Bagby Surname Origin

For anyone who has been researching the surname Bagby for any length of time, it should be a familiar refrain to run across a Bagby report that begins as follows:

John Bagby, born 1570 in Scotland. Wife, Mary Unknown, of Welch descent. They had 10 children.

As of 2015, I can say without hesitation, "That is a myth".

Research is a never ending journey and I as travel the road of research, I will continually update this page. As of now, the oldest document I have found is a Will of John Bagby in England dated 1404.

As of December 2015, if I were to write my own Once Upon a Time Bagby report for the vast majority of those in our main report, it would be based on the following information:

Following is an excerpt from a book shared by The Library of Congress, entitled "In Memorium", Addresses Delivered at the Unveiling of a Monument to the Memory of Edward Bagby at Bruington Church, King & Queen County, Virginia by Honorable Henry R. Pollard and Others, August 8, 1912.

In the address delivered by Honorable Henry R. Pollard, (husband of Jessie Bagby) of Richmond, at the unveiling of a monument to the memory of Edward Bagby at Bruington Baptist Church, King and Queen County, Virginia, August 8, 1912, he states:

"Into one of the most favored homes of the county during that period, Edward Bagby was born, on the 26th day of January, 1842. His father, John Bagby, a veteran of the war of 1812, was the great grandson of Thomas Bagby, the immigrant, who settled at Jamestown in 1628, and ancestor of many distinguished men of his name, among them United States Senator from and Governor of Alabama, and Confederate General Bagby of Texas. Edward was the youngest but one of a family of twelve children."


Edward was, as many of you will readily recognize, the son of John Christopher Bagby, A.K.A. John Bagby of Bunker Hill. In comparison with Dr. Alfred Paul Bagby, D.D. beginning the genealogy of James Bagby in Jamestown in 1628, Henry R. Pollard, says Thomas Bagby, an immigrant, who settled at Jamestown in 1628. The concern for me as a researcher is not the given name because I have found the Bagby family is notorious for using a middle name as if it were the only given name; to the extent of having only the middle name engraved on a grave marker. It may have been this ancestor's name was James Thomas Bagby or it may have been a lapse in memory or a mispoken word.

One thing I know for certain is "Great Grandfather" is not used in the context of how we commonly use it; the father of my grandfather. There would be a minimum of 180 years between the birth date of James and/or Thomas Bagby and the birth date of John Christopher Bagby. So, if indeed this ancester settled in the vicinity of Jamestown, Virginia in 1628, he would have more properly been "A Great Grandfather". I can see how an orator would simply refer to the ancester as the great grandfather.

There is a THOMAS BAGBY listed in the "Alphabetical Rent Roll of Virginia 1704/05", Reference: The Planters of Colonial Virginia, Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Russell & Russell New York, New York. There is also a ROBERT BAGBY in the same record in King & Queen County.

Bagby, Tho – James City County 1704

Bagby, Rbt – King & Queen County 1704

Taking that information, my theory would be this:

James ( 1 ) born About 1628 Jamestown area ; Thomas ( 2 ) born About 1654, found in 1704 Census Jamestown City County, Virginia ; Robert ( 2 ) born About 1656, found in 1704 Census King & Queen County, Virginia

Robert ( 2 ) ; James ( 3 ) ; Isom ( Isham ) ( 3 ) ; William ( 3 )

William ( 3 ) ; Robert ( 4 ), b. 1740 (Kentucky branch)

James ( 3 ) ; John ( 4 ) b. Before 1775

John ( 4 ) ; John ( 5 ) b. Unknown; d. 1789, Louisa County, Virginia ; Richard ( 5 ) b. March 7, 1750; d. April 23, 1818 ; Thomas ( 5 ) born Unknown; d. Unknown


The following is from The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origin, Meaning, and History by George F. Black, Ph.D.,


The New York Public Library:

"BEGBIE. This surname is most probably derived from the lands of Begbie or Baikbie in the constabulary of Haddington. There is also a village named Baikbie in the parish of Roberton, but as the surname is mainly confined to the Lothians the former seems the most likely place of its origin. John Baikbie, tenant in Drumhillis, and William Baikbie in Drem, were cited before the Privy Council in 1566 (RPC., I, p.444), Baigbie 1609."
(RPC refers to Records of the Privy Council)



Textbooks suggest that Begbie is a corruption of "Becca's By" meaning Becca's house or homestead and as thus may be of Scandinavian extraction. The same suffix also appears in, eg, Whitby. I am not clear of the evidence for this conclusion, but the name is also spelled Begbey and I have found at least one instance of a person using both spellings. In any event, the Mormons in their IGI list Begbie/Begbey along with Bagby, Bigby, and Bugby as being spellings subject to interchange. These latter names seem to be much older in England than Begbie and so it may be that this one unusual surname has more than one origin. This is particularly true of Devon where the name (almost always spelt Begbey) goes back to at least 1725, but Bagby etc., can be found in the 1600s.

