Daniels Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Daniels Meaning
Daniel and its patronymic form Daniels derive from the Hebrew scriptural name Daniel, meaning “God is my judge.” Its long
popularity as a name throughout Europe has come from the Biblical Book of Daniel which described
how Daniel’s life was saved in the lion’s cage. Daniel
was also the name of a second century
martyr and a ninth century hermit, legends of whose life were popular during the Middle Ages.
Daniel grew in popularity
as a name in England after the Crusades of the 12th century when it was brought back by soldiers
or pilgrims returning from the Holy Land.
Arnaut Daniels from Normandy was a troubador in the court of Richard the Lion Heart around this time.

Select Daniel/Daniels Resources on The Internet

Daniel/Daniels Ancestry

Daniel and Daniels have appeared as surnames in various forms
throughout Europe. Today the Daniel name numbers some
20,000 in France and 10-12,000 in Germany; Daniels 4-5,000 in Belgium. Both Daniel and Daniels appear in
England and America. But Daniels in each case is the more common.

England. Early spellings were various but probably Danyell was the most common. The Danyell family of Cheshire dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and was to be found at Daresbury, Over Tabley and Rydelegh. There were also Danyells at Walsoken in Norfolk (and John Danyel a Norwich merchant and its mayor in 1406) and in London and Bristol at this time.  Early Daniels in Sussex may date from Roger Daniel whose name appeared in the Domesday Book.

The transition from Danyell or Danyel to Daniel
and later to Daniels began in the 16th century.
For instance:

  • Edward Danyell bought Newbury Manor in Flitton, Bedfordshire in 1524. His descendants there became Daniel.
  • John Daniell was a wealthy landowner in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire in 1522. His descendants too became Daniel.
  • and Captain William Daniel, descended from the Cheshire Danyells, was born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1623.

West Country.  The musical Taunton family in Somerset at that time were sometimes Danyel and
sometimes Daniel – father John a music-maker whose “harmonious mind made an impression on his son’s genius,” his elder son Samuel a poet, and his younger
son John a lute player and songwriter.

Cornwall records showed a prosperous family of Daniels at
Truro and Penzance
in the early/mid 1600’s and another Daniel
family at Zennor (followers of John Wesley) at a slightly later date

Wales. The surname Daniel (and
sometimes Daniels) was also to be found in Carmarthenshire and
Glamorgan in south Wales. John Daniel established a
printing business in Carmarthen in 1784 and was made a freeman of the town in 1800. Another John Daniel married in
Abergwilly some two years later.

Joseph or Job Daniel who lived in Carmarthenshire around this time
emigrated to America. His grandson
Jack Daniel
founded the Jack
Daniel brand of whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee in 1875.
David Daniels was a police constable in
Llandeilo in the late 1870’s. His
grandson is the English TV magician Paul Daniels.

The Daniel name also cropped
up in Glamorgan. A Daniel family were
seafarers and shipowners out of Penygraig and then out of Morfa Borth
near Cardiff from
the late 1700’s. H.W. Harrison’s 1995
book Daniel Family History covered
the main Daniel Glamorgan lines.

America. Daniels came first to New England.

New England. Robert Daniell and his
family from Suffolk
were part of the Puritan exodus to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that
in the 1630’s. They came to the
Watertown settlement along the Charles river in 1636. Robert’s
descendants in Medfield and Medway
became Daniels. One branch of the family
moved to Vermont in the 1770’s and then to Ohio in the 1840’s.

William Daniel
was first recorded in Massachusetts when he married Katherine Greenway
Dorchester in 1645. They settled in
Milton and William ran the first tavern there.
Later Daniels (the name also became Daniels) were to be found in
London, Connecticut and nearby Salem.
This line was covered in James Daniels’ 1952 book The
Daniels Family.

The South. There were
a number of early
and noteworthy Daniels in Virginia
in the 17th

One line began with Captain William Daniel who was first
recorded in
Middlesex county, Virginia sometime in the 1650’s. These Daniels
became a distinguished Virginia family. Their numbers included:

  • Peter
    V. Daniel, a Supreme Court Justice from 1841 to 1860
  • and
    that unreconstructed Democrat John W.
    Daniel, the Virginia Senator from 1891 to 1910
  • while

    branch of the family migrated to Kentucky in the 1790’s. Henry
    Daniel was elected a Congressman there and later became a successful
    horse breeder.

