Francis Surname Genealogy

popularity of Francis as a name derived in large
part from the fame of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. The name was also associated with the Knight
Templar Crusaders at that time. In
addition to Francis in England there was Francois in France, Francisco
Italy, plus numerous similar forms elsewhere in Europe.
However, the English
Francis had an alternative derivation from Le
or Franceys, meaning
“the Frenchman” in England.

Francis Resources on

Francis Ancestry

England. There were Franceys or Fraunceys (i.e. the
Frenchman) in England in the 12th and 13th centuries who subsequently
Francis. They appeared at an early time
at Meaburn in Cumberland and Coughton in Warwickshire.
The forebears of two notable lines were:

  • John le Fraunceys who was born at Osmundeston
    in Derbyshire in 1224. His descendant
    Sir Robert Francis of Foremark Hall in Derbyshire was a knight and
    sheriff of
    Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the early 1400’s.
    Robert’s grandson Sir John, who died in 1464,
    made his home at Burley in Rutland. One
    line of this family migrated to Sussex where Edward Francis was the
    Steyning MP
    in the early 1600’s.
  • and
    Ebrordis Fraunceys who was born in Bristol around 1240 and later became
    its mayor. His son Adam migrated to London
    in the early
    1300’s. And his son Sir Adam Francis prospered as
    a mercer and twice served as the Lord
    Mayor of London. He was by the
    mid-1300’s one of the richest men in London.

Later Francis in England
were to be found in two areas mainly – a smaller concentration in SW
and a larger concentration in SE England around London.

SW England. Francis was a popular
given name in the west
country (as with Sir Francis Drake) and this sometimes translated into
a surname.

Francis, born at Gwennap in Cornwall around the year 1590, appears to
have been
the forebear of a later line of Cornish miners:

  • Henry Francis married Ursula Tregonning there in the
    early 1700’s.
  • while the brothers Henry
    and Absalom Francis
    , together with their offspring, took
    their mining expertise to Wales and to parts further afield in the

A Francis family built Chevithorne
Barton, a gabled manor house near Tiverton in Devon, in 1610. They sold the house (which still stands) in
Another Francis family has been traced to the village of
Bradworth near
Holsworthy in NW Devon and to John Francis who married Elizabeth
Petherick in

The villages of Ansford and Castle Cary in
Somerset contained a number of Francis lines.
Isaac Francis was born in
Ansford in 1681 and buried there in 1753; while
Thomas Francis was born in Castle Cary around
1741 and died there in 1817. And a
Francis family were millers at nearby Lovington.

England. The early sightings were in
Essex. Robert Francis was recorded as
the bailiff of Colchester in 1349. His
son Thomas became a wealthy merchant.
He served as the bailiff of Colchester twelve
times and as its MP fourteen times over a period lasting forty-five
years. He died in 1417 but left no sons,
only three

Another disappearing Francis line was to be found in the
village of Shaddingfield in Suffolk where they held the manor of
Francis in the
late 1300’s. In the next century the
estate passed into the Cuddon family through marriage with the Francis

The Francis surname was numerous but not very
conspicuous in SE England thereafter.
The main numbers in the 1881 census were in London, followed by
and Kent. One local notable was Joseph
Francis who was twice mayor of Southend in the early 1900’s.

“Joseph Francis, born in 1849, was the mayor
of Southend with some repute for having held the position throughout
the Great
War. However, this came at a certain
price as he was lampooned by the local press for being too old. He also endured a near miss when a bomb
landed yards from the Civic Office in 1917, with himself being thrown
to the

James Francis from Terling in
Essex took his family to New York in the 1850’s. But
they did not stay there long and returned
to Hastings in Sussex.

Francis has also been a Welsh surname.
DNA testing has shown that Francis here has Celtic origins and
is thus
genetically different from the English Francis of probable Norman
descent. The name is found primarily in
south Wales.

Carmarthenshire came Enoch Francis,
the famous Baptist minister of the early 1700’s; from Pembrokeshire
Francis, the well-known crime writer.

the largest Francis numbers in Wales have been from Glamorgan, in
particular from
in and around Swansea – a booming area in the early 1800’s. The Francis name had already become evident
in outlying parishes such as Llansamlet and Llangfelach by the mid-18th

One notable Francis family there had English origins, coming from
Castle Cary in Somerset. John Francis left Somerset for Swansea in 1811
and prospered there as a coach-builder:

  • his elder son Grant was an antiquarian, active in local
    Swansea issues
  • while his younger son Duffett was
    accomplished portrait painter whose legacy in Swansea is the Deffett
    Art Gallery.

