Surname Name Meaning, Origin, and Etymology
This name derives from the Christian baptismal name Jordan, which in turn derives from the Jordan River that flows from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea in the biblical Holy Land and the modern day Middle East. In Hebrew, the river was called the Yarden in Hebrew, deriving from the word yarad, meaning “to go down” (to the Dead Sea in this case). It was considered the “river of judgment”. The word jardain is Gaelic, meaning western river (as the Euphrates was considered the eastern river?). The name was brought into Europe, Christendom, and the Holy Roman Empire by Crusaders and the Knights Templar, who gave the name to their children, who they often baptized (along with pilgrims) with water taken in flasks from the river itself (as Christ was baptized in the river by John the Baptist). It became a common personal name, and then a patronymic surname meaning “the son of Jordan” found through nearly all of Europe. In Britain, some claim the family descends from Jordan de Cantington, later known as Jordan of Exeter, a Knight who accompanied William the Conqueror during the Norman Invasion of England in 1066 AD. It’s also claimed the accompanied Strongbow (born around 1100 AD), Earl of Pembroke, who invaded Ireland in 1172 AD and received lands from King John of England. It’s claimed his descendants, the de Exeters, assumed the surname of MacJordan. Another author claims it was adopted by a Connacht family who came in 1172 AD and comes from the Gaelic MacSiurtain. The family became Lords of Athleathan in the Barony of Gallen in county Mayo. In France, it was first found in Bittany during medieval times.
In his book, Patronymica Britannica, Mark Antony Lower rejects the above theory and instead asserts the surname derives from the old Norman baptismal name Jourdain, a corruption of the Latin personal (first) name Hodiernus, occurring in Sackville. A third theory, contained in a Dutch source, is that the name is related to the first and last name Gregory.
An 1847 book by William Reeves, titled Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor, and Dromore, states the following: "The Jordan surname in County Down dates from the time of John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight who, after invading Ireland, marched northward to Ulster in 1177 to seize lands controlled by the Irish chieftains. One of twenty-two knights who accompanied de Courcy was Jordan de Saukville, an adventurer who later received land around Ardglass, Down, for his services to the expedition. Documents refer to his holdings as early as July 12, 1210, when King John was recorded as having stopped over at Jordan de Saukville's castle and 1217, when King Henry III confirmed Jordan's possessions in Ardglass". The book A History of the County Down, from the Most Remote Period to the Present Day, authored by Alexander Knox in 1875, states the following: "This Jordan family was prominent among the nobility of Down at least through the Elizabethan period. By the early seventeenth century these Jordans were known to be "extensive proprieters" in Down; but in succeeding years they, like many other leading Anglo-Norman families, were "for the most part extinguished by civil wars, rebellion and the course of nature." In 1875, Alexander Knox reported that, "...there are still a number of residents in the county , but none in any prominent position although no doubt descendants of the same stock."
Familyjordan.com offers the following legend, regarding a one Sir William Dearborn who was part of the Third Crusade in the Holy Lands and “Sir William performed a number of heroic deeds during a battle at the River Jordan. These deeds were witnessed by King Richard the Lionhearted who promptly dubbed Sir William as “Sir Jordan” in honor of his heroic performance. Sir William asked the King for permission to change his Surname to “Jordan” and also to change the name of the Hamlet where he lived to Jordan. The King granted this request and according to the Dartmoor Historical Society the Surname of Jordan was born. The Hamlet of Jordan still exists in the Moors of Dartmoor in Devonshire, England”.
Common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Jordon, Jorden, Jordayne, Jordaan, Jodany, Jordaen, Jordans, Jordane, Jordaine, Jourdane, Jurden, Jordean, MacJordan, and McJordan. One author claims Judd was the nickname and Judkin the diminutive.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Jordan ranks 105th in popularity in terms in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following nine states: Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio.
