Origins of the Teskey Family & Surname

Most of the Teskeys in the world today who spell their name TESKEY are descended from the Irish Palatine family of that name, founded by the man now referred to as Jacob Teskey, or Jacob 1659 (after his apparent year of birth). The Teskey spelling first appeared in Ireland in the early 1700's. There has been much conjecture as to the original spelling before the family migrated to Ireland from the German Pfalz (also known as the Southern or Rhenish Palatinate) in 1709, and indeed much speculation about their specific place of origin. During their lengthy journey in 1709 from Germany to Ireland the family was recorded as Feske in Rotterdam and Teske in London. After settling in Rathkeale, County Limerick, Ireland they were recorded as Teshine in 1715, but soon afterwards the name seemed to settle as Teskey.

In the 1800s a branch of the family moved from Rathkeale to Adare, where they were recorded as TUSKEY. The Irish who migrated to North America in the 1800s included both Teskeys and the related Tuskeys. Today both spellings can be found. Research into people with the name Tuskey might conclude that they too are mostly descended from Jacob Teskey.

In 2004 Hank Jones, the leading researcher into Irish Palatine family history, put forward a strong argument that the family previously lived in OSTHOFEN, one mile from the west bank of the River Rhine and five miles north of the city of Worms. There, our 'founder' Jacob Teskey was recorded as JACOB TESCH. This theory is based on somewhat circumstantial evidence, but all other theories have been purely conjecture. For a full explanation of the evidence which led to this conclusion, please see Hank Jones' article here.

There are several theories about where the family originated prior to their time in the Palatinate. This mystery has yet to be addressed. However, I will include here an excerpt from Ken McDonald's Teskey Newsletter - Omnibus Edition. This was written before Hank Jones' theory, but shows some of the theories:

"In the old Irish records of our ancestors you will find TESKY, TISKEY, TUSKEY, TUSKY, TUSKIN, TESHINE, TESKY and TIESKEY, and probably others. I suppose this is quite understandable, given that Irish ministers were trying to interpret German pronunciation. The spelling has changed not only with the passage of time, but also as it crossed national boundaries. Teskey is not a German word, and no record of that spelling appears to exist in Germany, albeit that there is a small family group bearing that name in nearby Austria. I believe there are at least three plausible origins for the name, the prime candidates being Teske, Cesky and Disqué.

"One of our German contacts, linguist Carl Heupel, discovered that a family had apparently moved from the little town of Isques in Northern France to the German Pfalz in the Middle Ages, and had become known there as the family "from Isques", or d'Isqués. Carl's wife, Margret comes from this family, and was born a Disqué. There is evidence in the Pfalz of the name being spelt also as Tisqué, and it is a reasonable assumption that it could have converted from Tisqué to Teskey during the transition from German to Irish spelling of an essentially French word. Today, the village of Isques, near Boulogne, has no accent on the "e", which would therefore make it silent, and the name pronounced something like "eesk" rather than "eeskay", but perhaps it was not always like that.

"A couple of years ago Janice and I visited the Czech Republic. The Czech word for their country was and still is Cesky, pronounced "Chesky". Along similar lines to Carl's Disqué theory, I submit that somebody may have travelled from Cesky to the Pfalz and become known as Czech or The Czech, or in local parlance Cesky. It is then but a short step for an English speaker to spell it Teskey. A problem with this theory is that I don't know how anyone might have spelt the name in Germany, for as far as I know there has been no written evidence found there of any Cesky. Perhaps the family was not there long enough for the name to be written down, or perhaps the family simply carried the pronunciation with them through a period of time until it was recorded in Ireland in the best way that the pronunciation could be written.

"I have had contact with a Teske of Polish origin and a German Teske whose forefathers were called von Tesken. There are Teskes today throughout Europe, and these could well be related to us through common ancestry prior to 1709. However, there is an argument that Teske, which is pronounced with emphasis on the first "e" but almost none on the second, is unlikely to have been written as Teskey with almost equal emphasis on each "e". "

[Editor's Note: I'm not so sure about this - Teske and Teskey should be pronounced similarly in German and English, respectively, or Teske would at least be pronounced "Tesk-uh". From the University of Exeter Beginning German website:

'3. Unstressed "-e" at the end of a word- Many German words end in a single unstressed "-e" (or "-el" / "-er"). This should be pronounced as in the final syllable of the English word "brother"'

Other German names with ending "e" are often pronounced in English-speaking countries with the full "ee" sound, and two bearers of the Teske surname in English-speaking countries whom I've corresponded with pronounce it this way. Perhaps Teskey was just the Anglicized pronunciation, which would have naturally and quickly changed an ending "e" to "y" or "ey" as was also often seen in the Anglicization of Gaelic (cf. "Maire" (moy-ra) vs "Mary" (Mar-ee) ) Further input on this is welcome.]

