Guide to North East Surnames: Y

North East Surnames: Yarrow to Younger

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Yarrow surname

Rare North East surname and Border Reiver surname

In the 1881 census this was a relatively rare surname of which there were only 584 individuals in Great Britain. There were 59 people with this name in Durham; 56 in Yorkshire; 35 in Northumberland; 5 in Cheshire and 2 in Cumberland. In Scotland there were only 15 people of this name. Outside the North there were 130 in London; 67 in Cambridgeshire and 45 in Surrey with others scattered across the south and midlands.

Yarrow Border Reiver surname
Yarrow Border Reiver surname © David Simpson

At the height of Border Reiving  this was a minor Border Reiver surname in the North Tynedale and Redesdale areas. Its origins are uncertain. There is a place in North Tynedale of this name near Falstone and a Yarrow on the south bank of the River Tweed near Berwick (where there is a Yarrow Slake). On some old maps the Tyneside town of Jarrow is sometimes spelled ‘Yarrow’ where there is of course a Jarrow Slake. Yarrow is a kind of plant but the name of Jarrow is from the name of a tribal group meaning ‘the marsh dwellers’.

Yetts surname

Rare surname notable on Holy Island in 1881

This very rare surname was notably prominent on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in the 1881 census (see Holy Island surnames). In 1881 there were only 58 people of this name in Great Britain with 12 in Northumberland; 12 in Lanarkshire (Scotland); 12 in Surrey; 6 in Durham; 5 in Berkshire; 4 in Kent; 2 in London; 2 in Fife and one in each of Lancashire, Wiltshire and Aberdeenshire.

Young surname

Widespread surname in Britain

A surname with a widespread distribution but most numerous in the south of England. However, in the North of England there is a separate centre focused on Northumberland and Durham where Young has a proportionally high occurrence as part of the overall population. Sometimes included in the list of Border Reiver surnames Young is also notable in central parts of Scotland.

There were 64,459 people called Young in the Great Britain census of 1881 of which 19,984 resided in Scotland. Durham was home to 3,814 Youngs; Lancashire 3,586; Yorkshire 3,295; Northumberland 2,623; Cumberland 661 and Westmorland 64 with more than 30,000 further Youngs distributed across England and Wales.

Young was the 16th most numerous name in Northumberland in 1881; 17th in Durham and 44th in Cumberland but did not make the top fifty names in Yorkshire; Lancashire; Cheshire or Westmorland.

The name Young would have originally been used to identify a younger man from an older man, for example ‘John the Young’ might be used to distinguish this John from an older man called John in the same locality, same occupation or perhaps the same family. Such a means of identification may have been widespread so the surname Young may have originated independently in more than one locality. In some cases Young can be a Romany gypsy name.

Younger surname

Scottish Borders surname significant in Northumberland

Listed by Henry Guppy as a surname in Northumberland and found in the Scottish Borders and around Wooler and the Lothians. In 1881 there were 1,626 people called Younger in Great Britain of which 588 resided in Scotland. In Northumberland there were 380 Youngers; in Durham 176; in Yorkshire 57; in Lancashire 29; in Cumberland 16 with just 1 in Westmorland. Others were broadly distributed across the country, especially in London and the south east.

The famous Edinburgh Brewery called Youngers was established by a family from Peebleshire in the Scottish Borders, in 1749.  The brewery later merged with McEwans in the 1930s and then with Newcastle Breweries to become Scottish and Newcastle Breweries in 1960. The Brewery concerns are now of course owned by the Dutch company Heineken.

The Younger family are thought to be descended from a William Younger mentioned in Berwickshire in 1515 who is known to have been of Flemish origin. The surname may have originally been Yonckeers. However, the surname also occurs in the Court Rolls of Wakefield in Yorkshire, again as a name of Flemish origin, where it occurs as Yunghare in 1297.

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