The surname Jordan frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (213th), Scotland (522nd), Wales (244th), Ireland (220th) and Northern Ireland (233rd). In England, it ranks highest in county Kent. In Scotland, it ranks highest in Shetland. In Wales, the surname Jordan ranks highest in Monmouthshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Mayo. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Down.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (560th), New Zealand (265th), Australia (295th), and South Africa (832nd).
The name is also popular in the non-English speaking world: Switzerland (288th), Denmark (2,286th), Spain (601st), Austria (503rd), Slovenia (372nd), Liechtenstein (537th), and France (1,968th)
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “Jordan is a name established in many other parts of England besides the North and East Ridings, for instance, in Bucks, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, etc. In the 13th century it was common as Jordan and Jurdan in Oxfordshire, and was also represented in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, etc. The Jordans of Enstone, Oxfordshire, have been resident in that parish since the 14th century. This surname is a form of Jourdain, an early Norman baptismal name”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
As a personal name, it was first documented in the Registers of the Abbet of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England in 1121 AD. The earliest known bearer of this surname was John Jorden who was documented in Cambridge in 1202. Walter Jurdan was recorded in Sussex in 1327 AD. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists two bearers of this surname: Roger filius Jurdan (Cambridgeshire) and Robert filius Jordan (Oxfordshire). The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists one bearer of this last name: Matilda widow of Jordani.
George Fraser Black’s 1946 book, The Surnames of Scotland, states the following in regard to this surname: “Jordan the Fleming was chancellor to David I in 1142—43, in a charter of Adam son of Swain, c. 1136—53. Jordan de Wodford, charter witness in Angus, c. 1170. Jordanus Brae granted a piece of land to the church of S. Mary and S. Kentigern of Lanark, c. 1214. Magister William Jordanus witnessed confirmation charter by Gilbert, bishop of Aberdeen between 1228—39”.
History, Genealogy, and Ancestry
The famous genealogist Bernard Burke’s book “The Landed Gentry” discusses one branch of this family: Jordan of Pigeonsford.
Jordan of Pigeonsford
George Bowen Jordan, Esquire of Pigeonsford in county Cardigan and Dumpledale, county Pembroke, Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant , as well as High Sheriff in 1836. He was born in 1836 and in 1831 he married Ellen, daughter of Sir John Owen, Bartonet of Orielton, and had five issue with her: George Price, Barrett Price, Ellen Evelyn Elizabeth (married Admiral Charles Hope), Elizabeth Maria (married Morgan Jones), and Angelina. His birth name was Price and he took the name Jordan under the will of Reverend John Jordan of Dumpledale. He later married Ellinor Laura, only daughter of Richard Owen Powell. The family has Anglo-Norman ancestry. The first settler in Wales was Jordan de Cantington, a companion of Marin de Tours, in his conquest of Kemmes during the reign of King William I (1066 AD). At the end of the 1300s and beginning of the 1400s, Leonard Jordan married the heiress of Dumpledale and acquired that estate, from which point they spread over the county of Pembroke. The Jordan Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Jordan Family Crest) of this branch of the family has the following blazon in heraldry: Gules, a lion rampant between eight crosses crosslet fitchee or, a chief of the second.
Jordan Family Tree
Joseph Thomas Jordan was born in Whixley, England in 1480 and he married Rachel Glitchens Crawford with whom he had a son named William. William was born in Dorset, England in 1499 and he married a woman named Edith with whom he had a son named John. This John Jordan was born in Ashchurch Parish, Gloucestershire in 1525 and he married Isabella Rambage with whom he had a son named Richard. This Richard was born in the same town in 1555. He married Jolien Flicow and had a son with her named John. John Jordan was born in the same town in 1590 and he married a woman named Dorcas with whom he had a daughter named Jane. He went to colonial America and died in Virginia. Jane Jordan was born in England in 1618 and went to Virginia. She married into the Spence family and had two issue: Patrick Spence and Mary (Spence) Peak.
