Francis Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Francis Meaning
popularity of Francis as a name derived in large
part from the fame of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. The name was also associated with the Knight
Templar Crusaders at that time. In
addition to Francis in England there was Francois in France, Francisco in
Italy, plus numerous similar forms elsewhere in Europe.
However, the English
Francis had an alternative derivation from Le
or Franceys, meaning
“the Frenchman” in England.

Francis Resources on

Francis Ancestry

England. There were Franceys or Fraunceys (i.e. the
Frenchman) in England in the 12th and 13th centuries who subsequently
Francis. They appeared at an early time
at Meaburn in Cumberland and Coughton in Warwickshire.
The forebears of two notable lines were:

  • John le Fraunceys who was born at Osmundeston
    in Derbyshire in 1224. His descendant
    Sir Robert Francis of Foremark Hall in Derbyshire was a knight and
    sheriff of
    Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the early 1400’s.
    Robert’s grandson Sir John, who died in 1464,
    made his home at Burley in Rutland. One
    line of this family migrated to Sussex where Edward Francis was the
    Steyning MP
    in the early 1600’s.
  • and
    Ebrordis Fraunceys who was born in Bristol around 1240 and later became
    its mayor. His son Adam migrated to London
    in the early
    1300’s. And his son Sir Adam Francis prospered as
    a mercer and twice served as the Lord
    Mayor of London. He was by the
    mid-1300’s one of the richest men in London.

Later Francis in England
were to be found in two areas mainly – a smaller concentration in SW
and a larger concentration in SE England around London.

SW England. Francis was a popular
given name in the west
country (as with Sir Francis Drake) and this sometimes translated into
a surname.

Francis, born at Gwennap in Cornwall around the year 1590, appears to
have been
the forebear of a later line of Cornish miners:

  • Henry Francis married Ursula Tregonning there in the
    early 1700’s.
  • while the brothers Henry
    and Absalom Francis
    , together with their offspring, took
    their mining expertise to Wales and to parts further afield in the

A Francis family built Chevithorne
Barton, a gabled manor house near Tiverton in Devon, in 1610. They sold the house (which still stands) in
Another Francis family has been traced to the village of
Bradworth near
Holsworthy in NW Devon and to John Francis who married Elizabeth
Petherick in

The villages of Ansford and Castle Cary in
Somerset contained a number of Francis lines.
Isaac Francis was born in
Ansford in 1681 and buried there in 1753; while
Thomas Francis was born in Castle Cary around
1741 and died there in 1817. And a
Francis family were millers at nearby Lovington.

England. The early sightings were in
Essex. Robert Francis was recorded as
the bailiff of Colchester in 1349. His
son Thomas became a wealthy merchant.
He served as the bailiff of Colchester twelve
times and as its MP fourteen times over a period lasting forty-five
years. He died in 1417 but left no sons,
only three

Another disappearing Francis line was to be found in the
village of Shaddingfield in Suffolk where they held the manor of
Francis in the
late 1300’s. In the next century the
estate passed into the Cuddon family through marriage with the Francis

The Francis surname was numerous but not very
conspicuous in SE England thereafter.
The main numbers in the 1881 census were in London, followed by
and Kent. One local notable was Joseph
Francis who was twice mayor of Southend in the early 1900’s.

“Joseph Francis, born in 1849, was the mayor
of Southend with some repute for having held the position throughout
the Great
War. However, this came at a certain
price as he was lampooned by the local press for being too old. He also endured a near miss when a bomb
landed yards from the Civic Office in 1917, with himself being thrown
to the

James Francis from Terling in
Essex took his family to New York in the 1850’s. But
they did not stay there long and returned
to Hastings in Sussex.

Francis has also been a Welsh surname.
DNA testing has shown that Francis here has Celtic origins and
is thus
genetically different from the English Francis of probable Norman
descent. The name is found primarily in
south Wales.