Ireland. A
Dublin-based Anglo-Irish family from Devon included
among their number:

  • the
    Rev. John Francis, the rector of St. Mary’s church in
    Dublin in the early 1700’s.
  • his
    sons – Tench who emigrated to America, Richard an eminent lawyer, and
    Philip a
    clergyman now remembered for his translations of Horace.
  • and
    Philip’s son Sir Philip, a well-known
    pamphleteer and Whig politician in London in the late 1700’s.

the Francis name in Ireland was mainly found in Armagh and Down. James Francis was born in Armagh around 1755,
Jacob Francis in Down in 1781. Both had
descendants who emigrated to America.

America. The Francis name was first
notable in New
England and then out of Maryland and Virginia.

New England. There were
three early sightings of Francis in New England, all apparently from

  • John
    Francis by 1631 in Braintree, Massachusetts
  • Richard Francis by 1640 in
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • and Robert Francis by 1651 in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Robert Francis and his wife Joan had one son,
John, who had fourteen children by his second wife Mercy, including
eldest son John.

“John Francis, born in
1684, was a man of great muscular strength.
Many stories were related of his extraordinary athletic feats. He was the owner and landlord of the old
Wethersfield Inn. He was three times

In 1829 five descendant
brothers left W
for points west
, three of them ending up in Springfield,
Illinois. Another brother Charles was a
pioneer settler
in northern Indiana. The family line was
covered in Charles Francis’ 1906 book Descendants
of Robert Francis.

Maryland. There were two notable
Francis lines that
started out from Maryland.

Tench Francis
from Ireland had arrived there around 1720 as an attorney for Lord
Baltimore. He later moved to
Philadelphia where he was the attorney general for Pennsylvania from
1741 to
1755. His son Tench Jr. was a prominent
Philadelphia merchant. The line through
his son John then moved to Rhode Island.
John’s son John Brown Francis was Governor of that state from
to 1838.

William Francis, possibly of Welsh origins, had come to Cecil county
in the early 1730’s. His son Henry
fought and died during the Revolutionary War.

“Captain Henry Francis was shot through the head and died
at the Battle
of Shallow Ford in 1780. His sons Henry
and John also fought in the battle.
Henry Jr. was only a few feet away from his father when he fell. John then shot the soldier who had killed his

Henry migrated to Kentucky in
the early 1800’s and his son Pearl to Missouri in the late 1820’s. Pearl’s son William Francis set off for California at the time
of the Gold
Rush, but then returned. He died at the
end of the century, a respected county judge in Clay county, Missouri.

Virginia. There was one notable
line out of
Virginia. Thomas Francis had come from
Virginia to Kentucky in the late 1700’s, marrying Polly Broaddus in
Kentucky in
1815. While Polly was giving birth to
children in Richmond, Thomas bought and ran a popular tavern there. He later became the local sheriff.

His grandson David Francis, born in Richmond
in 1850, was to distinguish himself nationally as a politician and
diplomat. He held several positions, from
Mayor of St. Louis to Governor of Missouri and US Secretary of the
Interior. He was the US Ambassador to
Russia at the time of the 1917 Revolution.

Meanwhile Joseph Francis, of reported German extraction,
migrated from
Virginia to Kentucky in the early 1800’s and later settled in Clay
Indiana. His son and grandson, both
named William, were farmers there.

South Africa. Thomas Francis and his
family from London
were among the 1820 British settlers to South Africa, sailing there
with Willson’s
party on La Belle Alliance. He
made his home at Grahamstown on the
Eastern Cape:

  • his eldest son Thomas,
    nine years old when they left England, became a tailor there.
  • while a younger son Frederick, born in South
    Africa, moved to the Orange Free State and died an old man in a Boer
    concentration camp in 1901.

Australia. Thomas
Francis was a convict from Warwickshire who arrived in NSW on the Admiral Barrington in 1791. He
married Honora Collins, a fellow convict from
Ireland, a few years after the birth of their first child.

They seemingly had a
fiery marriage. Some of their children
were registered as Francis, others as Collins.
Both Thomas and Honora were buried in Castlereagh cemetery. Their descendants are now spread over every
state in Australia and in many locations overseas.
Jack McNamara, a fifth-generation descendant,
published a family line in 1998.

Arthur Morley Francis, also from Warwickshire, was a pioneer in Queensland,
arriving there in 1862 and living at first with his family in tents on
coast. Francis Lookout near Brisbane was
named after them

Francis Miscellany

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

Francis Names

Sir Adam Francis who twice served as the Lord Mayor of London was
one of its richest men in the mid-1300’s.

Enoch Francis
was a prominent Welsh Baptist minister and preacher in
the first half of
the 18th century.
David Francis
was an American politician and diplomat
who served as Governor of Missouri, US Secretary of the Interior, and
Ambassador to Russia at the time of the 1917 Revolution.
Connie Francis
born Concetta Franconero
, was a chart-topping American pop singer of the
late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Dick Francis
was a steeplechase jockey who became a
widely-read British crime writer. His
books were set around horse racing

Select Francis Today

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 27,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)





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