A World Genealogy Project

Tivey Family Genealogy

There is no conclusive evidence available as to the origin of the name Tivey. It is mentioned in only one of the many dictionaries of surnames and this states that it is a personal name equivalent to the Irish Tavey or McEtavey. It has not been possible to ascertain on what basis the compiler inserted this entry and, indeed, the Irish origin is only one – and not even the most likely one – of three possible theories which have been put forward by members of the family. The name is almost certainly Celtic in origin, but this could mean that it came from Wales, Ireland or even from the residual Celtic settlements in England (Scotland can almost certainly be ruled out).

The majority of Tiveys who have expressed views as to the origin of the name state that it comes from Wales and is derived from the river Teifi ( pronounced “Tie-vy”) which flows through Cardiganshire. Several members of the family talk of a “clan” living in the valley of the river Teifi who took the name of the river and members of which at some time migrated to England where the name became anglicised as Tivey. When this migration might have taken place and whether it took place over a short or a long period cannot be ascertained. Some Tiveys have expressed the belief that their ancestors came from Wales as late as the mid 18th century, but as there are records of Tiveys in England going back to the early 17th century, any migration must have started very much earlier. The anglicised form of Teifi now used in Wales is “Tivy” and there are families spelling their name in that way, though these are far less numerous than those who spell it “Tivey”. There is probably some connection between the Tiveys and Tivys, but it is interesting to note that the centre of the Tiveys in the 18th century was in Ireland, though the family could have moved there from Wales.

Only a few Tiveys have expressed the view that the name comes from Ireland and this theory seems less likely than the Welsh one, in spite of the reference in the dictionary mentioned above. The names Tavey, McEtavey and another variation – McAtavy – are not common ones in Ireland, though the last two are mentioned in some glossaries of Irish surnames. As far as can be ascertained, there have never been any Tiveys in Ireland spelling the name as such, though there have been Tivys in Cork since at least the 17th century. It is perhaps worthwhile noting that none of the Tiveys, up to the end of the 19th century, were given Irish Christian names.

The third theory, which also has little support from members of the family, is that the Tiveys are indigenous to the East Midlands of England, possibly the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire. Certainly most of the Tiveys in the 17th and early 18th centuries were in Leicestershire (though there were some elsewhere) and even as late as the early 19th century the family was concentrated mainly in a small area of the East Midlands. It is also noted that the Christian names used by the family in the 17th and 18th centuries were essentially English ones – George, Thomas, William and Edward predominating among male children.

The earliest record traced of a Tivey is in 1603 in Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire, where the marriage of “Darothe Tyvy” is recorded. (Spelling at that time, and indeed up to the mid 19th century, was often at the whim of the parish clerks and entries in various registers almost certainly relevant to the Tivey family appear under Tivy, Tivie, Tivye, Tevey, Tive, Tivvy, Tivoy, Tivvey, Tievey, Teivey, Tyvey, Tyvy, Tyvie, Tiuey, Tibby, Tidey, Tovey, Tibey, Tirey and possibly other spellings). There are some other records in Ashby, thoughall of the records there in the 17th and 18th centuries are spasmodic and cannot readily be associated with one another. There was certainly a George Tivey, tailor, who died there in 1652, another George (possibly his son) born the same year, a third George born in 1686 and there was a George, basketmaker, who died around 1731 and who had a son also called George.

It is believed by one branch of the family that there was a Tivey who fought in the Civil War and was left wounded in the Derbyshire-Leicestershire border area, but ther was no definite record of this, nor is it known from where he might have come.

The next oldest records are in the Elm and March districts of Cambridgeshire, where there were marriages of male Tiveys in 1662 and 1663. Records of marriages of Tiveys in Cambridgeshire go on until 1745, but it is reasonably certain that by the end of the 18th century there were no Tiveys left in that area. It is possible that some of the Tiveys who were in London, Essex and Hertfordshire in the late 18th century came from Cambridgeshire. No connection has been established between the Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire Tiveys, but there was probably one, even going back to the 16th century or earlier.

By the mid 18th century most of the Tiveys were concentrated in a comparatively small area of the East Midlands – South Derbyshire, North-West Leicestershire and East Staffordshire. In 1734 there was the first record of a Tivey in the small Derbyshire town of Melbourne, which, by the end of the 18th century, became the main centre of the family and it remains the only place where the name is a common one. It is likely that some of the Tiveys who settled in Melbourne came there from the neighbouring parish of Breedon on the Hill, which is in Leicestershire; records of Tiveys in that parish go back to 1678 and the villages of Worthington and Newbold are particularly mentioned in some of these. Apart from Ashby, already referred to, there were Tiveys in Swannington (around 1725), Swepstone (earliest 1773) and Markfield (1779 – 1798) in Leicestershire, in Newton Solney (1740 to 1773) and Ticknall or Tickenhall (earliest 1748) in Derbyshire and in Rolleston (from 1778) and Tutbury (earliest 1793) in Staffordshire. Outside this area there are isolated 18th century records of Tiveys in London, Middlesex, Essex and Hertfordshire, as well as Cambridgeshire, already mentioned.

The Tiveys had become well established in Melbourne by the end of the 18th century and quite a number of Tivey children were born there in the last quarter of the century. Unfortunately, few of these births are recorded in any of the parish registers of the time, so that it is not possible to trace the ancestry of any branch of the family back further than to male Tiveys born between about 1775 and even as late as 1812. About three-quarters of the present Tiveys are thought to be descended from families living in Melbourne in the late 18th century.

In 1841, the first year for which census records are available, there were about 220 Tiveys living in England, of whom 72 were living in Melbourne and a further 70 to 75 living elsewhere belonged to families from Melbourne. Of the rest, most stemmed from families in Leicestershire and Staffordshire and fewer than 25 could not be traced back to families living in the East Midland area; those were in London, Hertfordshire and York (though it is remotely possible that the York family stemmed from Leicestershire). By 1871, the latest year for which census records are available to the public, the number of Tiveys in England had risen to about 330 and several families and individuals had emigrated to America, Canada and Australia. Of those in England some 240 belonged to families from Melbourne and the number in Melbourne itself was 91. Though no actual returns are available, it is likely that in 1901 there were about 150 Tiveys in Melbourne, accounting for nearly 5% of the town’s population. This was probably a peak period; the number now has fallen to about 60.

The present number of Tiveys in Britain (1973) can only be roughly estimated at between 650 and 700. There are perhaps 60 to 80 in the USA, some 30 or more in Australia and a few in Canada. The world total is thus somewhere around 800.

Mention has been made of the likely connection between the Tiveys and the Tivys. Some records in the East Midlands – even up to 1860 – are in the name Tivy, but it is thought that all of the families who settled in that area eventually adopted the Tivey spelling. Tivey is very much more common in England than Tivy, but the latter appears more often in Ireland (where there are no Tiveys) and Canada, while the two spellings are perhaps about equally prevalent in the USA. There have been Tivys in Cork for at least 300 years and some (if not all) of the families now in England, as well as those in Canada and USA are probably descendants of the Cork Tiveys. It is, however, possible that some of the Tivys in Canada, and America might be derived from families which in England were, or have now become, Tiveys.

The pronunciation of the name varies as between branches of the family, some using the long “I” as “Tie-vy” and some the short “I” as “Tivvy”. It is likely that “Tie-vy” was the original pronunciation but at present there are more who call it “Tivvy”, a pronunciation which may well have developed with usage. Most, but not all, of the descendants of the Melbourne Tiveys adopted the “Tivvy” pronunciation. Where it is known, the pronunciation is shown in the tables in the Tivey Book by L F Tivey.