Davis/Davies Surname Genealogy

Davis and Davies are both patronymic names meaning “son
of David.” Davies has been particularly popular in Wales as St.
is its patron saint. David is spelt
Daffydd in
Welsh and means well-beloved.
Davies – because of the Welsh influence – predominates
over Davis in the UK today, by around three to one. But in
America it is
the other way round. There are twenty
times more Davis than Davies.

Davis/Davies Resources on

England. Davis first emerged as a surname in the early
14th century. A Richard Davys was recorded as a freeman of York
1402. Davys was initially the more common spelling. It was
found mainly
in the west country.

Davies meanwhile developed as a spelling in Cornwall and in
the border counties with Wales where the Welsh influence and language
strong. The Davies family of Chisgrove
near Tisbury in Wiltshire came about because of a Welshman settling
there in
the early 1500’s.

But Davis became the main spelling in England. One
Davis family traces itself back to John
Davys or Davis of Acton Turville in Gloucestershire in the early 1500’s. William Davies, known as the
“Golden Farmer,”
was a famous Gloucestershire highwayman until he was finally captured
executed in 1690. Today the main concentrations of the Davis name
are in
Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Wales. An early spelling was Daffydd, such as
the Glamorgan bard Meurig Daffydd
of the early 16th century. This spelling
did persist in some areas until the 18th century.

The early Davies
sightings were mainly in north Wales:

  • the
    Davies family of Gwysaney
    in Flintshire claimed an ancient
    pedigree. John ap Davydd was the first in his family to
    adopt the
    Davies name sometime in the mid-1500’s. Their family base at
    Park stayed with them into the late 18th century.
  • William Davies from Denbighshire who
    was a Catholic priest executed for his beliefs in 1593.
  • and Dr. John
    Davies, the rector at Mallwyd in Merionethshire in the early 1600’s,
    who was
    one of the leading Welsh scholars of his day.

The Davies population – as with much of the Welsh population
– moved south
during the 19th century and is now more to be found in Glamorgan and
surrounding counties.

David Davies, born in humble circumstances at Llandinam in
Montgomeryshire, became a coal magnate and was an important figure in
industrialization of the Rhondda valley in south Wales in the late 19th

America. James Davis from Acton Turville in Gloucestershire
was one of the founders of the town of Haverhill in Massachusetts in

early Davis arrivals were:

  • Thomas
    , who came in 1635 from Gloucestershire and settled in
    Massachusetts. These Davises
    moved to Stafford, Connecticut, where Deacon Daniel Davis was a
    citizen of the community in the early 19th century, and later to Ohio.
  • Dolar
    Davis who arrived from Kent around the same time and settled in
    Cambridge. His descendants were later to
    be found in
    Northboro and included John Davis, the Massachusetts Governor and
    in the
    1830’s and 1840’s.
  • Colonel John Davis, resident in Derby, New Haven in 1690 and
    the forebear of Davis Loyalists who departed for Nova Scotia after the
    War. Descendants are still to be found
    in Yarmouth.
  • and Thomas Davis, who arrived in Maryland sometime in the
    and was the forebear of the Davis in Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

Davis came to Philadelphia from Wales in the 1720’s. His
grandson, born
in Kentucky in 1808, was the famous Confederate leader Jefferson Davis.

Davis died in New Orleans in 1889 at the age of eighty one. His funeral was one of the largest ever
staged in the South and ran a continuous march day and night from New
to Richmond, Virginia where he was buried.”

Another Welsh line in Pennsylvania
began with Morgan Davis from Glamorgan who was in the Merion township
as early
as 1685. Jenkin Davis from Cardigan came
to Radnor township in 1720. A branch of
this family, which still holds annual reunions, moved to Maryland
around 1800. There was also a Davis family in North Providence, Pennsylvania
by the late 1700’s.

Davies invariably became Davis in America, like the Evan Davis above;
while some
later Davis arrivals also came from Ireland.

Canada. John
Davis had come to New Haven, Connecticut sometime around 1680. But his Loyalist descendant Ethel Davis
for Nova Scotia in 1783. He settled on
Brier Island where Ethel’s grandson Samuel saved shipwrecked men by
believing in
his “vision of the night.” Samuel’s two
sons Ralph and Oscar established at Yarmouth in 1897 the paper and
company R.H. Davis & Co. which still operates.

Other Davis Loyalists who came to Canada at
this time were:

  • Thomas
    and John Davis
    from a North Carolina plantation who reached Canada in 1790 and settled
    Wentworth county, Ontario.
  • and
    Davis from a Welsh family who crossed over from New York state to
    county, Ontario around 1802.

Australia. Davis from
Ireland came to Australia. The first was
probably William Davis, known
as the Wexford
, who got caught up in the 1798 Irish
Rebellion and
was captured and transported to Australia.
He emerged from captivity to grow wealthy and to be a pillar of
Irish Catholic
in Sydney.
John Davis joined him from
Ireland in 1841. Other relatives from
his hometown of Parsontown came out in 1855.

William Davis had left Kent with his family for
South Australia on the Babboo in
1848. Born in 1795, he was a veteran of
the Battle of Waterloo, having had half of his left foot shot off by a
cannonball and having survived a bayonet thrust to the chest. Nevertheless, according to family lore, he
had been married three times and fathered 22 children.
He lived to be 92.

. The Davis family was
one of the original African American families of Sierra Leone (which
British had created as a haven for freed slaves in 1787).
Their family patriarch was Anthony Davis, a
29 year old freed slave from Delaware. His
Davis descendants were also to be found in Nigeria

Davis/Davies Miscellany

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

Davis/Davies Names

John Davies
of Hereford, a
contemporary of Shakespeare, was a writing master and a notable
poet of his time.  Jefferson
was the President
the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
David Davies was a coal magnate
and an important figure in the industrialization of the Rhondda valley
in south Wales in the late 19th century.
was the acclaimed American actress in the 1930’s and
1940’s.  Sammy Davis Jr was a popular
dancer, singer, and entertainer, one of the 1960’s Rat Pack.
Robertson Davies
was one of Canada’s most well-known and
popular novelists.
Miles Davis, a trumpeter, is
one of the great names of jazz.

Select Davis/Davies Today

  • 317,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cardiff)
  • 398,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 133,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Davies is the #6 ranked surname in the UK, Davis the #7 ranked surname in America.


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