Daniell, the son of a
London ship-owner, came to Charleston, South Carolina on his ship Daniell in 1669 and stayed. He
was active in various military expeditions
against the Indians and Spanish and was in later life was Governor of
Carolinas. He died in 1718

William Daniel
was recorded in Halifax county, North Carolina in the 1760’s. From his line came John Reeves Daniel, a
lawyer and politician in North Carolina during the 1840’s
and 1850’s. His son Junius was a
Confederate Brigadier General who died of his wounds during the Civil
in 1864.

from Ulster arrived with his family at Roanoke island
off North
Carolina in 1784. The line through his son
Clifford ran to Josephus Daniels, a ship carpenter at Wilmington who
was killed
on a steamship in 1865 at the end of the Civil War:

  • his
    son Josephus, just three at the time,
    grew up to be a prominent newspaper editor and publisher in New
    Carolina before
    he was appointed by President Wilson to be the Secretary of the Navy
    World War One.
  • and his son Jonathan was also
    a newspaper editor and writer

Both were fans and
supporters of FDR and the New Deal.

Other Daniels.
Some Daniels came to America from Germany and France and also from
Ireland (where their Daniels name was probably a corruption of the
Irish McDaniel or McDonnell) and even a few from Scotland. The
actress Bebe
was born into a Scottish family, her father having
changed his name in America from
MacMeal to Daniels.

Caribbean. John Daniell,
shipwright, appeared in Barbados in 1655. Some have linked him
with either the Danyells of Cheshire or the Daniells of
Charleston. The Barbadian historian Peter Campbell
speculated as follows:

“My guess is that Robert
Daniell of South Carolina was a brother or cousin of John Daniell of
Robert probably stayed with John Daniell on his way to South Carolina
in 1677
and again when he paid a visit to Barbados in 1679.

Whatever his origins he was the forebear of the
Bristol-based Daniel
family of West India merchants
. His great grandson
Thomas acquired the Sunbury plantation in Barbados in 1835 and
re-established the family presence on the island.

New Zealand
. In 1880, at the age of 24,
Daniell emigrated from Gloucestershire to New Zealand and was
one of the
first settlers of Masterton in the Wairarapa region.
He set up a timber mill and then a hardware
store and designed and built many of the Wairarapa’s large homesteads
and farm
buildings. Such ventures meant that Daniell was the largest employer in
Wairarapa for many years. The local
historian Tim Shoebridge described his life in his 2009 book The Good Citizen – The Life of C.E. Daniell


Daniel/Daniels Miscellany

Daniel and Daniels Today

Numbers (000’s) Daniel Daniels Total
UK    11    22    33
America    22    39 61
Elsewhere*     5    14    19

*  In Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

The Danyells of Cheshire.  It was said that this early Cheshire family could trace their lineage
back to the Roger Daniel who had come over with William the Conqueror
in 1066.  In reward for his services he was granted lands at
Filsham in Sussex.  His name was recorded there in the Domesday
Book of 1086.

Some of his descendants may have moved north during the 13th
century.  Robert D’Anyers was recorded in Cheshire in 1291 and
him came the Danyers and Danyells of Daresbury in the next
century.  Thomas Danyell appeared at Over Tabley in the 1380’s and
a later Thomas Danyell married Maud Leicester there in 1440.
Meanwhile Robert Danyell who served with John Devereaux
in Scotland made his home around 1390 at Rydelegh.

Daresbury line is thought to have come the Thomas Danyell who held
lands at
Frodsham in Cheshire and first appeared in records in 1440.  He was at various times a royal favorite,
accused twice of treason and then pardoned each time.  He
died in 1482.  During the turmoil of the
War of the Roses he was considered
a clever, charismatic, unscrupulous rogue whose exploits were recorded
in contemporary documents.

