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Family History

Origins of

the Surname

Variations of

the Surname

Armorial Bearings

& Motto(es)

Ancestral Lineage


by Location

Migration Routes

Source Documents

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Family history



Family History


     Little is known of this Mason family line.  Mary Mason, our 5th great-grandmother was born in the Colony of Virginia c. 1712.  She married Ambrose Yarborough around 1730.  This event probably occurred in Amelia County, Virginia where Ambrose had lived before moving on to South Carolina. Here the family settled in Union County on the Tyger river near Blackstock's ford*. At least six children were produced of this union one of which is our 4th great-grandmother Nancy Yarborough born around 1757.  Mary (Mason) Yarborough passed away at Cross Keys, Union County, South Carolina.


* see more information on this location at our Union County, South Carolina page.


Origins of the surname


Origins of the Surname

An Introduction

to the Surname


of the Surname

History of

the Surname

More About Surnames


An Introduction to the Surname

                 The practice of inherited family surnames began in England and France during the late part of the 11th century.     With the passing of generations and the movement of families from place to place many of the original identifying names were altered into some of the versions that we are familiar with today.  Over the centuries, most of our European ancestors accepted their surname as an unchangeable part of their lives.  Thus people rarely changed their surname.  Variations of most surnames were usually the result of an involuntary act such as when a government official wrote a name phonetically or made an error in transcription.  Research into the record of this Mason family line indicates that the variations, meanings and history of this surname is most likely linked to that area of Europe where English, Scottish, and Irish linguistic traditions are commonly found. 



Source(s) & Meaning(s) of the Surname

               Most modern family names are a means conveying lineage.  For the most part, Anglo-Saxon surnames were developed from the following major sources: (1) patronym or matronym, names based on the name of one's father, mother or ancestor, (Johnson, Wilson); (2) occupation (i.e., Carpenter, Cooper, Brewer, Mason); (3) habitational (Middleton, Sidney, or Ireland); (4) topographical (i.e. Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale); (5) nicknames (i.e., Moody Freeholder, Wise, Armstrong);  (6) status (i.e. Freeman, Bond, Knight); and (7) acquired ornamental names that were simply made up.

     Mason is a medieval surname of French origins.  It is a status and occupational surname which originally described a skilled stone mason, one who had served his time as an apprentice to a master craftsman. The derivation is from the pre 8th century Old French word "mas(s)on".  In Great Britain, the Middle English word mason” has come to be an English and Scottish occupational name for a stonemason.



History of the Surname

Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th century. They were not in use in England or Scotland, before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and were first found in the Domesday Book of 1086. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans who had adopted the custom just prior to this time.    Soon thereafter it became a mark of a generally higher socio-economic status and thus seen as disgraceful for a well-bred man to have only one name.  It was not until the middle of the 14th century that surnames became general practice among all people in the British Isles.

      The Mason name was introduced into England by the Norman-French after the conquest of 1066.  Before that time few places in Britain were built in stone, so the French largely introduced both the word and the skill.  Subsequent to this stonemasonry became a hugely important craft in the Medieval  Britain.     This English surname has been in Ireland since the 13th century, where it was taken by settlers. The name is now fairly numerous due to fairly recent immigrants to the island.  It is found in all areas of Ireland except the western province of Connacht.

     The first recorded spelling of the family name is possibly that of Richard Machun found in the 1120 charters of the Danelaw, for the county of Lincolnshire.  Some examples of other early recordings include: John Macun in the 1130 building accounts of London, and Ace le Mazun, in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1193.  Roger le Mason of the County of Oxford was documented in the year 1200.  Osbert le Masson, was documented in County Oxford in the year 1279. Richard Machen of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.  Early examples from surviving church registers are those of Elizabeth Masson christened at St. Margaret's Westminster, on July 21st 1540, and Awdry Mason who married William Elyat at that same church on June 10th 1548, as well as Elizabeth Mason who was baptized at Kensington Church, London in 1579. Peter Mason and Mary le Febvre, were married in Canterbury, Kent in 1685.  Among the many prominent figures with this surname was George Mason (1725 - 1792), the American statesman who framed the Virginia Bill of Rights.

