Guide to North East Surnames: J

Surnames: Jackson to Jordison

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Jackson surname

Widespread in Britain, especially Lancashire and Yorkshire

Distributed across all England but especially in the North. In the 1881 census there were 83,981 Jacksons in Great Britain with very substantial numbers in Lancashire (18,342) and Yorkshire (16,176).  No other county in Britain came close to these two counties for Jackson numbers in 1881.

Of the other northern counties, there were 3,523 in Durham; 3,915 in Cheshire; 1,961 in Cumberland; 1,299 in Northumberland and 613 in Westmorland. However, these figures were comparable to counties in the Midlands: Nottinghamshire 1,726; Staffordshire 3,055 and Warwickshire 2,374. Scotland was home to 4,347 Jacksons. There were also substantial numbers in the south east.

Jackson was the 4th most numerous surname in Lancashire in the 1881 census; 7th in Westmorland; 8th in Yorkshire; 12th in Cumberland; 21st in Durham and 46th in Northumberland.

Jameson surname

Northern England surname

Listed by Henry Guppy as a surname in County Durham. This surname had a strong presence in the North East in the 1881 census. There were 3,316 people of this name in Great Britain in that census primarily residing in the northern counties of England with 543 in Lancashire; 521 in Durham; 324 in Yorkshire; 318 in Northumberland; 34 in Westmorland and 18 in Cumberland with others spread across England. The number of Jamesons in Scotland was only 658.

The Jamieson surname with the ‘i’ was considerably more numerous than Jameson in the 1881 but can be described as a Scottish surname. In the 1881 census there were 8,368 individuals with this name of which 7,000 resided in Scotland. Outside of Scotland it was most significant in the six northern English counties (825) with 330 in Lancashire; 204 in Northumberland; 145 in Durham; 78 in Cumberland; 67 in Westmorland; and 1 in Westmorland. Most of the remaining Jamiesons were concentrated in London and the south eastern counties.

Jobling and Jopling surnames

Northumberland and Durham surnames

Jobling and Jopling are North East surnames listed by Henry Guppy as associated with Northumberland. However, an Abraham Joblin is mentioned in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1652.

In the 1881 census there were 1,285 people called Jobling in Great Britain of which 500 resided in Durham; 331 in Northumberland; 226 in Yorkshire; 44 in Lancashire and 16 in Cumberland with others mostly in London and the south east. Scotland was home to 17 Joblings,

A striking miner of the name William Jobling who was hanged at Durham and then gibbeted at Jarrow Slake in 1832 was one of the last individuals for whom the gruesome practice of gibbeting was implemented. Jobling seems to have been falsely implicated as the assailant in an assault upon a magistrate which he witnessed, seemingly instigated by his companion Ralph Armstrong, who escaped and was never caught. The magistrate agreed that Jobling was not the perpetrator but died before Jobling went to trial.

Jarrow Don Mouth
Mouth of the River Don at Jarrow © David Simpson

The surname Jopling with the ‘p’ consisted of 730 individuals in Great Britain of which 396 resided in Durham; 84 in Yorkshire; 76 in Northumberland; 19 in Lancashire and 2 in Cumberland. Others resided in London and the south east with only 4 in Scotland.

The names derive from an Old French word for a beggar adapted into English to mean a fool.

Johnson surname

Widespread in England, especially Lancashire and Yorkshire

Johnson is a very numerous surname and in the 1881 census there were nearly 102,000 people with this name in Great Britain. For Henry Guppy it was widely distributed across England except the south west and especially numerous in the midlands and north. Durham and Northumberland are listed amongst several counties where Guppy regarded it as numerous.

A William Johnson was mayor of Newcastle in 1398 and a number of later mayors were also of this name. Other mayors of Newcastle of the name Johnson were William Johnson 1653 and 1654; Sir Nathaniel Johnson 1680; Edward Johnson 1714; a Francis Johnson in 1721 and a Francis Johnson in 1786 and 1794. A Timothy Johnson was mayor of Hartlepool in 1796.

A slightly more tenuous political link is that a Thomas Johnson, the great-great-great-grandfather of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was born in Darlington and baptised at the town’s St Cuthbert’s church in December 1813. Thomas’s daughter, Margaret, who also resided in Darlington was the mother of Winnifred Johnson who married a Turkish journalist called Osman Kemal. Winnifred died in 1909 and her children (who included the grandfather of Prime Minister Boris Johnson), were brought up by Margaret who changed their name to Johnson (her maiden name) during the First World War.

