Select Lane Surname Genealogy

The surname Lane in England is topographical, from the Old English lanu or “lane,” and describing someone who lived by or in a lane (originally a narrow way between fences or hedges).  Lane in England may in addition have originated as an occupational name for a worker in wool, from the old French laine meaning “wool.” 

The surname was also to be found in Ireland.  Here it was an anglicization of the Gaelic names O’Laighhin (from laighean meaning “spear”) or O’Luain (from luain meaning “warrior). 

Spelling variants are Laine and Layne.  Laine or de Laine could be a Huguenot name.

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Select Lane Ancestry

EnglandThe surname Lane probably came from several different places in England.  The following were some early pre-Tudor Lane lines: 
  • Lane first appeared in records in Canterbury, Kent in 1387.  Thomas Lane and his brother William were MP’s for Canterbury in the early 1400’s.  
  • William Lane held Orlingbury Manor near Thingdon in Northamptonshire in 1469.  The estate passed onto Sir Ralph Lane in Tudor times.  He married Maud Parr, a cousin of one of Henry VIII’s wives. 
  • The Lanes of Bentley Hall in Staffordshire date from 1428 when Richard Lone or Lane acquired the estate.  These Lanes were Royalist during the English Civil War, with Jane Lane playing an important part in the escape of Charles II after his defeat at Worcester in 1651. 
From Devon came Sam Lane who started the Britannia theatre in London in 1840.  His wife Sarah Lane took over the theatre after his death and befriended the Lupino acting family (many of whom adopted her name). Also from Devon came the Lane publishing family.  John Lane was born in north Devon in 1854.  He moved to London where he helped hound The Bodley Head publishing house.  His adopted son Allen started up Penguin books in the 1930’s. 

By the late 19th century, the distribution of the Lane name was very much in western England, in a line stretching southward from Lancashire to Devon, with smaller numbers in London and the s

Ireland.  Lanes in Ireland could be either of Irish or English origin.  Irish Lanes appeared mainly in Cork and Kerry in SW Ireland.  English Lanes included those at Tulsk in Roscommon, starting with Captain George Lane in the 1590’s, and at Lanespark in Tipperary, granted to a branch of the Northamptonshire Lanes in the 1660's.

America.  There was an early and extensive coverage of the Lanes who came to New England in 1891 in James Fitts and Jacob Chapman’s three volume Lane Genealogies.  The most noteworthy of these Lanes were the Lanes of Hingham, Massachusetts.  Tradition has it that they were the descendants of the William Lane who arrived in Dorchester around 1635.  But they might alternatively have been the descendants of another William Lane in Boston. 

Richard Lane
joined a Puritan colonizing project off Central America in 1632 and died there.  His son Samuel was more fortunate, arriving in Maryland in 1664 and prospering there. 
Richard Lane moved his family from Maryland to Pittsylvania county, Virginia in 1746.  Other Lanes were early settlers in SW Virginia and NE Tennessee.  Lambert Lane who fought in the Revolutionary War lived with his family in the Holston river settlement “in the wild woods near the Indians." 

Thomas Lane was an early settler in Surry county, Virginia.  His descendants were to be found in Buncombe county, North Carolina where Joseph Lane was born in a log cabin in 1801.  He moved with his family to Kentucky and then to Indiana where he fought in the Mexican War and entered politics.  President Polk appointed him as the first Governor of Oregon territory in 1849 and he subsequently served as one of its Senators.  A son Lafayette was elected to Congress in 1875 and a grandson Harry was Oregon Senator in 1912, making Joe Lane the patriarch of one of the state's most prominent political families. 

Irish.  By the 19th century, there were more Lanes coming to America from Ireland than from England.  An early arrival in 1821, from county Cork, was Walter Lane.  He fought in the Mexican war and on the Confederate side in the Civil War.  He subsequently settled in Texas (his memoirs, The Adventures and Recollections of General Walter P. Lane, were published posthumously in 1928).  The main number of Lanes came at or after the potato famine in Ireland.  Many of these Lanes went missing

Australia and New Zealand.  
James Lane and his family from Norfolk had an eventful passage on the Shomberg to Australia in 1855.  The vessel was shipwrecked off the coast of Victoria on its maiden voyage. They survived.  But they lost all their furniture.  Lanes from Ireland started arriving in Australia after the potato famine.  An early arrival was Thomas Lane from Limerick in 1863 to work at the Victoria gold diggings.  Later came a number of other Lane families from Clare and Limerick who also settled in Victoria.

William Lane, the son of a drunken Irishman, came to Australia via Canada and America in 1885.  There he pursued a career as a radical journalist, organizing the Queensland trade untions into the Australian Labor Federation.  He then led 220 believing followers to found a new colony in an unsettled part of Paraguay in South America which he named New Australia.  The colony turned out to be a failure and Lane retreated in his later years to New Zealand.

Select Lane Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Lane Names

Sir Ralph Lane was an English explorer of the Elizabethan age who led an unsuccessful attempt to establish a colony on Roanoke Island in North Carolina in 1585. 
Sir Allen Lane
was the British publisher who found Penguin Books in 1936. 
Lupino Lane
was the English singer and dancer who made his name with the show Me and My Girl in 1937 which popularized The Lambeth Walk. 
Lois Lane
was a fictional comic book character in America, the girlfriend of Superman. 
Frankie Laine
, born Francesco LaVecchio, was a successful American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years. 

Select Lanes Today
  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 25,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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