Edwards Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Edwards Meaning
Edwards is a patronymic name meaning
“son of Edward.” Eadweard was a
Saxon name. It appeared in the Domesday book as Eaaduardus and Eduard. The name was in
widespread use before the Norman invasion, because of two kings, Edward
the Martyr and Edward the Confessor.

Edwards Resources on

Select Edwards Ancestry

Wales. There were old
Welsh families in Denbighshire in north Wales who later assumed the
Edwards name. These included the Edwards of Stansty near Wrexham
which lasted
until the 18th century and the Edwards of Chirkland which has lasted
much longer.
As Edwardes they migrated to Pembrokeshire in the 18th
century, securing by marriage in 1762 the Kensington estates in London
and later a peerage.

Also from Denbighshire, said
to be descended from Einon Efell (the Lord of Cynlleath in the
12th century),

was Robert Edwards of Lledrode. He was
son of Edward ap Thomas ap Llewellyn and, in the late 1500’s, was among
the first in Wales to assume Edwards
as a surname. His son John Edwards acquired the
Strange estate in Shropshire across the English border.

Edwards were also in south Wales.
There were Edwards at
Edwards Hall near Cardiff in Glamorgan from the 1560’s to the early
William Edwards, born in
Glamorgan in 1719, was a Welsh Methodist minister who was also a bridge
engineer, responsible for the building of the Old Bridge at Pontypridd. An Edwards family has been at Talgarth in
Breconshire since 1708.

By the time of the 1891 census there were more
Edwards in south Wales than in north Wales and many more in England.

Edwards started out as a surname in England possibly as
early as the
13th century. It was to be found mainly
in the west country, notably in Somerset and Cornwall.

  • Richard
    , the musical composer and playwright, was born in
    Somerset in 1523. Also of Somerset was John
    Edwards who at various times was bailiff,
    mayor, and MP for Bridgwater in the 1560’s.
  • one Edwards family in Cornwall began with the
    birth of Henry Edwards in Lelant in 1513. Richard
    Edwards was recorded as marrying Grace Richards in
    Breage in

Edwards in Shropshire may have
represented some spillover from Wales.
In addition to the Edwards at Ness Strange, another Welsh family
Montgomeryshire was to be found at Lydham in Shropshire by the 1550’s. Hugh Edwards, a merchant, founded Shrewsbury
School in 1551. Humphrey Edwards from
Shrewsbury was one of the regicides of Charles I in 1648;
while Edward Edwards, the 18th century landscape painter, was born into
artisan family in Shrewsbury.

America. The first Edwards in
America was probably
Alexander Edwards who had come to New England from Wales around 1630. He and his wife Sarah were among the early
settlers of Northampton, Massachusetts. There followed six successive Samuel Edwards.

Richard Edwards, a merchant in Hartford,
married Elizabeth Tuttle (whom he later divorced) in 1668 and it was
from this
“union of the sane and insane” came:

  • the
    Rev. Timothy Edwards, a Congregational minister.
  • his
    son Jonathan, one of the foremost
    theologians of his day, a leader of the revivalist “First Great
  • his
    grandson Pierpont a
    delegate at the Continental Congress in 1788 who, perhaps inheriting
    the Tuttle
    genes, was also “profligate, vicious, and licentious.”
  • and
    his great grandson Henry who was briefly
    Governor of Connecticut in 1833. Another line via his
    produced Aaron Burr who famously duelled with Alexander Hamilton.

Nathaniel Edwards, believed to have
been born at Edwards Hall in Cardiff, came to America in the early
first to Virginia and then as a merchant to Maryland.
He lived to witness the Revolutionary War
when, despite his age, he was active in supporting the British troops
in New
York. William
, also from Wales, came to New York in the 1770’s.

However, the most newsworthy Edwards in America in those colonial times
another Welshman – Robert Edwards, a pirate of uncertain origins. Some say that he was born in Llanmynech on
the border with Shropshire and came to New York in the 1690’s. It does appear that he was granted a claim to
real estate in Manhattan in return for the services that he had
rendered in
disrupting Spanish sea lines.

In 1877,
when this valuable estate in downtown Manhattan would have reverted to
his heirs,
many so-called descendants emerged to stake a claim.
An “Association of Edwards’ Heirs” is still
around. More than 5,000 people have said
that they are descended from this Edwards.

Two Edwards brothers – Nicholas and Henry from
Monmouthshire – arrived in Barbados sometime in the 1720’s. Henry stayed there; Nicholas moved onto
Antigua. Later Edwards in Antigua owned
plantations at
Comfort and Coconut Hall

George Edwards Brown, an
English sailor from
London, was the founder and patriarch of the Edwards family in Chile. Family tradition has it that while his ship
was at port in Chile in 1804 he fell in love with a Chilean lady and
his ship. He prospered in Chile and,
because of his support for its independence, was granted citizenship
there in

His Edwards descendants have played and
still play a significant role in Chilean politics, especially as owners
of its
most influential newspaper chain, El

New Zealand.
There were two early John Edwards in New

  • the first John Edwards from
    Essex arrived in 1835 and was apparently a storekeeper in Waikato on
    North Island. His two wives were Maori. There is a watercolor painting of him, done
    in 1850, that is in the Auckland Art Gallery.
  • the second John Edwards from
    Yorkshire, known as Totara Jack, arrived in
    Nelson on the Olympus in 1842. He
    moved his family to Taita after the Wairau
    massacre in 1849.