The name is most common in Scotland, especially around Mid-Eastlothian, suggesting this is the true source of the family, but by the 1700s the name appears in London where about 1795, James Begbie was born. I know nothing of his early life or parents, but by 1819 he had moved to Bristol and married. The following is the story of his descendants and it is split into three parts. From the Atlanta Constitution, July 2, 1989


Know Your Name
By John C. Downing (deceased, this was his last column)

The surnames Bagbey and Bagby are English place names acquired from once having lived at a place in the North Riding of Yorkshire, spelled Baghebi in the 1066 Domesday Book, Baggaby around 1160, Baggebi in 1280 and now Bagby. The meaning is "Baggi's By" Baggi was an Old Norse personal name of uncertain meaning and it is found compounded with other words among the Danish settlements in England.

No instances of individuals were found m the available early records. This does not mean that the surname did not exist at an early date – only the owner(s) escaped the tax collector or being hailed into court. The word By denotes a secondary settlement under the control of the older homestead, probably named for its founder.

In Virginia, John Bagby was a headright in a 1636 James City County land grant and James Bagby was a headright in a 1639 Charles City County land grant. Peter Bagby, or Bagly, sold 250 acres in Isle of Wight County in 1666. Robert Bagby held land in New Kent County prior to 1671 and was granted 80 acres there in 1673. In 1704, Robert Bagby paid the rent on his 350-acre grant in King William County, and Thomas Bagby paid the rent on his 180 acre grant in James City County.

Lieutenant James Bagby served in our Revolutionary Army.

In North Carolina, David Bagby and William Bagby were property taxpayers in Halifax County in 1785.

The 1790 U.S. Census lists families of Bagbys in Georgia (Reconstructed), North Carolina and Virginia.


The Parish Church of St. Mary

Bagby village has just one winding street, but it contains several picturesque features. Old houses are found here, some dating back to Tudor times. In the crofts, on either side of the road, are quite extensive foundations, and there are vestiges of moated sites, but whether they indicate an ancient hall or manor house, or the foundations of the leper hospital which existed in the area in the Middle Ages, is not know for sure.

Bagby is filled with the air of antiquity, as its Danish place name indicates. Certainly it pre-dates Domesday and it had a priest to look after the spiritual welfare of its inhabitants when the surrounding villages (not even Thirsk) were possessed of one. Kirby Knowle, some six miles away, now its head, was at that ancient time one of its dependencies. Doubtless, it was a place of some importance, but its early history is lost in the mists of the past.

The church of Bagby, unique in its style of architecture and its peculiar internal arrangement, stands on the north side of the village. The church is not mentioned in Domesday, but it is of very ancient origin and has undergone several restorations.

Tradition says that during the reign of Henry II, some 300 soldiers were stationed at Bagby to guard the district from outlaws and robbers. The outlaws seem to have found their master in Henry II, and dispersed leaving Bagby in peace. This indicates how important Bagby was at that time. The outlaws made the Hambletons their place of refuge, and swooped down on the Normans who lived on the lower ground. The same grounds as held the original Anglo-Danish inhabitants, who had been despoiled of their lands and from being owners of the soil had, in many instances, become serfs to the Norman oppressors.

Research submitted by: Commander William Boyle Bagbey


Excerpts of Site Owner & Collaborator(s) Discussion in 2003

Notice the first article is full of wording like, "The surname is most probably derived...", "...most likely it's place of origin.", "Textbooks suggest...", "I am not clear of the evidence...", "...suggesting the true source of the family."...but then the article states without a doubt that the Bagby name was clearly in England in 1600. The second article on that page places the Bagby surname in England, as does the third article.