Reader Feedback – Early Daniels in Sussex.  Firstly, the very influential poet and troubador, Arnaut Danielz (as his name appears in ancient documents written during his lifetime) was born in Riberac in the Dordogne in South West France and not in Normandy. He seems to have been a member of the Court of Richard 1 of England but as far as is known, he did not give rise to a lineage in England.

Next, I have extensively researched Roger Daniel of Sussex whose name appears in the Domesday Book. There are no documents that show any connection between him and the Cheshire Daniel/s.  The far more likely scenario is that he is an ancestor of the Daniel/s families of Kent and Sussex.

There is a dearth of records between 1086 and the early 1200’s. However, there are extant records in Kent of Henry Danyel, a nobleman in Canterbury that suggest that he was born in 1240. A genealogist has speculated that he may have been a descendant of Roger Danyel who appears in the Domesday Book. The basis for the speculation was the Henry held lands in south west Kent close to the Sussex border where Roger Danyel held land, the fact that Henry was likely to have had Norman origins and that he was a prominent noble.  There are no existing documents that show shared paternal line origins between the Cheshire Daniels and those of Kent and Sussex.

On the other hand, family connections cannot be ruled out. Having examined what information exists it is possible that there may be links between the apparently separate lines paternally and maternally but the available evidence does not permit anything more than tentative suggestions.

Dr. John Daniels (professorjohndaniels@outlook.com)

The Daniel Family of Truro and Penzance.  It was
Richard Daniel, born in the parish of Kenwyn near Truro in Cornwall in the year
1561, who first established the family fortunes.  He
apprenticed himself to a draper in London and later became wealthy as a merchant in Germany and Holland.

His son Alexander was
sent in 1599 at a young age to Truro to live with his
uncle Jenkin.  Jenkin Daniel had received
some of his brother’s wealth and became the mayor of Truro in 1615.  His son Jacob followed him as mayor in 1632.

Alexander by this time had married and moved to Madron near
Penzance.  He kept a journal where he
displayed his particular view of life.
For instance, he believed that God took a personal interest in
his life and he even thanked Him for saving his sight when an apple fell in his eye.

died in 1668 and was buried in Madron churchyard with the following

me birth, Britain me breeding gave
a wife, ten
children and a grave.”

One son George became a successful businessman in Penzance
and founded a school for poor children in Madron on his death in 1710.  This school was still in existence as a
voluntary school in 1937.

Reader Feedback – Early Daniels in Virginia.  I am the founder in 2002 and project manager for
the Daniel DNA Project which has over 500 Daniel men participating.  They represent dozens of unrelated Daniel

The notion that the family of
William Daniel of Middlesex county, Virginia was the principal southern
line is incorrect. There were several other major Daniel lines, as
proved by Y
DNA testing and primary record research.

Other prominent 17th century southern Daniel lines with large numbers
descendants and extensive properties and lands were:

  • Deputy
    Governor Robert Daniell of North
    Carolina who arrived in South Carolina in 1669.
  • John
    Daniell whose will was probated in Isle of Wight county, Virginia
    in 1679.
  • John
    Daniell who made his will in
    York county, Virginia in 1684.
  • James
    Daniel, first recorded aged 30 in Essex county, Virginia in 1694.
  • and
    William Daniel, a carpenter of Essex and
    Caroline counties in Virginia.  He
    already had a plantation in Essex county when he first appeared in
    there in 1707.

Best Regards
Kevin Daniel (kevin@kevindaniel.com)

Reader Feedback – Thomas Daniels at Roanoke Island off North Carolina.  I am from the Daniels’ Family of Wanchese, North Carolina as my great great grandmother
Mary T. Daniels married Daniel Baum III.  Mary
was born in 1833 and died in 1908.

family has it that this family, along with the line of Josephus
Daniels, came
to New England and then was at Roanoke Island in North Carolina in
1765. The
earliest known was Thomas Daniels, said to have been from Northern
but some have
said New England and originally from Devon in England.

had a son Josephus who had a son Clifford who was the father of
Daniels, born in 1828.  He in turn was
the father of Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) of newspaper fame.

