Select Ames Surname Genealogy

The surname Ames derived from the Old French amis, an oblique form of ami, meaning “friend.” The Latin derivatives amicius (male) and amicia (female) appeared in court documents in East Anglia in the late 12th century.

In some cases the surname may have been a contraction of Ambrose or Eames. Spelling variants are Eames and Amis.

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Select Ames Ancestry

England. Early spellings were various and it took many centuries for the Ames spelling to establish itself.

The first recording of the name was Robert Amis in Suffolk records of 1221. John de Amyas appeared in Thornhill records in Yorkshire in the 1340’s and descendants were to be found there and in other communities within the vicinity of East Ardsley.

One line in Sussex started with William Ams who married twice in Rye in the 1560’s. The family spelling later became Eames, although Ames and Aymes were also recorded. These Eames had spread to Chichester in West Sussex by the early 1600’s.

Norfolk. Ames in Norfolk included:

  • Lancelot Ames who was born in Norwich in 1537. A descendant Captain Joseph Ames from Great Yarmouth was instrumental in bringing Charles II back to England on the Happy Return. A later Joseph Ames moved to London and made a name for himself in the early 1700’s with his Typographical Antiquities, a history of printing.
  • William Ames who was Puritan merchant in Ipswich in the late 1500’s. His son William Ames was the Protestant divine who spent much of his life in Holland.
  • and Joseph Ames who was a mill-owner and flour merchant in Hallesdon in the early/mid 1700’s. These Ames were close to the Colmans of Colman’s mustard fame.

Somerset There were Ames in Somerset in the 17th century in Charlton, Doulting and Bruton. Charlton manor was held by an Ames family from 1630 to 1804. These Ames were merchants, sometimes described as clothiers. Roger Ames was said to have built Charlton House for his new bride. There are Ames family memorials in Doulting and Bruton churches. One later memorial, reading as follows, was placed there by American descendants.

‘To the glory of God and in memory of William and John
who emigrated to America from Bruton in 1635 and
1638. Erected by Frederick Lothrop Ames of Easton, Mass. in 1888.”

The American connection can be seen in Faber K. Ames’s 1969 book The Ames Family of Bruton,

America. Early Ames came to America under a variety of spellings.
Eames was probably the most numerous (Rebecca Eames got caught up in the Salem witch trials). The names Aimes and Amos also appeared. The Ames line of Braintree, Massachusetts – starting with William Ames from Somerset in 1640 – was one of the few lines that consistently used the Ames spelling. It was also the origin of many of the Ames in America.

Nathaniel Ames in Bridgewater published the first American almanac in 1725, which his son Nathaniel continued until 1766. Meanwhile John Ames in Bridgewater became the first American to manufacture shovels (so colonists no longer had to import them from England). In 1803, John’s son, Oliver Ames, moved to North Easton where he founded the Ames Shovel Company. Later Ames, Oakes and his son Oliver, got heavily involved in railroads.

Of their descendants:

  • Oliver Ames Jr. and his wife Blanche Ames (daughter of Governor Ames) built the Borderland estate in Massachusetts in 1906.
  • Hobart Ames started the Ames plantation in Tennessee around this time and bought himself a herd of Angus cattle.
  • and Winthrop Ames became a prominent theater director on Broadway.

The line from Anthony Eames who came from Dorset in 1633 and settled in Marshfield, Massachusetts did in time become Ames. Many of them were sea captains. One branch moved to Maine around 1760. Adelbert Ames of this family fought on the Union side in the Civil War and later became Governor of Mississippi. Curiously, his daughter Blanche married an unrelated Ames and thus called herself Blanche Ames Ames.

One Ames line from New Haven and Litchfield in Connecticut extended to Oswego county in upstate New York in the early 1800’s. Leonard and Minerva Ames were prominent citizens of the new township of Mexico. Their family later became involved in hiding runaway slaves in what was called the Underground Railroad.

Notable Eames in America were:

  • Henry Eames, a Methodist preacher who emigrated from Cork to Philadelphia in 1769 and settled in Bedford, New York. Three generations of Eames preachers followed in New York and later in Cook county, Illinois. Then came Charles Eames who settled with his wife Ray in Los Angeles in 1941 and they made their mark as furniture designers. The
    Eames chair is probably their best known work.
  • and William Eames who was a Tory in New York City at the time of the Revolutionary War. On his death in 1792 he disinherited all four of his sons for supporting the American cause. They changed their names to Aimes.

Select Ames Miscellany

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

Select Ames Names

Nathaniel Ames published the first American almanac in 1725.
Oakes Ames was an early American railroad tycoon. His son Oliver Ames was President of the Union Pacific in 1868 when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed.
Charles and Ray Eames were noted 20th century American interior designers.
Les Ames was an England wicketkeeper cricketer of the 1930’s.
Kingsley Amis and his son Martin Amis are well-known English novelists of the second half of the 20th century.

Select Ames Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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