River Skerne and Church of St Cuthbert, Darlington
River Skerne and Church of St Cuthbert, Darlington © David Simpson

As with the surname Jackson, the counties of Lancashire (15,327) and Yorkshire (13,680) were home to exceptionally high numbers of this surname in the 1881 census. In the other northern counties there were 5,895 Johnsons in Durham; 2,847 in Northumberland; 450 in Cumberland and 186 in Westmorland. There were 1,807 in Scotland and 1,424 in Wales with London (9,988) and south east England being home to a major concentration.

Johnson was the 9th most numerous name in Lancashire in 1881; 10th in County Durham; 12th in Yorkshire; 13th in Northumberland and 48th in Westmorland. It was not in the top fifty names for Cumberland where it seems to have been eclipsed by the names Johnston and Johnstone – perhaps from a confusion of the names at some time in the past (see below).

Johnston and Johnstone surnames

Predominantly Scottish surnames but also found in Northern England

In the Border areas of Cumberland and Scotland there seems to have been some confusion between Johnson and Johnstone (and Johnston), so that some Johnsons may in fact have been Johnston(e)s and vice versa. Lyndon B Johnson, the 36th President of the United States was actually descended from the Border Reiver Johnstones. Remarkably, although the surname Johnson does not feature in the top fifty names for Cumberland in 1881, both Johnston (9th) and Johnstone (49th) did feature in the most numerous surnames for that county.

The surnames Johnston and Johnstone are thought to derive from Johnston in Annandale in Scotland but to add to the confusion early occurrences are recorded in Staffordshire and Suffolk in England in the fourteenth century.

In the 1881 census taking the two surnames together, there were 38,199 Johnstons / Johnstones in Great Britain mostly in Scotland (24,162) where both surnames could be found.

Johnston was predominant over Johnstone in the Northern Counties of England but in Lancashire and Cumberland both surnames featured strongly. The Northern England figures for the two surnames taken together in 1881 were Cumberland 2,820; Lancashire 2,499; Northumberland 961; Durham 869; Yorkshire 857 and Westmorland 111. The rest were spread across England and Wales with a concentration in London and the south east.

Joicey surname

Northern surname

A rare surname in Britain that was once the noted name of a prominent North East coal owner. In the 1881 census there were only 436 people of this name in Great Britain. There were 169 in Durham; 132 in Yorkshire; 63 in Northumberland but none in Cumberland and Westmorland. The rest could be found in the south of England and mostly in London where there were 46 Joiceys.

Jones surname

Predominantly Welsh, numerous in Lancashire

A surname most prominent in Wales but also widespread in England, though generally not so prominent in the northernmost counties of England. A curious fact is that there is no ‘J’ in the Welsh alphabet.

Although often considered one of the two archetypal ‘common’ surnames of Britain as in ‘Smith and Jones’, it was not especially prominent in the northern counties in the 1881 census except in Lancashire where it occurred in exceptionally high numbers. In Lancashire it was the 3rd most numerous name in that county behind Smith and Taylor, largely because of its proximity to north Wales including significant Welsh influence in Liverpool.

Strikingly, when compared to Lancashire, Jones was only the 50th most numerous name in Yorkshire and ranked only 34th in Durham. It did not make it into the top fifty names for Northumberland, Cumberland or Westmorland.

There were a total of 339,862 people called Jones in the 1881 census for Great Britain of which 173,948 resided in Wales. It was very numerous across other parts of England including the south west and there were 2,096 people called Jones in Scotland.

The number of people called Jones in the northern counties of England in the 1881 census was as follows: Lancashire 34,879; Yorkshire 6,795; Durham 2,831; Northumberland 623; Cumberland 477 and Westmorland only 72. It was the most numerous surname in Cheshire where there were over 10,865 individuals called Jones.

Jordison surname

Durham and Yorkshire name

A Petrus Jurdanson at Chester-le-Street; Robert Jurdanson at Hameldon (Humbledon Hill, Sunderland) and William Jurdanson at North Biddick are mentioned in Bishop Hatfield’s survey of Durham in 1377-80 and these are likely an early form of the name. Primarily found in Durham, the Jordison surname was listed by Henry Guppy as a name in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Not a common name. There were only 276 people called Jordison in the Great Britain census of 1881. In proportional terms they were most significant in Durham where there were 103 individuals, although in Yorkshire there were 104 individuals with this name. The remaining Jordisons were spread thinly across the country including 12 in Northumberland and 4 in Lancashire.