The Josephus of 1862 had a sister Mary T.
Daniels who married Daniel Baum III.  Josephus and Mary were in
siblings and Mary’s mother was Milly Daniels, the daughter of another
who married Julie Beasley whose line traced to the famed Lost Colony of

The Josephus who married Julie was the son of
William Daniels, the brother of Thomas mentioned above.  I
have these lines to the 1760’s but am curious
if they would be from the Devon Daniels line in England.  I
have looked into books about the Virginia Daniel(s)
family and ones that come further west in North Carolina.

Have you ever heard of where these could be from?

Clyde Gallop (cgallop2018@gmail.com)

The Daniel West India Merchants.  On the north wall of the cloisters in Bristol Cathedral there is a
headstone inscribed as follows:

to the memory of Thomas Daniel esq, a respectable merchant of this city
who was
born in Barbados on March 14, 1730 and departed this life on February

had come from a mercantile family that had settled in Barbados in the
mid-17th century.  In 1764 he returned to England where he
developed a
substantial business in the Caribbean sugar trade out of Bristol.  He owned
ships that would bring the sugar from Caribbean plantations back to
England.  This business he handed
over to his
son Thomas Daniel Jr. on his death in 1802.

Jr. acquired slave
plantations throughout the Caribbean, including the Sunbury plantation
Barbados in 1835.  He became so rich and
powerful that he was known as the “king of Bristol.”
In Barbados he was a
great friend of the notorious buccaneer Sam Lord of Sam Lord’s Castle
close to the Sunbury estate.  Thomas in
fact installed chandeliers at Sunbury to match those at Sam Lord’s home.

plantation remained in family hands through Daniel’s niece and her
descendants until
1981.  It now functions as a restaurant
and museum.

Jack Daniel and Whiskey.  Jack Daniel was
the founder of the Jack Daniel whiskey distillery in Lynchburg,
Tennessee in
the late 1800’s.  Exactly when he founded
it is not quite clear.  Early records
were destroyed in a courthouse fire.  The
says it was founded in 1866.  Others have
maintained that it was not founded until 1975.

“the Lad” Daniel was the grandson
of Joseph or Job Daniel who had emigrated to North Carolina from Wales
in the
late 18th century.

members back
in Wales claim that his whiskey recipe came from Wales.
The recipe apparently first surfaced in an
1853 book written by a Llanelli herbalist in Carmarthenshire whose name
Daniels. Lillian Daniels Probert, still alive at 97, remembered her
using the book to make herbal remedies and ointments and was given the
book by

Bebe Daniels the Actress.  Bebe Daniels was born by chance in Dallas, Texas in early
1901, the only child of Danny and Phyllis Daniels.  Her
emigrant Scottish father had changed his name from Daniel MacMeal to
Daniels when he founded his California-based traveling stock
company.  His wife
and leading lady had given birth to Bebe as the troupe toured through

By the age of four Bebe was a frequent actor in her parents’
company, by seven
she had made her movie debut, and at fifteen she was playing the
leading lady
to Harold Lloyd in Hal Roach’s Lonesome
silent-film series.  Cecil B. De Mille discovered her
dancing in a
restaurant and took her to his Paramount Studios at ten times her old
salary. Her film career extended into the

She had by that time married the
actor Ben Lyon and after the war enjoyed a second career in London,
writing and
producing the hugely popular Life with
the Lyons
which featured the whole Lyon family.
It played on radio for twelve years between
1950 and 1962.



Daniel/Daniels Names


  • Samuel Daniel was the English poet of the early 1600’s who was for a short time poet laureate. 
  • Jack Daniel was the
    American distiller in Tennessee who founded the Jack Daniel whiskey distillery in 1875. 
  • Bebe Daniels was an American actress, singer and dancer of the 1920’s and 1930’s. 
  • George Daniels who died in 2011 was a contemporary
    English watchmaker by hand, considered to be the best in the world during his lifetime. 
  • Jeff Daniels is a well-known American actor and playwright.

Select Daniel/Daniels Today

  • 33,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 69,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 19,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Daniels and Like Surnames   

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.




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