Select Neville Surname Genealogy

The Neville surname originates from the French place-name in Normandy, either Neuville in Calvados or Neville in Seine Maritime.  In each case the name meant “new town or settlement.”  The Neville name was brought to England by the Norman Conquest.  The spelling in England can be either Neville or Nevill.

Select Neville Resources on The Internet

Select Neville Ancestry

England.  The story of the Neville family is a strange one.  They reached their peak of power and influence during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century when England was in chaos.  After 1485 it was all downhill.

Medieval Times.  The first Neville in England was said to have been Gilbert de Neville, stewart to William the Conqueror. However, the line from there is indistinct until we reach Isabel de Neville who married Robert fitz Melred, a powerful baron of the north, in 1197.  It was their son Geoffrey who inherited both estates and adopted his mother's name.

This Neville family grew in power and influence during the 13th and 14th century and reached its peak with Richard the Kingmaker at the time of the Wars of the Roses.  Because of a succession of judicious marriages, the Neville family was at the center of power in the 15th century. 

After the passing of Richard the Kingmaker and the defeat of the Yorkists, the Neville influence declined.  It received a fatal blow when Charles Neville the 6th Earl of Westmoreland, at the instigation of his wife, led an insurrection against Queen Elizabeth and in favor of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1569.   Known as the Rising of the North, this insurrection failed miserably and the Neville estates in the north were all forfeited.  The senior line in fact became extinct after the Earl’s death abroad in 1601

Other early Neville lines were:
  • the Nevilles of Hornby may have been related to the Nevilles of Raby, but they emerged as their own distinct force in Lancashire by the end of the 14th century.  The main line seems to have died out in the next century, although some Nevilles did cross the Pennines into Yorkshire.
  • there was also a Nevill line in Essex which flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries.  This line died out somewhat earlier, in 1358.
Later History.  Other Neville lines did continue.  Edward Nevill, a younger son of the Westmorelands, was made Baron Bergavenny, the title later becoming Abergavenny, in 1450.  The family home since that time, inherited from his wife, has been Eridge Park near Rotherfield in East Sussex.  They also held land by the coast at Birling Gap and many early Nevills were buried at the church there.  What survives today at Eridge Park is a neo-Georgian mansion that was built in the 1930's.

Today the Nevill surname is mainly a surname of London and the southeast.  Neville also appears there, the Nevilles from Wrotham in Kent for instance.  But this spelling is found more in the north.

Ireland.   There was a Neville family from the 13th century in county Wexford.  Initially important, these Nevilles took part in Silken Thomas’s rebellion in 1535 and had their lands forfeited.  Nothing was heard from them again.  

Richard Nevill from the Sussex Nevills came to Ireland in the 1640’s and made his home at Furness in county Kildare.  Arthur Jones, the Surveyor General, was Richard’s only great grandchild and he assumed the name of Nevill before succeeding his uncle at Furness in 1750.  These Nevills were MP’s for Wexford from 1727 until 1822 when Arthur’s son Richard died. 

One Neville family dates back to Mountmellick in Laios around the year 1700.  William Neville, a stone mason, moved to Tullamore a hundred years later to work on the building of Charleville castle.  The family migrated to America in 1844. 

There were also Irish Nevilles from the Gaelic O’Niadh, meaning “descendant of Nia or champion."  It was the name of an old Kerry family.  As Neville it appeared in Kerry and
Limerick.  There were many Nevilles in Ballylongford, Kerry who emigrated to America and Canada in the 1850's.

   Two early John Nevilles in America may or may not have left descendant trails:
  • the first was brought to Maryland in 1633 as a servant.  He then became a sea captain and appeared to have led a rough-and-tumble life before his death in Charles county, Maryland in 1664.   There was a descendant line traced in Joseph B. Neville's 1974 book History of One Neville Family: 1612-1972.
  • the second was a Rear Admiral in the British Navy who based himself in Virginia.  He died on his ship of yellow fever in the West Indies in 1697 and was buried in Hampton county, Virginia.  No line from him has been traced.
Two other early Nevilles in Virginia were the Nevilles of Isle of Wight and Fauquier counties and the Nevilles of Gloucester county. 
America had two Neville generals during the Revolutionary War, John Neville and Joseph Neville, and they were brothers from Virginia.  John's son Presley Neville wrote a letter in 1803 in which he stated that his grandfather John had been kidnapped and brought to Virginia against his will around the year 1679.  This John became a planter in Gloucester county and prospered.

Canada.  Anthony and Margaet Neville were Loyalists from upstate New York who departed for Ontario in 1793.

"The Nevilles set off with two cows, an ox team, and a sleigh on which they piled all the furniture they could hold..  The trek took them six weeks.  For eight years the Nevilles lived in Fredericksburgh before moving to Ernestown near their Switzer relatives."

However, the majority of the Neville immigrants to Canada were Irish.  Among the early arrivals were:
  • John Neville who came to Newfoundland in 1805 and married Anne Colbert in St. John's that year
  • Patrick Neville from Wexford who married Catherine Kelly at Notre Dame church in Quebec in 1825.
  • John Neville from Limerick who came with his family to Bridgeport, Nova Scotia in 1834.
  • while Thomas and Catherine Neville from Ballylongford in Kerry came to Ontario in 1853.
Mitchell and Clara Neville were Irish immigrants who had settled in Ernestown, Ontario in the 1830's.  In 1865 their son Anthony Neville patented a kerosene burner, called the Neville lamp, that was designed to produce a smokeless fuel without a chimney.

Select Neville Miscellany

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

Select Neville Names

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was known as Warwick the Kingmaker during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century.  He orchestrated the power battle between Yorkist factions at that time.
Wendell C. Neville was a highly decorated general of the US Marine Corps in the early 1900's.
Richard Neville
was an Australian writer who had a brief moment of fame as the editor of the counter-culture magazine Oz in the early 1970's.
Gary Neville
was a football player for Manchester United and England and is now a TV football pundit.

Select Nevilles Today
  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

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 500 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page