Hamilton Surname Meaning, History & Origin
were Scots who rose to be a leading family in Scotland in the 16th
century. Their forebear was Walter de Hameldone who owned
Paisley in Renfrewshire in 1294 and featured in the Ragman Roll of
He was Anglo-Norman by origin.
deserted village of Hamilton in Leicestershire through which they had
their way to Scotland. The name Hamilton comes from the Old
meaning “crooked” and dun “hill.”
- Hamilton Clan. Hamilton clan site.
- The Hamiltons of Cadzow. A Hamilton branch.
- Captain Nance Hamilton. A Hamilton from Ulster
- John Hamilton of Donegal. Family account.
- Hamilton Surname DNA Project. DNA results.
The descendants of Walter fitz Gilbert or Walter
de Hameldone became one of the most important of the
families. Walter himself was involved in
his time in
the conflicts with the English, as were many of his descendants. James Hamilton in fact was held hostage in
1424 by the English in the ransom of the Scottish king.
His son James became Lord Hamilton in 1445
and their home of Cadzow in Lanarkshire was renamed Hamilton. The next two Lord Hamiltons were close to the
Scottish throne and each acted as Regent during the turbulent times of
century. The Hamiltons had even been
the throne itself as there was a linkage through marriage
these Hamiltons and the royal Stewarts.
However, they later suffered for their support of the Royalist
during the English Civil War. James, Duke of
Hamilton, was executed in 1649.
chief is still considered the premier Duke of Scotland. Hamilton
in Hamilton, Lanarkshire was the family seat from 1695 to 1921. There are several branches of this
descending from illegitimate sons. Many
Hamiltons from Scotland and from Ireland achieved distinction in the
and navy during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Some Hamiltons in Scotland may have derived
their name from the town rather than from the family. The surname is
most common in Scotland today.
One James Hamilton from the Hamilton line, a strong supporter of King
of England and Scotland, was created the Earl of Abercorn in 1603 and
rewarded with large estates at Strabane in county Tyrone.
Hamiltons received land grants
elsewhere in Ulster during the plantation period.
The Earl of Abercorn and his descendants were
Catholic and much of their land was confiscated in 1650 and again in
the Battle of the Boyne (while another Hamilton who fought on the
side was given the title of Viscount Boyne and received lands at
However, these Hamiltons were
able to resume their position during the 18th and 19th centuries. They became the Dukes of Abercorn and assumed
always went out shooting in his Blue Ribbon Noble Order of the Garter
required the housemaids to wear white kid gloves when they made his
They were active Unionists at the time of
Home Rule. James Hamilton, the 3rd Duke
of Abercorn, was made the first Governor of Northern Ireland, a post he
between 1922 and 1945.
Ireland may in some cases have displaced Hamill and been used as an
anglicization of the Cork name O’hUrmholtaigh.
Hamilton was an early arrival in America, coming to South Carolina to
seek his fortune sometime in the 1680’s and, having inherited some
his father, building himself a brick house home at his plantation on
island. A later Paul Hamilton fought in
the Revolutionary War and became Governor of South Carolina in 1804 and
Secretary of the Navy.
Other early Hamiltons
- Andrew Hamilton who had arrived in
Philadelphia around 1700 and became a well-known lawyer there, as was
Hance Hamilton, who led a
Scots Irish group to America in 1729 and to what became Hamiltonban
York county, Pennsylvania.
Hamilton, born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania of Scots Irish parents
who distinguished himself in the Revolutionary War, in fact receiving
British flag of surrender at Yorkville. His
son rose to prominence in South Carolina and became its
1830. He was an early promoter of the
state of Texas.
- John Hamilton and his family
left Scotland for Pennsylvania in 1769 and eventually settled in
Washington county. Hamiltons are still there.
