Trivia Question: How was the term "esquire" used in the US in 1850?

+2 votes

I'm curious about something. I was researching a distant cousin, and I find him and his new wife in the 1850 Census. He is listed as "William Young, Esq." He gives his profession as farmer.

His real estate holdings seem substantial for the time. He gives the value as $10,000.

I'm wondering if he was also an attorney, or if the British usage of "esquire" may have spilled over here, and he was considered a person of high social standing ???

I've also seen where the Freemasons used this title.

Here's the census listing -- William Young, Esq is on line 24.

I'd love to include a line in his bio about this if anyone can shed some light.


WikiTree profile: William Young
in Genealogy Help by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (400k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith

2 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
I don't think this answers your question directly (hey, it's from a lawyer!), but it might help shed a little light on the topic:
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (431k points)
selected by Julie Ricketts

Excellent answer, Dennis!

"The people who served in public capacities were also called “esquire.” Barristers at law were included… and so were sheriffs, sergeants at arms and — among others — justices of the peace."

Those positions were temporary activities. This could explain why William Young was not an "Esq." on 1860. (Bedford, same District No.3, line 26. His wife is listed Louisa)

That's fantastic, Dennis! Thank you! That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

Now I have something to go on when I start to dig a little deeper.

Incidentally, I found a listing in the 1840 Census for an older William Young who also uses the "esquire" designation. I suspect he may be this William's father because there is a son listed whose age fits. So, perhaps he followed in his father's footsteps.

Thanks, again!
+3 votes
Wikipedia has a long history of the term, but "North America (chiefly US): A title appended to the surname of a lawyer (of either sex).
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)
I saw that, too, Frank, and that article goes on to mention its use among Freemasons.

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