Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,765 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

1,439 total views, 1 views today




About the study

The one-name study (ONS) is new (begun 2012) but I have been researching the name since I was 12, over 40 years ago... To date it has been family history, using the follow-my-nose approach. I started investigating other Maskew families for the usual reason of having hit a ‘brick wall’ - if I couldn’t verify to my complete pernickety genealogical satisfaction who were the parents of Thomas Maskew b.c. 1785 (one has of course one’s strong suspicions) by the conventional means of tracing carefully backwards in time, them dammit I’ll sneak up on them from behind. One thing lead to another and I have gathered quite a bit of scattered information about the Maskew families in York in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, have plotted two main lines in detail, and the Cumbria, Ilkley, Bingley, New Zealand and South African Maskews to a lesser extent. Now it has become an official One Name Study I am bucking up and getting systematic.

(The USA will be my last priority as there is extensive US data on, run by a separate researcher, indeed a family effort now in its third generation.)

Variant names

Only the unquestioned variant Maskewe is registered, though dozens of spellings noted over the years include Mascue, Maskue, Masco, etc. The big question-mark hangs over Myerscough - try pronouncing it with a strong Cumberland accent - which is thankfully (as it would involve an even greater level of obsession to tackle!) separately registered as a One-Name Study. It could in fact be a variant, as there is a village in Westmorland where both names are used in the parish records in the eighteenth century, in one case possibly with regard to the same individual. T.b.c.!

(A recent (2014) problem concerns Ayscough/Askew, as an early York Will refers to "my loving cozen Askew" but I am hiding under the duvet away from that thought at present...)

Name origin

The origin may be locative; there is a Myerscough (q.v. above) place name in modern N.W. Lancashire, near Garstang where there were several early Maskews. There is a suggestion on one of the ubiquitous surname websites that the name is originally French, with the first Maskews coming to England as Huguenot refugees; the earliest such Baptism is of Jeanne Mascau at the French Huguenot Church in Threadneedle Street, London, on 13 December 1629 (IGI). This is however incorrect: they are a later and probably unrelated family (and appear to have died out quickly), and are hence not the primary origin of the name as there were Maskews well established in York a century earlier: Robert Maskewe entered the Merchants’ Company there in 1547, so was born by at least c. 1526. Across the Pennines, there were also Maskews in Underbarrow in what is now Cumbria in the 1500s, and a little to the south John Maskewe of Cartmel in Furness left a Will in 1593.

The name is concentrated initially in Yorkshire and historic Westmorland, with some in Lancashire. By the nineteenth century although there were still Maskews there, another cluster is also found around Rochdale, where many worked in the cotton mills. (And throughout the whole period, Myerscoughs were found across Lancashire. )

Historical occurrences of the name

Some interesting Maskews include:

The above Robert Maskewe was Lord Mayor of York in 1574
His sister-in-law, Bridget Maskewe, nee Bickerdike, was a Catholic recusant of profound adherence to her faith. At the heart of the tight-knit circle of leading York recusant families, she almost certainly knew well ‘The Blessed Margaret Clitheroe’ (in the terminology of the time) who was horribly martyred in 1586, and Bridget's own brother was The Blessed Robert Bickerdike, who was martyred the same year. Bridget herself was sentenced to death in 1596 for refusing to convert. As a noblewoman she was imprisoned in York Castle, where she had to be gagged when taken as a prisoner to Protestant church in the hope of her conversion, for she would otherwise shout out, “The priest lies!” Feisty. She escaped death by the demise of Elizabeth 1 in 1603 and the accession of James V1 of Scotland and 1 of England, who had a more flexible attitude to many things. She had been released by 1615, was still alive in 1633, and is the likely ancestress of many later Maskewes.

Jonathan Maskew was similarly devoted to his faith, but of a very different variant: Methodism. One of the Bingley Maskews, he joined the Methodists about 1744, and was a recognised preacher by 1752. Wesley said of him that “ten such preachers would carry the world before them”. He too suffered for his belief: as an itinerant preacher he walked constantly, often across stony moors and fields, and through the snows of winter. He was also frequently attacked, verbally and physically; in one much-recorded episode at Guiseley he was ‘stripped nearly naked, rolled in the dirt and almost killed’.

Frederick Maskew led we trust a quieter life as Cape Town’s first Librarian. Descended from one of two Maskew brothers from Underbarrow in Westmorland, who had arrived in the Colony by 1818, he set up the Colony’s Library, compiled its first Catalogue, and edited several related books.

William Henry Maskew, another South African Maskew, was one of the first to publish poetry in Afrikaans; indeed when he died in 1903 he was described as ‘the first Afrikaans poet’.

In the 1800s many Maskews worked in the Lancashire cotton mills.

Thomas Ratsey Maskew (1818 – 1893) was a classicist (winning prizes both at Sherborne School and Trinity College Cambridge), ordained priest of the Church of England, and Headmaster of Dorchester Grammar School 1846 -78. I am writing a book on his life.

Engineer Gordon Maskew Fair (1894 – 1970) was born in South Africa, but died in Cambridge Massachusetts USA as a respected academic, teacher and practitioner in environmental engineering. The American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) still makes the annual Gordon Maskew Fair Award in his honour.

Trish Maskew is (2010) Adjunct Faculty at the Washington College of Law, where she teaches adoption law, policy, and practice. She is also an attorney with the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Immigration Litigation. Before joining the Department of Justice, she worked in the adoption field first as a practitioner, then in 2002 as founder of Ethica, a non-governmental organization dedicated to adoption reform, where she served as President until 2008. She has also published books on adoption for the general public.

The South African publishing house Maskew Miller was founded in 1893, and has long been the leading educational book publisher in South Africa, taken over during the 20th century by Longmans and now publishing as Maskew Miller Longmans.

Distribution of the name

There were 59 Maskews (according to Find My Past) in the 1841 Census. According to, in the 1881 Census there were 107, very concentrated in the Yorkshire, Leeds, and Bradford areas, with a few in Oldham, and Southampton. By 1998 there were 108, a little more widely distributed. There are at present also Maskews in South Africa, Australia and the USA, but the surname appears to have died out in New Zealand. (These were the four main known foci of Maskew emigration from the UK.)


The ONS began by capturing all Maskew references in the 1841 to 1911 Census, and placing them all (except a handful of puzzle individuals) into family lines for the nineteenth century. This is now largely complete. All Maskew (and variant) references have been extracted from the complete set of Yorkshire Parish Register Society publications, and the same exercise has also been completed for Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland, and Lincolnshire. Currently all data is being extracted from the post-1858 National Probate Index, and as many earlier Wills as possible, to deepen and enhance the family trees already complied from the above. Thoroughly checking all BMD indexes post-1837, and IGI indexes, and going back to the original parish register entries where available, will be done, although much of this has happened already over the years so it will be more of a check that every last stone has been unturned, rather than a trawl for new information.

The next effort is to trace each family line backwards to link up with the earlier data already identified, and to put information on public websites where it can be readily found.

At this stage it looks as though it should be possible to reconstruct all Maskew family trees back to the beginning of parish records. (Touch wood!)

A hundred (ish) year rule is maintained for confidentiality, meaning data from 1900 and later will not be made public. Later data is however being captured where possible, and if you wish to investigate your own Maskew connections please contact me, providing as much information as you have so we can see where you link in.