The Pickles Family

If your name is Pickles, why not drop me an email to tell me about yourself?

The "Oxford Dictionary of Surnames" says that the surname "Pickles" (and its various different spellings) is a Middle English (medieval) word meaning a smallholder - a farmer with a small farm.  The examples that it gives of place-names including the word "Pickles" all come from around the Pennines of England - from the West Riding of Yorkshire and from eastern Lancashire.

The Pickles family seems to have started somewhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and then to have spread outwards.  In the days before the Industrial Revolution you could imagine farmers squeezing a meagre living out of the hills and valleys on the eastern side of the Pennine hills, scraping a living out of the common land that was shared by all.  Sheep farming, wool and weaving went together.  Weaving started literally as a cottage industry, with handlooms in the ground floor of the weavers' houses.  This lifestyle was impacted by Enclosure Acts and by the Industrial Revolution.  Common land was enclosed and sold off to wealthier families, partly to make more efficient and productive agricultural use of land and partly to help the British government fund its military efforts in multiple wars such as the Napoleonic Wars.  The traditional users of the common land were given small "allotments" instead.  People who had led a subsistence-farming life for centuries had to give up farming and moved down into the valleys to take up jobs that paid wages, still working as weavers and using their looms in their houses.   Large new mills were built, and the weavers' children often worked in these, followed later by their fathers (once a woman was married, she no longer went to work).  The mills and towns grew together, and the towns grew and offered more services and a wider range of job opportunities.  The railways grew and linked the towns together.  And as the wars decreased and the international demand for uniforms and blankets made of wool decreased, the need for weavers also decreased and Pickles people looked for other types of jobs in other sectors.

In my branch of the Pickles family, I can follow this trend from the 1700s to the present day as the employment of the head of the family changed from handloom weaver to machine weaver to draper to railway clerk to insurance agent to marketing manager.  Many of the earlier children's birth certificates are signed with a simple cross - the "mark" of the mother or father registering the birth, because they were unable to write even theor own names.

The Pickles family expanded - across England, and across the seas.  You can find members of the Pickles family all over the world today - they are much more widespread than I had ever thought!  Look on the Internet - or in a telephone directory when you are visiting a different country - and you may be surprised how many of us are out there.  Some have been famous,  most of us have not, but we all know where our family came from originally - a little corner of the Pennine North of England hundreds of years ago.

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2017
Last modified:04 April 2017