Select Gardner Surname Genealogy

The surname Gardner derived from the northern French gardin and was introduced to Britain after the Norman invasion of 1066.  It was an occupational name.  

The function of the gardiniere in medieval times was a very important one.  He was responsible for the kitchen garden, which provided almost the only source of fresh food and herbs, and hence played a critical part in maintaining the health of the household. The use of the word gardener, referring to someone who tended ornamental lawns and flower beds, was a later application.  

That may not be the only derivation.  Other sources have claimed that the name was derived from the Saxon words gar, meaning "a weapon," and dyn meaning "sound or alarm," combined with the termination "er."  

Gardner and Gardiner
are the main spellings today, although there are other variants.  Gardiner was probably the earlier spelling that was later shortened to Gardner.

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EnglandEarly sightings of the surname in 1273 placed it in eastern England – Geoffrey le Gardener in Oxfordshire, Ralph le Gardiner in Huntingdonshire, and William le Gardiner in Lincolnshire.  

Eastern England
.  Oxfordshire has sometimes been cited as a possible origin of the Gardiner surname.  Various de Gardinis and Gardiners were recorded in the county in the mid-13th century.  William Gardiner, born there in 1451, was a cloth merchant before enlisting as a mercenary in the campaign of Henry Tudor.  It was said that he slew Richard III with a pollaxe at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.  

“Richard’s horse was trapped in the marsh where he was slain by one of Rhys Thomas’ men, a commoner named William Gardiner.”  

Other early Gardiners hailed from Suffolk.  Their numbers included: 
  • Sir Richard Gardiner who became Lord Mayor of London in 1478.  He grew up in Exning near Newmarket. 
  • Stephen Gardiner who served as the English Lord Chancellor in the 1550’s during the reign of Queen Mary.  He was born in Bury St. Edmunds where his father John was a cloth merchant.  
  • and Sir Robert Gardiner who held the post of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in the early 1600’s.  He came from the small village of Shimpling.
The Tudor writer William Camden, referring of Stephen Gardiner, averred that "his name was not Gardener as the English pronounce it, but Gardiner with the French accent and therefore a gentleman."

.  Sir Osbern Gardiner, probably a Norman knight, was recorded at Oral manor in Wigan parish in Lancashire in the 12th century.  Legend has it that he joined the Second Crusade and won his crest at Acre in 1191 by chopping through the shoulder of a Saracen who was about to kill Richard the Lionheart.  Later Gardiners were to be found at Otley and nearby at Pilling and Garstang.  Whether Sir Osbern himself was the antecedent of subsequent Gardiners in Lancashire, Yorkshire, or even in Scotland is based more on speculation than on proven fact.

Aldringham Hall near Ulverstone in Lancashire was the seat of one Gardner family for nigh on five hundred years.  Gardners in fact became quite numerous in Lancashire.   Hugo Gardner was a burgess of Liverpool in the early 1600’s.  His descendant Edmund Gardner founded England’s first timber firm in 1748 for the import of hardwoods.  The business prospered.  Joseph Gardner helped develop Blundellsands as a well-to-do suburb of Liverpool during the 19th century.

By the end of the 16th century the Gardner name was also in the west country - in Gloucestershire primarily but also in Somerset and Devon.

Gardiner-to-Gardner.  The shortening of Gardiner to Gardner began in the 17th century, perhaps earlier in Lancashire.  By the time of the 1881 census the Gardner/Gardiner ratio in England was about 70/30, which is roughly what it is today.

Scotland.   The Gardiner name in Scotland dates from the 15th century.   The best-known Gardiners were those at Bankton House near Edinburgh.  Captain Patrick Gardiner had been killed fighting abroad in Germany in the 1690's.  His son James became a Colonel in the British army and he also died in combat, this time at Prestonpans in 1745 fighting against Bonnie Prince Charlie.  The battle took place very near Bankton House and he died of his wounds within sight of his own home.

Ireland.   Gardner or Gardiner is an English implant, found either in Dublin or the Ulster counties. 

William Gardner from Lancashire commanded a company within the walls of Londonderry in the siege of 1689.   His grandson Allen from Coleraine joined the British navy and attained the high rank of Admiral during the Napoleonic wars. 

Luke Gardiner was probably of English origin, although he was described as a "sturdy parvenu of Irish descent."  He was a successful land developer in Dublin in the early 18th century, contributing much to the Georgian look of the town.  His Gardiners later became Viscount Mountjoy and the Earl of Blessington. However, the first Earl squandered his inheritance and died in Paris in 1829 at the age of 46.

America.  Probably the first Gardner to arrive in America was Richard Gardener, a seaman on the Mayflower in 1620.  But he died that year or soon after without issue.  Other Gardiners and Gardners followed, mostly into New England.

Two early Gardner arrivals there have a large and distinguished descendant list:
  • Thomas Gardner who came to Cape Ann in 1623 with his first wife Margaret and their three sons.  He is considered by some to have been the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony.  He was buried on Gardner Hill in Salem.  Prominent Gardner descendants have been Thomas Gardner the patriot who fell at Bunker Hill in 1775 and the businessman Jack Gardner whose wife founded the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
  • and Lion Gardiner from Scotland who came to Boston in 1635 and then settled in Long Island.  He acquired Gardiners Island off Long Island in 1639 and this island has remained with his family ever since.  Among his Gardiner descendants were New York state senator David Gardiner, whose daughter married President Tyler; and Winthrop Gardiner, the 14th proprietor of Gardiners Island who married the Norwegian figure skater and actress Sonja Henie.
Two other notable early New England families have been:
  • the Gardiners of Rhode Island.  George Gardiner came to Newport in 1638 and was one of the early settlers of Rhode Island.  George had thirteen children by two wives.  A grandson John Gardiner was a Deputy Governor of the colony.  Gardiner has been the preferred spelling in Rhode Island.  They jokingly referred to the “blind Gardners” (those without an “i”) as those who left Rhode Island and spelt their name differently.  The family history was recounted in Caroline Robinson’s 1919 book The Gardiners of Narragansett
  • and the Gardners of Nantucket.  They were seafarers who became a well-known whaling family.  Their forebear was Thomas Gardner from Hampshire who had come to Massachusetts in 1624 and settled in Nantucket in 1673.  He remained on the island for the rest of his life, sailing ships from their port until his death in 1706.  Later Gardners intermarried with other early families of Nantucket - the Coffins, Starbucks, Folgers and Macys.  Their whaling heyday was the early 1800's.  Captain Edmund Gardner recounted many of his whaling adventures in his Journal.
Canada.  Thomas Gardner moved from Boston to Nova Scotia in the 1760’s after the defeat of the French. His descendants at Liverpool were shipbuilders and privateers on the British side in the Revolutionary War. 

Archie Gardner
was one of a number of Scottish Gardners who left their homes near Glasgow for a new life in Canada in the 1820’s.   Many of these Gardners were converted to the Mormon faith.  In fact 24 Gardners made the journey from Warwick in Canada to Salt Lake valley in 1847.

South Africa
.  James Gardner from Kirkcaldy in Scotland came to the Eastern Cape in the 1830’s as a soldier before staying on as a road engineer.  Two of his wives died there because of the harsh conditions and he himself was murdered in the early 1850’s.   His children were found wandering in the bush and were taken into missionary care.  The eldest son Charles married and became a farmer in Barkly East in the Eastern Cape.

Australia and New Zealand
.  Among the Gardners arriving there during the 19th century were: 
  • Andrew Gardner from Scotland who was transported to NSW in 1818 for the crime of “the sale of spiritous liquor.”  On getting his ticket of leave, he was engaged in the building of The Scotch Thistle Inn at Blackheath.  
  • William Gardner who came with his family from Fermanagh in Ireland to NSW in the early 1840’s.  
  • two Gardners families from Hampshire - George and his wife Harriet in 1853 and John and his wife Jane in 1856 - who came to NSW on an assisted passage scheme.  The documents suggest that the Gardners could neither read nor write. 
  • John Gardner and his wife Margaret from Scotland who came to New Zealand in 1862 and settled in Glorit outside Auckland at the Mataia homestead.  Their descendants are still living there.
  • and the Gardner family from Kent who came to New Zealand in stages between 1876 and 1883.
Frank Gardner from Gloucestershire had enlisted in the Royal Navy as a young man and seen service at a number of trouble spots around the world.   Soon after his arrival in Australia in 1861, he joined the Newcastle Naval Brigade where he rose to the post of commander, retiring after forty years of service as one of the oldest officers in the Australian Naval Reserve.  In 1916 he presented the city of Newcastle with an Anzac memorial monument for the fallen at Gallipoli.

Select Gardner Miscellany

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

Select Gardner Names

Sir Robert Gardiner was an English-born judge who was a trusted political advisor to both Queen Elizabeth and James I and held the office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland for eighteen years.  
Erle Stanley Gardner
was an American writer best known for his Perry Mason detective stories. 
Ava Gardner was a well-known Hollywood actress of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Select Gardners/Gardiners Today
  • 62,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 58,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 39,000 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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