Evans Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Evans Surname Meaning

The surname Evans is a patronymic (son of) name from Ieuan or Evan, the Welsh form of John. There were several early references to Iuean in Welsh history, starting with St. Ieuan in the 6th century.  The Welsh construction ap Evan has yielded the surname Bevan.

Evans Surname Resources on The Internet

Evans Surname Ancestry

  • from South Wales and Western England
  • to America, Canada and Argentina

Wales.  The Evans name has appeared mainly in south Wales.

Evans dates here from the early 1500’s. The first reference was to a John Yevans in the 1533 Monmouth records. Its early adoption, in place of the old Welsh patronymic forms, often occurred with those who had English contact.

Evan yr Halen (Evan the salt) was a 16th century salt merchant and one of the richest men in Glamorgan at the time.  His grandson David Evans was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1563. Thomas Evans built his home at the Gnoll estate in the Neath valley in 1666. Related Evans became coalmine owners at nearby Eaglebush in the 19th century.

Other early examples have been:

  • Richard ap Humphrey of Llanaelhaearn, also known as Richard Evans, who was High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire in 1625. Later Evans of this family were recorded at Henblas in Anglesey.
  • Euan ap Gruffydd of Penywenallt in Cardiganshire, also known as Evan Griffith Evans, who was a Royalist officer during the Civil War and spent some time in Cardigan prison. A descendant was the 18th century cleric and historian Theophilus Evans.
  • the Evans at Acheth in Carmarthenshire who date from about 1630. This family built their Highmead estate in 1777 and became the Davies-Evans.
  • and an Evans family that was active in Noncormist Baptist circles in Breconshire from the 1650’s. Later Evans were based in Bristol, including Dr. Caleb Evans who championed the American cause against John Wesley in the 1770’s.

Evans were farmers around Llanddeusant on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire from the early 1700’s to the late 1900’s. The first of this family was Rees Evan, born in 1691 and a yeoman farmer. The surname had become Evans with the birth of Evan Evans a hundred years later.

David Evans, the son of Evan David, was born in Llantrisant, Glamorgan in 1757.  His descendants for many generations were farmers and local brewers. Later Evans became silk merchants in London and Sir David Evans made it to be Lord Mayor of London in 1891.

England.  By the 19th century Evans was still very much a Welsh surname.  However, there had been some spillover into English counties, in particular into Shropshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire. An early example was John Evans, born in Wales and a Shrewsbury alderman, bailiff and MP in the 1540’s and 1550’s.

Thomas Evans of Darley in Derbyshire was a prominent early industrialist. His son Walter built a cotton mill in the village in 1783 and the family – who were to own Alliestree Hall – became local gentry and MP’s.

Ireland.  John Evans from Carmarthenshire had secured land grants in Limerick for services rendered and moved there in 1628.  His descendant George Evans of Bulgaden Hall was ennobled as Baron Carbery in 1715.  Through a later inter-marriage the family became based in Cork and were known as Evans-Freke.  One line of the family was to be found at Portrane House in Dublin. 

In the early 1700’s a line through a younger son Thomas came into possession of Milltown Castle in Cork.  His son Eyre married a Limerick heiress and moved to that county.  But Eyre’s eldest son Eyre invested in a local Limerick bank which failed in 1820.

America. Welsh immigrants, many of them Quakers, headed for Pennsylvania where there was religious toleration.

Pennsylvania. The four Evans sons of Evan Robert Lewis from Merionethshire were Quakers who founded in 1698 the Welsh tract near Philadelphia which they called Gwynedd.

Evans at Gwynedd included:

  • Evan Evans who proselyted for the Anglican church there. Oliver Evans, his grandson, was an American inventor and industrialist in Philadelphia.  In the early 1800’s he pioneered an automated grist mill for flour and a prototype for a steam engine.
  • and Owen Evans, born there in 1699. His descendants later moved to South Carolina and then to the Quaker community of Waynesville, Ohio.  From there came Jason Evans, a Cincinnati pork packer and banker, and John Evans, Governor of Colorado territory in 1862.

John Evans from Radnorshire arrived in Philadelphia in 1695 and later settled in New Castle county, Delaware.  His grandson Evan Evans was a colonel in the Revolutionary War.

Elsewhere.  There were Evans arriving or based elsewhere.

Nicholas Evans, probably Welsh although he married in England, came to Virginia in 1636.  Later Evans were to be found in Accomack county or on Smith Island on the border between Virginia and Maryland.  The Virginia Congressman Thomas Evans, born around 1755, may well have been a descendant.

Meanwhile a mixed race Evans family seems to have begun in Virginia in the 1680’s when Morris Evans married Jane Gibson, a “free Indian woman.”  Many of these Evans later migrated to Granville county, North Carolina.

From Richard Evans the mariner came Richard Evans the planter.  The latter Richard was born in 1735 in Beaufort county, North Carolina and started up his plantation in what became Pitt county.  One of his descendants was Dr. Augustus Coutanche Evans, an agent during the Civil War for the Confederacy in Europe.

Canada.  James Evans was a seafarer from Hull in Yorkshire who decided to emigrate to Canada with his family in 1821. They settled in Grenville, Ontario. His son James became a Methodist minister, working with the Hudson Bay Company at their remote Norway House north of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. In this work he learnt the local Indian languages and was able to put them into print.

Edward Evans from county Wexford in Ireland came to Ontario with his family in 1820, settling in Haldimand county.  He was a prominent and well-to-do man of that county, as his nickname of “Squire” might suggest.

Another Irish Evans, this time from Westmeath, was Francis Evans who came around 1830 and was a Protestant minister in southern Ontario, near Simcoe.  His son Thomas followed his father’s vocation, but in the small village of Tadoussac along the St. Lawrence river in Quebec.

Argentina. There was an Evans family among the first Welsh colonists to Patagonia on the Mimosa in 1865. Daniel Evans, aged three at the time of the voyage, helped establish a new Welsh colony at the foot of the Andes in 1891 and lived on there until 1943.

Evans Surname Miscellany

John Evans of Shrewsbury.  John Evans held offices as alderman, bailiff and MP for the town Shrewsbury in the 1540’s and 1550’s.

As to his origins, it appears likely that he was the son or nephew of one John Jevon, a shoemaker from Montgomeryshire, who was admitted as a freeman of Shrewsbury in 1505.  The condition that he should take up residence in the town before Michaelmas suggests that he would have been a recent arrival.  The name Jevons used here was a variant of the Welsh Ieuans which normally anglicized as Evans.

In his will of 1565 Evans asked to be buried in his parish church of St. Julian, Shrewsbury. He mentioned his wife, his two daughters Catherine and Mary, and his son Richard.   The last two were to share half of his household goods, plate and silver, with Mary also receiving her father’s best chain of gold and Richard the second best.

The Evans Family and the Gnoll Estate.  The Evans relationship with the Gnoll estate began in the 16th century when David Evans, grandson of Evan the Salt, leased the property from the Earl of Pembroke.

Thomas Evans acquired the estate in 1658 from his nephew Sir Herbert Evans on condition that he build a new mansion there.  Gnoll House, completed in 1666, was an imposing edifice that stood on a terrace cut into the side of a hill overlooking the town of Neath.

Thomas Evans was the last male of his family.  In 1686 his daughter Mary married Sir Humphrey Mackworth, a pioneer of the copper industry in south Wales, and the estate passed into Mackworth hands.

The mansion survived until the 20th century.  However, sadly neglected, it became dangerous and was demolished in 1957.

The Will of Rees Evan in Carmarthen, 1722.  Rees Evan was the forebear of the Evans who farmed the northern slopes of the Black Mountain around Llanddeusant in Carmarthenshire for more than 300 years.  He died in 1722 and his will ran as follows:

“In the name of God Amen, this the third day of November in the year of our Lord God 1722,  I Rees Evan of the parish of Llanddeusant in the county of Carmarthen, yeoman, being sick and weak of body but of a good and perfect memory, praise be to God for the same, and, knowing the uncertainty of this transitional life on earth, being desirous to settle things in order to make, publish and declare my last will and testament in the manner and form following.

First and sincerely I commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God my Creator who gave it me, hoping through the merits of my Savior Jesus Christ to have full pardon and remission of all my sins, and my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian burial as to the direction of my executors herein after named shall be thought fit and convenient.

As touching such worldly estate as the Lord in mercy hath lent me, my will and meaning is to  give and dispose of the same in manner and form following:

  • I give and bequeath four pence towards the reparation of the Cathedral Church of St. David’s.
  • I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elinor Rees the sum of five pounds of good and British money to be paid her when she comes of the age of eighteen years by my executors hereinafter named.
  • I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann the sum of five pounds of good and British money to be paid her when she comes to the age of eighteen years by my executors hereinafter named.
  • I give and bequeath all the rest and residue of my goods and chattels and personal estate whatsoever unto my well beloved wife Janet Evan and my son Evan Rees who I do nominate and appoint to be my only sole executors of this my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand and seal the day and years above written.”

The Evans of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.  Four brothers – Thomas, Robert, Owen, and Cadwalader (the sons of Evan Robert Lewis) – assumed the Evans name and came to America from their Fron Goch home near Bala in north Wales. They were Quakers seeking the religious toleration that was available under William Penn.

Thomas arrived first in 1697 ahead of the others in their Welsh party and purchased the land which was to become the Welsh settlement of Gwynedd township in Pennsylvania.  It was at his log home that William Penn stayed when he visited.  Robert, a Quaker preacher, was there by 1698.  Some of the stone house that he built on Penn Oak Road still stands. Cadwalader was also a Quaker minister at Gwynedd, as was his son John.

Other early settlers in Gwynedd came from the same area of Wales and were probably related.  William John, for instance, who acquired the land initially with Thomas Evans, is believed to have been his first cousin.

These Evans and related immigrants left a large number of descendants in the area.  One line is said to have gone to Abraham Lincoln’s wife Nancy Hanks.

Evans and the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  In the 19th century, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was adapted to fit prominent American surnames of the time, including Evans.  The Evans version had two stanzas of specific references. They ran as follows:

  • “David, Thomas, Evan, John were fathers of our clan;
  • Posterity of Oliver and Richard never ran;
  • Henry was quite virile, Caleb was a sturdy man.
  • The clan goes marching on!
  • ‘Bob” Evans was the admiral who was with courage blessed;
  • In covered wagons, Caleb led his comrades to the west;
  • The Evans all are loyal and they will do their best.
  • The clan goes marching on!”

David, Thomas, Evan, and John were all Welshmen who came to Pennsylvania around 1700 or slightly later. Thomas was the founder of the Welsh community at Gwynedd.  Evan was an Anglican minister who arrived there shortly afterwards. David was another immigrant.  John was a colonial governor of Pennsylvania who later returned to Wales.

Oliver, born Delaware in 1755, invented the elevator and the conveyor.  Richard emigrated from Wales in the 1720’s and settled near Hagerstown, Maryland.  Caleb was a Baptist preacher who championed the American cause of independence from England; while Henry, if this was the Henry, was a black Methodist preacher practicing in North Carolina in the 1790’s.

Admiral Robert D. Evans of the US Navy was known as “Fighting Bob.” Caleb left Pennsylvania for new lands in Ohio on a covered wagon in the 1790’s. 

John Evans and the Welsh Myth of America.  In the late 1700’s there was an upsurge of interest in Wales in the story of The Welsh prince Madog who, according to folklore, had sailed to America in the 12th century.  There were also rumors of there being a tribe of Welsh-speaking Indians in America.

The stories excited John Evans at his home in Carnarvon and, at the age of 22, he set off in 1792 for America by himself to discover whether these rumors were true. He ended up in Spanish Louisiana and got Spanish backing for an exploration of the Missouri.  He travelled 1,800 miles up the Missouri river but found no trace of Welsh Indians.  He went as far as what is now North Dakota before returning in 1797 to St. Louis. Two years later he was dead.

His map, however, proved especially useful to later explorers such as Lewis and Clark.

Daniel Evans in Patagonia.  The Evans family, like a number of other Welsh pioneer families who came to Patagonia in 1865 on the Mimosa, was from Mountain Ash in the Rhondda valley in Glamorgan.

Daniel Evans was just three at the time of this voyage.  He grew up in the new land to become one of the finest horsemen in the country. He was a daring adventurer and an able leader, so much so that he was known as the Baceano.

He went out several times to explore the Pampas, the most celebrated occasion being in 1883 when his party was attacked by Indians in the Kel-Kein valley. His three companions were killed before he himself miraculously escaped on his Malacara pony.  He also led a party to the Andes in 1885 and helped found the Welsh community of Cwm Hyfryd there.  He was one of its first settlers in 1891.  He spent the remainder of his life at Cwm Hyfryd and died there in 1943 at the age of eighty three.

His story was recounted in John Evans’ 1997 booklet Daniel Evans in Patagonia.

Evans Names

  • Theophilus Evans was the first historian of the Welsh, with his book Mirror The First Age written in Welsh in 1716.
  • John Evans was the Welsh explorer who produced an early map of the Missouri river.
  • Mary Ann Evans was the Victorian author of novels such as The Mill on the Floss, who wrote under the name of George Eliot.
  • Godfrey Evans played for the English cricket team as wicketkeeper during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
  • Bill Evans was one of the most influential jazz pianists of the 20th century.
  • Harold Evans was a well-known British journalist and newspaper editor.

Evans Numbers Today

  • 232,000 in the UK (most numerous in Swansea)
  • 128,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 94,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Evans is the #7 ranked surname in the UK.

Evans 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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