Peter History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The distinguished surname Peter emerged among the industrious people of Flanders, which was an important trading partner and political ally of Britain during the Middle Ages. As a result of the frequent commercial intercourse between the Flemish and English nations, many Flemish migrants settled in Britain. In early times, people were known by only a single name. However, as the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. One of the most common classes of surname is the patronymic surname, which was usually derived from the first name of the person's father. Flemish surnames of this type are often characterized by the diminutive suffix -kin, which became very frequent in England during the 14th century. The surname Peter is derived from the personal name Peter. This is derived from the Latin name Petrus, which in turn comes from the Greek name Petros. The word petros means rock or stone. Peter was an extremely popular personal name in medieval Europe since it was the name conferred by Christ upon the apostle Simon bar Jonah. He became St. Peter and is regarded as the founding figure of the Christian Church.

One of the first records of the name was perhaps the most important, that of Peter (died 1085), Bishop of Lichfield, Chaplain of William I, and custodian of the see of Lincoln in 1066. "In 1076 Peter was sent by Lanfranc to assist the archbishop of York in certain consecrations ( Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) In 1085 he died, and was buried at Chester, being the only bishop of the earlier foundation who was buried there." [1]

Peter of Blois ( fl. 1190) was Archdeacon of Bath and a noted author. He was born at Blois, France but his family was one of the noble families of Brittany.

Early Origins of the Peter family

The surname Peter was first found in Lincolnshire, where a bearer of Petrus was on record in the Domesday Book of 1086. Interestingly, Petrus (died 606) was the first abbot of St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, and was both a monk and a priest. He was one of the companions of St. Augustine on his mission to England in 596. [1]

Geoffrey FitzPeter, Earl of Essex (d. 1213), younger brother of Simon Fitzpeter, Sheriff of Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, and Bedfordshire in the reign of Henry II, was Marshal in 1165, and Justice-Itinerant in Bedfordshire in 1163. [1]

Peter des Roches (died 1238) was Bishop of Winchester who served under Richard I in his wars as knight and clerk, and became one of his chamberlains. A native of Poitou, France, he later served King John and was embroiled in the king's conflicts with Innocent III. [1]

Other early records include Ralph Peter listed in the Pipe Rolls in Hertfordshire in 1195; Luke Petre listed in London in 1282 and a William Petres listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Somerset of 1327. [2]

Another branch of the family was established in early days at West Horndon in Essex. "This parish, in ancient documents called Thorndon, and Little Horndon, is remarkable for the splendid mansion of Lord Petre, named Thorndon Hall, which is beautifully situated on an eminence, surrounded by an extensive and richly wooded park." [3]

And early records of Padstow, Cornwall listed "the barton of Trenear or Trenarran, was for some time a seat of the family of Peter, whose ancestors, about two bundred years since, came into Cornwall and first settled here; from whence they afterwards removed to Treator; and from thence the elder branch settled at Harlyn, on marrying with the heiress of Michel of that place. Treator has been the abode of this family nearly from the time that they first settled in Cornwall." [4]

Early History of the Peter family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Peter research. Another 205 words (15 lines of text) covering the years 1603, 1643, 1645, 1549, 1613, 1582, 1592, 1598, 1660, 1631, 1699, 1505, 1572, 1626, 1684, 1633, 1706, 1688, 1689, 1713, 1695, 1746, 1690, 1774, 1598, 1660, 1654, 1505, 1572, 1672, 1758, 1617, 1690, 1631, 1699, 1602, 1677, 1575, 1637, 1622, 1684, 1599, 1638, 1594, 1662, 1224, 1224 and are included under the topic Early Peter History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Peter Spelling Variations

Flemish surnames are characterized by a large number of spelling variations. One reason for this is that medieval English lacked definite spelling rules. The spellings of surnames were also influenced by the official court languages, which were French and Latin. Names were rarely spelled consistently in medieval times. Scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to specific spelling rules, and people often had their names registered in several different forms throughout their lives. One of the greatest reasons for change is the linguistic uniqueness of the Flemish settlers in England, who spoke a language closely related to Dutch. The pronunciation and spelling of Flemish names were often altered to suit the tastes of English-speaking people. In many cases, the first, final, or middle syllables of surnames were eliminated. The name has been spelled Peters, Peter, Petre, Petry, FitzPeter and others.

