Select Thomas Surname Genealogy

The Biblical Thomas was initially a priest's name but then emerged as a surname throughout Europe.  The English pronunciation as "t" rather than "th" (as would have been proper from the Greek theta) is the result of French influence from an early date.  The name became popular as a personal name in England after the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket in 1170.

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The Thomas numbers today in Europe today are approximately as follows:
  • UK, 220,000
  • France, 110,000
  • and Germany, 50,000.  
The Welsh influence accounts for the higher Thomas numbers in the UK.  Thomases in France are highly concentrated in Brittany.  There is another area of Thomases, in Lorraine near the German border and in Rheinland on the other side.

  Thomas first emerged as a surname in Wiltshire in 1275.  Its usage had spread to Cornwall by the 16th century.   Thomas records at Helston date from the 1610's and at Sithney from the 1660's.  Thomas was the second ranked name in Cornwall in 1881.  Many were miners at that time and had begun to emigrate.  The actress Kristin Scott Thomas hails from Redruth in Cornwall.

.  Thomas began to appear as a surname in south Wales in the 16th century.  Early Thomases were:
  • various Thomases lived at Plas Llanmihangel near Cowbridge in Glamorgan from the 1520's to the 1680's.  This Thomas family was said to be wealthy and linked to the Herberts who became the Earls of Pembroke.  They were later to be found at Tregroes House in Pencoed.
  • a Thomas family obtained the Wenvoe castle estate near Cardiff in 1560 and Edmund Thomas built an imposing mansion there.  A later Edmund Thomas was a staunch Cromwellian supporter during the Civil War. 
  • while the Thomases of Llanbradach and Ystrad Mynach dated from the 1640's.  William Thomas was sheriff of Glamorgan in 1675.
One Thomas family from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire was copper refiners in the early 1800ís before the copper mines there were all worked out.  Thomases from Aberdare in the Rhondda valley were pioneers of the Welsh coal industry, starting with Samuel Thomas in the 1850ís.  He made his home at Ysguborwen House.  D.A. Thomas, the 15th of his 17 children, was the one who expanded his coal empire and was made Viscount Rhondda in 1918 for his war services.

By the time of the 1891 census, more than half of the Thomases in Wales were to be found in the county of Glamorgan, with the largest concentration there in the Rhondda valley.

America.  Pennsylvania attracted many from Wales, at first because of its religious tolerance of dissenters and second because its emerging iron and coal industry in the 19th century mirrored the one in south Wales, but there was the promise of higher wages.

Two dissenting Thomases were:
  • James Thomas. a Quaker in Carmarthenshire who had been excommunicated with his wife from their local church at Llanboidy.  They came to Pennsylvania in 1686 and settled in Merion, Chester county.
  • and the Rev. Owen Thomas who became a Baptist minister for the Welsh tract in Pennsylvania in 1707.  One line of his family migrated to Kentucky.  John Thomas from Kentucky was a General in the War of 1812.  Another line established themselves in 1778 at the Glenowen Farm in Loudoun county, Virginia, where they breed cattle today. 
David Thomas, one of the foremost ironmasters in Wales, relocated to Pennsylvania in 1839 and started in the Lehigh valley the first successful anthracite iron furnace in the United States.  His achievement earned him the nickname of "Father Thomas."  John J. Thomas, brought up in the coal mining town of Brynmawr in Breconshire, departed with his family for Pennsylvania in 1848.  He settled in Scranton, being one of the first Welsh miners to arrive there. 

.  A Thomas family from Devon was prominent from the late 1700's in the early history of Newfoundland, as sea captains, merchants, and land developers.  William Thomas built his home Devon Place in the capital St. Johnís in 1843.

Australia.  Robert Thomas from a Welsh farm in Montgomeryshire was an early arrival in South Australia, getting there with his family in 1837 and living for a time in tents and a rush hut.  He published the colony's first newspapers.  The diaries of his wife Mary have been preserved and they provide a valuable account of the early settlement.  Their son William and their grandson Sir Robert were also South Australian newspaper proprietors.
Many Thomas miners from Cornwall set off for South Australia in the 1850's and 1860's.   They went principally to the Moonta and Kapunda copper mines there.  Some later moved onto the Broken Hill mine in NSW.

Select Thomas Miscellany

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

Select Thomas Names

Samuel Thomas was one of the pioneers of the Welsh coal industry in the mid 19th century.  His son David expanded his father's commercial empire.
David Thomas, an immigrant from Wales, helped develop the iron industry in the LeHigh valley of Pennsylvania in the mid 19th century.
Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh poet-soldier who died on the Western front in 1917.
Dylan Thomas was the celebrated Welsh poet.
Dave Thomas from New Jersey founded and developed the Wendy fast food restaurant chain.

Select Thomas Today

  • 220,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 254,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 77,000 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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