Carmarthenshire came Enoch Francis,
the famous Baptist minister of the early 1700’s; from Pembrokeshire
Francis, the well-known crime writer.

the largest Francis numbers in Wales have been from Glamorgan, in
particular from
in and around Swansea – a booming area in the early 1800’s. The Francis name had already become evident
in outlying parishes such as Llansamlet and Llangfelach by the mid-18th

One notable Francis family there had English origins, coming from
Castle Cary in Somerset. John Francis left Somerset for Swansea in 1811
and prospered there as a coach-builder:

  • his elder son Grant was an antiquarian, active in local
    Swansea issues
  • while his younger son Duffett was
    accomplished portrait painter whose legacy in Swansea is the Deffett
    Art Gallery.

Ireland. A
Dublin-based Anglo-Irish family from Devon included
among their number:

  • the
    Rev. John Francis, the rector of St. Mary’s church in
    Dublin in the early 1700’s.
  • his
    sons – Tench who emigrated to America, Richard an eminent lawyer, and
    Philip a
    clergyman now remembered for his translations of Horace.
  • and
    Philip’s son Sir Philip, a well-known
    pamphleteer and Whig politician in London in the late 1700’s.

the Francis name in Ireland was mainly found in Armagh and Down. James Francis was born in Armagh around 1755,
Jacob Francis in Down in 1781. Both had
descendants who emigrated to America.

America. The Francis name was first
notable in New
England and then out of Maryland and Virginia.

New England. There were
three early sightings of Francis in New England, all apparently from

  • John
    Francis by 1631 in Braintree, Massachusetts
  • Richard Francis by 1640 in
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • and Robert Francis by 1651 in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Robert Francis and his wife Joan had one son,
John, who had fourteen children by his second wife Mercy, including
eldest son John.

“John Francis, born in
1684, was a man of great muscular strength.
Many stories were related of his extraordinary athletic feats. He was the owner and landlord of the old
Wethersfield Inn. He was three times

In 1829 five descendant
brothers left W
for points west
, three of them ending up in Springfield,
Illinois. Another brother Charles was a
pioneer settler
in northern Indiana. The family line was
covered in Charles Francis’ 1906 book Descendants
of Robert Francis.

Maryland. There were two notable
Francis lines that
started out from Maryland.

Tench Francis
from Ireland had arrived there around 1720 as an attorney for Lord
Baltimore. He later moved to
Philadelphia where he was the attorney general for Pennsylvania from
1741 to
1755. His son Tench Jr. was a prominent
Philadelphia merchant. The line through
his son John then moved to Rhode Island.
John’s son John Brown Francis was Governor of that state from
to 1838.

William Francis, possibly of Welsh origins, had come to Cecil county
in the early 1730’s. His son Henry
fought and died during the Revolutionary War.

“Captain Henry Francis was shot through the head and died
at the Battle
of Shallow Ford in 1780. His sons Henry
and John also fought in the battle.
Henry Jr. was only a few feet away from his father when he fell. John then shot the soldier who had killed his

Henry migrated to Kentucky in
the early 1800’s and his son Pearl to Missouri in the late 1820’s. Pearl’s son William Francis set off for California at the time
of the Gold
Rush, but then returned. He died at the
end of the century, a respected county judge in Clay county, Missouri.

Virginia. There was one notable
line out of
Virginia. Thomas Francis had come from
Virginia to Kentucky in the late 1700’s, marrying Polly Broaddus in
Kentucky in
1815. While Polly was giving birth to
children in Richmond, Thomas bought and ran a popular tavern there. He later became the local sheriff.

His grandson David Francis, born in Richmond
in 1850, was to distinguish himself nationally as a politician and
diplomat. He held several positions, from
Mayor of St. Louis to Governor of Missouri and US Secretary of the
Interior. He was the US Ambassador to
Russia at the time of the 1917 Revolution.

Meanwhile Joseph Francis, of reported German extraction,
migrated from
Virginia to Kentucky in the early 1800’s and later settled in Clay
Indiana. His son and grandson, both
named William, were farmers there.

South Africa. Thomas Francis and his
family from London
were among the 1820 British settlers to South Africa, sailing there
with Willson’s
party on La Belle Alliance. He
made his home at Grahamstown on the
Eastern Cape:

  • his eldest son Thomas,
    nine years old when they left England, became a tailor there.
  • while a younger son Frederick, born in South
    Africa, moved to the Orange Free State and died an old man in a Boer
    concentration camp in 1901.

Australia. Thomas
Francis was a convict from Warwickshire who arrived in NSW on the Admiral Barrington in 1791. He
married Honora Collins, a fellow convict from
Ireland, a few years after the birth of their first child.

They seemingly had a
fiery marriage. Some of their children
were registered as Francis, others as Collins.
Both Thomas and Honora were buried in Castlereagh cemetery. Their descendants are now spread over every
state in Australia and in many locations overseas.
Jack McNamara, a fifth-generation descendant,
published a family line in 1998.

Arthur Morley Francis, also from Warwickshire, was a pioneer in Queensland,
arriving there in 1862 and living at first with his family in tents on
coast. Francis Lookout near Brisbane was
named after them

Francis and Like Surnames.  These were names originally given to outsiders in the British Isles that became surnames.  Thus Walter the Scot became Walter Scott.  Outsiders could also have been Welsh, Irish, French or Flemish.  Other such surnames covered here are Fleming, French, Ireland, Norman, Scott, Wallace, Walsh, and Waugh.


Francis Miscellany

Sir Adam Francis, Lord Mayor of London.  Sir Adam Francis, born in London around 1315,
started out with his cousin Simon as a mercer.
He was active both in trade with the Continent and with shipping.  He was by the mid-14th century one of the
richest and most powerful men in London.
He lived through the Black Death which had reached London in
1348 and
resulted in upwards of 30,000 deaths.

After a long and successful career during
which he was twice Lord Mayor of London and represented the City in at
seven Parliaments, he retired to live on his country estates outside of
London.  He died in 1375.Sir Adam was buried at St
Helen’s, Bishopsgate.  He was survived by
his widow Agnes, who was still living in 1394, his son Adam (Adam the
and his daughter Maud, who was later to be the Countess of Salisbury.

Adam the younger
was elected as a shire knight in 1380.
He lived most of his life on his father’s inheritance in
Edmonton as a
country gentleman.  He died in 1417.

Henry and Absalom Francis Were Cornish Miners.  Henry and Absalom Francis from Goldsithney in Cornwall
were both heavily involved in the Cornish mining industry from their

Absalom moved to Flintshire in 1826 to manage the Duke of
lead mines on Halkyn Mountain.   He also managed the
lead mines on the Lisburne estate in
but fell out with his employers there, the Taylor family, and was
dismissed in
1840.  His three sons – Henry, Absalom
and William – all followed their father into the Welsh mining industry.

brother Henry remained in Cornwall.  It
was said that he adopted something of a
moonlighting approach to mining, being involved in many enterprises and
dropping them quickly for the next caper in speculation.
He was the manager of
the Wheal Virgin mine near Relubbus for many years before opening the
Guskus mine in 1849.

Of his four sons, the most prominent was Matthew who
a number of years in the mines of Aroa in South America before
following his
uncle to Wales in 1834, settling in Cardiganshire to manage the
mines.  But he too fell out with the
Taylors and was dismissed in 1842.  He
lived in London after that, inspecting mines in different locations.

Enoch Francis, Welsh Baptist Minister.  Enoch’s family and religious roots came from Rhydwilym
in Pembrokeshire.  He himself was born in
1688 in Carmarthenshire, at Pantyllaethdy on the banks of the river
Teify.  His upbringing was in the so-called

He began preaching in 1707, before he was twenty, at Llanllwni.  Over time he acquired great fame as a
preacher.  Judging from the comments of
his contemporaries, it would appear that authority and sobriety, rather
revivalist emotionalism, were the principal hallmarks of his oratory.  His preaching was on the Calvinist side.  In 1733 he published Gair yn ei
, a defence of Calvinism.  He died
in 1740.

He was not the only Baptist
minister of his family.  It was recorded
that at least eleven became ministers.
They included his cousin Abel, who left the Baptists in 1735 to
join the
Presbyterian-Independents, and two of Enoch’s sons, Jonathan and
Benjamin.  And three of Jonathan’s sons –
Jonathan, and David – were ministers as well.

The Francis Brothers Who Migrated West from Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1829.  Five Francis brothers and two of their sisters, after
the death of their parents, decided to leave their old home in
Wethersfield and
seek a new home in the West.

In 1829 they embarked on the sloop Falcon
at Hartford, traveling down the
Connecticut river to New York and then up the Hudson and along the Erie
to Buffalo.  They subsequently traversed
Lake Erie and then procured wagons to cross Ohio.  After
a journey fraught with much exposure
and a lack of proper nourishment, they reached Cincinnati.
From there they were borne by a small
steamboat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to St. Louis, barely
with their lives through the wrecking of one of the boats.

In 1831 three of the
brothers – Simeon, Josiah, and John – proceeded onwards to Springfield,
Illinois, taking with them a little old printing press that they had
from Connecticut.  That year they brought
out the first edition of the Sangamon

Simeon and Allen Francis fostered the youthful ambitions
of Abraham
Lincoln by loaning him books and by introducing him to the leading
figures in
Springfield.  It was at Allen’s home that
Lincoln met his future wife Mary Todd.  Lincoln later reciprocated
when President
by appointing both Simeon and Allen to Government positions in the
Northwest.  Simeon stayed on in
Portland, Oregon.

William Francis to California and Back.  His father
Pearl and elder brother Henry had set off from Missouri overland to
in 1850.  However, both died of cholera
during the journey and were buried in a common grave at Fort Laramie.

Henry’s brother William, a veteran of the Mexican War,
did make it a year
earlier.  He was about four and a half
months on the crossing.  He mined on the
Yuba river and later had some success in trading.

But the family deaths were
influential in his decision not to stay in California.
In 1850, aboard a sailing vessel he crossed
at Panama and proceeded upon his homeward way by steamer to New York.  From there he journeyed via Philadelphia to
Baltimore and then to the Monongahela River and Ohio to Cairo, thence
by boat
to St. Louis, and from that city by boat to his home in Missouri.

A short time
later he bought a farm near Jefferson City and married.
There he was to remain for the next fifty
years, a respected farmer and county judge. 

Arthur Morley Francis in Queensland.  Arthur Morley Francis from Warwickshire arrived with
his family in Queensland on the sailing ship Saldanha
in January 1862 after a voyage of four months.

They were
truly pioneers.  They cleared a patch and pitched their tents on the banks of the Brisbane river.
His wife Angela wrote home about their companions at the

“Thousands of frogs in the waterholes, the parrots,
wagtails, hawks, butcher-birds, laughing jackasses, satin, and
stockwhip birds
lived all round us.”

The climate killed off three of their children in the
first four years, the first to die being their youngest son Clement in
1863.  They were buried in a family
cemetery on a
prominent hilltop overlooking Corinda, now known as Francis Lookout.

Arthur was
nothing if not resourceful.  He pioneered
sugar planting along the Brisbane river and started a small mill.  In this he was unsuccessful.  Later
he became a police magistrate in outback
Queensland and a representative for East Moreton in the first

When Arthur died in 1902, his wife Angela erected a
lynchgate at the
cemetery on Francis Outlook in memory of her husband.
It bore the inscription “Rest for the
Weary.”  The cemetery was added to the
Queensland Heritage Register in 2004.  Their son Alexander, born
in 1863, moved
back to England in 1902.  In 1935 he
published an account of their early life in Queensland entitled Then and Now: The Story of a Queenslander.


Francis Names

  • Sir Adam Francis who twice served as the Lord Mayor of London was
    one of its richest men in the mid-1300’s. 
  • Enoch Francis was a prominent Welsh Baptist minister and preacher in the first half of
    the 18th century. 
  • David Francis was an American politician and diplomat
    who served as Governor of Missouri, US Secretary of the Interior, and US Ambassador to Russia at the time of the 1917 Revolution. 
  • Connie Francis, born Concetta Franconero, was a chart-topping American pop singer of the
    late 1950’s and early 1960’s. 
  • Dick Francis was a steeplechase jockey who became a
    widely-read British crime writer. His
    books were set around horse racing

Select Francis Numbers Today

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 27,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Francis and Like Surnames

These were names originally given to outsiders in the British Isles that became surnames.  Thus Walter the Scot became Walter Scott.  Outsiders could also have been Welsh, Irish, French or Flemish.  These are some of the “outsider” surnames which are covered here.





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