Then, I re-read the article written by Dr. Harry Ashby Bagby, D.D., which is now on this web site under the notes of Dr. Harry Ashby Bagby, D.D. ( Note: This article was found among papers of my husband's Grandfather, John Robert Bagby of Mountain View, Arkansas. I have yet to find the book from which the article was copied, but the page numbers are 95-99. )

You'll notice the first line that says, "The Bagbys are of Scotch blood, chiefly."

Chiefly. What does that mean? It could mean any number of things, including the fact he realized no family is entirely made up of one ethnic group. There could also be another reason for his wording. Dr. Harry Ashby Bagby, D.D. was born in 1863. His father was born in 1836 and his grandfather was born in 1791. What's my point? Well, many of us have had the privilege of listening to the accounts of history from our grandfathers. This family lived in Virginia, a state deeply affected by The Revolutionary War. I cannot imagine any person of that day writing an article and saying, "The Bagbys are of British blood." Even in our own society today there are states where the Civil War still deeply affects the thinking of some people.


So, what are we to conclude. I cannot find anything Bagby in Scotland, but I can find much of Bagby in England. What then is the origin of the surname Bagby. One could conclude it is of English origin and not Scottish origin. One could conclude we may never know for certain. One could conclude it matters not. I personally believe the Bagby name is of English origin. In February 2003, I posted a message on the Bagby Rootsweb Board containing most of this information and there was further discussion from other Bagby researchers.


Tom Smith posted the following in an email to the Bagby Rootsweb List dated February 13, 2003:

I don't mean to take issue with those who see the Bagby family as coming originally from Scotland, but I found a record of two Bagby individuals who were living in Norwich which is a town about 111 miles northeast of London.

The following information was taken from the book Index to Wills Proved in the Consistory Court of Norwich and Now Preserved in the District Probate Registry at Norwich 1370-1550 and Wills Among the Norwich Enrolled Deeds 1286-1508, (found in Newbury Library in Chicago), ed. by M.A. Farrow, London, The British Record Society, 1945:

"The episcopal jurisdiction of the See of Norwich extended over Norfolk, Suffolk, and a part of Cambridgeshire, and comprised four archdeaconries, viz. Norwich, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sudbury." (p. ix)

[The following entries for BAGBY are listed:]

"1504, Bagby, Baggby, John, rector of Leryngsett .... [address] 120, 121 Ryxe." (p. 21)

"1471, Bagby, William, Holt Market .... [address] 232 Jekkys." (p. 21)


Major Walter Moncure Ryland, III, who passed from this life on March 5, 2003, posted to the Bagby Rootsweb List on February 5, 2003:


I think you may be onto something. The parish registers transcribed in the IGI have scads of Bagbys in England but only a handful from Scotland. The earliest Scots entry is an unnamed female Bagbey b 17 Aug 1786 to a John Bagbie. There are lots earlier in England. Of course the IGI also has the mythical John Bagby that you have pretty well debunked and designated as "Unknown," but I am looking only at the transcriptions of the actual records.

This page about the Baggett family says Bagby originated in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

That page cites etymological sources for the word origins. I think others making the same claim might be located via a websearch.

Once in a while we all may need to back up a step or two and take a good fresh look at what we have "always known."

Walter Ryland


I'll close with one last observation. I have never seen any documentation for a John Bagby, born 1570 in Scotland. The only place I have ever seen such a John Bagby mentioned is in genealogy reports on the Internet and no source is given, and in the research known as [Creasy], as quoted below:

For what it is worth, an extract from a letter written by Mr. John C. Bagby of Rushville, Illinois to Dr. George K. Bagby, May 18, 1894 is quoted, "John Bagby married a Welsh woman. Eight or ten children were born to them in Wales. All moved to America. One son John Bagby married a Miss Morriss, a sister of Dr. Morriss of Richmond, VA, in Louisa Co., VA and their children all married in Louisa Co.," In this letter Mr. Bagby says, "The sons of the Scotchman John Bagby or as he spelled it "Begbie" were all born in Wales and were scattered over Louisa, King and Queen, Prince William, Amelia and several other counties east and west of the James River, some as far down as Danville, Virginia. We cannot give any written record beyond our great-grandfather [Louisa County, Virginia]. John Bagby, so called to distinguish him from a cousin John Bagby of King & Queen County, Virginia".

You'll notice that even the researchers who compiled what we refer to as [Creasy] could not find documentation to support John Bagby, b. 1570.

— Sherri Schäefer Bagby, October 2003


2016 — Since the time of this discussion I have continued to research and in recent years found many documents which confirm the Bagby family is from England.