         Today 633 persons per million in the United States have the Mason surname.  The heaviest concentration of the name is found in the states of Virginia and Kentucky.  In the United Kingdom almost about 1,222 persons per million have the Mason surname.    The most significant clustering of the name is found in Northern and West Midlands counties.



More About Surname Meanings & Origins

English Surnames

Although the Domesday Book compiled by William the Conqueror required surnames, the use of them in the British Isles did not become fixed until the time period between 1250 and 1450.  The broad range of ethnic and linguistic roots for British surnames reflects the history of Britain as an oft-invaded land. These roots include, but are not limited to, Old English, Middle English, Old French, Old Norse, Irish, Gaelic, Celtic, Pictish, Welsh, Gaulish, Germanic, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Throughout the British Isles, there are basically five types of native surnames. Some surnames were derived from a man's occupation (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason), a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century.  Place names reflected a location of residence and were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname, for reasons that can be easily understood.  Nicknames that stuck also became surnames.  About one-third of all surnames in the United Kingdom are patronymic in origin, and identified the first bearer of the name by his father (or grandfather in the case of some Irish names). When the coast of England was invaded by William The Conqueror in the year 1066, the Normans brought with them a store of French personal names, which soon, more or less, entirely replaced the traditional more varied Old English personal names, at least among the upper and middle classes. A century of so later, given names of the principal saints of the Christian church began to be used. It is from these two types of given name that the majority of the English patronymic surnames are derived and used to this day.  Acquired ornamental names were simply made up, and had no specific reflection on the first who bore the name. They simply sounded nice, or were made up as a means of identification, generally much later than most surnames were adopted.  Source:

Variations of the surname


Variations of
the Surname


Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to unfold and expand often leading to an overwhelming number of variants.  As such one can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames because in early times, spelling in general and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized.  Later on spellings would change with the branching and movement of families.  Spelling variations of this family name in both Britian and France include: Masons, Masoner, Masonn, Masond, Masonde, Mason, Masen, Macon, Massen, Masson, Machen, Machent, Machin, Machon, and many others.   


The complexity of researching records is compounded by the fact that in many cases an ancestors surname may also have been misspelled.  This is especially true when searching census documents.   The Soundex Indexing System was developed in an effort to assist with identifying spelling variations for a given surname.  Soundex is a method of indexing names in the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 US Census, and can aid genealogists in their research.  The Soundex Code for Mason is M250.  Other surnames sharing this Soundex Code:  MACKIN | MACON | MACQUEEN | MAGOON | MAKEMIE | MAKIN | MASON | MASSON | MAUGHAN | MAXON | MAXSON | MCCAIN | MCCAN | MCCANN | MCCOUN | MCCOWAN | MCCOWEN | MCCOWN | MCCUEN | MCCUNE | MCEWAN | MCEWEN | MCGANN | MCGINN | MCGOWAN | MCGOWEN | MCHAM | MCHONE | MCKAMEY | MCKANE | MCKEAN | MCKEEN | MCKENNA | MCKENNEY | MCKEON | MCKEOWN | MCKIM | MCKINNEY | MCKOWN | MCKUNE | MCNEW | MCNEY | MCQUEEN | MCQUOWN | MCSHANE | MCSWAIN | MCSWEENEY | MEACHAM | MEACHEM | MEAKIN | MECHEN | MESCAN | MESSINO | MICHUM | MIXON | MUGAN | MUSSINA | MUSSON |


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Coat of arms


Armorial Bearings & Motto(es)

In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armored warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.  In the British Isles the College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.


Fig. 1

Fig. 2


There are many associated armorial bearings for  Mason/Masson and close variant spellings recorded in Reitstap’s Armorial General and in Sir Bernard Burke’s General Armory. The following additional information has been found regarding the coats-of-arms shown at the left:

FIGURE 1: This coat-of-arms is a close match to those granted to a Mason of Inveresk, in East Lothian, Scotland.

