stainmore in 1769. His grandson John Adamthwaite was married to Sarah Steel and they ran the Punchbowl Inn in Stainmore - a number of their descendants now live in Canada and Australia.
ADAMTHWAITE/HUNTER -  light green line   origins reputedly Ravenstonedale, Westmorland This line originates with John Adamthwaite who was born in about 1776 and married Margaret Hunter in 1803 in Hurworth on tees.  We know that John was a teacher in the Adamthwaite Academy in Bowes and on his memorial he was described as 'a native of Adamthwaite in Westmorland', but to date we have not found his birth and have been unable to work out how he might have been related to the other Adamthwaites who were also involved in the schools at Bowes and Winton. The line appears to have 'daughtered out' after 1865.
ADAMTHWAITE/WHITESMITH - blue line       origins Appleby, Westmorland We know that William Adamthwaite 'of Appleby' married Hannah Whitesmith in Tynemouth in 1791 and that William was a farmer/butcher and for a while an Innkeeper in Appleby.  From his age at death, he would have been born in about 1774 but we have been unable to find a birth record for him in any of the villages around Appleby or Shap where he died.  Two of his sons (William and Edward) are believed to have walked to London, and all known descendants were living in southern England in the censuses. yDNA shows this line shares a common ancestor with the YELLOW and TEAL lines.
ADAMTHWAITE/KNEWSTUBB - turquoise line origins Ravenstonedale, Westmorland This is one of the more recently identified lines and appears to be the only group whose descendants remained in Cumbria until the middle of the 20th century.  William Adamthwaite (1777-1828) was the illegitimate son of Mary Adamthwaite, a young servant girl, who, within two years of her son's birth, married 84 year old Joseph Hunter (both were 'of Tarn House'), who MAY have been William's father.  William  married Mary Knewstubb in 1802 in Ravenstonedale, and interestingly, one of their children's baptisms recorded the father's name as William 'Adamthwaite or Hunter'.  Sadly there are no living male descendants to prove this hypothesis!

ADAMTHWAITE/GARLICK -   pink line           (a branch of the olive line)  origins Brough, Westmorland

This highly successful branch of the olive green line is headed up by John Adamthwaite (1780-1843).  He was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Adamthwaite, who was a daughter of John and Isabel (Keasley).  He married Mary Garlick at Manchester Cathedral in 1807. By 1811 John he was listed in Manchester Trade Directories as a coal merchant, a few years later he appeared as a brewer.  At some point he and William Lupton owned Lupton and Adamthwaite Brewery.  Some of John and Mary's descendants lived in Ireland for a time and later some emigrated to Australia, though there are no living descendants who carry the surname Adamthwaite.









Our original hypothesis was that most, if not all, of the Adamthwaite lines that we have identified were originally descended from a single individual male named Adamthwaite, and that he lived in the farm of that name near Ravenstonedale in Westmoreland. However after embarking on our yDNA surname project in September 2008 at Family Tree DNA, it became apparent from the first few results received that in fact three of the largest of the ten lines identified were descended from different individuals, and that probably the place came before the surname, which was adopted by several different families who were living at Adamthwaite around the time that surnames were first adopted. The latest theory is that there were at least four biological ancestors, but we are hopeful that as more volunteers join the project, the picture will be clarified!

As well as our yDNA research project, which tracks the surname through generations of male Adamthwaite surname bearers, we have also recently started to accept Family Finder results from male and female Adamthwaite descendants, which is helping to confirm the validity of the reconstructions of our ten lines, even when there are no male descendants to take a yDNA test. So, whether you are male or female, and even if you are not an Adamthwaite by birth, if you have Adamthwaites 'in your blood' you too can join this exciting new branch of our DNA study!

Because the Family Finder results indicate that the participants carry DNA not just from their Adamthwaite ancestors but also from several other old Ravenstonedale families - we have also set up a Ravenstonedale DNA Project, which aims to discover more about the genetic links between descendants of families known to have lived in the dale prior to 1700.