Davis/Davies Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Davis/Davies Meaning
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

Select Davis/Davies Ancestry

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

Saint David.  Tradition states that David was born in the 6th century near where St. Davids stands today on St. Davids Peninsula in Pembrokeshire.  He founded there on the banks of the Alun river a monastery and church at Glyn Rhosyn (Rose Vale) in an area originally known in the Welsh language as Mynyw and by the Romans as Menevia.

The monastic brotherhood that David
founded was very strict.  Besides praying
and celebrating masses, they cultivated the land and carried out many
crafts to
feed themselves and the many pilgrims and travellers who needed
lodgings. They
also fed and clothed the poor and needy.

Saint David died in 589.  Between 645 and
1097 his monastic community
was attacked many times by raiders.  However
it was of such note as both a religious and intellectual centre that
support was
always there for its sustenance and maintenance.  In
1090 the Welsh scholar Rhigyfarch wrote his
Latin Life of David, highlighting
David’s sanctity and thus beginning the almost cult-like status he
achieved.  The present Cathedral at St.
Davids was begun
in 1181 and completed not long after.

The Davies Family of Gwysaney.  The Davies family of Gwysaney in
Flintshire in north Wales claimed descent from Cynric
Efell, the son of Madog ap Maredudd (Prince of Powys)
the 13th century.

patronymic Davies name
was first assumed by John ap Davydd
in the 1550’s.  His son Robert Davies obtained
from the College of Heralds a confirmation
of his
family arms in 1581; and his son Thomas was
a lieutenant-colonel for Charles I and constable of Hawarden
castle.  Thomas later fought on the
for the King of Denmark.

Later Davieses
stayed at home in Flintshire.  Robert
Davies married Anne Mutton in 1631 at the tender age of 15 and through
inherited the Llanerch Park estate.  The
male line of this family ended in 1785.

William Davies the Golden Farmer.  William Davies was born in Wrexham in 1627, but removed
himself in early life to Gloucestershire where he married the daughter
of a
wealthy innkeeper and had by her 18 children.

Later he and his family settled down in Bagshot on the Surrey-Berkshire
border where he was, by all accounts, a successful farmer.
But he used this trade as a cloak.  For
he had early taken to the road and robbed
persons returning from cattle fairs or travelling to pay rent, mainly
Bagshot Heath.   He allegedly took
only gold
from his victims (and thereby paid in gold to avoid any identification
of his
plunder), while often leaving them intact with their jewels and other

His identity was discovered
since he was the only local farmer who paid his taxes in gold.  A picture of him was painted and hung in the Golden
pub along the London Road.
One day it was remarked that the golden farmer looked more jolly
golden, so the pub changed its name and was henceforth known as the Jolly

William Davies was
apprehended in 1690, but he eluded his pursuers and shot a pursuing
butcher.  He was caught again, tried for
murder while his previous crimes became known.  The
so-called Golden Farmer was hanged on a
hill on Bagshot Heath now known as Gibbet Lane.

The Davis Family in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  The Davis family, as
Davys, dates back to about 1500 in Acton Turville in Gloucestershire.

Davis left his home there
in 1635 and made the dangerous journey across the Atlantic aboard the James
to Boston and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
He moved from Boston to
Haverhill in 1642 and was one of the first selectmen of the
town in 1646.  Thomas remained active in
town affairs until
his death in 1683 at the age of 80 years.

Cornelius migrated to Stafford in Connecticut in 1719 and his
family became well established there.
They were renowned for their apple orchards from which they
apple pies and in 1801 started a distillery to make apple cider and
brandy.  The Davis distillery was only
one of the Davis businesses. Daniel Davis and his sons operated a
sawmill, a
quarry, and a general store.

son Daniel built his farm at nearby Somers in 1829.
This would be home for five generations of
the Davis family.

The Davis Homestead in North Providence, Pennsylvania.  The Davis family settled
in North Providence, Pennsylvania sometime in the mid-1700’s.  Benjamin Davis gave land on which the North
Providence Baptist church was built.
Benjamin’s son Milton had married Frances, the daughter of John
the local Baptist minister.

Davis homestead,
known as Umstad Manor, was built
about 1785 and was visited by General Washington soon after.  The brothers Jesse and Nathan Davis were its
first inhabitants and Hannah Eliza Davis later lived there her entire
life.  The manor is believed to be one of
the oldest houses in Pennsylvania still retained by descendants, in
this case
the Evansons, of the original builder. 

Ethel Davis, Loyalist in Nova Scotia.  Ethel Davis departed New York with his family and other Loyalists for
Shelburne, Nova Scotia in 1783.  The year 1788 was the year that
Ethel’s wife Margaret remembered that they settled on Brier
Island.  They were the seventh family, all Loyalists, on the

Davises raised sheep, milked cows, plowed
the land with oxen, planted an orchard, and built log homes. They
traveled by
rowboat or by sailboat and learned to watch the strong tides and the
They caught fish and tended their sheep in the summer and carded and
sheared wool in the winter.

In early
1801 Ethel was injured at the launching of the first sailing vessel
built at
Westport.  He had fallen from a vessel’s
mast and broken his leg.  The injuries
proved serious and he died in May that year.

William Davis the Wexford Pikemaker.  During the Irish uprising in Wexford in 1798 William Davis was
arrested because someone had said that he was a blacksmith making pikes
for the
rebels.  He said he was a publican with
an inn at Enniscorthy, but he was not believed.
He was sentenced to life transportation to Australia.

His initial
treatment in New South Wales was brutal.
William was flogged twice, once for being an Irishman and a
and a suspected rebel, and once for not being a Protestant.

However, he survived
these ordeals and by 1814 he had been granted a pardon and was able to
secure land in
Campbelltown.  He prospered and became a
well-respected figure in his community.  In
1817 some of his friends got together to present him with a statue, of
with a crown of thorns, to commemorate what he had suffered as an
Irishman and
a Catholic on his first arrival in Australia.

William Davis died in 1843. He had
over the years become a beacon for the Catholic community in Australia.
His memorial at Sydney’s old burial grounds

“William Davis died on 17th August 1843 aged 78 years. He
was one of the
last survivors of those who were exiled without the formality of a
trial for
the Irish political movement of 1798.”


Davis/Davies Names

  • John Davies
    of Hereford, a
    contemporary of Shakespeare, was a writing master and a notable Anglo-Welsh
    poet of his time.
  • Jefferson Davis was the President of 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.
  • Bette Davis 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 Numbers 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.


Select Davies and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.




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