Select James Surname Genealogy

The surname James comes from the personal name which has the same origin as Jacob (the Latin Jacobus).  Jacobus and James appeared interchangeable in 13th century records.

However, James developed as a separate name in its own right, largely because in the authorized version of the Bible the form James was used in the New Testament as the name of two of Christ’s apostles (James the brother of John and James the brother of Andrew), whereas in the Old Testament the brother of Esau was called Jacob.  

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Wales.  The James surname has cropped up mainly in south Wales.

There were James in Pembrokeshire by the 17th century, including early emigrants to America.  William James, born there in 1720, ran away to sea as a young man and made his name with the British navy in India.  He returned to England wealthy and a Baronet.  John James, a farmer at Trenewydd in the same county, kept a diary of his year in 1846 which has been preserved.

Christopher James was a provision merchant in Swansea in the early 19th century and Mayor of the town in 1849.  His son William became a Judge on the High Court.  In 1856 Evan James, the son of a woollen manufacturer in Caerphilly, composed Land of My Fathers, what was to become the Welsh national anthem.

The James family of Grosmont in Monmouthshire, near the English border, dates back to the 17th century. They owned the Town Farm there until the retirement of John James in 1845.  Another old Monmouthshire family stemmed from Lewis James, curate of Bedwellty from 1633 to 1667.

  The name William James was documented in Wiltshire as early as 1300.  And James was to be found in English counties in proximity to Wales, such as Cornwall.  John and Mary James were married there at St. Hilary in 1679.  Another family history began with the marriage of William James and Elizabeth Harvey in Breage in 1762.

The name also existed elsewhere:
  • James at Newport on the Isle of Wight dated back to the late 15th century.  Thomas James and his nephew Richard were notable scholars in the early 17th century. 
  • Christopher and Ellen James lived at Gnosall in Staffordshire in the late 1500’s.
  • while one family history in the northeast began with the birth of Thomas James in 1638 in Hebron, Northumberland.  He was the first James of a line of Parish Clerks which continued until 1888.
Ireland.  The James name is in Ireland, mainly because of English or Welsh arrivals there.  A James from Worcestershire who fought at the Battle of the Boyne later moved south to Wicklow and Carlow.  There was a James line at Carnew in Wicklow by the 1730’s.  Some later emigrated to Canada.

Early James in America were mainly Welsh. 

The first James ito arrive was probably John James, a Welshman from Carnarvon who came to Virginia around 1650.  His descendants became Baptists and settled in Kentucky.  Later descendants were the outlaws Jesse James and his brother Frank James.  They made their money robbing banks.  Their uncle Drury W. James had come to California during the Gold Rush and made his fortune as a cattle rancher.

A James family of Welsh Baptists from Pembrokeshire came to Pennsylvania in 1711 and settled in Montgomery county, where they helped to organize a Baptist church.

Scots IrishWilliam James arrived in New York in 1789 from a farming family in Baillieborough in county Cavan.  He made his fortune in real estate.  His son Henry was a prominent American theologian of his day; and Henry’s offspring included the philosopher William James and the writer Henry James

Caribbean.  Richard James from Wales was an officer in the expedition to Jamaica in 1655 who stayed.  His son Richard, born in 1656, was a colonel in the local militia who lived to be 103.  In his latter years he was said to have lived almost entirely on cocoa.  These James made their home in Hanover parish.  Jonathan James was a plantation owner in St. Elizabeth parish in the mid-1700’s. 

.  In 1869 newly widowed Agnes James left her home in St. Gorran, Cornwall for Liverpool where she departed with her seven children on the Austrian for Canada.  Arriving in Quebec, the family made their way to Mara township in south central Ontario.  The James numbers grew in Canada and they held a family reunion in 1937. 

William James arrived in Toronto from the English Midlands with his family in 1906.  He was a photographer by trade and many of his photographs of Toronto have survived. 

“One of the last major events he covered was the 1939 Royal Tour.  This netted one of his favorite photographs: a shot of George VI and Queen Elizabeth standing on the steps of Toronto's City Hall."

Select James Miscellany

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

Select James Names

Jesse James was a legendary outlaw of the old West.
Henry James was an American-born writer in England during Victorian times of novels such as The Portrait of a Lady.   His brother was the philosopher William James.
Alex James was a Scottish footballer, one of the Wembley wizards who thrashed England in 1928.
Elmore James was a blues guitarist from Mississippi, known as "the king of the slide guitar."
C.L.R James was the Trinidad-born writer and journalist, best known for his cricketing book, Beyond A Boundary.
P.D James is a popular English crime writer.

Select James Today
  • 152,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 80,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 54,000 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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