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2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

I first started researching my husband's Yeo family in 1991. His branch of the Yeo family descends from South Tawton, near Okehampton, Devon and the progenitor of this branch was a Robert Yeo who married a Joane Arscott in 1719. The problem I then had was where was Robert born? Fortunately for me, when he was buried in South Tawton, on the 28th January, 1772 his age was recorded as 80. The only IGI entry I could find for this was a Robert son of Robert and Margaret Brown, baptised in Merton on the 16th March, 1692 but I had to prove this. Over the next few months/years I worked through all the Devon Parish registers that had not been IGI'd, extracting early Yeo baptisms. This was the start of the Yeo One Name Study....

It soon became apparent that many Yeo branches had experienced the same problems, and that it was only by collecting all Yeo baptisms and other events plus sharing information that we would be able to solve some of the problems. Over the last twelve years many Yeo descendants have joined together and shared their research and my role has been as a 'caretaker' of much of their information

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are Yea, Yewe, Yaw, Yawe. Yoe and these can be found in many early parish registers where clerks couldn'€™t spell the name Yeo. The Yea & Yawe names have continued in some branches, although in the Bampton, Devon area there is much confusion after Civil Registration began in 1837 as entries initially appear as Yaw, Yaw, Yew and then change to Yeo.

Name origin

PRINCE says: 'There was a fair dwelling named Yeo (Yeovale), in the parish of Alwington, in the north-west part of Devon, which gave its name to its inhabitants, which, as it is supposed, it took from a fair stream of water near by, in the old Saxon language called 'ey' or 'e'a,' and in the French 'eau,' and hence corruptly 'yeau,' and at last Yeo.

Certainly the first mention of the name is when William became Sheriff of Devon in 1359 and then he was named as William atte Yeo. It is of interest that before the Norman invasion many rivers in Devon & Cornwall were named Nymet, yet after 1066 they changed to Yeo, which would suggest the name was of French origin. Most people with the name Yeo, Yea, Yew, Yawe and Yaw seem to descend from this source.

Historical occurrences of the name

The pedigree of Yeo of Heanton Sachvile commences with the name of William Yeo, who was sheriff of Devon in 1359 and inherited Heanton Sachville through his marriage to Anne Esse,. From this marriage descend the various branches of Yeo of Huish, Yeo of Hatherleigh, Yeo of Shebbear, and Yeo of Bradworthy; the main line of Yeo of Heanton Sachvile running out in the 10th descent, in the person of a female heir, into the family of Rolle. William was witness to a deed of John Holland for land in Sheepwash in the 24th year of the reign of King Edward III, using the name of William at Yeo; as he had been the year before to a deed of Richard Hody to John de Chelsharn, in Torrington. He married Anne, the daughter and heir of John Esse, or Ashe, of Devon, by whom he had a son, Robert Yeo of Heanton Sachvile, living 1410, who married possibly a Brightley, by whom he had issue Robert Yeo, who died in 1409, having married Joan, the daughter and heir of William Pyne, of Bradwell, by whom he had a son, John Yeo, of Heanton Sachvile, son and heir, aged nineteen years and more at the death of lis father, and who married Alice, the daughter and co-heir of William Jewe, of Cotleigh, by whom he had a son, William Yeo, of Heanton Sachvile, who married Ellen, the daughter of William Grenville, of Stowe and his wife Phillipa nee Bonville..

The recorded issue of this marriage is as follows: Helen, married to John Holland; Alice, married to Philip Stafford; and five sons,Robert, Nicholas, Edward, Leonard, and Robert. These sons and their offspring married into many prominent Devon families such as the Fortescues, Walronds, Carys, Fulfords, Loveys, Honeychurchs, Monks, Bassetts, Crockers and Rolles. From the latter marriage between Margaret Yeo & Henry Rolle came the branch of Rolle of Titherleigh, and in direct succession, Robert Rolle, of Heanton Sachvile; Sir Samuel Rolle, Robert Rolle, ancestor of the Lords Clinton through his marriage with Lady Arabella, the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln; Samuel Rolle, Margaret Baroness Clinton; and George, 3rd Earl of Orford, (Walpole family). The estate of Heanton Sachvile is now the property of Trefusis, Baron Clinton, through the foregoing line.

Through these various marriages of heiresses and co-heiresses of Sachvile, Esse, Pyne, Jewe, and Brightley, the family of Yeo are entitled to quarter the respective female coats of arms. There are numerous Yeo descendants who have left their mark for prosperity and some of their biographies can be read on the Yeo ONS website.

Name frequency

The main '€˜family seat'€™ of the Yeo family from 1350 -“ 1582 was Heanton Satchville in the parish of Petrockstowe and most of the Yeos recorded between 1524 & 1674 can be tracked back to William and Ellen Grenville or William'€™s elder brother Richard (Yea/Yewe/Yaw/Yawe)]. The name appears mainly in North Devon/North Cornwall, although in the parishes on the south coast there were odd Yeos who were probably mariners. All the Yeo family trees have their roots in Devon although in the early 1500'€™s one branch moved to Wiltshire (Bradford on Avon and then Great Somerford, another to North Cornwall around the Stratton area and another to Somerset around the Wivelscombe area and there are many descendants of these branches. In the 1600'€™s a few had moved to Exeter, where they were merchants or tradesmen and at this time the name spread to America as several emigrated as part of the New England exploration and this is where the name changed to Yoe.

Distribution of the name

Now the name has spread worldwide, but in England the most densely populated county is still Devon with the most populous area being around Barnstaple.


Numerous databases can be found on the Yeo One Name Study website and these include transcribed early Yeo Wills, Parish register entries, censuses, immigration records and family pages. The latter includes old photographs and information shared by many other Yeo descendants.

The Civil Registration records can now be searched on-line through the GOONS electronic archives

Searchable on-line Yeo Family Trees using Tribal Pages which include trees & photographs.


Details on the Yeo DNA project can be viewed here
Yeo DNA Project