FIGURE 2: Originally bestowed upon the Villers of France these armorial bearings were granted to George Mason, Esq.  on his assuming the name of Villers, by royal license in 1771.  The shield is white with a red cross on which are five gold scallops.  The crest is a lion.

FIGURE 3: These arms were granted, in 1711, to Hobert Mason, Esq. of Masonbrook, in County Galway, Ireland; a descendent of the Mason family of Sion, in  Middlesex, England. The gold shield shows a two-headed red lion. The crest features a mermaid with comb and mirror, (see figure 7). 

FIGURE 4: This silver shield contains a wavy bend of blue between two red spur-rowels in chief and a red fleur-de-lis in the base.  The crest (not shown) is a black masonry tower. These arms were most likely granted to John Masoun of Rosebank, Burgh Clerk of Ayr, Scotland. The motto of this Mason is “Demeure par la verite.”

FIGURE 5: These arms were accorded to Mason of Grade in Cornwall, England The blue shield features a gold fesse embattled between which are the heads of three golden griffins.

FIGURE 6: This shield is from the coat-of-arms granted in 1795 to a Mason of Mordun, in the city of Edinburgh.  The crest (not shown) is of a fortified house. The motto of this family is Arte firm us.”

FIGURE 7: These armorial bearings were awarded to Mason of Hemingford Huntingdonshire, and Cuckney, Nottinghamshire in as well as Sion, in  Middlesex, England.  The coat-of-arms contains a gold shield with a blue lion rampant. The crest is a mermaid with comb and glass. The family motto is “Dum spiro spero” meaning “While I have breath I have hope.”

FIGURE 8: This coat-of-arms was conferred, in 1634, to a Mason of London and Necton Hall in Norfolk, England.   The silver shield features a blue fesse with the blue heads of two lions in chief.  The crest is a blue lion's head between two wings of white.  The motto of this family is, “God my trust.”

FIGURE 9: This coat-of-arms has been attributed to a Mason of Italy The shield is with a silver chevron between three roses and a red fesse (bar).

FIGURE 10: According to Reitstap, these armorial bearings were granted in 1717 to Peter Martinez (Masson), Clerk of the House of investigations, and Deputy Mayor of Paris, France. The blue shield contains a chevron of gold with three gold stars in chief and a golden lion in the base.

FIGURE 11: This armorial achievement was bestowed upon a Mason of Diddlebury and Minton, in Shropshire, England.  The green shield features two gold lions combatant.  The crest is a mermaid, (not shown).

FIGURE 12: Coat-of-arms accorded to a Mason of Ireland. The white shield contains a blue lion with two heads.  The crest shows three Moors' heads conjoined in one neck, with a green wreath around the temples of the heads.




The following listed mottoes and their translations are attributed to Mason and Masson: “Dum spiro speromeaning “While I have breath I have hope; Demeure par la vérité”, translated as  “Stick by the truth”; “God My Trust”  and “Dominus providebit “ meaning “The Lord will provide.”

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Fig. 12


A Coat of Arms is defined as a group of emblems and figures (heraldic bearings) usually arranged on and around a shield and serving as the special insignia of some person, family, or institution.  Except for a few cases, there is really no such thing as a standard "coat of arms" for a surname.  A coat of arms, more properly called an armorial achievement, armorial bearings or often just arms for short, is a design usually granted only to a single person not to an entire family or to a particular surname.  Coats of arms are inheritable property, and they generally descend to male lineal descendents of the original arms grantee.  The rules and traditions regarding Coats of Arms vary from country to country. Therefore a Coat of Arms for an English family would differ from that of a German family even when the surname is the same.  The art of designing, displaying, describing, and recording arms is called heraldry. The use of coats of arms by countries, states, provinces, towns and villages is called civic heraldry.   Some of the more prominent elements incorporated into a  coat of arms are :

Crest - The word crest is often mistakenly applied to a coat of arms.  The crest was a later development arising from the love of pageantry.  Initially the crest consisted of charges painted onto a ridge on top of the helmet.

