Edmonds Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Edmonds Surname Meaning

Edmund as a name is Anglo-Saxon in origin and predates the Norman Conquest. It is composed of the elements ead meaning “prosperity” or “fortune” and mund meaning “protection.” The name was often bestowed in honor of an East Anglian King, St. Edmund the Martyr, who was killed by Danish invaders in 869.

Edmonds and Edmunds are the main surname spellings today.

Edmonds Surname Resources on The Internet

Edmonds and Edmunds Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England and Wales
  • to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England. The Edmonds and Edmunds surnames are primarily to be found in southern England, both SE England and SW England.

SE England.  Here the starting point appears to have been the market town of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. By the 1100’s the surname “de St. Edmunds” had emerged in Suffolk and later spread to nearby counties:

  • Robert de St. Edmunds was the chief bailiff in Cambridge in 1258 
  • Adam de St. Edmund was the mayor of King’s Lynn in Norfolk in the 1280’s
  • and James de St. Edmunds was a sheriff in London in 1310.

By 1500 the spelling had become Edmonds. Richard Edmonds was a vicar at St. Peter’s at Chalfont in Buckinghamshire in 1471 and William Edmonds was master of the choristers at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor in 1480.There were also Edmonds:

  • at Cressing Temple in Essex, where Andrew Edmonds founded a free school on his death in 1523.
  • at Cambridge, where John Edmonds was the MP in 1586.
  • and at Yapton in west Sussex, where John Edmonds, a yeoman farmer, was first recorded in 1546 and came into possession of the Yapton manor in 1568. The Edmonds held Yapton Place for exactly a hundred years.

SW England. The line from Henry Edmonds of New Sarum near Salisbury in Wiltshire, born around 1508, extended to Thomas Edmonds, a tax collector in Plymouth, and to his son Sir Thomas Edmonds, a diplomat who served under three successive monarchs – Elizabeth, James I and Charles I – and occupied the office of Treasurer of the Royal Household from 1618 to 1639.

Nicholas Edmonds of Kingston in Dorset, born around 1543, is believed to have been the forefather of Josiah Edmonds of Kingston two hundred years later and of his son Thomas who joined the Royal Navy.

Possibly related to this family was a certain Mrs. Edmonds from the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Born around 1633 she died in 1738 at the grand age of 105. She left four children and sixty grand and great grandchildren.

Elimelech Edmonds who married Ann Bennett in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire in 1781 was a clothier by trade. He was the forefather of the Edmonds who emigrated to South Australia in the 1840’s.

Wales.  Edmund could be a Welsh first name and the Edmunds surname, not generally Edmonds, extended into south Wales.

There was one early reference in Monmouthshire to John Edmunds, a yeoman farmer from Llangebi, who was indicted for trespass in 1577. William Edmunds from Usk emigrated to America in the late 1600’s; while the Edmunds name had begun to appear in the villages of Trevethin and Skenfrith by the late 1700’s. David Edmunds, born around 1789, was an innkeeper in Budwellty.

There were also Edmunds recorded around Caerphilly across the border in Glamorgan – William Edmunds at Eglwysilan in the early 1700’s and Edmund Edmunds at Machen in the late 1700’s.

Ireland. Some English Edmonds came to Ireland. John Edmonds for instance, a Protestant from Cheshire, fled to Dublin in 1554 to avoid religious persecution during Bloody Mary’s rule. Robert Edmonds of Larch Hill in Kilkenny was nine times mayor of the town between 1790 and 1810. There were also Edmonds in Wexford around this time.

America. Early Edmonds were to be found in New England and Virginia.

New England.  Two notable lines began here with:

  • William Edmonds who came to New England in 1630 and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. He was by trade a tailor and later ran a tavern.
  • and Andrew Edmonds who arrived in New England possibly in the 1660’s. He made his home in Rhode Island, but spent much of his time fighting against the Indians, first in 1675 during King Philip’s War and then ten years later against the Maine Indians.

Some of William’s descendants moved to upstate New York and to Canada and later to Kansas; while Andrew’s descendants were to be found in Vermont and in Canada as well. George F. Edmunds, who was born in Vermont in 1826, became the US Senator for Vermont in 1866.

