A History of the Family of Seton during Eight Centuries is a two-volume work written by George Seton in 1896 that details the history of the Seton family back to the 10th century. Drawing on an earlier work by Sir Richard Maitland, he traces the main line of the Seton family to its origin. A member of an old British family named Say moved to Scotland, where he adopted the surname Sayton or Seyton upon receiving a grant of land in East Lothian. The name has gone through several spelling changes since that time, including Setone, Setton, Settone, Seytoun, Seaton, Saeton, and Ceton, before Seton was finally adopted by all the principal branches of the family.
The first Seton whose full name could be found was Dougall de Seton, believed to be the son or grandson of the Anglo-Norman immigrant who first assumed the surname. Dougall lived during the time of Alexander I (1107-1124).
Although the family has had ties to Scottish nobility and high society through marriage since its beginning, the first Seton to become a member of the nobility himself was Sir William, the first Lord Seton. Sir William was a distinguished knight, who also became Premier Baron of Scotland and a Lord of Parliament. He appears to have traveled as far as Jerusalem, a significant accomplishment during the mid 14th century in which he lived.
In 1763, seventeen-year-old William Seton, descended from a line of the family that resided in the county of Fife, Scotland, immigrated to the United States to find fortune. Within two years he established himself as a businessman in New York, importing goods from Europe and India. He was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War, but after the war remained in New York and became a citizen of the United States. His eldest son, William, followed in his father’s footsteps as a successful merchant and businessman. On the 25th of January 1794 he married Elizabeth Ann Bayley. After William Seton’s death in 1803, Elizabeth Ann Seton converted to Catholicism. She later founded the first order of the Sisters of Charity in the United States, and opened St. Joseph’s School, the first free Catholic school in the country. She was also the aunt of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, who decided to name Seton Hall College after her when it was established in 1856. Later, she was canonized as the first American-born saint.
The Seton family can trace their history back eight centuries, how far back can your family go? The Archives has a number of great genealogy resources. One of our most-used collections is the Latter Day Saints microfilm of parish and cemetery records in the Archdiocese of Newark. These microfilms largely consist of sacramental records and cemetery records which can provide key information to genealogists studying their family history. The films, which were made in the mid-1980s by the Latter Day Saints, can be viewed in the Archives by appointment, or can be ordered from Salt Lake City to be sent to a local LDS Family History Center. For more information about Family History Centers, visit the FamilySearch website. You can also request a search to be performed by Archives staff for a $25.00/hour research fee. For more information please visit our Genealogy Resources page, and have fun exploring your family history!