Richard Jordan I was born around 1620 and had a wife named Alice, with whom he had two issue: Richard II and John I. His son John Jordan I was born in Virginia (county Isle of Wight) around 1650 and he married Jane Brown with who he had two sons: John II and Solomon. His son John Jordan II was born in the same county in around 1679. He married a woman named Jane and had a son named Charles. His son Charles was born in 1700 and married Abigail White and had the following children with her: Sarah (Smith), Charles, John, Leah (Smith), Rachel (White), Jacob, James, and Robert. His son Jacob Jordan was born in North Carolina in 1732 and he married Patience Small with whom he had the following issue: Joseph, Jonathan, Joshua, Leah (Bonner), Rachel (Elliott), Patience (Elliott) and Jacob Jr. His son Joseph was born in Chowan, NC in about 1752 and married a woman named Mourning. They had the following issue together: Fanny, Jacob, Pennice, Rachel, Joseph, Thomas, John, Mary, and William. His son William was born in 1795 and he married Letty Ludlow in Ohio in 1813.
Jordan de Courcy was born in around 1155 AD in Middleton Cheney, Northampton England. He died in battle in Ireland and left a son named Sir Jordan de Courcy, a Knight. Sir Jordan was born in Essex in 1195 AD and he had a son. This son was Baron Reginald Jourdaine, who was born in Forester Hill, Windsor, Berkshire in 1210 AD. He had a son named John Jourdaine who was born in Berkshire, England in 1231 AD. He in turn had a son also named John who was born in Wolverton, Milton Keyes, England in 1280. The lineage or Jordan family tree from him is as follows (please note this is estimated):
John Jourdaine (born in Wolverton in 1320 AD)
John Jourdaine (born in Wolverton, Buckinghamshire around 1350 AD)
John Jourdaine (born in Wolverton, 1390 AD)
Thomas Jordaine (born in France around 1418 AD)
Sir Robert Jordaine, I (Melcombe Regis, Doreset, 1455)
Robert Jordaine (Melcombe Regis, 1470)
Robert Jordaine III (Melcombe Regis, 1500)
Richard Jordaine (Lyme Regis, around 1529)
George Jordaine (around 1586)
John Jordaine (around 1618)
Early American and New World Settlers
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions several bearers of this last name
1) Francis Jordan, Ipswich in 1634, in 1635, married Jane Wilson and had issue: Sarah (1636), Hannah (1638), Mary (1639), Mary (1641), Lydia (1643), and Deborah (1645).
2) James Jordan, Dedham, died in 1655, had son Thomas and daughters Mary and Ann
3) John Jordan, Guilford, 1639, signed the convenant of that year by his name, Jurden, was there in 1668, perhaps died next year
4) John Jordan, Plymouth, 1643, who was the father of Jehosabeth that married, 1665.
5) Robert Jordan, Casco, came as a preacher before 1641, probably having deacon’s or priest’s order from Episc.; author, married Sarah, only daughter of John Winter. In the Indian utilities, 1675, he withdrew to Portsmouth and there died, 1679, aged 68. His wife md children, John, Robert, Dominicus, Jedediah, Samuel and Jeremiah, are in will carefully provided for.
6) Stephen Jordan, Ipswich, 1634, came and had Mary and John, moved to Newburgh, had wife named Susanna, and had two daughters who married Robert Cross and John Andrews.
7) Thomas Jordan, Guilford, 1650, came from Kent, England, went back in 1651, daughter married Andrew Leete.
8) Thomas Jordan, Rehoboth; married 1674, Esther Hall, daughter of Edward of the same.
Sisyle Jordan (came aboard the Swan in 1610 at the age of 24) was recorded as living in Virginia in 1623 (at Jordans Jorney), as were Mary and Margery Jordan. Thomas Jordan was also recorded in the same state in the same year.
Peeter Jorden was recorded as living in Virginia in 1623 “Att ye Colledg Land”, he came in the London Merchant in 1620 at the age of 22
Thomas Jorden came to Virginia at the age of 24 aboard the Diana in the 1620s.