Wreath or TorseThe torse is a twist of cloth or wreath underneath and part of a crest. Always shown as six twists, the first tincture being the tincture of the field, the second the tincture of the metal, and so on.

Mantling – The mantling is a drapery tied to the helmet above the shield. It forms a backdrop for the shield.

Helm or Helmet - The helmet or helm is situated above the shield and bears the torse and crest. The style of helmet displayed varies according to rank and social status, and these styles developed over time, in step with the development of actual military helmets.

Shield or Arms - The basis of all coats of arms.  At their simplest, arms consist of a shield with a plain field on which appears a geometrical shape or object.  The items appearing on the shield are known as charges.

Motto - The motto was originally a war cry, but later mottoes often expressed some worthy sentiment. It may appear at the top or bottom of a family coat of arms.

Direct ancestors


Ancestral Lineage

Descendant Register

Generation 1

Mary Mason-1 was born on 1712 in Virginia. She died on Aft. 1757 in Cross Keys, Union Co., South Carolina. She married Ambrose Yarborough on Bef. 1731 in Amelia County, Virginia. He was born on 1710 in Yorkshire, England. He died on 1788 in Union County, South Carolina.


Children of Mary Mason and Ambrose Yarborough are:


2.                  i.         Mary Yarborough, B: 1731 in Lunenburg, Virginia, D: Wilkes, North Carolina.


                       Humphrey Yarborough, B: 1737 in Virginia, D: Bet. 1800-1810 in Anson County, North Carolina, M: Abt. 1754.


                       Jonathon Yarborough, B: Abt. 1740, D: Abt. 1811.


3.                  iv.       Ambrose Yarborough Jr., B: Abt. 1740, D: Bet. 1782-1822.


v.                 Jeremiah Yarborough, B: Abt. 1742.


4.                   vi.       Ann "Nancy" Yarborough, B: Abt. 1757 in Virginia, D: 20 Jan 1843 in Brush Creek  Twp., Gasconade Co., Missouri, M: 1777 in Ninety-Six Dist. (Union Co.), South  Carolina ?.


Generation 2

Ann "Nancy" Yarborough-2(Mary Mason-1) was born on Abt. 1757 in Virginia. She died on 20 Jan 1843 in Brush Creek Twp., Gasconade Co., Missouri. She married Peter Pinnell on 1777 in Ninety-Six Dist. (Union Co.), South Carolina?. His birth on 20 May 1755 in Camden District), South Carolina (Catawba, (York Co.). He died on 03 Jun 1845 in Oak Hill Twp., Crawford Co., Missouri.


Children of Ann "Nancy" Yarborough and Peter Pinnell are:


i.                   Cassie Pinnell, B: 16 Feb 1788.


ii.                 Nancy Margaret Pinnell, B: 08 Apr 1790 in Spartanburg, Spartanburg Co., South Carolina, D: 28 Sep 1855 in Eldorado, Saline Co., Illinois, M: 13 Jun 1808 in  Christian County, Kentucky.

iii.               Asa Pinnell, B: 12 Dec 1792 in Greenville, Greenville Co., South Carolina, D: 27 Jul 1871 in Maries County, Missouri, M: 1812 in Christian County, Kentucky.


iv.               Hiram Pinnell, B: 25 Aug 1794 in York, South Carolina, D: 1864 in Missouri, M: 24 Sep 1816 in Caldwell County, Kentucky.


v.                 Dorcas Pinnell, B: 16 Apr 1796 in South Carolina, D: Mar 1867 in Sullivan,   Franklin Co., Missouri, M: 02 Oct 1816 in Caldwell County, Kentucky.


vi.               William Wiley Pinnell, B: 30 Jul 1798, D: 16 Jan 1843 in Hermann, Gasconade Co., Missouri.


vii.             Lewis Pinnell, B: 20 Sep 1801 in Greenville, South Carolina, D: 1864 in Crawford County, Missouri, M: 01 Nov 1825 in Caldwell County, Kentucky.


