My son Pete and I are both history buffs and over the years we often speculated that given our English and German heritage it was likely that our ancestors fought for the other team during the American Revolution.

And while that is certainly possible, around 1660 a branch of the Taylor family (Colonel James Taylor 1st) sailed from Carlisle, England, and established his family on a plantation in Virginia. From this branch of the family came Presidents James Madison (Frances Taylor was his grandmother) and Zachary Taylor. “Old Rough and Ready’s” father, Lt. Colonel Richard Taylor was an officer in the Revolutionary war (for our side) camped at Valley Forge and established a headquarters in a Gwynedd farmhouse that they tell me still exists. His father-in-law Major Walter Smith also fought for the American side. Ironically Pete’s wife is descended from President John Adams, which means that many centuries ago our ancestors hung out with one another.

When I was in fifth grade (at Glenside Elementary) Miss Applegate staged a Thanksgiving pageant and I played Elder William Brewster, the leader of the Plymouth colony. Now I have learned that Zack’s wife, Margaret Mackall Smith, was descended from Brewster’s daughter, Fear, who married Isaac Allerton Jr. (whose father came on the Mayflower). This makes him a relative, albeit a distant one. But speaking of distant relatives the Zachary Taylor line eventually extends to Teddy Roosevelt for whom my father, the ex-mounted cavalry member himself, wanted to name me. (Teddy is really a nickname, though my father hung it on me virtually at birth.)

But why Taillefer? For most of my life I assumed that our last name was, in fact, related to a trade. Names like Carpenter, Sailor, Gardener, Singer, Painter and so on. But, no, Taylor was not based on a trade at all, but rather evolved from the French name of Taillefer (roots trace back to Charentes, France) and the first person to wear that name was William Taillefer (895-955 of Angouleme, France. His Grandson, Count William of Angeloueme (952-1028) assumed a touch of royalty that carried through several Count Williams until William Taillefer (1200-1274) married Queen Marie Montgomery (1200-1276) of Angouleme, Poitou-Charentes, France. Not sure what she was the Queen of, but how cool is it to have a Queen in the family tree?

They started messing with the family name about the time of Baron Hanzer (Hangar) Taylifer who moved to Sussex, England and tried to refine it. The name Taylor emerged with Sr. John Taylor (1324-1377), a knight of King Edward III. He was also the Lord of Shadowxhurst and Kent (which is in Scotland). His wife was Lady Margaret Wellmote. Lord William Taylor I (1409-1468) served as Chaplain to King Henry VII. His wife was Lady Margaret of Halwyn, daughter of Sir Arthur Cornwall Hanley.

The first recorded successful birth of triplets came in 1480 to Lady Joan Gilbard, wife of Lord William Taylor II. They were Nathaniel, John and Rowland. They, too, lived in Shadowxhurst.

My real first name is Henry (as was my father). Neither of us used it. Dad went as Jack, I use Ted. But the first Henry Taylor in our family is recorded as being born in 1540 in Cambridgeshire, Ickleton, England. It was his son, John Taylor (1593-1639) who fathered the man, James (1633-1698), who would sail to Virginia and create the family line that produced two Presidents. John and his wife Elizabeth were known as “The Pennington Taylors”. It was here that the family took two paths. One side to America, one side remaining in England until my Grandfather John Henry Taylor (1866-1933) uprooted his family from the Manchester region and settled in Philadelphia.

From the original John came Nicholas and his wife Elizabeth (of Sheffield). Nicholas Jr. (1610-1662) and his wife Mary; Benjamin Taylor Sr. and his wife Anna; Benjamin Jr. and is wife Mary, George Taylor (1748) of Prestwich, Lancashire and his wife Mary and then came my great great great-grandparents Thomas Taylor (1775-1830) and his wife Ann Wright (1785) of Lancashire; great great-grandparents John Taylor (1808-1868) and his wife Mary Proudlove (1818-1878) of Bolton; great-grandparents John Taylor (1837-1868) and of Bolton and his wife Anna Rodgers (1835-1886) of Dublin, Ireland.

My grandparents John Taylor and Mary Ann Hill were married in 1892 in Manchester and had four children, including my father Henry (Jack) who was the youngest. John, and later his family, came to America in 1910 aboard the SS Haverford that debarked in Philadelphia. He worked as sexton of St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia until his death in 1933.

Thanks to, 23andMe, and numerous other sources including inquiries abroad I was able to finalize this family tree, a nice legacy to leave to all of the many Taylor descendants. The research showed that our family’s roots were in France, not England; our name had nothing to do with a trade and the family tree took a major split in the mid 1600s with one branch taking a pioneer role in the future of America and the other maintaining a steady, if unspectacular, role in the life of the Manchester region of England. I’m proud to be one of them.

Listen to Ted Taylor on WRDV FM (89.3) Tuesdays from 8 AM to Noon and Wednesdays from 10 pm – 1 am or contact him at

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