Select Fuller Surname Genealogy

The name Fuller comes from the wool trade.  The raw cloth had to be "fulled" - i.e. scoured and thickened by being in water - a process known as walking because it was originally done by men trampling in a trough.

Both Walker and Fuller appeared as surnames, Walker in Yorkshire and the northeast and Fuller in the southeast.  The greater importance of the wool trade in the northeast has meant that Walker is now the much more common surname.

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Select Fuller Ancestry

England.  The Fuller surname first appeared in Kent and is mainly to be found in East Sussex, Kent, and East Anglia.  Fuller emerged as a surname in the 1500's in the wool trade around Tenterden in Kent and in the wool towns of south Suffolk.

East Sussex.  A Fuller family can be traced back to the early 1500's in East Sussex.  This Fuller family found another and more lucrative occupation than wool-making.  The rich woodlands of the Weald provided a valuable if wasteful resource for iron-making. 

From the 1690's, John Fuller was the iron master at Heathfield where cannon was made for the Royal Navy.  The family invested their profits in sugar plantations in Jamaica. However, they are probably best remembered for "Mad Jack" Fuller who blew most of his inheritance away in the early 1800's by a series of follies that he built in Sussex around Brightling.

Elsewhere.  The Fullers also produced Catholic-leaning clergymen.  John Fuller was merciless in hounding out heretics in Norfolk during the bloody reign of Queen Mary.  William Fuller, the Dean of Ely, and Thomas Fuller, the church historian, trod a more dangerous line during Civil War times.  However, we find another Fuller on the other side. Nicholas Fuller was a redical Puritan lawyer of the early 1600's who fought against the entrenched powers of the church courts in his day. 

A Fuller family from Wiltshire invested in a new brewery venture in London in 1829.  That brewery was and is still Fuller's brewery, makers of London's Pride.  The family home remains at Neston Park near Corsham where they recently opened an organic food shop.  The estate itself has period charm and has been used in many TV productions.

America.  Fullers came early to America. 

New England  Samuel Fuller from Redenhall near Harleston in Norfolk was in fact on board the Mayflower.  His descendants seem noted through their many branches for their longevity and their large familiies (they included Melville Fuller who rose to become Chief Justice of the United States in 1888).  Other early Fuller immigrants were:
  • his brother Edward (also on the Mayflower)
  • John and Elizabeth Fuller (on the Abigail)
  • Robert Fuller who settled in Salem,
  • and Thomas Fuller who arrived in 1638 and settled in Woburn.
The Rev. Timothy Fuller, born in 1707, was ordained as the first minister of Princeton, Massachusetts, but was later dismissed because of his anti-slavery views (although he was said to have owned slaves at one time).  He and his wife had ten children. 

They included Elizabeth Fuller, whose diary of rural life in Massachusetts at that time has been handed down, and Timothy Fuller who became a US Congressman in the early 1800's.  Timothy's daughter Margaret was, in the 19th century, an early advocate of women's rights.  Also in this family line were that American genius, Buckminster Fuller, and the founder of the Seattle Art Museum, Richard Fuller.

Not all of these Fullers stayed in Massachusetts.  Ferdinand Fuller from Worcester had led a pioneer group of abolitionists to Kansas in 1854 to try and keep this new state a free state.  He was an architect and designed the first buildings for the University of Kansas.  Another early settler was Perry Fuller, an Indian contractor who set up a profitable trading post at Quenemo.

Fullers in the South  The first appears to be Ezekiel Fuller who was born in the Virginia tidewater region in 1675 (a book by Grady P. Fuller, Ezekiel Fuller and Some of His Descendants written in 1987, narrated the history of this line).  Two brothers, Henry and Nehemiah Fuller, left Maryland for North Carolina in the 1740's.  Their descendants are to be found in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

One unusual Fuller ancestry was that of Solomon Fuller.  His grandfather John Lewis Fuller, born a slave in Virginia, had been able to buy his freedom and move his family to Liberia.  Solomon returned in 1895 for his medical studies.  He was a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine for many years and became the first practicing African American psychiatrist.

Today, American Fullers outnumber English Fullers by some margin.  They are probably augmented by Fullers from Germany and French Fourniers anglicized to Fuller.

Canada.  A Fuller family in Nova Scotia dates back to the 1760's and a merchant, William Fuller.  One of his descendants was Alfred Fuller, the founder of the Fuller Brush Company.  Thomas Fuller came to Toronto in the 1850's and became the town's leading architect.  His family-run business still thrives.

South Africa.  Henry and Susannah Fuller from London were among the first band of English settlers to the Cape Colony in 1820.  They were British loyalists during the Boer War.  Kathleen Bell (nee Fuller), who lived to see a hundred, recorded her reminiscences of early Johannesburg at the turn of the century.  However, eighty years later when Alexandria Fuller was writing, southern Africa was very different.

New Zealand.  John Fuller had arrived in Auckland from Kent in the 1850's.  A little later, Frederick Fuller, who had left his native Suffolk for Australia in 1849, reached Christchurch.  There he discovered his true metier, taxidermy. As a taxidermist he delighted in all the new specimens that New Zealand had to offer.

The Fuller theatrical family moved from London to New Zealand in the 1890's.  Their eldest son Benjamin developed the Fuller theater circuit which, expanding as New Zealand's cities grew, eventually spread to Australia. 

Select Fuller Miscellany

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

Select Fuller Names

John Fuller
was the ironmaster at Heathfield in Sussex.
Thomas Fuller, the worthy master Fuller, was a high-regarded church historian of the 17th century.

Alfred Fuller
from Nova Scotia started the Fuller Brush Company in the early 1900's.
Alvan Fuller, born in Boston, was an automobile pioneer who later became Governor of Massachusetts.
Buckminster Fuller was an American visionary, designer, architect, poet, author, and inventor.
Dr. Ray Fuller from Illinois was the co-discoverer of the drug Prozac in the 1970's.
Simon Fuller, born in Sussex, was the creator of the Pop Idol and American Idol television shows.

Select Fullers Today
  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous in Norfolk)
  • 41,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia) 

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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