Fox Surname Genealogy

If your surname is Fox, it could be of English, German, or Irish
origin. The English name was at first Foxe and then Fox.
The German word is Fuchs,
often anglicized to Fox. The Irish source is either the Gaelic Sionnach or the Anglo-Norman de Bosque. In each case, the
root is the animal, the fox.
Fox must have started out as a nickname. Did it refer to someone
of red hair, the color of a fox? Or was it someone considered
crafty or cunning, characteristics that are attributed to a

Resources on

Fox Ancestry

England. Where were the
foxes? A 14th century name distribution showed the Fox
surname to be mainly concentrated in a broad swathe of Middle England
from Nottinghamshire to Cheshire, with a lighter smattering in the
southern counties.

Notable Foxes in Tudor and Stuart times came from Lincolnshire and

  • Lincolnshire supplied Richard Foxe, the prominent
    churchman who founded Oxford’s Corpus Christi College, and John Foxe,
    the author of Foxe’s Book of
  • George Fox,
    the founder of the Quaker movement, was born in a small
    village just outside Leicester.

rural Wiltshire came two

  • one prominent in politics, the Foxes who were ennobled as the
    Barons Holland of Foxley
  • and the other a Quaker family who moved to Falmouth
    in Cornwall and started there various businesses based on Quaker

The ship agency business which George Croker Fox
began in Falmouth in 1762 still survives today. So too do
Caroline Fox’s diaries of her meetings and correspondence with
prominent Victorians of her day. From this family also came
Edward Long Fox, the medical practitioner who in 1800 built an asylum
for the well-to-do insane at Brislington House near Bristol.

A Fox family dated
from about 1500 at Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire.
Henry Fox of this family was a London
merchant who traded with the American colonies in the early 1600’s. This trading was then carried on by his son
John and grandson John, the latter who was granted land in Virginia and

Yorkshire and Lancashire.
By the 19th century for whatever
reason, the Fox name had spread steadily northwards, into Yorkshire and
Lancashire. Did this represent migration? Or some quirks in

In Yorkshire the
cluster of Foxes was mainly in the South Riding,
particularly in and around the town of Dewsbury. Thomas Fox was
born there in 1591 and there was the redoubtable Squire Fox of the
18th century. A Victorian instiitution was Fox’s biscuits
in nearby Batley. Another Fox family business was the curiously
“shoddy and mango” merchant. And Dewsbury produced in the
20th century Leslie Fox, the noted mathematician, and Sir Marcus
Fox, the Conservative politician.

In Lancashire a
family historian has traced
own family in Roeburndale near Lancaster back to the early
1700’s. Isaac
went out to Jamaica in the early 1800’s.
Interestingly enough, a descendant of this family has seen the DNA’s of
a number
of Foxes in Yorkshire and Lancashire and found little genetic
connection with his family.

If there was no Fox clan in England, there
definitely was in Ireland, or rather two of them:

  • the Sionnach
    who claimed an ancient heritage
  • and the de Bosque Foxes who came with the Anglo-Norman influx in
    12th century.

The Sionnach heartland was County Offaly in the
middle of Ireland; the de Bosques were mainly in County
Limerick, in particlar in Doon. When the English began to enforce
the anglicization of names, both Sionnachs and de Bosques became Foxes
(although some Sionnachs did opt for Shinnick instread). In
Gaelic speaking schools, a distinction did remain between the two names.

Tadg O’Catharnaigh, the Offaly clan chief
died in 1086, was the first to adopt the Sionnach (Fox) name.
Their base was an area between what is now Clara and
Ballycumber (the Rock of the Fox, an ancient ceremonial place, still
exists there).

They were an aggressive warlike clan, engaged in
raiding against their neighbors and fighting the Anglo-Norman presence
in the region. Their chief Hubert
resisted but lost against the forces of
Cromwell in the
1650’s. As a result, his estates were confiscated and the family

One who did well for himself, as a merchant in Dublin,
was Patrick Fox. He acquired Foxhall in County Longford and his
family became landed gentry there. But Foxhall, like Kilcoursey
castle in Offaly, is just a ruin today. The last of this line
two sisters, Amelia and Evelyn Fox.

America. If you are a Fox
in America, you could be of English, Irish, or German origin.

