Select Wallace Surname Genealogy

The English who had arrived from the east as invaders had the cheek to refer to the original inhabitants as waleis or foreigners.  Waleis came to be used as a description for Welsh speakers.  The surnames that subsequently developed varied in their spelling probably because of differences in regional dialect.  Thus we find Welch mainly in the English counties bordering Wales, Walsh in Lancashire, Wallis along the east coast, and Wallace in Scotland.

The name Wallace in Scotland is believed to have come from the Strathclyde Britons, a mixture of Gaels, Picts and Scots who laid claim to territories from Lancashire to the Firth of Clyde.  In western Scotland, Welsh-speaking Strathclyde Britons survived well into the Middle Ages.

Select Wallace Resources on The Internet

Select Wallace Ancestry

Scotland.  Variations of the name Wallace can be found in records in Ayrshire and Renfrewshire in the 12th century.  Richard Wallensis of Riccarton appeared as a signature on a charter at Paisley abbey, dated 1163, for land grants that had been part of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde. 

Alan de Waleys can be found in the Ragman Roll of nobles paying allegience to Edward I in 1296.  However, his brother Malcolm of Elderslie refused to submit and was executed.  The banner of rebellion passed to William Wallace who beat the English at Stirling but was later captured, tried in London in 1305, and then hung, drawn and quartered.  His death elevated him to the status of martyr to the cause of Scottish independence, as the film Braveheart demonstrated.

Ayrshire.  The Wallace line did survive.  Wallaces held castles in Ayrshire from the 1300's.  A century later, General John Wallace commanded a Scottish army to victory over England at the Battle of Sark.  Their castles at Sundrum and Carnell still exist, although now converted into country house hotels.  In the 1730's, Sir Thomas Wallace built Craigie House in Ayr to replace his former castle.  The Wallace name was also to be found in Kilmarnock, Dundonald (where they once held Dundonald castle), and Brighouse.   

Many of these Wallaces became, after Knox, staunch Presbyterians.  Colonel James Wallace was a Covenanter at the time of the Civil War.  But when the climate changed after the Restoration he had to flee the country.  Since that time, a number of Wallaces have emigrated; and many have drifted to Glasgow and its environs. 

Elsewhere.  Glasgow in the mid-18th century was the center of the tobacco trade and the Wallace name figured prominently here.  John Wallace was a leading tobacco merchant of that time (a picture shows him eccentrically wearing a white nightcap under his cocked hat, instead of the customary wig).  Alexander Spiers, the biggest of these merchants, bought up the estate of Helen Wallace, the last of the William Wallace line, in 1767.  Spiers built for himself a stately mansion which he named Elderslie House. 
England.  The name Wallace can also be found across the border in England, particularly in the Pennine hills of Cumbria.  Both Wallis and Wallace appeared in the early parish records of villages such as Renwick and Alston. 

Richard Wallasse was a schoolmaster, fluent in Latin and Greek, and parish clerk in the early 1700's for the mining town of Alston.  One Wallace family, whose forebears were buried in Abbotsford church, traced their roots back to the mid 1700's.  With the coal reserves being worked out by the early 19th century, many of these Wallaces emigrated, mainly to Canada.         

Ireland.  Presbyterian Scots came to Ulster in the reign of James I to settle in lands that had been taken away from their Catholic owners.  Among them were many Wallaces. 

However, the Presyberians themselves were subject to discrimination in the 1700's.  There began an major exodus, this time to America.  Among them were:
  • four Wallace brothers from Donegal - Peter, Andrew, William and Adam - who came to Lancaster county in Pennsylvania in the 1720's.  Adam's son Benjamin was a captain in the Revolutionary War.
  • while three Wallace brothers from Ballymena in county Antrim - Ephraim, John, and James - also came to Pennsylvania, around 1768, and settled in Westmoreland county.  John Wallace's 1902 book Genealogy of the Wallace Family covered this line.
Many Wallaces did remain in Ireland.  Perhaps the best noted of these Wallaces was William Vincent Wallace from Waterford, the son of a Scots regimental bandmaster.  He achieved fame around the world in the 19th century for his musical compositions and operas. 

Another Wallace with Irish connections was in fact English, Richard Wallace.  Although known mainly for his Wallace art collection in London, he represented the town of Lisburn in county Antrim for many years and left his name on many of its public buildings.

However, some Wallaces were less fortunate.  The Donegal Woman, recently published, tells the story of Margaret Wallace a century ago in rural Donegal.  Born of poor Protestant farmers, she was hired out as a child, raped by her master, and then, pregnant, forced to marry another many times her age.  Yet she managed to survive, driven on by her passionate determination to do right by her children.

America.   There were early Wallace arrivals into New England and Virginia:
  • many of the New England Wallaces ended up in New Hampshire and Maine where they were freer of the Puritan restrictions. 
  • Matthew and Elizabeth Wallace came from Donegal in the 1680's and settled in Somerset County, Maryland.
  • while John Wallace arrived in Virginia from Scotland around 1700 and Michael Wallace, a tobacco merchant, in the 1730's.
Some Wallaces lost out as a result of the Revolutionary War.  Two young Wallaces from Ireland, Hugh and Alexander, had come to New York in the 1750's and married well.  Hugh became a wealthy New York merchant.  But the war took it all away.  As his brother commented:

"If ever a man is to be pitied, it is he.  His losses hang heavy on him and his being away from his wife hurts him very much."

