Select Williams Surname Genealogy

Williams is a patronymic (son of) name from William, common in both England and Wales.  Because of William the Conqueror, William was the most used personal name in England until it was superseded by John in the 13th century.

Select Williams Resources on The Internet

England.  Thomas Williames was recorded in the 1307 Staffordshire rolls.  The Williams name was mainly to be found in western counties in succeeding centuries.

A Williams family has held Herringstone House near Winterborne in Dorset continuously since 1513.  Robert Williams of this family, a banker in London, acquired the Bridehead estate nearby in 1797; while a branch of the family moved to Trevers in Cornwall.  In 1901 Edward Williams, JP for Dorset, and his wife lived at Herringstone with a ladyís maid, two housemaids, a kitchen maid, butler, footman, and hall boy.

Meanwhile, the Williams family of Burncoose and Caerhays - through their ownership of mines and smelting works - was a major force in the Cornish industrial revolution of the 18th and early 19th century.  The first of this line was John Williams who purchased the Burncoose estate in 1715.  Charles Williams is the current owner of Caerhays castle, a mock-medieval castle on the Cornish coast acquired by the family in 1854.

  Williams emerged in different places as a Welsh surname in the 16th century.  Oliver Cromwell in fact might have been a Williams if his Welsh great grandfather, Richard Williams from Glamorgan, had not changed his name to Cromwell at the instructions of Henry VIII.

Other early Williams were:
  • the Williams family of Vaynol near Bangor in north Wales.  Wyn ap William (Thomas Williams) took ownership of the estate in 1572.  John Williams, the Archbishop of York in 1641, held Vaynol for a while.  But it passed out of family hands when Sir William Williams died without issue in 1696.
  • the Williams family of Aberpergwm in the Neath valley, beginning with Jenkin William (a descendant of William ap Hopkin of Blaen Baglan) who first settled there around the year 1500.  This family later owned coal mines in the Neath valley and St. Donat's castle.  But after World War One both coal mines and castle were sold.
  • the Williams of Llangibby castle in Monmouthshire.  This line boasted an old Welsh lineage.  Roger Williams of Usk, the first to adopt the Williams surname, acquired Llangibby in 1554.  These Williams constructed a new house there in the 17th century which continued in use until 1951.
  • while Glasbury in Breconshire boasted three notable Williams during the course of the 17th century.
Thomas Williams developed the Parys and Mona copper mines in Anglesey in the late 18th century.  When he died in 1802 he was said to have been the richest man in Wales.

.  Williams in Ireland would probably have come originally from either Wales or England.

One such family of Welsh origin settled in county Monaghan in the 1640's.  Charles Williams, from Coleraine in county Derry, was a 19th century war correspondent who founded the Press Club.  A Williams family has been running the Tullamore whiskey distillery in county Offaly since the early 1900's.

America.  Roger Williams arrived at the Massachusetts colony in 1631.  At odds with the Puritan authorities there, he fled the colony and purchased land at a place he called Providence.  He is considered the founder of Rhode Island and the founder of religious toleration.

Matthew Williams from Wales (said to have been a kinsman of Oliver Cromwell) had arrived in Massachusetts some years earlier.  He was one of the early settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1644.  Later Williams of this family moved to Essex and Orange counties, New Jersey.

Robert Williams from Norfolk arrived in 1638 and settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts:
  • one line via his son Isaac led to Ephraim Williams, the benefactor of Williams College in NW Massachusetts.
  • another line via his son Samuel led to the Rev. John Williams, the first pastor at Deerfield.  In 1704 he was captured there by Mohawk Indians and taken to Canada in an incident that became known as the Deerfield massacre.  During that time his daughter Eunice was adopted by a Mohawk family.  Her grandson Thomas was a tribal chief at the time of the Revolutionary War.  He lived onto 1848.
African Americans.  Williams is the most common surname amongst African Americans.  In fact almost half of the Williams in America are African American.  The Williams name appeared in many places before Emancipation:
  • Molly Williams, a black slave in New York, was recorded as the first female firefighter in America in 1818.  
  • Peter Williams was a black minister in Harlem, New York in the 1830ís who spoke out against slavery from the pulpit and advocated emigration.
  • James Williams from Alabama, a driver on a cotton plantation, provided in 1838 the first slave narrative published by the American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • while Cathay Williams from Missouri, legally a slave, was enlisted into the Union army during the Civil War.  She is the only documented woman who fought in the war as a man.  Sadly she was denied a military pension when she needed it later in her life
Canada.  John Tucker Williams of the Cornish Williams family came to Canada with the Royal Navy in 1812 and stayed.  His son Arthur, born at Port Hope in Ontario, died west in 1885 after military skirmishes along the Saskatchewan river; his grandson Victor was a Canadian general during the First World War.

Australia and New Zealand.  Henry and William Williams were early Christian missionaries, arriving in New Zealand with their wives in the 1820ís.  Henry was instrumental in the negotiations with the Maoris over the Treaty of Waitangi.  William translated the Bible and the prayer book into Maori.  John Williams, unrelated, was another Christian missionary, this time from a nonconformist background.  He came to Tasmania in 1817 and later established Congregational churches in Sydney and Brisbane.

There were Cornish Williams from the Redruth area who emigrated to Australia in the 1840ís after the downturn in Cornish tin mining.  Many headed for the copper mines of South Australia like Kapunda.  Others went to Victoria and Queensland.  John Williams came in 1833 and settled with his family in the Hunter valley of NSW

Select Williams Miscellany

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

Select Williams Names

Roger Williams was the founder of the state of Rhode Island.
Edward Williams was Chief Druid and bard of Wales in the 18th century.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was an English composer.
Hank Williams was an American country singer who has achieved almost cult status.
Andy Williams is a well-known American singer.
Eric Williams was the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, serving from 1956 to 1981.
Robin Williams is an American movie actor and comic.
Vanessa and Serena Williams, sisters, are American tennis champions.

Select Williams Today
  • 411,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 523,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 145,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Williams is the #3 ranked surname in America and the #4 ranked in the UK.

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.

Return to Main Page