Select Hilton Surname Genealogy

There is uncertainty as to how the name Hilton and its variants Hylton and Hulton originated.  The Hiltons of the northeast believe that the name pre-dates the Norman Conquest and has possibly a Viking origin. They look back to the year 924 when Adam de Hilton presented a silver crucifix engraved with the Hylton arms to the monastery at Hartlepool. 

The original spelling is thought to be Hyltun, "hyl" meaning a hill and "tun" a Norse word meaning first a fence, then an enclosure, and then a town.  Did the place Hyltun, a settlement on the hill, come first and the surname later; or was it the other way round?  

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Select Hilton Ancestry

England.  Hilton is a name of the northeast of England and also of the northwest.

Northumberland.  Henry de Hilton, granted lands from William the Conqueror, started building Hylton castle at Monkwearmouth, near present day Sunderland, in 1072.  The barons of Hilton remained stalwarts of the northeast for the next five hundred years, inter-marrying with the other prominent families in the region. Their story is recounted in the book, The Hiltons of Hylton Castle, by E.W. Lamberton. 

The family position crumbled in the early 1600's.  But this situation released many of the younger Hiltons who were among the early settlers in America. 

Lancashire  Hilton may have been a name in the northeast.  It was more of a name in Lancashire.  The 19th century census data show that more than 60 percent of the Hiltons in England were to be found in the county of Lancashire. 

Their presence dates from 1304 when Richard de Hulton was recorded as a land owner at Westhougton near Bolton.  This family held sway there for a long time.  However, they will probably be remembered for the magistrate, William Hulton, who in 1819 ordered the yeomanry to fire on the demonstrators in what has become known as the Peterloo massacre.

The towns in this part of Lancashire became mill towns in the 19th century and the Hilton name can be found in parish records in many of these mill towns, such as Oldham, Chorley, Stalybridge, Blackburn, and Ashton under Lyme. 

Abraham Hilton set up his cotton mill at Croft Bank in Oldham in the early 1800's.  But most Hiltons were mill workers, not mill owners.  John Hilton was a handloom weaver in Ashton under Lyme who was active in the Chartist movement of the 1840's.  George Hilton was a yarn twister from Stalybridge.  His son Jack Hylton, known in his youth in Bolton as "the singing millboy," later became a celebrated British bandleader and impresario. 

James Hilton from Leigh achieved renown as a writer.  The Hilton rugby league stadium in Leigh was named in his honor.           

America.  Hiltons were among the first English settlers in America, both in New England and in Virginia.

New England.  William Hilton was onboard the Fortune which sailed for New England in 1621, a year after the Mayflower, to bring succor to the struggling colonists.  He was soon joined by his wife and two children. Later, being uncomfortable with the Puritan regime there, they moved onto what is now New Hampshire. 

Virginia and the Carolinas.  In 1663, William Hilton set sail from New Hampshire on the Adventure to explore the Carolina coastline.  He didn't stay; but left his name to Hilton's Head, now the well-known resort area.  Other Hiltons made it to Virginia, and later to Maryland.

Irish Hiltons.  John Hilton had come to New York in 1811 from Derry in Ireland.  Of his four sons, two became lawyers, Archibald who died young and Henry who, through his connections with the Tweed Ring, prospered exceedingly.  Judge Henry Hilton in fact became one of the wealthiest men in the country, leaving an estate of four million dollars on his death in 1899.  However, he is most remembered for his anti-semiticism. As owner of the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, he instituted a policy that "no Israelites should be permitted to stop at this hotel."  One of the first to be excluded was Joseph Seligman, a prominent German Jewish banker and friend of Abraham Lincoln.      

Conrad Hilton.  There was, later, a more famous Hilton line which was not from England and not really a Hilton.  Gus Hilton had arrived from Norway in the 1880's.  The family name, originally Nilsen, had been changed to Hilton, the name of their farm outside Oslo. 

His son, Conrad Hilton, started his business life in 1919 by buying a small inn in Texas.  From these modest beginnings grew the Hilton Hotels Corporation which Conrad ran until 1966 (when his son Barron took over).  Paris Hilton, the present day socialite, comes from this family.

Caribbean.  Some Hiltons got into the plantation business in Jamaica.  One branch, in St. Ann parish (Seven Oaks), can trace their ancestry back to James Hilton who had arrived in the 1740's; another branch in St. Elizabeth parish (Hopewell), to William Hilton, born around 1820.

Select Hilton Miscellany

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

Select Hilton Names

Henry Hilton was the forbear of the Hilton family at Monkwearmouth in the northeast.
Captain William Hilton was an early explorer of the southern coastline of the US.
Jack Hylton was a celebrated British bandleader and impresario.
Conrad Hilton built up his Hilton Hotels Corporation into a worldwide hotel name.

Select Hiltons Today
  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 7,000 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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