"I mentioned earlier that only 90% of Teskeys in the World today can trace their roots back through Ireland to the Palatinate. I am just as interested in the remaining 10%, who are fairly widely scattered across North America. My Teskey correspondents include the descendants from a number of immigrants who did not come from Ireland. These include at least two families who came directly from Germany with the name Teske and another originally called Teschke. A family from Russia was originally Tesske, whilst the families Tzrebietowski, Tyski and Tutzke came originally from Poland. A Tutefski emigrated from Romania and the origin of the Titieskey branch remains a mystery. All are known to have changed their name to Teskey either upon immigration or shortly afterwards. The largest of these non-Irish Teskey families comprises 165 descendants of Stephen 1815 and Johanna, who came from Prussia and settled with their family in Collingwood, Ontario some time before the 1871 Census. Then their name was recorded as Teske; in the 1881 census it was Tesky; and by this century it had become established as Teskey."

Members of the Irish Palatine branch of the Teskey clan emigrated to England, the northeastern United States and, most notably for its large concentration of Teskeys, Canada.

However, there are still descendants of the original Jacob Teske living and farming in the area of the original Palatine settlements near Rathkeale, Co. Limerick.

Just as Jacob Teske of the Palatinate and his sons gave rise to the Teskeys of Ireland, some Teske families have emigrated directly from Germany to other English-speaking countries at various times and again changed the spelling of their name to Teskey or Tesky. Most known Teskeys, however, appear to be descended from the Irish Palatines. North American Tuskeys also appear to be descended from the Irish Palatine Teskeys.

Further details on the history of the Teskey clan can also be found in Ken McDonald's Teskey Newsletter - Omnibus Edition. Thanks to Ken for permission to post it here, as well as to all the hard work he has done organizing reunions and making connections among the worldwide Teskey family. If you'd like to receive the Teskey newsletter in future, contact .


From Ken McDonald's Teskey Newsletter No 33, December 2002:

"Whilst on a boating vacation in France, Barbara Pittam, nee Teskey, came across an advertisement for a firm of builders whose name is spelled Tesquie. Oh no !!

Ginger Sedlarova, nee Teskey, is Canadian, but now lives in the Czech Republic. She suggests that the Czech word TEZKE, pronounced "tjezh-key" might possibly be the origin of our name. It means "heavy" or "difficult" - but surely that's not us !

Jon Teske contacted me from Maryland, USA. His family, which pronounces their name "TESS-key", came to Wisconsin in 1864 from Pomerania near Stettin, which is present day Szeczin in Poland. He recalls a German reference book "Unser Famillienomen" from around 1935 that explained the origin of various German names. It claimed that Teske was a Slavic diminutive based on either the name Mathis (the Apostle) or Matheus (the Evangelist), both of which are translated in English to Matthew. This became Mateuski in Polish, then Matesky in Czech, and was truncated to Teske in Northern Germany. A nickname for Matheus is Thies, which may explain the disappearance of the original "M" sound.

Ken Teskie contacted me from Edmonton, Alberta. He recounted what he knew of his family history, starting with the immigration of his great grandparents, Gottlieb and Mary Teske around 1900. They settled in Bruderheim, Alberta, Canada, having come probably from Prussia. One son, Alfred, changed his name to Teskie whilst another, William (1895 - 1949) changed his to Teskey. William had no children and the other siblings retained the Teske spelling.

I hear quite regularly from people who are researching their Teske family history. This was the spelling that first appeared for Jacob 1659, the first known ancestor of most people now called Teskey. However, my research has usually excluded anyone called Teske, partly because there are more Teskes than Teskeys. Generally, people called Teske today either live in Germany or had ancestors who left Germany relatively recently (in the last 150 years). Whilst we may all be related if we could trace our lines back to Germany in the 1600s and earlier, I have chosen not to pursue that possibility. So, when I hear from a Teske, I try to explain this. However, I do keep a note of any such correspondence, in case in future I may be able to put someone in touch with another with similar origins. As yet I have not managed to "match" any of these occasional Teske contacts.

Next Page - A Short History of the Irish Palatines