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The families that took the name Pickering appear to fall into two main groups: those who remained in and around the town of the same name, e.g. the Pickerings of Hackness 1 and the Pickerings of Hackness 2, and those who ventured further afield. It is likely that the second group was made up of a number of sub-groups, each based on a distinct family.

Oswaldkirk Pickeringslater arms
Thomas de Pickering
of Oswaldkirk
Oswaldkirk Pickerings later arms
Sir William Pickering of Oswaldkirk 1517-1575

The family whom I have called the Pickerings of Oswaldkirk acquired lands through marriage in the Ryedale district of the North Riding. DNA testing reveals that they descend in the male line from the Allens. Documentary evidence of how a branch of the Allen family became the Oswaldkirk Pickerings has so far not been found, but it must have taken place before the end of the 1100s, as “Adam filio Thome de Pikering” witnessed a charter dated between 1190 and 1213.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Pickerings of Barlby are an offshoot of the Oswaldkirk family, one of their number establishing a line in Worcestershire in the late 17th century.

Killington Pickerings

DNA testing reveals that the Anglo-Norman de Brus family that held land in Pickering in the 12th century formed a sub-branch that took the name “de Pickering” when it settled in one of the vast holdings that William I had granted the de Bruses and supported them as “tenants, clerics or administrators, in order to preserve the unity and power of the lordship”. I have called this branch that moved to Westmorland in the early 1200s the Pickerings of Killington, as this is where they first held land in their own right, but they can be found elsewhere where the de Bruses had holdings, in particular in Northamptonshire, and also in Yorkshire through their association with another prominent family, the Greystokes.

sable bend cottised fusilly
Flamborough Puckerings

A fourth family bearing a name derived from Pickering is the Puckerings of Flamborough. They rose to prominence in the 16th century, at about the time they adopted the alternative spelling of the name. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they are an offshoot of the Pickerings of Killington, as they are often found in the areas of Yorkshire where the Greystokes had holdings.

Among British surnames, there are two families whose surnames spread in early times far beyond the location which gave rise to them. One of them is Pickering/Puckering, which was already to be found in most parts of England by about 1400. This seems surprising when one considers the size of the town of Pickering, but if a junior line of a prominent local family took the name “de Pickering”, if it found favour with another prominent family or if it made judicial marriages, it can be assumed that feudal lordship accounted for the dispersal of the name. By the 16th century Gilbert Pickering of Killington was an important landowner in Northamptonshire, Robert Pickering of Barlby had already bought up his exiled lord’s holdings, Sir William Pickering of Oswaldkirk was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir John Puckering of Flamborough was, if not a favourite, her very efficient Keeper of the Great Seal.

Though Pickerings were already well established in the West Riding and Lancashire, the name undoubtedly became more widespread as a result of the industrial revolution, and it was the opening up of North America, the Antipodes and South Africa that took it beyond the shores of Britain. Added to this is the incontestable fact that the Pickerings were prolific and my own observations suggest that many of those who survived childhood lived long lives.


The Brus Family in England and Scotland, 1100-c1290
, Dr. Ruth Margaret Blakely:
A History of British Surnames, Richard McKinley: