Select Hamilton Surname Genealogy

The Hamiltons were Scots who rose to be a leading family in Scotland in the 16th century.  Their forebear was Walter de Hameldone who owned property near Paisley in Renfrewshire in 1294 and featured in the Ragman Roll of 1296.  He was Anglo-Norman by origin. 

They had taken their name from the now deserted village of Hamilton in Leicestershire through which they had passed on their way to Scotland.  The name Hamilton comes from the Old English hamel meaning "crooked" and dun "hill." 

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Scotland The descendants of Walter fitz Gilbert or Walter de Hameldone became one of the most important of the Scottish Lowland families.  Walter himself was involved in his time in the conflicts with the English, as were many of his descendants.  James Hamilton in fact was held hostage in 1424 by the English in the ransom of the Scottish king.  

His son James became Lord Hamilton in 1445 and their home of Cadzow in Lanarkshire was renamed Hamilton.  The next two Lord Hamiltons were close to the Scottish throne and each acted as Regent during the turbulent times of the 16th century.  The Hamiltons had even been tempted by the throne itself as there was a linkage through marriage between these Hamiltons and the royal Stewarts.  However, they later suffered for their support of the Royalist cause during the English Civil War.   James, Duke of Hamilton, was executed in 1649.

Their chief is still considered the premier Duke of Scotland.  Hamilton Palace in Hamilton, Lanarkshire was the family seat from 1695 to 1921.  There are several branches of this family, some descending from illegitimate sons.  Many Hamiltons from Scotland and from Ireland achieved distinction in the British army and navy during the 18th and 19th centuries.  

Some Hamiltons in Scotland may have derived their name from the town rather than from the family. The surname is the 29th most common in Scotland today.  

Ireland.  One James Hamilton from the Hamilton line, a strong supporter of King James I of England and Scotland, was created the Earl of Abercorn in 1603 and rewarded with large estates at Strabane in county Tyrone.  Other Hamiltons received land grants elsewhere in Ulster during the plantation period. 

The Earl of Abercorn and his descendants were Catholic and much of their land was confiscated in 1650 and again in 1690 after the Battle of the Boyne (while another Hamilton who fought on the Protestant side was given the title of Viscount Boyne and received lands at Stackallan in Meath).  

However, these Hamiltons were able to resume their position during the 18th and 19th centuries.  They became the Dukes of Abercorn and assumed aristocratic airs: 

“The first Duke always went out shooting in his Blue Ribbon Noble Order of the Garter and required the housemaids to wear white kid gloves when they made his bed.” 

They were active Unionists at the time of Home Rule.  James Hamilton, the 3rd Duke of Abercorn, was made the first Governor of Northern Ireland, a post he held between 1922 and 1945. 

Hamilton in Ireland may in some cases have displaced Hamill and been used as an anglicization of the Cork name O'hUrmholtaigh. 

.  Paul Hamilton was an early arrival in America, coming to South Carolina to seek his fortune sometime in the 1680’s and, having inherited some money from his father, building himself a brick house home at his plantation on Edisto island.  A later Paul Hamilton fought in the Revolutionary War and became Governor of South Carolina in 1804 and then US Secretary of the Navy. 

Other early Hamiltons were: 
  • Andrew Hamilton who had arrived in Philadelphia around 1700 and became a well-known lawyer there, as was his son James.  
  • Captain Hance Hamilton, who led a Scots Irish group to America in 1729 and to what became Hamiltonban township in York county, Pennsylvania.   
  • James Hamilton, born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania of Scots Irish parents in 1750, who distinguished himself in the Revolutionary War, in fact receiving the British flag of surrender at Yorkville.  His son rose to prominence in South Carolina and became its Governor in 1830.  He was an early promoter of the state of Texas. 
  • John Hamilton and his family left Scotland for Pennsylvania in 1769 and eventually settled in Washington county.  Hamiltons are still there.
  • and James Hamilton, also Scots Irish, who was born in North Carolina in 1785 and was the forebear of Andrew Hamilton, a man who moved to Texas in 1846 and later served as its Governor.  
Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury who famously died in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, was in fact born out of wedlock in the British West Indies.  His father, who soon disappeared, was the younger son of a Scottish laird in Ayrshire.  Alexander came to America in 1772.  His son William moved to Illinois and was an early developer of lead mining in Wisconsin; his grandson Alexander was a Unionist general in the Civil War. 

.  Robert Hamilton, like other Scotsmen of his time, was drawn to Canada by the fur trade.  He arrived in 1780, soon established himself as a merchant in the Niagara area, and expanded his fortunes through successful land speculation.  His son George was the developer of Hamilton, Ontario. 

The brothers William and George Hamilton came to Canada from county Meath in Ireland around 1805.  After a while they became owners of a sawmill in Hawkesbury, Ontario, which they expanded to be one of the largest lumber operations in Canada

Select Hamilton Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Hamilton Names

James Hamilton became Lord Hamilton in 1445 and was the first to adopt Hamilton as a surname.
James, Duke of Hamilton,
was Charles I's supporter in Scotland during the Civil War.  Like his King he was tried and executed in 1649.
Alexander Hamilton was an early 18th century Scottish privateer who wrote an account of his experiences in 1727, A New Account of the East Indies.
Alexander Hamilton was the first US Secretary of the Treasury in 1789 killed in a duel in 1804.
George Hamilton founded the city of Hamilton in Ontario.
Willie Hamilton was the Scots anti-monarchy MP for Fife in the 1950's and 1960's.
Lewis Hamilton is the British challenger for the F1 motor racing championship (he won it in 2008).

Select Hamiltons Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in Belfast)
  • 73,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 43,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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