Saturday, January 25, 2014

Surname Saturday: SAYERS


The meaning of the surname SAYERS is diverse because the name can originate from a variety of languages and countries. In my family, our oral history states it is a Scots-Irish (or Ulster Scot) line. In other words, it is a family that originated in Scotland and settled in Ireland for many generations, before emigrating to North America. There is a Gaelic origin of SAYERS which is Mac Saoghair. This apparently is a patronym of the Old English personal name, Saeger, which meant Sawyer (an occupational name for someone who cut, or sawed, wood).

This name has been difficult to search in databases because of its many spelling variations. Some of the more common ones include Sears, Sawyer, and Sayer. Using Soundex to search for this name brings up hundreds of results, making narrowing down likely candidates very difficult.

Researching the SAYERS family was one of my early projects when I began doing genealogy. I was fortunate to come into contact almost immediately with distant cousins, mainly in Canada, who were also researching the family. We were able to exchange information and really expand the family tree of William SAYERS, Sr. and his wife, [--?--] GILLESPIE, although we have been stuck attempting to go back beyond this couple, due to lack of records in Ireland. I have even hired professional genealogists in Ireland to pursue this family line, but they were unable to do so.

Stories and History:

Ahnentafel #156 - William SAYERS (1758 - 1860) - my earliest known SAYERS ancestor, my 4th-great-grandfather, was born in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. It is believed, but not known for certain, that his wife's surname was GILLESPIE, as they had a son with that name. The family belonged to the Church of Ireland, and declared themselves Anglican after they emigrated to Canada. William's five known children started emigrating to Prince Edward County (not Prince Edward Island) in what was then Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the late 1820s to late 1830s. I often think about how brave William must have been to be in his late seventies and board a wooden sailing ship to cross the Atlantic to his new home. He apparently lived near or with his son, William, Jr., in Hungerford Township, Hastings County, and appears in the 1861 mortality census as having died the previous year at aged 102.

Ahnentafel #78 - John SAYERS (b. 1811) - he was born in Letterkenny, and as a single young man came to Prince Edward County, Upper Canada, probably with his sister Catherine and her husband Stephen MARTIN. The MARTIN family was one of the early prominent pioneer families in Prince Edward County and have been listed in Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte (see link below). In 1828, John was residing in Marysborough Township. He married Mary CAHOON in 1831 in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Picton. They had 11 or 12 children. In 1861 and 1871, they are farming in Cavan Township, Durham County. I cannot find a death record for either John or Mary, although vital registration began in 1867. Their deaths probably went unrecorded. I have other Ontario ancestors who did not have their deaths recorded for one reason or another. They do not appear to be enumerated on the 1881 census, but is difficult to determine for certain, due to spelling variations. Another possibility is that they emigrated to Michigan with a number of their children; however, no death records there have turned up for them.

Ahnentafel #39 - Mahala SAYERS (1847 - 1937) - born in Prince Edward County, she married farmer and carpenter John WILKINSON in 1871 in Port Hope, Northumberland and Durham County. They had eight children (five born in Canada and three in the U.S.) and lived in the Port Hope and Cavan Township areas until about 1880, when they emigrated with a number of Mahala's siblings to Montague Township, Muskegon County, Michigan. By 1884, they had resettled in Whitehall Village, Muskegon County, where they lived until John's death in 1917. As a carpenter, he built numerous homes in Whitehall Township. In 1930, Mahala was living with her son, John, Jr., in Paris Township, Kent County, Michigan. Later, she lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Ella and Floyd LUCHINI, in Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, where she died. Mahala was my grandfather's great-grandmother, and he remembers her as a small boy. One of the memories involves her running her finger down the length of his nose, saying, "Love is like this..." and then, running it back up, "...but marriage is like this."

Ahnentafel #19 - Mary J. WILKINSON (1872 - 1940) - She was born in Port Hope, the eldest of eight children. She married George Emmett LEWIS (1868 - 1964) on 31 Dec 1891 in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan. Like her father, George was a carpenter, and it is likely Mary met George if he worked for or with her father. For a short time, Mary and George lived in Cleon Township, Manistee County, and later in Blue Lake Township, Muskegon County, but they lived most of their lives in Whitehall Township, Muskegon County, particularly the Village of Whitehall with both Wilkinson and Lewis family members close by. Mary gave birth to 13 children, 11 of whom survived infancy. Her eldest child, George Richard LEWIS was tragically killed at the age of 20 in a motorcycle accident. Although Mary herself only lived to the age of 68, four of her children survived into their 90's, apparently inheriting her Great-Grandfather Sayers' longevity genes.

Ahnentafel #9 - Marie LEWIS (1902 - 1986) - my great-grandmother; read her AnceStory here.

Ahnentafel #4 - Robert Lewis ROBBINS (1920 - 2003) - my paternal grandfather; read his AnceStory here.

Ahnentafel #2 - my father (living)

Ahnentafel #1 - myself

More About the SAYERS Family:

1. Online database (I update this at least once a month): SAYERS ancestors and relatives (no info on living persons available)

2. Some SAYERS obituaries [on website]

3. Posts about SAYERS ancestors and relatives on this blog

6. My  SAYERS Virtual Cemetery on Find A Grave

7. Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte, published in 1904, found at the Internet Archive. The SAYERS family's story is intertwined with the MARTIN's, which is on pages 579 through 585.

