Select Watson Surname Genealogy

Watson is patronymical, from "son of Wat".  Wat was a medieval abbreviation of the Germanic name Walter, coming from wald meaning "rule" and heri meaning "army."  The surname sprung up in the Scots Lowlands and in the north of England.

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Scotland.  Watson, Watt, and MacWatt are all names in Scotland derived from Wat or Walter.

Watsons in Edinburgh dates from 1392.  The Watson family of Saughton near Edinburgh was influential landowners in the area for about three centuries from 1537.  George Watson was a wealthy Edinburgh banker who, on his death in 1723, bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to what was to become Watson's College in the city.

Walter Watson was recorded as a landowner in Dumbarton on Clydeside in 1494.  A number of his descendants became magistrates and provosts (mayors) there.  The Watsons have also been long-established at Applegate in Arbroath.

.  A Watson family has been at Rockingham castle in Northamptonshire since 1530 when Edward Watson, the founder of the Watson dynasty, first leased the castle.  The direct family line ended with the death of the 3rd Earl of Rockingham in 1746. 

Another line, however, continued with Charles Watson-Wentworth, Lord Rockingham, who was twice British Prime Minister in the late 1700's.  Some of the Watson families in Yorkshire may also have had a lineal descent from these Watsons.

A line of Watsons held the old Malton priory and later acquired Bilton Hall near Harrogate in Yorkshire.  Joseph Watson started his soap business in Leeds in 1830.  This was transformed by his grandson Joseph into the largest soap manufacturer in the north of England.  The firm was known as "Soapy Joe's."

One Watson family history began with the birth of John Watson in Renwick, Cumberland in 1721.  They later spread across Cumberland and Northumberland, as well as abroad.

Ireland.  Many Scots Watsons migrated to Ulster during the 17th century.  Watsons from Ayrshire were in county Down as early as 1607 as part of James Hamiltonís plantation.  A number of Watsons were involved in the defense of Londonderry during its siege in 1689, including Captain Alexander Watson, Master of the Gunners, and Captain George Watson, a signer of the letter to William and Mary.

Many Ulster Watsons left for America in the 18th century.  Others stayed.  Robert Watson was a pioneer of the linen industry in Lurgan, Armagh.  In 1808 he built one of the first hand-loom factories in Ireland.

.  Thomas Watson came to Salem, Massachusetts from Devon in England in 1640.  A much later Thomas Watson, who worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the telephone, was born in Salem in 1854. Whether the two were related is not known.

The majority of the Watson arrivals, however, were Scots or Scots Irish.

Thomas Watson the Scotchman came to Cherrystone Creek in Pittsylvania county, Virginia sometime in the 1740ís when it was still frontier territory.  His descendants, at first Presbyterian and then Methodist, were still living at the Scotchmanís old homestead in 1892 and are still in the area today, the last five of them being named Fletcher Watson.

Others who stayed put were the Watsons on land between the Edisto and Saluda rivers in South Carolina.  William Watson had arrived there in 1745 in a circuitous route that had taken in New York, Virginia, and North Carolina.  He himself met his death in a fight with Cherokee Indians on the Edisto river, supposedly through the treachery of false friends.

Among the Scots Irish Watsons were:
  • Matthew Watson who arrived in Boston from Derry in 1718 and settled in Leicester, Massachusetts shortly thereafter.  He was not to live long, however, being hit by a falling tree in 1720.  But his son Matthew, born in 1696, lived onto 1803.
  • John Watson from Donegal who came to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in 1730.
  • and other Watsons who came to Pennsylvania at that time and later moved onto South Carolina.
Asia.  Thomas Boswell Watson, born on the outskirts of Edinburgh, moved to Asia in the 1840ís and started a small chemist business in Hong Kong.  From these beginnings came the Watson chain of beauty and health stores in SE Asia.

  John Watson had come to Tasmania in 1833 from a shipbuilding family in Beverly, Yorkshire.  He built clippers and whalers there, many of whom his brother George sailed.

Select Watson Miscellany

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

Select Watson Names

George Watson was a 17th century Edinburgh banker who founded Watson's College, one of the leading private schools in the city.
Thomas Watson worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the invention of the telephone.
William Watson was a coal mining baron in West Virginia in the early 1900's.
John Watson was the fictional associate of the detective Sherlock Holmes.
Robert Watson-Watt was the Scottish pioneer of radar.
Thomas J. Watson was the founder of the computer giant IBM.
Tom Watson is an American golfer, the great rival to Jack Nicklaus in the 1970's.

Select Watsons Today
  • 181,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 90,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 64,000 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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