viii.           Mary M. Pinnell, B: 20 Sep 1803, D: 20 Jul 1854, M: 14 Aug 1823 in Kentucky?.


ix.               Jeremiah Pinnell, B: 30 Sep 1805, D: Bef. 1870 in Illinois, M: 26 Jul 1836 in  Crawford Co., Missouri.


x.                 Jane Pinnell, B: 14 Jul 1807.


xi.               Wesley Pinnell, B: 03 Feb 1810 in Christian Co., Kentucky, D: 02 Jun 1892 in Crawford Co., Missouri, M: 23 Jan 1831 in Washington County, Missouri.


xii.             Richard Pinnell, B: 1811 in Christian County, Kentucky, D: 1848 in Boone Twp., Crawford Co., Missouri, M: 27 Jun 1833 in Washington County, Missouri.



Additional information about our DIRECT ANCESTORS  as well as a complete listing of individuals with this surname may be reviewed by clicking on the following LINK.


MMPS Surname Locator

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Ancestral locations



by Location


Researching the locations where our ancestors lived has provided us with valuable evidence needed to fill-in the gaps in our family trees.  It has also led us to many interesting facts that enhance the overall picture of each family group.

Locations of

Direct Ancestors

Locational Distribution

of  this Surname

Where In the World

are my Ancestors?


Locatiof Direct Ancestors

Locations of Our Direct Ancestors

The names of states and counties on the following list were derived from the known places where the Direct Ancestors in the “Ancestral Lineage” (see above) were born, married, and / or died.






Amelia County


Union County

Use this LINK to find out more about the locations listed above.


Locational distributionstors

Locational Distribution of This Surname

     Knowing the geographical areas where the surname you are researching is clustered and distributed is an indispensable tool in deciding where to focus your research.  We believe that the “Public Profiler” website will open up to you a wide range of solutions which implement current research in spatial analysis.  This site provides an array of local spatial information tools useful to the genealogist.

          The information presented below shows where the Mason surname is distributed within the United States as well as in The United Kingdom the country of origin of this family.  In addition is a listing of the top countries in the world where this surname is highly clustered. 

United States of America

Top Countries

European Country of Origin




AUSTRALIA             1156.43

NEW-ZEALAND        1080.33

CANADA                     668.64

UNITED STATES        632.75

IRELAND                     321.93

ITALY                            58.39

* = frequency per million


Click on the LINK to the right to see more information about the World distribution of a surname.  You can

get greater detail for any of the following maps by clicking on the area, i.e state, county that you are interested in.

Wjere are my ancestors Ancestors

Where in the World
are My Ancestors?

Resources which enhance our knowledge of the places inhabited by our ancestors are almost as important as their names. The LINK to the right will take you to Maps, Gazetteers,   and  other  helpful   resources 



that will assist in discovering Ancestral Locations.  These web sites comprise only a small portion of what is available for researchers interested in learning more about where their ancestors lived.

Migration routes



              During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans made the perilous ocean voyage to America.  For many it was an escape from economic hardship and religious persecution.  For most it was an opportunity to start over, own their own land, and make a better future for their descendents.  Immigration records show a number of people bearing the name of Mason, or one of its variants, as arriving in North America between the 17th and 20th centuries.  Some of these immigrants were: Anne Mason who settled in Virginia in 1635; also: Charles in 1637; Edward in 1648; Francis in 1613; Henry in 1646; John in 1622; Marmaduke in 1774; Mary in 1623. In addition some of the first French settler with this family name or some of its variants were: Gilles Masson, who came to Quebec, where he married Marie-Jeanne Gauthier in 1668; Jacques Masson, who married Jeanne Jousselot of Quebec in 1670.

     Tracing our own family’s paths of migration can prove crucial in identifying previous generations and eventually, figuring out where and how they arrived in the “New World” as well as where they eventually settled.  Knowing the network of trails American pioneers traveled can help you guess where to start looking.  The trail map(s) provided below may assist you in understanding the routes that our direct ancestors of this family may have taken to find new homes and opportunities in the vast area now encompassed by the United States.

