Gates


Select Gates Surname Genealogy

Gates and Yates are both surnames that derived from the Old English gatu, plural of geat, meaning "gate."  Since medieval gates were usually arranged in pairs, fastened in the center, the plural name came to be used.  The surname described a gatekeeper or one who lived by the gates of a walled town. 

The Gates and Yates spellings developed separately in different parts of the country and probably reflected earlier pronunciation differences.  Gates may also specifically refer to the Sussex place-name Eastergate, known as Gates in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Gates in America is often an anglicization of the German name Goetz. 

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England.  The earliest appearences of the name were in East Anglia.  Silvester atte Gates was rector of Brinton in Norfolk in 1354 and Thomas Gates, born in 1327, was the first of the Gates gentry family of Essex.  This family purchased the Garnetts manor in High Easter (near present-day Chelmsford), which remained in their hands until 1582.  Sir John Gates prospered as a courtier under Henry VIII, but then lost his head when he backed the abortive attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the English throne. 

"On August 19, 1553 he was tried at the Tower and sentenced to death for treason.  Three days later he was brought out to Tower Hill where at three blows his head was struck off."

The Gates name spread around the southeast, from Essex to Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire.  The Gates name was recorded as early as 1480 in Horsham in Sussex; Henry Gates lived at the Kings Barn nearby in Cowfold in the 1660's; and the Gates of Alton in Hampshire date from the time of the Civil War. 

America.
  The Gates name appeared early in the history of America.  Sir Thomas Gates sailed for Virginia as head of the rescue party for the original Jamestown inhabitants.  He became governor of Virginia briefly in 1611, but then returned to England. 

The Puritan Stephen Gates stayed.  He came in 1638 from Hingham near Norwich in England on the Diligent and settled with other Puritans from Hingham in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Later Gates descendants were to be found in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Jacob Gates was a Mormon and an early arrival in Salt Lake valley. Charles Otis Gates' work Stephen Gates of Hingham and His Descendants, published in 1898, is not now considered fully reliable and has been much corrected by more recent researchers.  Robert Cady Gates' 2000 book Records of the Gates Families in America is a more recent work. 

One researcher went through Gates as a surname in the 1850 and 1860 US censuses and estimated that a majority of them had German rather than English roots.  Many Goetz became Gates in America on arrival or a generation or so later.

Among the Goetz who came to America and became Gates then or later were:
  • Early arrivals, John Georg Goetz along with his mother and siblings, who left Wurttemburg for America in 1750 and settled in Berks county, Pennsylvania.
  • Johannes Gotz from the Rhine Palatinate arrived in 1754 and settled in Indiana county, Pennsylvania
  • Adolph Goetz and his family from Wurttemburg who moved to Buffalo, New York in 1846 (another Goetz, George Goertz, settled in Rochester nearby and later moved onto Indiana and Ohio)
  • Daniel Goetz and his family from Wurttemburg who arrived in Iowa in the early 1850's to farm
  • and a Goetz family from Nuremburg who started emigrating to America in 1853.  They settled in Angola, Indiana.
There were two Bill Gates known to be in Alaska at the time of the Klondike gold rush of the 1890's.  The first, the flamboyant Swiftwater Bill, was a small moon-faced wanderer from Idaho.  He made and lost several fortunes.  In one famous Klondike story he presented the Dawson dance hall girl Gussie Lamore with her weight in gold.  A biography The True Life Story of Swiftwater Bill Gates was written in 1908 by his mother-in-law Iola Beebe.  The other Bill Gates, whose family had come from Rhode Island in the early 19th century, settled in Washington state and was the grandfather of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.    

Canada.  The descent from New England immigrant Stephen Gates came north into Canada a century or so later, through two different lines:
  • One was via his son Simon.  Simon's grandson Captain Oldham Gates left Massachusetts in 1760 for what is now Annapolis county, Nova Scotia.  His family founded Gates Breakwater, which became known as Port George in 1812, and were the builders of the first oceangoing vessel there.
  • The other was via his son Isaac.  There was a Joseph Abel Gates, who was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1772 and married Mary Burtch in 1802, and a Henry Gates, born in Burford in Brant county, Ontario in 1777.
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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Sir John Gates was a courtier under Henry VIII who was later executed for his role in trying to put Lady Jane Grey on the English throne.
Horatio Gates served as an American general during the Revolutionary War.  He was credited with the victory at Saratoga but plotted the replacement of George Washington.
John W. Gates was a pioneer promoter of barbed wire and became a prominent American financier.  He was also a big-time gambler, known as "bet-a-million" Gates.
Bill Gates started and developed the computer software giant Microsoft.

Select Gates Today
  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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