One who lived to fight another day was another merchant loyalist, the Glasgow-born Michael Wallace.  He operated out of Virginia and South Carolina and was able to re-construct his business and his contacts from Halifax in Nova Scotia.  He did, however, lose his servant Belfast who, perhaps not relishing the cold weather, escaped by stowing away on a ship.  

Later on, George Wallace ran the Glencoe plantation along the North Carolina border.  His wife Elizabeth kept a diary of her experiences of the Civil War which was subsequently published as the Glencoe Diary.  

By that time many of the Wallaces in Virginia had moved on.  Robert Wallace and his wife were among the pioneer settlers who had crossed the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky in 1779.  Others went south.  Perhaps the most celebrated of these Wallaces was "Big Foot" Wallace, born in Lexington, Virginia in 1817.  He joined the Texas Rangers and provided his followers and later the reading public with a fund of stories.

Pennsylvania.  From the 1720's, the main point of entry for Scots and Scots Irish Presbyterians was Philadelphia. Pennsylvania offered religious toleration, unlike Puritan New England.  Some of these immigrants stayed; others moved inland, to Ohio, Indiana and, in one notable case, to Iowa. 

David Wallace had been an early settler in Lack township, Pennsylvania.   From here came another David who moved to Indiana and, rising through the ranks, became Governor of that state in 1837.  His son Lew Wallace was a Union General who in later life wrote the best-selling novel Ben Hur

Meanwhile, a Scots Irish family came to West Newton, Pennsylvania in the 1830's.  Their son Henry Wallace set off for Iowa in 1863 as a Presbyterian missionary.  He subsequently turned his attention to agriculture, starting up the Wallace's Farmer newspaper.  His son and grandson both became US Secretaries of Agriculture, the latter also serving for a term as FDR's Vice President.

Other Wallaces.  American Wallaces outnumber British Wallaces by a factor of three-to-two.   Many of these Wallaces have other origins.  The surname was adopted in the 19th and 20th centuries as an Americanized form for various Jewish and Eastern European surnames.  From Wallechinsky came Irving Wallace the writer; from Woleck Mike Wallace, the CBS 60 Minutes correspondent.

Caribbean.  Wallaces from Scotland were planters in Jamaica in the 18th century. 

But they probably made a bigger mark on the small island of St. Vincent.  William Wallace, the son of a Scottish naval officer, worked for many years on New England whaleboats before returning in the 1870's to set up a whaling station on the island.  Curtis Wallace continued this seafaring tradition in the 20th century with his development of sea going links in the Eastern Caribbean.    

  Among the Loyalists who left America after the Revolutionary War was Michael Wallace.  He set up his trading business in Halifax and soon became the treasurer of the province of Nova Scotia, a position he held for more than forty years.  Many of the Wallaces in Atlantic Canada are his descendants.

Scots immigrants poured into Ontario as the 19th century progressed, including many Wallaces.  Later, a number headed west to homestead.  The rail terminus was at Medicine Hat in the 1880's and the onward journey, for Richard Wallace to High River, was on freight teams. 

An English Wallace, Alfred Wallace from Plymouth with a shipping background, made it to Vancouver in the 1890's.  He started the Burnall yard shipbuilding business in north Vancouver a few years later, a business that was later carried on by his son Clarence. 

New Zealand.  Early Wallaces came from both Scotland and Ireland:
  • three Wallace brothers from Antrim - Arthur, John, and James - came to New Zealand with the 65th Regiment in 1846, stayed, and settled in Wanganui.  Arthur's son William joined the Wanganui constabulary and spent much of the 1860's and 1870's in skirmishes with the Maoris.  His reminiscences of those times were collated in James Cowan's book The New Zealand Wars.  
  • while David Wallace arrived from Dundee via Australia in 1856 and brought his wife out two years later.  They were early settlers in what was originally the Wallace electorate near Dunedin on South Island.
Billy Wallace, the son of a cook in Wellington, was a New Zealand rugby hero.  He was the star performer of the victorious All Black team that toured the British Isles in 1905 and he managed a number of touring teams later.

Select Wallace Miscellany

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

Select Wallace Names

William Wallace
was the Scottish patriot who fought the brave battle against the English until he was caught and executed in 1305. 
Lew Wallace was the Civil War General who later wrote the best-selling novel Ben Hur.
Edgar Wallace, born Richard Edgar, was a prolific and hugely popular English crime writer in the 1920's.
DeWitt and Lila Wallace co-founded Reader's Digest and published its first issue in 1922.
George Wallace was elected Governor of Alabama for four terms and stood as a pro-segregation Presidential candidate in 1968. 
Randall Wallace is the Scots Irish hillbilly from Tennessee who wrote and put together the film Braveheart which starred Mel Gibson.

Select Wallaces Today
  • 41,000 in the UK (most numerous in Renfrewshire)
  • 72,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • and 34,000 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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page