Use the following links to find more early immigrants with this surname:

$ Search Immigration Records; or Free Ship’s Passenger lists at


Virginia to Union County, South Carolina


     It is most probable that the progenitor of this Mason family in America was Mary Mason’s father or grandfather.  Therefore he is likely landed in Tidewater region of Virginia around 1700.  Based upon known information this Mason eventually moved into Virginia probably along a Native-American footpath, into that area of Virginia now known as Amelia County.  After Mary Mason’s marriage to Ambrose Yarborough around 1730 they probably moved south into what is now Lunenburg County, Virginia where their eldest child is said to have been born in 1731.  The family probably lived at this location until around 1761 when lands in western South Carolina opened up as the result of a treaty with the Cherokees.  In order to get to this new land they most likely would have traveled down the Upper Road.  

     In colonial times the Upper Road was one of the most important north-to-south travel and trade

routes that closely followed much of the Native-American Occaneechi Path also known as the Trading Path.  Use of this route started, around 1740 as an alternative route to the Fall Line Road.    The Upper Road was favored by Colonists as it had been preferred by their predecessors, the Algonquin and Iroquois Indians because of numerous springs along its route, milder temperatures east of the mountains and relatively safe fords across major rivers and streams.  By the 1750’s the Upper Road had stretched south through North Carolina where it tracked to the west through Hillsborough, Salisbury and Charlotte.  It then entered South Carolina and continued on to Greenville. This portion of road from Salisbury to Greenville most likely followed what is present day U. S. Route 29.  It is likely that Mary and Ambrose arrived in that area of present day Union County, South Carolina that was then in the Ninety-Six District.  They eventually settled on the Tyger River near Blackstocks Ford. 


The Development of an Historical Migration Route

It is understood that in many if not all cases we do not know exactly what routes our ancestors took as they migrated throughout the United States.   As such certain assumptions have been utilized to re-create the migration path presented above.  With regard to 18th and 19th century land routes we assume that they travelled along few trails and roads that were in existence at the time.  Research shows that a great many of these old paths and trails are today designated as U.S. Highway Routes.  For example, a major east-west route of migration known as the National Road is now U.S. Route 40, and a primary north-south migration route of the 18th century followed the Great Indian War and Trading Path is now U.S. Route 11.  In some situations the re-created migration route may travel along state routes that connect or run through the seat of a county as that populated place is probably the oldest settlement in the area. The use of water as a migration route is also likely.  For example, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries many families travelled west on the Ohio River as they moved on the new lands in Missouri or the Old Northwest Territory.  As such when applicable water routes have been included as the possible migration route.   

Source documents




The documents contained within the “Source Documents Archives” have been located during my research of this family, and used as evidence to prove many of the facts contained within the database of this family’s record.


     Most of these documents can be considered as primary or secondary evidence.  Primary evidence is usually defined as the best available to prove the fact in question, usually in an original document or record.  Secondary evidence is in essence all that evidence which is inferior in its origin to primary evidence. That does not mean secondary evidence is always in error, but there is a greater chance of error.  Examples of this type of evidence would be a copy of an original record, or oral testimony of a record’s contents.  Published genealogies and family histories are also secondary evidence.

     Classifying evidence as either primary or secondary does not tell anything about its accuracy or ultimate value.  This is especially true of secondary evidence.  Thus it is always a good idea to ask the following questions: (1) How far removed from the original is it, (when it is a copy)?; (2) What was the reason for the creation of the source which contains this evidence?; and (3) Who was responsible for creating this secondary evidence and what interest did they have in its accuracy?

SOURCE:  Greenwood, Val D., The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 2nd edition, Genealogical Publishing  Co., Baltimore, MD 21202, 1990, pgs. 62-63


You are welcome to download any of the documents contained within this archive.

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Use the following LINK to view the source documents pertaining

 to this family.



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