An oral tradition exists that there were three Edmonds brothers – James, William and Andrew – who came to New England. Some have speculated that the William and Andrew Edmonds here were related. But there is no real evidence to that. Indeed it is not known where either of them came from in England.

Virginia.  There were more Edmonds in Virginia. Even today, there are more Edmonds in Virginia than in any other state of the Union.

The first to arrive was probably Elias Edmonds who made his home along the Corrotoman river around the year 1632. He was the immigrant ancestor of the Edmonds of Lancaster county. Elias and William Edmonds were early settlers in Fauquier county in the 1740’s. Their sons Elias and William were both colonels at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Another line began with the John Edmonds who was born in Virginia (of unknown parentage), married Mary Watkins, and died in Amherst county in 1784. Later Edmonds moved to Kentucky and South Carolina.

There was an Edmunds line from Monmouthshire in Wales that began with Howell Edmunds in Surry county, Virginia around 1700:

  • this line extended to John Edmunds, a prominent planter in Sussex county, and to his son Thomas Edmunds who fought in the Revolutionary War and afterwards expanded his plantation at Farnham so that he became the largest landowner in Sussex county.
  • while another line via Nicholas Edmunds led to Henry Edmunds who established his plantation at Elm Hill in Halifax county around the year 1810. Later homes of the family in the county were at Redfield and Round Hill.

Elsewhere.  Augustus Edmonds came to America from Berkshire in England in 1779, settling in Pennsylvania. He was a gunsmith by trade, served on the American side in the Revolutionary War, and was given a land grant. His descendants made their home in Ohio.

Canada. Loyalist Edmonds left America for Leeds county, Ontario after the Revolutionary War was over. Interestingly, there were descendants of both William Edmonds and Andrew Edmonds who made the journey there.

Australia. John Edmonds, a sixteen-year old errand boy on the streets of London, was convicted of robbery in 1830 and transported to Sydney on the Lord Melville. After his marriage to Rosina Smith, a fellow convict, he lived at Maitland, NSW where they had ten children. He died around 1890. One of his sons Walter became a prominent NSW judge.

Edmonds from Wiltshire were early settlers of South Australia. William and Elizabeth Edmonds arrived at Port Adelaide on the Fairlie in 1840, shortly after their marriage. He tried his hand at brewing beer, but unsuccessfully, and subsequently was appointed clerk of a local court. One line of this family led to Harry Edmonds, a South Australian politician from 1944 until his death in 1962.

New Zealand.  John Samuel Edmonds was a Christian missionary from Dorset who arrived with his family in the Northland region of New Zealand in 1835. He was a stonemason by trade and helped to build the wharf at Kerikeri in the late 1830’s. The descendants of his son Samuel are in possession of the family bible which had been handed down to the eldest son, as was the tradition at the time.

Thomas John Edmonds from London came to Christchurch as a young man in 1879. He started manufacturing baking powder which he publicized by his free Edmonds Cookery Book. by 1912 he was moving one million cans of baking powder a year; by 1928 two and a half million cans.

Edmonds Surname Miscellany

Edmund the Martyr and Bury St. Edmunds.  Edmund was King of East Anglia from around 855 until his death in 869. At that time a Danish army advanced on East Anglia and killed Edmund.  It was said that, after he refused the Danes’ demand that he renounce Christ, the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows, and then beheaded him.

By 925 the fame of St Edmund had spread far and wide and Bury St. Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk had become a site of pilgrimage.  The name of the market town of Bury was then changed to Bury St Edmunds. By the 1100’s the surname of ‘de St. Edmunds’ (from Bury St. Edmunds) had emerged in Suffolk and was later to be found in nearby counties. 

Edmonds and Edmunds Today

Numbers (000’s) Edmonds Edmunds Total
UK    9    8   17
America   10    3   13
Elsewhere    9    5   14
Total   28   16   44

The Edmonds spelling is more to be found in England, the US, and Australia; Edmunds more in Wales.

Josiah and Thomas Edmonds of Dorset and Hampshire.  Josiah Edmonds was born in Corfe Castle, Dorset in 1727, married there and lived his life out at Kingston nearby.  As did his eldest son John, a carter by trade.

