Travers


Select Travers Surname Genealogy

Travers has French origins, from travers meaning “to cross” or “crossing.”  It was an occupational name for a gatherer of tolls.  In 1285 the Bishop of Norwich claimed that he and his predecessors were accustomed to take "travers" at South Elmham in Suffolk.

Travers and Travis
are the main spellings today.  Over time Travis increasingly displaced Travers in its heartland of Lancashire, as it has in America.  Travers has retained a foothold in the southwest, particularly in Dorset
.

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Select Travers Ancestry

England.  The Travers and Travis names combined are most numerous in Lancashire today and there are the earliest records there as well.

Lancashire
.  A Travers family, Norman in origin, was said to have taken over Tulketh castle near Garstang, with the Travers chief marrying the Tulketh daughter Alison.  A later union took place around 1295 when Thomas Travers married Isabel Nateby.  And so Travers came to hold both the Tulketh and Nateby estates for more than three hundred years.  Another old Travers family held Whiston manor until 1506 and were recusants later.

Christopher Travers
of Doncaster in Yorkshire may have come from the Nateby family.  The linkage to the Travers of Halton Hall in Cheshire appears much more definite, starting with Hamon Travers in 1522.  John Travers of this family was a successful merchant in London in Stuart times.  Travers from Nateby departed for Ireland in 1599 and for America in 1627.  Nateby Hall itself was sold in 1626. 

The Travis spelling was already evident in Lancashire by 1600 and it had become the main spelling by the late 1800’s.  The principal concentration at that time was around Oldham.  John Travis’s 1893 book Genealogical Memorials of the Travis Family covered Travises in this area.

Elsewhere.  John Travers was Sheriff of London three times between 1215 and 1224.  There were reports that he was a merchant, importing grain from Ireland, and an extensive landowner, but no clues as to his origins.   Richard Travers was a merchant tailor at Cornhill in London in the early 1500’s.  His son Walter, a Puritan theologian, became Provost of Trinity College in Dublin in 1594
.

In Devon the Travers at Pille in the parish of Bishops Tawton date from the 1460's to the early 1600's.  Walter Travers who married in 1526 was minor gentry at Witherstone in Dorset.  Nearby is the village of Loders where Travers have been traced from the early 1600's to the 20th century. 

Ireland.   John Travers from Nateby, who had married a sister of the poet Edmund Spencer, came to Ireland in 1598 and made his home at Ballinamona in west Cork.  His son Robert was killed in 1647 in the fighting during the English Civil War.  

B
oth of Robert’s sons, John and Richard, founded long-lasting branches of the Travers family at Timoleague near Bandon.  Many of their descendants were distinguished soldiers, most notable of them being General Sir Robert Travers in the early 1800’s and his son General James Travers.  Timoleague was burnt down in 1920 during the Troubles.  The Travers family subsequently built a new house in 1926 close to the ruins of the 13th century Barry castle.

Travers in Ireland can be an anglicization of O'Treabhair, a clan in Leitrim that were erenaghs to the O'Rourkes of Breifne.  Cairbre O'Treabhair was known as Charles Travers in Elizabethan timesTreabhair in Gaelic means a ploughman and the Travers name was fairly common in north Leitrim and south Donegal.

America.
  Travers frequently became Travis in America.  This was true for the Travers family from Nateby in Lancashire that came to Virginia.  Robert Travis covered the family in his 1954 book The Travis (Travers) Family.

Virginia.  Edward Travers arrived in Jamestown in 1627 and ended up owning the entire east end of Jamestown island.  His descendants held that land until 1831.  His home there, Travis House, has been preserved and is now a popular tourist site in Williamsburg.  Edward’s brother William Travers, who grew up in Ireland, came to Virginia in 1655 and later settled in North Carolina.  

Berwick Travis may have been related to the Lancashire line, although the evidence is elusive.  It appears that he arrived in Virginia, aged twelve, sometime around 1760 as an indentured servant.  He moved to South Carolina in 1772 and later ran a tavern in Edgefield.  His grandson was the famous William Barrett Travis or Buck Travis, born in Edgefield, who died in Texas defending the Alamo in 1836
.

Elsewhere.  William Travers, a London merchant, came to Maryland in the late 1600's, making his home on Taylors Island in Dorchester county.  His son Matthew became one of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the county and this wealth was handed down.  Samuel Travers who lived there in 1875 published a dairy of his ocean-going journey to Brazil. 

Garrett Travis bought land in Westchester county, New York in 1657.  He was called “the Dutchman,” although there was no proof that he was.  His descendants generally remained in Westchester county.  Nathaniel Travis, a Loyalist, did depart for Nova Scotia in 1784. 
Schurman Travis, possibly related to this family, was living in Westchester county in the early 1700’s.  His descendants settled upstate in Putnam county.

Canada.  One Travers line in Canada started with John Travers, an Irishman who was a soldier in the British army. He was posted to New York at the time of the Revolutionary War.  After the war was over, he moved with his family to Canada in 1784 and was granted land in Bonaventure, Quebec.  His line extended to Lawrence Travers in the Gaspe region and his daughter Mary Rose-Anna who, as Madame Bolduc, was to achieve fame and fortune in the 1930’s as a folksinger.

A Travis family from Westchester County, New York also crossed the border at this time, heading for Nova Scotia with some Travises later settling in St. John, New Brunswick.  William Henry Travis was a customs officer there.  It was said that he was the seventh son of the seventh son.   Later Travises of his line moved to Milwaukee.

New Zealand.  William Travers was an Irishman from county Limerick who had joined the British army.  After his military service ended, he moved with his family to Nelson in New Zealand in 1849.  He was for many years a local politician.  But he is best remembered as an avid explorer, often mounting expeditions into the less well known parts of New Zealand.  The Travers Range, Travers Valley, and Travers River were all named after him. 

Select Travers Miscellany

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


Select Travers/Travis Names

William Barrett Travis was the commander of the Texan garrison who died defending the Alamo in 1836.
P.L. Travers was the Australian-born author of the Mary Poppins series of children's books.
Merle Travis was a well-known American country singer who was elected to the Country Miusic Hall of Fame in 1977.  Travis picking is a syncopated style of finger picking named after him.
Mary Travers was an American folk singer, part of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio that were popular in the 1960's.

Select Travers/Travis Today
  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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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