English Foxes
early arrival was Thomas Fox who settled in Concord, Massachusetts in
the 1640’s. In 1819, the Rev. James Angel Fox moved to
Mississippi and later generations lived in Louisiana. Charles
Fox, a descendant of another early Fox immigrant into Massachusetts,
headed West in the 1860’s and was one of the founding fathers of San
Diego in California.

Justinian Fox from the Fox family in Falmouth had arrived in
Philadelphia in 1686. A descendant, Joseph Fox, was Speaker of
the Pennsylvania Assembly during the Stamp Tax uproar and the family
later moved
to Foxburg in western Pennsylvania. The family story was
in Joe Fox’s 2006 book, The Fox
Family of Philadelphia

John Fox
, a London merchant, came to Virginia in 1664 and
the forebear of a well-to-do Virginian family.
Gentleman Henry Fox was his son and he made his home at Huntington along the Mattaponi river in
King William county. There followed:

  • the Rev. John Fox who was the rector at
    Ware in Gloucester county in 1750.
  • William Fox who was supposed to have “put a period to his
    existence by
    firing a ball into his head” in 1795 after having been indicted for
    killing one
    of his servants for stealing.
  • while William D. McCain’s 1971 Fox book covered the
    later Henry Fox lines in South Carolina and Mississippi.

Irish Foxes John
Fox had arrived in Virginia from Ireland in 1649. Possibly he was
the forebear of the writer John Fox Jr.

His earliest known
ancestor was William Fox who was born in Loudoun county,
Virginia around 1710. His
Scots Irish descendants crossed the Wilderness Road to Kentucky in
1790. There followed three generations of Kentucky schoolmasters
and then John Jr. who became famous through his
novels about the mountain people of the bluegrass region. John
settled in Big
Stone Gap, Virginia where there is now a John Fox Jr. museum.

It is unclear whether James Fox was of Irish or English origin.  Born around 1740 and first found in Shenandoah county in Virginia, he had descendants who spread widely.  Some moved after the Revolutionary War to Kentucky; while Allen and Virginia Fox left for Buncombe county in North Carolina.  One line of this family later crossed the border into Canada and settled in Winnipeg.

The Fox influx from Ireland gathered pace as the 19th century
proceeded. William Fox, for instance, came to Wisconsin from West
Meath in the 1830’s; Richard Fox to Ohio from Dublin in 1841; Francis
and Mary Fox to Tennessee from Roscommon in 1848; and Miles and Bridget
Fox to Bytown in Ontario from Sligo in the 1870’s.

German Foxes The
Fox/Fuchs immigration from Germany seems to have started
in the 1700’s, into New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Christoph Fuchs, later Christopher Fox, came to Ohio in the

well-known descendants of
19th century immigrants were William Fox, who founded the Fox Film
and Vicente Fox, a recent President of Mexico.

Canada. James and Johanna
Fox left Ireland for Canada in 1825. They kept the old Gaelic
name of Sionnach until the 1830’s. They were listed as “Shinig”
in the 1826 Newcastle district cansus. By the time of the 1839
census, they were referred to as Fox.

Australia. Arthur and
Frances Ellen Fox arrived from Cavan in Ireland in the 1840’s.
They bought the Marybank estate in the Adelaide foothills in 1852 and
their descendants (now into the fifth generation) have held onto the
property ever since.

Another early settler was the English Isaac Fox. He was said to
be a man of stern principles and never happy with his lot.
However, he married twice and raised thirteen children in total.
They made their homes in New South Wales and Queensland.

Select Fox Miscellany

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

Select Fox

, the Irish clan chief who died in 1086, was the
first to adopt the Sionnach (Fox) name.

John Foxe published his Foxe’s
Book of Martyrs
in 1563, a book that helped inflame
anti-Catholic sentiment in England at the time.

George Fox,
born in Leicestershire in 1624, was the founder of the Religious
Society of Friends, i.e. the Quaker movement.
Charles James Fox was a leading
Whig politician of the Regency age, bested, however, by his
arch-rival William Pitt.
John Fox Jr wrote books such
as Trail of the Lonesome Pine and
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come
which were the first million-copy sellers in the United States.
William Fox, born Wilhelm
Fuchs, started the Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner to
today’s 20th Century Fox and the Fox Television Network.

Vicente Fox
was President of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.
Although born in Mexico, his paternal line traces back to a German
immigrant Fuchs family that settled in Cincinnati.

Select Foxes Today

  • 92,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gloucestershire)
  • 61,000 in America (most numerous
    in California).
  • 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)





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