Josiah’s second son Thomas joined the Royal Navy in 1769, became a Master in 1797 and a Superintendent Master at Portsmouth in 1811.  This naval life was handed down to his son Thomas who was a Commander and to his daughter Martha who married Spencer Smyth, a midshipman at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Thomas’s second son John, however, decided to be a missionary instead. He departed for India in 1824, but had to return three years later as the climate did not agree with him.  He became a minister of a Congregational chapel in Staffordshire.

William Edmunds and His Land in Glamorgan.  William Edmunds left a life interest in land at Eglwysilan near Caerphilly in Glamorgan to his wife Mary in 1739. She promptly sold the land to John Richard of Llandaff, thereby dispossessing the heirs of William Edmunds of their inheritance.

In trying to reclaim the lands at Eglwysilan the Edmunds family took their case to the court at Swansea where the verdict was found in their favour.  However, they lost their case at the assizes on appeal.

Samuel Edmonds in the Revolutionary War and After.  Samuel Edmonds was born in New York City in 1760, the grandson of Charles Edmonds who had arrived there some thirty years earlier.

When war came, he joined the Continental army, served through the war, became a commissioned officer, and was present at both Monmouth and Yorktown.

At the close of hostilities he started out to seek his fortune, being the possessor of a horse, saddle, bridle, two blankets, and a little Continental money.  With this outfit he journeyed northward and came to Claverack Landing.

There he became a paymaster general of the militia, a member of the Assembly, and sheriff of Columbia county, New York.  He died in 1825.

Thomas Edmunds in the Revolutionary War and After.  Thomas Edmunds from Sussex county, Virginia enlisted in the Continental army with the 15th Virginia Regiment during the early stages of the Revolutionary War.

He was soon appointed a captain of that regiment. Although seriously wounded in one leg at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, he continued fighting throughout the balance of the war.  He served with the army at Valley Forge and at Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded again in September 1781.

In 1786 the county court recommended that Edmunds be appointed colonel of the local militia, but he refused the commission.  Later references to Colonel Edmunds may have been rendered out of respect rather than official designation.  He did receive a bounty of 4,000 acres for his war service.

In April 1784 Sussex county voters elected Edmunds to the House of Delegates. His popularity as a wounded veteran was probably a factor in his success here.  He was returned to the House in 1787 and won election to four more one-year terms.

Reader Feedback – John Edmonds from Wales to Pennsylvania.  From what I understand our family ties to America began with a John U. Edmunds who was born in Wales in 1831. From family stories he was the oldest of nineteen and didn’t want to work as a coal miner in Wales. He walked to Liverpool and worked his passage to America at age nineteen.

When he arrived in America, all he knew was mining so he ended up in Shamokin, Pennsylvania.  The story is that there was already a family there by the name of Edmonds, so he changed his name.

Carleton Edmunds (coedmunds90@gmail.com).

John Samuel Edmonds and His Children in New Zealand.  John Samuel Edmonds was a Christian missionary from Dorset who came with his family and the Rev. John Tucker to the Northland region of New Zealand in 1835.  He was the father, with his wife Mary Ann, of eleven children, five born before their arrival in New Zealand and six afterwards. However, he disowned two of them.

Arthur Edmonds, born in England in 1825, adopted the Maori name of Aala, having married a Maori woman.  His father disowned him for having married her.

John Tucker Edmonds, born in 1835, was named after the Rev. John Tucker. He too was disowned.  When John Samuel listed his children in the family bible he omitted John Tucker Edmonds and would refer to him as “Edmonds by name but not by blood.”   It was thought that Mary Ann and the Rev. John Tucker had an affair and, as to not cause controversy within the missionary community, John Samuel claimed John Tucker Edmonds as his own but only by name.

Edmonds Names

  • Sir Thomas Edmonds was a diplomat who served under three successive monarchs – Elizabeth, James I and Charles I – and occupied the office of Treasurer of the Royal Household from 1618 to 1639. 
  • George F. Edmunds was elected the US Senator for Vermont in 1866. 
  • T.J. Edmonds was a New Zealand manufacturer in the early 1900’s who became famous for his Sure To Rise baking powder and his Edmonds Cookery Book
  • Noel Edmonds has been a fixture on British TV for more than forty years as a presenter of light entertainment programs.

Edmonds Numbers Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in Virginia)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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