Yarbroughs may have been in England as early as the mid-ninth century AD. It is likely that all Yarbroughs descend from a common Norse ancestor. The family is one of the earliest names recorded in Englsh heraldry, attesting to its place in British history. Members of the family are found in the both Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. The late Raymond Yarbrough researched the origins of the family name, and the nomograph summarizing his research is recommended reading for anyone who claims kinship to any of the several extended Yarbrough families.
The earliest known Yarboroughs in the New World was "Richard the Immigrant"ca 1642, but there is doubt as to his origins and place on the family tree. An English "cousin", Peter Yerburgh, believes he may have been the son of William Yo. of Saltfleetsby. Richard lived from 1615 until 1702, and his name appears in various legal documents of the time. However, the tracing of the lineages of the early arrivals is complicated by several of them traveling back and forth between the old and new worlds. Almost certainly he was from the Lincolnshire branch of the family, and he too is believed to have traveled between England and Virginia during his lifetime.
Other Yarboroughs soon followed, and evidence suggests that they were related, although the nature of the relationship is not always clear. One Yo., Ambrose, who at one time was believed to have been a half-generation after Richard's arrival, has since been shown to be a descendent of Richard. It is not at all clear who Richard's antecedents were. This is an active, on-going area of family research.
Although the early Yarbroughs first settled in Virginia, they soon began to go southwesterly, following the migration routes (rivers and Indian trails) into the Carolinas, across Georgia to Alabama, Mississippi and westward to California, Oregon and Washington. The late Senator Ralph Yarborough was pleased to remind one and all of a Yarbrough Peninsula in the northern polar region, a Yarbrough Bay in Central America, and a Mt. Yarbrough in Antarctica, indicating the venturesome nature of the family.
There appear to be several branches of the family, all intertwined. These branches followed the same migratory routes, all the while naming their children from what appears to be a common pool of Christian names; e.g., Richard, Thomas, George, John, William, Nathan, Asa, Henry, and Rueben. It is not unusual for various generations to have more than one uncle, nephew, son and/or cousin sharing one of these names. The women also shared this trait, with frequent use of Mary, Martha, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Frances.
Adding to the confusion was custom of taking in children whose parents had died, whether they were kin or not. The census takers of the time simply noted the children as being those of the family being enumerated. In addition, there are several family myths, apparently shared by the several branches of the family, which are documented at Three Yarborough Myths, One pernicious bit of family lore is that Richard the Immigrant was married to Frances Proctor. This is not true, although there was a contemporaneous Richard Yarborough in England who married a Francis Proctor. Neither this Richard nor Francis ever left England.
The Yarbrough family may have originally come from Denmark prior to the 9th century but has certainly been in England since the mid-ninth century AD. The family has a long and distinguished history in England and in North America. The surname Yarbrough may mean "an earthwork fortification" in both Old English and in Danish. For more about the history of the Yarbrough family, the meaning and origin of the surname Yarbrough, spelling variations of the surname Yarbrough, and famous members of the Yarbrough family, please read on.
The original meaning2 may be from the Old English Eorpburg, which means an earthwork fortification, or from the Old Norse jardborg which means the same as the Old English except that it includes a river nearby. The Roman equivalent of the name of the same meaning has been corrupted to Arbury in other places.
Ref: "Origins of the Name Yarbrough", Raymond Benjamin Yarbrough,
Nationality & Ethnicity
The family is believed to have originated in Denmark some time prior to the ninth century AD, and it appears to have migrated to England during that century. Both old English and old Norse have similar words for the family name, so that there is at least syntactical evidence of a relationship between the two countries. The British Yarbroughs settled in Linclonshire and Yorkshire. The earliest known New World immigrant was a Richard Yarborough of Lincolnshire, and he was soon followed by others of the family, although the relationships have yet to be determined. Although the name (Yarbrough, from Eorpburg) originated in Lincolnshire, England, there is evidence that its predecessor root is old Danish (Jardborg). There is a Roman equivalent of Arbury. Whether Saxon or Danish, the family was well established in England by the time WIlliam the Conqueror arrived.
These are the earliest records we have of the Yarbrough family.