Select Bliss Surname Genealogy

Bliss as a surname in England has two known origins.Bliss in one form is descriptive, a nickname for a joyful person deriving from the Middle English blisse, meaning “gladness” or “joy.”  Richard “called Blisse,” a tenant at Parndon in Essex mentioned in a charter of the Knights Hospitaliers in the late 12th century, was probably a native Anglo-Saxon and an early representative of this Bliss name.

The other origin is Norman, from the Norman de Blez family which came to England in the 12th century.  A Hugo be Blez was recorded in the subsidy roll of Worcestershire in 1275.

As the Bliss Family History Society put it:

“We are free to choose the source of our particular branch of the Bliss name: a native stubbornly persistent Anglo-Saxon heritage or a venturesome hot-tempered Norman import.”

Select Bliss Resources on The Internet

Select Bliss Ancestry

England.  The ancient de Blez name was recorded in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire during the 12th century.  The Bliss name has had a wider arc, stretching south to Gloucestershire and east into Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.

Gloucestershire Blisses started from an early time and were being recorded in the parish registers of Avening, Bisley, and Painswick by the 16th century.  There was a Bliss family in Painswick, operating Salman’s mill, from the 1430’s.  Nathaniel Bliss, the son of a Bisley clothier, was the fourth Astronomer Royal in 1762.  And a Bliss family from Avening started the Bliss woollen mill in Chipping Norton in 1816.

The Bliss name was to be seen as well in Daventry, Northamptonshire.  In 1674 William Bliss endowed the Bliss Charity School in the Northamptonshire village of Nether Heyford where he was born.

Blisses also featured in the county of Essex from an early date.  Edward Bliss, born in Doddinghurst in the late 1700’s, prospered in Portugal and returned to England a wealthy man.  He acquired a number of estates, most notably Brandon Park House in Suffolk.  Descendant Baron Henry Bliss left his money to the people of Belize in Central America.

America.  The authoritative guide to Blisses in America is the three volume work by A. T. Bliss, Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America, produced in 1982.

Early Blisses in New England came from one family, two brothers and one cousin who arrived in the late 1630’s:

  • brother Thomas, settling in Rehoboth, Massachusetts
  • brother George, in Newport Rhode Island
  • and cousin Thomas, in Hartford, Connecticut.

These Blisses faced divided loyalties during the Revolutionary War, with families splitting between the Loyalist and the American cause.

William Bliss from Lebanon in New Hampshire fought in the Mexican War of 1846 but then died of yellow fever in New Orleans, aged just 38.  Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas is named after him.

The Bliss family in Savoy, Massachusetts produced that intrepid adventurer Duane Bliss.  He set off via Panama for San Francisco in 1849 after he had heard of the gold discoveries there.  He ended up starting a lumber company by Lake Tahoe and his family became early settlers in that area.  Their story is told in the 1992 book Tahoe Heritage: The Bliss Family of Glenbrook, Nevada by Sessions Wheeler and William Bliss.

Blisses in America did not just come from England.  Some 30 percent arrived from Germany or from German-speaking lands.  Bliss is a German surname of similar origin (from the German blide meaning “joyful”). German names such as Pluess also became Bliss.  Among these Blisses were:

  • a Bliss family who came in the 1830’s from Switzerland and moved to Kansas
  • Christian Bliss who arrived in the 1840’s from Bavaria and settled in Florida
  • and another Swiss Bliss family who came to Indiana in 1880.

Australia.   The first Bliss arrivals were convicts, starting with John Bliss in 1808.  He had been the former landlord of the Bullshead Inn in Stoke Goldington, Buckinghamshire and had been sentenced to transportation for passing forged banknotes.  Joseph Bliss from Northamptonshire was dispatched for the same offence in 1822.  George Bliss, transported to Australia for theft in 1838, lived onto 1915 and was one of the last living convicts from the convict era.

Select Bliss Miscellany

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

Select Bliss Names

Nathaniel Bliss, the son of a Gloucestershire clothier, was the fourth Astronomer Royal.
Cornelius Bliss, a New York financier and politician, declined an invitation to stand for the Vice Presidency in 1900 and so missed the chance of becoming President when McKinley was assassinated a year later.
Baron Henry Bliss left his fortune to the nation of Belize in Central America in 1926.  His name there is commemorated by Baron Bliss day.
Sir Arthur Bliss, composer and conductor, was Master of the Queen’s Musick from 1953 to 1975.

Select Blisses Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).



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