Select Ellis Surname Genealogy

Elis (from the Greek Elias and the biblical Elijah) was a popular medieval name, having been adopted by some early saints.  It became in Old English Elys or Elis and then Ellis.  In Wales this surname seems to have absorbed forms derived from the Welsh personal name Elisedd, meaning one who is kindly and benevolent. 

Ellis developed from an early time as a surname in North Wales and in the West Ridings of Yorkshire. 

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Select Ellis Ancestry

Wales.  The Welsh patronymical style, such as Ellis ap Griffith, first applied.  Ellis as a surname dates from about 1600 at Ystumllyn near Criccieth in Carnarvon.

The name later was to be found more in Merioneth (present day Gwynedd).  This rural part of Wales became a hotbed first of nonconformity and then of nascent nationalism.  The farmer Rowland Ellis, a convert to Quakerism, left Dolgellau for Pennsylvania with a hundred like-minded enthusiasts in 1686.  They settled in Bryn Mawr, named after his farmhouse in Dolgellau and now a famous women's college.  Other Quaker Ellises left for Pennsylvania in 1690 and 1707. 

Land evictions were a problem in the 19th century.  Tom Ellis, the son of an evicted Bala tenant, was elected MP in 1886 on a nationalist program at the tender age of 27.  Sadly he died young before his promise could ever be fulfilled.   

England.  The Yorkshire Ellises were equally as numerous. 

Yorkshire  Sir John Ellis built Kiddal Hall near Barwick in the late 14th century and it stayed with the family for nearly four hundred years.  There were clusters of Ellises in Halifax and elsewhere in the West Ridings.  Ellis was a common name around Ossett.  Joshua Ellis from Ossett bought into the Savile woollen mill in Dewsbury in the 1820's.  The mill of Joshua Ellis and Company, one of the oldest in Yorkshire, lasted into the 21st century but was closed down recently. 

A Quaker Ellis community established itself in Rotherham and later, further south and in a more substantial way, in Leicester.  Starting as farmers, branches of this family in Leicester moved into a variety of merchant and banking businesses.  John Ellis began the Leicester and Swimmington railway in the 1840's and became an MP and mayor of the borough. 

Less monetary-minded were a Quaker couple from Bradford, James and Mary Ellis, who moved to the west coast of Ireland at the time of the potato famine and embarked on a Quaker relief program for the people of Letterfrack.  

Elsewhere  There was as well an early Quaker Ellis community in Cornwall near St. Just.  The Ellis name was to be found from the 1620's in Penzance and Redruth and in the Scilly Isles.  And the Ellis name also cropped in Dartmoor villages such as Modbury, Chagford and Belstone in Devon.

An Ellis family in Cambridgeshire has been traced back to Bourn where they held a manor around the year 1500. They were prominent landowners at Meldreth in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ireland.  Ellis appeared as Elys in Dublin in 1283 and has recurred frequently in Irish records in subsequent centuries in Dublin, Cork, and in various parts of Ulster. 

Patrick Henry Ellis from Dublin was one of the first English settlers in South Africa, arriving there with British troops when they occupied the Cape in 1795.  An earlier rover was Henry Ellis, from an English family in Monaghan County, who became a slave trader and was appointed governor of the British American colony of Georgia in 1757. 

Canada.  Ellises from Ireland were early immigrants into Newfoundland, from the 1790's.  The town of Elliston is named after the Rev. William Ellis, a Methodist missionary from county Down.  William Ellis ran a construction business in St. John's and helped rebuild the town after a devastating fire in 1892.  He was appointed mayor of St. John's in 1910. 

Edward and Mary Ellis were early settlers in Puslinch township southwest of Toronto.  Edward donated the land for the Ellis Methodist chapel that was built there in 1861.

There were a number of Ellises who headed west as the 19th century proceeded; such as Robert and Eliza Ellis who homesteaded near Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan in 1885; and Thomas and Sarah Ellis who moved to Calgary in 1886 and then onto Nanaimo in British Columbia in 1894.
AmericaEllis Island in New York Harbor was the arrival point for immigrants to America in the late nineteenth century.  The name was nothing special.  A New York tradesman, Samuel Ellis, had bought the uninhabited island in the 1770's and gave it his name.  But he resold the island thirty years later. 

There were Ellis arrivals there or elsewhere on the East Coast from England, Wales, and Ireland:
  • the descendants of John Ellis were to be found in Sandwich, Massachusetts for many generations.  A branch ended up in Maine. 
  • Edward Ellis arrived in Virginia in 1636.  Later Ellises settled in Tennessee and North Carolina.  Daniel Ellis of Tennessee spun his Civil War stories into a popular book, The Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis, that was published in 1867. 
  • and Archibald Ellis was one of the pioneer farmers of Butler county, Kansas in the 1860's. 
Texas  Other Ellises moved onto Texas.  In fact, by the 20th century, the state of Texas had the largest number of Ellises in the United States: 
  • Richard Ellis had left Virginia for Texas in 1834 while it was still part of Mexico.  He set up his cotton plantation in Bowie County, attended the Texas convention in 1836, and was the one who signed the Texas Declaration of Indeprendence. 
  • William Ellis ran his sugar plantation in what is now Sugar Land before the Civil War on slave labor and after the war on convict labor. 
  • while later arrivals included MG Ellis, who started a cattle business in north Fort Worth, and James Ellis, who was a property developer in south Dallas at the turn of the century.
Other Ellises.  Ellis is sometimes in America a Jewish surname, probably originating from Lithuania.   Abraham Ellis and his family were recorded as arriving in New York from Lithuania in 1888. 

The name could also be Mediterranean. Toufic Kmeid was an immigrant in the 1920's from Lebanon who changed his name to Ellis (after his grandfather Elias).  He started out as a travelling peddler and, after making some money, was able to buy his own store in a small town in upstate New York.  In Kisses from a Distance, Raff Ellis chronicled this family history, his parents' marriage and migration to America and their struggle to raise a family and make ends meet during the Great Depression.

Caribbean.  John Ellis was an early settler in Jamaica, having arrived there from Wrexham in the 1670's.  The Ellises became one of Jamaica's leading planter families in Jamaica (as well as holding estates in Curacao) until the 19th century when their estates became saddled with debts. 

The Ellis name has lived on in Jamaica - with Alton Ellis, the godfather of Rocksteady, and Hortense Ellis, who is acclaimed as Jamaica's First Lady of Songs. 

South Africa.   Patrick Henry Ellis arrived in the Western Cape with British troops in 1795 and married a local Afrikaans woman.  They have many descendants in South Africa. 

.  Elias and Rebecca Ellis were early Jewish migrants to Australia.  They arrived from England in the 1820's and made their home on Pitt Street in Sydney.  Louis Ellis became sheriff of Victoria and his daughter Constance one of the first woman doctors in Australia.

Select Ellis Miscellany

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

Select Ellis Names

Sir John Ellis
was the forebear of the Yotkshire Ellises in Kiddal Hall.
Rowland Ellis led the Welsh Quaker migration to Pennsylvania in the 1680's.

Samuel Ellis
(or Dutch Sam) is the boxer credited with having developed around 1800 the uppercut punch.
Richard Ellis was the signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. 
John Ellis was a prominent Quaker businessman in Leicester.
William Webb Ellis was the Victorian clergyman often credited with the invention of the game of rugby football while a schoolboy at Rugby School.   
Dowel Ellis
was the mayor of Johannesburg after whom Ellis Park, South Africa's national rugby stadium, is named.

Select Ellises Today
  • 85,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 70,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 44,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada) 

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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