Origin of the Tyler Name

From Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Volume III, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. (1981). pp. 770-776.
Excerpts from the article:

Doubtless it is well known to many who bear this most ancient surname that, as Mark Antony Lower stated in his “Patronymica Brittannica,” the surname of Tyler or Tiler was derived from the occupation of the first man in England to whom this surname became applied. The learned etymologists, however, tell us neither when nor where in England the surname originated, nor who were the first to be known by that surname. These points are determinable. One may note that Lower declares that the surname of Tileman (Tillman) originated from exactly the same causes as did the surname of Tyler; also, that he described “Tylor” as a “genteel form of Tyler.” Bardsley, the more recent etymologist, agrees with Lower that the first Tyler was a tiler, a maker or layer of tiles, “one who bakes clay into tiles,” he further avers. Also, he agrees with Skeats, author of an etymological dictionary, that the word tiler is from the Anglo-Saxon tigele, which antedates all British surnames. The Latin form is tegula, from tegere, meaning to cover. Henry Harrison, the most scholarly of the etymologists, agrees with those predecessors, and adds that a “tylee” or “tiley” was a dweller at a tile field, and derived from the Old English tigel leah.

An effort has been made to find the actual records of the first Tylers in human history. They lived in the Thirteenth Century in England; and, by virtue of the fact that the British nation has so carefully preserved its early records and has made them accessible for examination, success in the discovery has been a simple matter. The first appearance of the name of Tyler is in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). Thus, the surname originated almost with the Magna Carta, “the Englishman’s Declaration of Independence,” in 1215, and before the Seventh Crusade to the Holy Land in 1268 of Prince Edward, son of Henry III. The surname cannot be considered as having become the fixed cognomen of any Englishman before the signing of the great charter; in fact, a large number of the English surnames of today had not then become crystallized as surnames. It was the Seventh Crusade to the Holy Land that gave rise to the creation of the first record now extant of our surname. It was King Louis IX of France who directed this Seventh Crusade to “rescue the Holy Land from the Infidels.” The absence of Prince Edward from England in 1270 gave rise to a certain event, in England, which now enables us to peep into the cottages of the very first Tylers, who certainly were at home in the years 1272 and 1273. This event was an official inquiry ordered by Edward I on his return from Palestine, after the death of his father, Henry III, in 1272. The nature of this inquiry was to ascertain the exact state of the royal demesnes, and of the rights and revenues of the Crown, many of which, during the previous turbulent reign, had been usurped by the clergy and laity. A jury was summoned in each hundred of the realm to ascertain the facts and report thereon under oath. The fundamental title to land was vested in the king; much land was held in capite, by fealty only. This sweeping inquiry all over England into the minute particulars of the tenure of land, shows only five adult males surnamed Tyler then alive in England. Thus we are close to the very beginning of this family, as a family, with a distinct surname; so few were the members of it in the year 1272, and as three of the five were living together in the same district, probably in the same town, it is clear that these five first Tylers were exactly in the position to have been the children of the tile-maker, of tiler, the first man who, as a tiler, derived or was accorded his surname form his occupation.

It is expected that the man who did take his surname from his occupation as a maker of tiles and bricks, and who passed that name on to his children as well as his business for them to succeed him in, must have been a good tile-maker. It is clear that he was noted first and foremost as a maker of tiles; hence the crystallization of the surname and the honoring of it, by their adoption of it, by the children of the first bearer. This may sound theoretical, but a study of the works upon family nomenclature will dispel doubts and the actual records leave no other conception possible.

The account continues:

Thus Galfridus (otherwise Geoffray) le Tylere and Radulphus (otherwise Ralph) de Tilere with another were cottars, tenants of three cottages each with a few acres of land rented to them by the Abbot of Sawtry who was the resident ecclesiastical lord of the district, and the representative of the monastery of Great Sawtry, in which was vested the actual ownership of the land; and for the use of the cottages and land they paid to the said abbot the same as did Ralph Vaccary, i.e., two shillings annually each, and each gave free to the abbot eight days of assistance upon the demesne lands of the abbot at the time of the harvest.

…Sawtry was upon the old Roman road from London to York, about eight miles north of the shire town of Huntingdon. The earth is flat in that region and clay abounds in vast quantities. Ely Cathedral was the mother church of the first Tylers.

For information, contact Norman Tyler at ntyler@emich.edu.

≪ Back