Select Rowntree Surname Genealogy

The English surname Rowntree derived from the rowan tree and meant a dweller by such a tree.  The name probably has Viking origins.  The rowan tree had been a sacred tree for the Vikings and the Rowntree surname emerged in the area of NE England where the Vikings had settled.  The origin of the Rowntree surname does appear to have been in north Yorkshire in the vicinity of the village of Newby. 

Spelling variants of Rowntree
, mainly to be found outside of England, are Rountree and Roundtree

Select Rowntree Resources on The Internet

Select Rowntree Ancestry

EnglandThe northeast counties of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland accounted for 85% of all the Rowntrees in the 1881 census, with Yorkshire alone accounting for almost half.   

Yorkshire.  The earliest record here was Roberto Rountre at Newby in 1301.  Then there was John Rountrie at Borrowby, some sixteen miles away from Newby, in 1521.  The will of Lawrence Rowntree of Newby was recorded in 1557. 

Peter Rowntree of Easby was married in Ingleby Greenhow (not too far from Newby) in 1614, although the church records there spelt his name as Rontre.  He was the forebear of the early Rowntree line that became yeoman farmers at Risborough and of the later Rowntree Quaker lines.  Brightwen Rowntree told this history in his 1940 book The Rowntrees of Risborough.

We can trace from the early 1800’s three separate later Rowntree lines – two based in the seaside town of Scarborough and the third and the most famous which established itself in the county town of York.

The forebears of the Scarborough lines were both named William Rowntree and were cousins:
  • the first William Rowntree, a corn miller in Gateshead, led to John W. Rowntree, a grocer and mayor of Scarborough and his brother Fred Rowntree, an architect in the Arts and Crafts style in the early 1900’s.
  • while from his cousin William Rowntree came William S. Rowntree, a draper in Scarborough, and later Kenneth Rowntree, a noted artist.
The forebear of the York line was William’s brother Joseph Rowntree, a master grocer.  His sons included:
  • Henry Rowntree who founded the famous Rowntree chocolate company in York in 1862.  When it was acquired by Nestle in 1988 it was the fourth-largest confectionary manufacturer in the world.
  • and his brother Joseph Rowntree who took over the confectionary business in 1883 after Henry’s death.  Joseph gained renown as a Quaker businessman, reformer and philanthropist.
  • while Joseph’s son Seebohm Rowntree also became well-known as a social reformer.
Elsewhere.  There have been other Rowntree branches in England, apart from the famous Yorkshire Quaker Rowntrees.   Many of them were in Durham where there have been sizeable numbers in Bishopwearmouth and Stockton.  Graham Rowntree, the English rugby prop forward of recent times, was born in Stockton. 

One line descends from Thomas Rountree who was born in Sunderland in 1719.  A number of his descendants were mariners.  Thomas S. Rowntree, a master mariner and shipbuilder, departed Sunderland for Australia in 1852.

.  There appears to have been an early mention of the Rountree name in Ulster in 1376, but with no supporting documentation.  

The first real mention of the Rountree name was that of Thomas and widow Rowntry at Mulladry in Armagh in 1664. It is thought that they came from Yorkshire, although there is no written proof.  Rountrees were to stay there until around 1900.  Meredith Rountree’s farmhouse remained after he and his family emigrated to New Zealand in 1863. John Rountree was still farming until his death in 1889. 

There was a line with Charles Rountree that moved from nearby Kilmore in Armagh to Killigriffe in Cavan around the year 1730.  His son Thomas came to America in 1752 when he was nineteen.  Joe Rountree was an emigrant to New Zealand in 1863.  William Rountree of Cootehill in Cavan produced a large family tree of this family in 1890.

.  The Rountree and Roundtree spellings, established in Ireland, crossed over to America.  There were two main arrivals coming from Ireland, although both probably had their roots originally in Yorkshire and they may have even been distantly related.

Francis Roundtree from Londonderry came to Virginia around 1680 and settled in Nansemond county.  The line through his son Moses was to be found in Goochland county and through his son William in North Carolina:
  • in the 1760’s Richardson Roundtree moved to the Edgefield district of South Carolina where he established himself as a wealthy planter. 
  • four Rountree brothers headed for Burke county, Georgia in the 1780’s.  Some forty years later, James and Francis Rountree were pioneer settlers in Lowndes county, Georgia.  James was murdered in 1834, but his descendants have remained in the area.
  • another line through Thomas Rountree migrated to Kentucky in 1795.  His grandson John became a pioneer settler in Wisconsin, establishing the township of Platteville in 1841.
Thomas Rountree from Cavan came to America in 1752 when he was nineteen.  He then went back to Ireland to marry Eva Sturgess before returning.  He settled in Orange county, North Carolina where he died in 1805.  His son John moved to Williamson county, Tennessee.

Georgia and Florida are the states with the most Rountrees and Roundtrees today.

.  There was a Rowntree from the Yorkshire Quaker Rowntrees in America.  His name was Bernard Rowntree and he had come to Kansas City, Missouri in 1884.   It is his wife Lester from another English Quaker family, whom he married in 1908, who is the better remembered today.  A self-proclaimed “lady gypsy,” she became a renowned field botanist and was a pioneer in the study, propagation, and conservation of California’s native plants.

New Zealand. 
The spelling here was mainly Rountree because of Irish immigration.  Meredith Rountree came with his family from Armagh to Auckland on the Portland in 1863.  The family settled to farm at Mangapai where the local roads were little more than foot tracks at that time.

One son Gilbert Rountree was able to
join the staff of the Auckland Savings Bank, eventually becoming its manager.  Gilbert’s son Harry moved in 1901 to London where he established a reputation as a cartoonist and illustrator.

Select Rowntree Miscellany

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

Select Rowntree Names

Joseph Rowntree who ran the family chocolate business in York from 1883 until his death in 1925 was a well-known Quaker reformer and philanthropist of his time.  His son Seebohm Rowntree was also a social reformer whose studies on poverty helped to create the British welfare state.
Lester Rowntree
was a renowned American field botanist, a 20th century pioneer in the study, propagation, and conservation of California’s native plants.
Gil Rowntree
has been one of Canada’s most successful thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers.
Graham Rowntree
was England’s rugby prop forward of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s

Select Rowntrees Today
  • 2,500 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia) 
  • 1,500 elsewhere (most numerous in New Zealand)

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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