James Jordan came to the Barbados in 1679 aboard the Mallego Merchant.
William Jordan came to the Boston in 1679 aboard the Prudence and Mary.
Joane Jorden, age 16, came to New England in 1635 aboard the Abbigall.
Early settlers in colonial America bearing this name Guillame Jordan (Louisiana around 1720), Eliza Jordan (Virginia 1719), Claude Jordan (Louisiana 1719), Antoine Jordan (Louisiana 1719), Michael Jordan and (Virginia 1723). In Canada, one of the first bearers of this surname was James Jordan who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1749. In Australia, one of the first people with this last name was Robert Jordan who came in 1839 aboard the Alice Brooks to the city of Adelaide. Several other bearers came in the same year aboard the City of Adelaide: E., Mary, William, and S. Jordan. In New Zealand, Thomas Jordan, a miller aged 26, came to Nelson aboard the Phoebe in 1843.
Early Americans Bearing the Jordan Family Crest
I researched the following three resources and did not find any coats of arms for Jordan: Bolton’s American Armory, Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook, and Crozier’s General Armory.
We have identified four Jordan family mottoes:
1) Percussa resurgo (Being struck down I rise again)
2) Arte non vi (By skill not force)
3) Ne cede sed contra (Do not yield on the contrary (?) )
4) In veritate virtus (Courage is kindled in truth)
We have 52 coats of arms for the Jordan surname depicted here. These blazons 1-20 are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. Blazons 21-52 are from Armorial General published in 1861 by the famous genealogist/heraldist Johannes Baptisa Rietstap. The bottom of this page contains the blazons (in French and English), and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People in Britain with this last name that bore a Jordan Coat of Arms include:
1) Jordan, December 1604 by Camden, same coat as Sir William, with crescent sable
2) Edmond Jordan of Gatwick, Surrey, son of William, son of John, confirmed as used on seals around 184 AD) and grant of crest. Quarterly of 8: Jordan, Jordan, Coddington, Saltman, Barwick, Hussey,Hussey, and Nesseile. 18 February 1628
3) Edmond Jordan of Gatwick, Surrey, High Sheriff in 1628, son of William, alteration 2 June 1631 by R. St. George, Clar.
4) Sir William, of Wiltshire, Nov 1604, by Camden
5) Jorden, of Callyee, Sable an eagle displayed in bend between two cottises, argent on a chief or, three oak leaves vert.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Jordan surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Michael Jordan (1963) who was born in Brooklyn, New York and became the most well-known and considered by many to be the best professional basketball player of all time who played 15 seasons in the NBA, mainly on the Chicago Bulls, who won six championships and won two gold medals in the Olympics, 2) Benjamin Everett Jordan (1896-1974) who was a Democrat that served as the United States Senator from North Carolina from 1958-1973, 3) Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) who was a lawyer, educated, and politician involved in the Civil Rights Movement that was a Democrat who became a member of the US House of Representatives for Texas during the 1970s, 4) James Daniel Jordan (1964) who is a member of the US House of Representatives for Ohio, 5) Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Jordan (1819-1904) who was a German writer and politician born in Insterburg, East Prussia, 6) Marie Ennemond Camille Jordan (1838-1922) who was a French mathematician born in Lyon known for his contributions in group theory (algebraic structures), 7) David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) who was an educator, peace activist, eugenicist, and ichthyologist (study of fish), who was born in New York and became the president of Indiana University, as well as the founding president of Stanford University, 8) Ernst Pascual Jordan (1902-1980) who was a theoretical and mathematical physicist born in Hanover who made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and field theory, 9) Richard Lamont Jordan (1974) who was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma who became a professional football player in the NFL and played for the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, 10) Stephen Robert Jordan (1982) who was an English football (soccer) player born in Warrington, England who has played for numerous teams (ex. Manchester City, Sheffield United), and 11) Robert W. Jordan (1945) who is an American lawyer and diplomat that was the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the early years of the George Bush Administration.