North East Surnames beginning with:

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Historic counties of Great Britain and Ireland
Historic counties of Great Britain and Ireland showing the six northern counties of England © David Simpson and England’s North East 2021
Note on the populations of English counties in 1881

When comparing figures for individual numbers of a surname in 1881 it is important to be aware of the actual population of each of the Northern English counties. As you can see from the figures below, 500 individuals with a particular surname in Westmorland would be proportionally much more significant than 500 people of the same surname residing in Lancashire. You might well describe such a surname as a ‘Westmorland name’ but the numbers would not be significant enough to describe it as a ‘Lancashire surname’, at least not as defined by the 1881 distribution. The 1881 northern county populations were as follows:

  • Northumberland: Population 434,658. The county included Newcastle upon Tyne, Wallsend, North Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay and a mining district in the south east of the county including the port of Blyth. As well as indigenous Northumbrian surnames, ‘Border names’ are often abundant in this county, occasionally taking on a form that is distinct from similar Scottish surnames.
  • Durham: Population 869,130. The county included Sunderland, Gateshead, South Shields, Jarrow, Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool. Numerous small mining towns and villages lie across the county between these major centres of population and like the industrial centres were often the home to surnames that originated in Northumberland and North Yorkshire as well as home-grown in County Durham.
  • Yorkshire: Population 2,895,049. This county included the iron town of Middlesbrough on the south bank of the River Tees in the north east corner of the county as well as ‘West Riding’ towns like Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Halifax, York, Huddersfield to the south. Most of the population of Yorkshire was and still is focused upon the urban and industrialised south west of the county where there is a close relationship in terms of surnames with neighbouring Lancashire across the Pennines. The far south of the county around Sheffield is also very populous. The rural East Riding along with the city of Hull may have a close relationship with neighbouring Lincolnshire. From a North East point of view many of the surnames we describe as ‘Durham and Yorkshire’ are almost always specifically focused upon North Yorkshire and south Durham, though often stretching across the whole of Durham in distribution.
  • Cumberland: Population 251,520. The main centres in this county included Carlisle and the industrial coastal towns of Whitehaven and Workington. As in Northumberland, ‘Border surnames’ have a strong influence here, often originating from or stretching into Scottish counties of the western borders, notably Dumfriesshire.
  • Westmorland: Population 64,204. This was a relatively small and rural county in terms of population. Characterised by small market towns and farming villages, it has its own distinct surname distribution. Along with Cumberland it is now part of Cumbria.
  • Lancashire: Population 3,466,597. This highly populated county included Liverpool and Manchester as well as major towns such as Bolton; Preston; Burnley; Oldham, Rochdale and a number of mill towns. The historic county also stretched into the south Lakeland area in what is now (along with Cumberland and Westmorland) part of Cumbria. The industries of Lancashire were a great draw for immigration from Scotland; Ireland and Wales, particularly in the nineteenth century.
  • Cheshire: We occasionally include details of surname distribution in Cheshire (its population in 1881 was 644,895) where relevant, though surnames in Cheshire and indeed Lancashire and to some extent West Yorkshire often take on a distinctly different character and pattern of distribution to surnames in the other northern counties. Welsh surnames are also quite significant in Cheshire given its location on the Welsh Border. In fact some suburbs of the city of Chester are located within Wales.
  • Counties of the Midlands and South: In addition to the six northernmost counties plus Cheshire, there were a further 32 other counties in England as follows: Bedfordshire; Berkshire; Buckinghamshire; Cambridgeshire; Cornwall; Derbyshire; Devon; Dorset; Essex; Gloucestershire; Hampshire; Hertfordshire; Hertfordshire; Huntingdonshire; Kent; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; London (Middlesex); Norfolk; Northamptonshire; Nottinghamshire; Oxfordshire; Rutland; Shropshire; Somerset; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Surrey; Sussex; Warwickshire; Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
  • The South East: Of these other English counties, London and some of its neighbouring counties were particularly populous as of course they still are. There were just short of 3 million people in Middlesex (London) and additionally in Surrey there were 1.4 million people. In Essex there were more than half a million people and the population in Kent (996,770) was just short of a million. Such a populous region as the South East often inevitably includes Northern surnames that have gravitated southward but rarely do these surnames have any proportional significance within the population of the South East.
  • Scotland: The total population of Scotland in 1881 was 3.4 million, focused primarily on the central lowland belt stretching from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
  • Wales: The total population of Wales in 1881 was just over 1.5 million and focused upon Cardiff, Swansea and the industrial mining valleys of the south.

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Introduction to North East surnames

Border Reivers

Guppy’s surnames

North East Notable People


Border Reiver Surnames of the Anglo-Scottish Border. Poster Print.


North East England History and Culture