Early Notables of the Peter family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include John Petre, 1st Baron Petre (1549-1613), Lord-Lieutenant of Essex; Gerard Peeters ( fl. 1582-1592), an English author, educated at Westminster School, elected scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge; Hugh Peters (or Peter) (1598-1660), an English preacher in Essex; Edward Petre (1631-1699), English Jesuit and privy councillor, a close adviser to King James II; Sir William Petre (c.1505-1572), an Oxford lawyer; William Petre, 4th Baron Petre (1626 -1684), an English peer, victim of the Popish Plot; Thomas Petre, 6th Baron Petre (1633-1706), Lord Lieutenant of Essex in 1688; Robert Petre, 7th Baron Petre (1689-1713), a British peer. Charles Peters...
Another 172 words (12 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Peter Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Peter family to Ireland

Some of the Peter family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 107 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Peter migration to the United States +

A search of the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Peter:

Peter Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Peter, who arrived in Virginia in 1635
Peter Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Katrina Peter, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1731 [5]
  • Casper Peter, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1731 [5]
  • Cathrina Peter, aged 32, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733 [5]
  • Hendrick Peter, aged 26, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733 [5]
  • Caspar Peter, who landed in Carolina in 1734 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Peter Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Charlotte Peter, who landed in America in 1816 [5]
  • William Peter, age 22, who settled in New York City in 1820
  • Christian Peter, aged 18, who arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1832 [5]
  • Abraham Peter, who arrived in Ohio in 1840 [5]
  • France Peter, aged 38, who arrived in Missouri in 1844 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Peter migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Peter Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Peter, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Forth" in 1833

Australia Peter migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Peter Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Edward Peter, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Indus" in 1839 [6]
  • William Peter, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Indus" in 1839 [6]
  • William George Peter, aged 31, a miner, who arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Thetis" [7]

New Zealand Peter migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Peter Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Peter, (b. 1837), aged 22, Scottish farm servant from Forfar travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 14th November 1859 [8]
  • E. Peter, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship 'Merope' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 27th October 1870 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Peter (post 1700) +

  • Victor St. Peter, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Maine, 1964 [10]
  • George St. Peter, American Republican politician, Elected Missouri State House of Representatives from Mercer County 1964 [10]
  • Francis X. St. Peter, American Republican politician, Presidential Elector for Michigan, 1920; Presidential Elector for Michigan, 1920 [10]
  • William Peter (1788-1853), Cornish politician and poet, born at Harlyn, St. Merryn, Cornwall
  • David Peter (1765-1837), Welsh independent minister from Aberystwith
  • ? Peter (1712-1785), known as Peter the Wild Boy, a protégé of George I; he was was found in 1725 in the woods near Hamelin, and was observed 'walking on his hands and feet, climbing trees like a squirrel, and feeding on grass and moss'
  • Werner Peter (b. 1950), former East German football player
  • Samuel Peter (b. 1980), Nigerian heavyweight boxer
  • Philipp Peter (b. 1969), Austrian racing car driver
  • John Peter (1937-1998), Indian field hockey player
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  • Karl Peter (1916-1941), German Bootsmaat who served aboard the German Battleship Bismarck during World War II when it was sunk heading to France; he died in the sinking [11]
  • Bruno Peter (1920-1941), German Maschinengefreiter who served aboard the German Battleship Bismarck during World War II when it was sunk heading to France; he died in the sinking [11]

The Peter Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Invidia major
Motto Translation: Superior to envy.

Suggested Readings for the name Peter +

  • 3692 Genealogical Record of the Peter Families which Originally Settled in Heidelberg Township Northampton, Now Lehigh County, Pennsylvania by Beulah Peter Klotz.

  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  5. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) INDUS 1839. Retrieved from
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) THETIS 1851. Retrieved
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  10. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 21) . Retrieved from
  11. ^ Bismarck & Tirpitz Class - Crew List Bismarck. (Retrieved 2018, February 06). Retrieved from on Facebook
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