My SAYERS Immigration Trail:

County Donegal, IRE > Prince Edward Co., ONT > Northumberland Co., ONT > Durham Co., ONT > Northumberland Co., ONT > Muskegon Co., MI > Manistee Co., MI > Muskegon Co., MI > Ottawa Co., MI > AK > Stevens Co., WA > Spokane Co., WA

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Best Retail said...

As a fellow researcher of all surnames related to Sayers: I can tell you the origin of the surname is from the Latin Serica: for silk weaver. The surname had it deepest roots in Flanders and nearby. Nearly everyone who worked in this trade was called a Sayre. England was continually at war with France but still wanted these fine linens and lace so they imported "Sayres" as early as the 1100s AD...The British accent morphed this surname into Sire and Syr and Sayer in sound. Sayer is not an original Irish surname. Most of the lineages can be tracked back to Wales or South West England and migrated to Ireland at various points. You can find many many birth records in these regions of England/Wales for this surname as well as some early census. The common useage would be to say: John the Sayer (or weaver/cloth maker)much as you would say: Robert the Smith or Daniel the Tailor. Once in North America many original Sayre surnames came to sound as Sears and Sawyer as well as some kept Sayer. Hope this helps.

Harry-David Sayers said...

Hi my surname is Sayers..Harry-David.. My dad is related to the author Dorothy L Sayers.. My grandfather is Frank Eldred Sayers OBE 1889.. a Scottish Jew whom worked for the British government in Sierra-Leone 'back in the day' He is a published man on sierra-Leone and African history.. to my knowledge my family name originated from a Frank Sayers of Oakley & Capet in Surrey UK.. married to Sara Cubitt from Essex descendant of Spanish Jews.. their son Eldred Cubitt Sayers from Twickenham 1870 who became Mayor of Ealing Borough London 1910 whom married Maude Mary Oetzmann 1933... till my grandfather whom married my grandmother Fatama Kande a Sierra Leone a Mandingo tribeswoman.. Great eh... Jewish people are great travellers and Jewish people were always adapting the spelling of the name especially during war times or just to fit in.. shame I always thought it meant story teller but a common name still.. keep up the good work as I stumbled on your blog and will check you out again.. by the way I've family in New York..

Anonymous said...

Hi there my surname is Sayers , I live in Donegal,Ireland and I see you have relations from letterkenny which isn't far from me

Miriam J. Robbins said...

Hello, Anonymous,

I would love to communicate more with you. Could you please email me at



bluelapis said...

Hello again Miriam, I just found your blog! I started using Ancestry to work on my family tree and decided to do the DNA thing. I was rewarded with more Sayers connections, and now have lots of facts to update and so on. Odd thing is, I found some Scots on my fathers side as well, Ervin's. I am glad to see you are still plugging away at the trees, it's been a long time since I've "chatted" with you! Just to refresh, I am the grand-daughter of James Sayers and Edna Badder. We shared info years ago when you were looking up why the Sayers came into Michigan. (Nice blog, by the way) ~ Vicki Finley

Sophie Taylor said...

Hi my name is Sophie Taylor-Camara and I think you are my uncle Harry. Is your dad Oscar Sayers? If so it is you and your aunty (Sophie Kande Sayers) is my grandmother and my dad Eldred Frank Taylor-Camara is your cousin. This is so cool .

Miriam J. Robbins said...

Hi, Sophie,

No, I am not your Uncle Harry, LOL! My name is Miriam Robbins. You can see this in my comments as well as in the "About Miriam" tab at the top of my blog.

Thanks for stopping by!

Harry-David Sayers said...

Hi Sophie Taylor Camara, it's nice to meet you. I think that I could be your cousin. Eldred the barrister is my cousin, his mother being my aunt Sophie Taylor Camara, and yes my old man is called Oscar Sayers. The last time I checked my cousins was at Sophie's wedding in Enfield.
hows the ancestry research going? we're supposed to be looking for ancestors not immediate family lol...keep in touch

Priscilla Sayers said...

My name is Priscilla Sayers my great grandfather was Frank Blair Sayers. I'm trying to connect my family's Cherokee bloodlines. There are 3 Frank Sayers listed in Cherokee Nation database. My Great Grandfather's Indian name was "Tender Foot" . If there is any way anyone knows how i can do thus I would be so grateful.
Thank you
I'm also interested in our family ties to England, Ireland and Scotland. Meeting more of our family who are no doubt now scattered across many countries would be an amazing to say the least.

Priscilla Sayers said...

Hello My name is Priscilla Sayers. Great Granddaughter of Frank Blair Sayers also known as "Tender Foot ".I'm interested in knowing all aspects of my ancestors from England to Ireland to Scotland and as I have discovered The Cherokee Nation. Knowing our history and family is so very important to who we are today. If anyone has any information or is related to me of course it would be a great honor to meet you.

Miriam J. Robbins said...

Hi, Priscilla,

I don't have any Cherokee or other native ancestry, so I am not familiar with native research. If you have a subscription to Ancestry, I recommend watching the Ancestry Academy course on Native American ancestry, by my friends Paula Stuart Warren and Laura Prescott at

Priscilla Sayers said...

Thank you