Edwards Miscellany

The Edwards of Stansty.  The family had continuous
occupation of the Stansty estate in Denbighshire from 1317, when David
ap Meilir
said to have bought the manor of Stansty,
to 1783 when his direct line died out.

Edwards surname was first established around 1600 by John
Edwards, the son
of David
ap Edward. John’s
son David
expanded the estate and built the family seat at Plas

David’s son John Edwards, described
by a contemporary as “of
an honest, harmless, and sweet disposition,” was a Royalist who
survived the
Civil War.  The last of the line was his
great great grandson Peter Edwards who died in 1783.
The estate was later sold to the ironmaster
Richard Thompson who in the 1830’s built his home, Stansty Hall, on the

Interestingly, Henry Gwylim Edwards – who served with the
Medical Corps during World War One and gave an account of trench life
in his
diary (which has recently been discovered) – showed his address in the
diary as
being The Rockeries in Stansty, Wrexham.

Richard Edwardes, Tudor Composer and Playwright.  It
has been suggested in some documents, including
David Dean Edwards in his 1992 book Edward’s
, that it was whispered among Tudor researchers that Agnes
was the mistress to Henry VIII and that her son Richard was in fact
fathered by
King Henry and not by her husband William.
Agnes and William lived close by the King’s hunting lodge in
Somerset.  Maybe Richard Edwardes was the bastard son of the King.

was born in 1523 in Somerset and at a young age
was made a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and master of the singing
boys.  He is
remembered as a music composer and playwright.
His five surviving songs, of which the most
famous is In Going to my Naked Bed,
show the influence of the Franco-Flemish style on English music at that
time.  His musical drama Palamon
and Arcite
, written for Queen
Elizabeth, unfortunately has been lost.

married Helen Griffith in 1563, but died three years later at Edwards
Hall near Cardiff.

Edwards in the 1891 Census

Region Numbers (000’s) Percent
North Wales     8 10
   12    15
England    63    75
Total    83   100

The largest numbers by that time were in Lancashire
and Glamorgan.  Another 3,800 were to be
found in Denbighshire.

The Six Samuel Edwards.  Alexander Edwards had arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts
from Wales around 1630.  He and his wife
Sarah moved to Northampton in 1655 where they were among the first

eldest son, born in 1643,
was named Samuel and he was the start of six successive Samuel eldest
sons.  The Samuel line ended when Samuel
VI, who was born in 1815, died at the young age of twenty without issue.  Over this time the Samuel Edwards had moved to
Southampton and then to Westhampton on Long Island.

III was a soldier who took part in the
taking of Cape Breton in 1745.  Samuel IV
was a corporal in the Continental army.

William Edwards, New York Arrival in the 1770’s.  William Edwards was said to have come to America from Wales as a young lad aged around 15 sometime in the early 1770’s.  He was first recorded in Ulster county, New
York and later settled with his wife in Germantown.

stories have gone the rounds as to how he
came to America.

version had William getting up to mischief in
Wales and being sent to the colonies as his punishment.
There was in fact a William Edwards who
arrived in America as a bondage passenger in 1771.
Whether he was the William Edwards is not

other version made out that
William was a sailor and that while crossing the Atlantic he made a
play for
the captain’s daughter.  He either ended
up in the water or was a deserter from the ship.  His
descendants have seemed to prefer this
second version. 

The Edwards Family in Chile.  According to the family legend, George Edwards Brown arrived in La Serena, Chile in 1804 as the surgeon
on a
pirate ship (although in truth it was a whaling ship).
He espied a Spanish lady named Isabel
Ossandon and fell in love with her.
Deserting his ship, he hid in a jar of wine in the house of the
father Diego de Ossandon.  He was,
however, discovered and arrested by the Spanish authorities and
imprisoned for
two years.

Once released he
reunited with Isabel and married her.  He
Isabel raised eight children.

Augustin Edwards, the sixth child, became a
prominent politician
and banker in Chile.  He acquired the El Mecuria newspaper in 1877, which was carried
on by his son Augustin.   Mary
Edwards of this family who settled in France
was an active member of the French resistance during World War Two.


Select Edwards Names

  • Jonathan Edwards was a Puritan preacher and revivalist in 18th century colonial America.
  • George Edwards, an 18th century naturalist, is known as the father of English ornithology.
  • George Edwards was the first of
    the Edwards line in Chile.
  • Jonathan Edwards holds the world record for the triple jump.

Select Edwards Numbers Today

  • 148,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cardiff)
  • 120,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 84,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Edwards 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.



Return to Main Page

Leave a Reply