- and James Hamilton, also
Scots Irish, who was born in North Carolina in 1785 and was the
Andrew Hamilton, a man who moved to Texas in 1846 and later served as
first US Secretary of the Treasury who famously died in a duel with
in 1804, was in fact born out of wedlock in the British West
father, who soon disappeared, was the younger son of a Scottish laird
Ayrshire. Alexander came to America in 1772.
His son William moved to Illinois and was
an early developer of lead mining in Wisconsin; his grandson Alexander
was a Unionist
general in the Civil War.
Robert Hamilton, like other Scotsmen of his time, was drawn to
the fur trade. He arrived in 1780, soon
established himself as a merchant in the Niagara area, and expanded his
fortunes through successful land speculation.
His son George was the developer of Hamilton, Ontario.
The brothers William and George Hamilton came
to Canada from county Meath in Ireland around 1805.
After a while they became owners of a sawmill
in Hawkesbury, Ontario, which they expanded to be one of the largest
operations in Canada.
The Early Hamiltons. Walter de Hameldone owned property near Paisley in
Renfrewshire in 1294. In the Scottish
War of Independence in 1290-1305, he was the governor of Bothwell
castle and initially
loyal to the English King. But he came
across to the side of Robert the Bruce. He
was rewarded by Bruce with portions of
confiscated Comyn lands in Lothian and Lanarkshire, including the lands
Cadzow which would in time be the town of Hamilton.
The family’s power grew from their continued
loyalty to the Scottish crown. In 1346,
whilst fighting for David II at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, Walter’s
David was captured with his King and the two were not released until
payment of an enormous ransom.
The Hamilton Temptation. James Hamilton,
the 2nd Earl of Arran, was chosen as Regent of Scotland following the
James V and in 1542 was declared Heir Presumptive of the Crown. As Regent he promoted the marriage of Mary
Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France.
However, he later resigned the Regency and, after opposing the
of the widowed Queen Mary to Lord Darnley in 1565, he went abroad for a
of four years.
returned in 1569 to oppose the Regencies of the Earl of Moray
and the Earl of Lennox. The former was
assassinated by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh and the latter killed
Hamiltons. The Regency then passed to
the Earl of Morton, the husband of his wife’s sister Elizabeth, who
lost it in
1578 and was executed in 1581.
Hamilton’s claim to the Crown had come
about because his grandfather, the 1st Lord Hamilton, had married Mary,
daughter of King James II. Much of his
life was influenced by his closeness in blood to the Queen. He was tempted by the Crown itself on a
number of occasions, but never in the end succumbed.
eldest son James
Hamilton had been proposed as a husband for Queen Elizabeth of England
later as a husband for Mary, Queen of Scots.
In 1562, however, he was judged insane, although he was probably
scatterbrained, and he gave up his titles.
The Hamiltons in Ireland. The main Hamilton presence in Ireland was those
Hamiltons, ennobled as the Earls of Abercorn, who held estates at
Other Hamilton holdings at the time of the Ulster plantations
were reported at:
in county Antrim
and Fewes in county
in county Fermanagh
Tuyllyhunco in county Cavan.
properties could be
readily bought and sold. Sir
James Carew, for instance, had the following to say about the
dealings in 1611:
Alexander Hamilton, entitled to 2,000 acres in the county
of Cavan, has not appeared. His son
Claud took possession and brought three servants and six artificers. Besides there arrived upon that portion
twelve tenants and artificers who intend to reside there.”
the end of the year Sir Claud sold his lands to John Hamilton, his
agent. He in
turn sold them to William Lawderin Scotland in 1614.
When William Lawder died in 1618, his son
sold the lands to Sir Alexander Hamilton, Sir Claud’s father. In this
lands made their way back to the Hamilton family.
The Alexander Hamilton Museum in Nevis. The island of Nevis in the Caribbean was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury.
was born there around the year 1757. His
parents were James Hamilton, the fourth son
of a Scottish laird in Ayrshire, and Rachel Fawcett Lavien, the
daughter of a
Nevisian doctor descended from French Huguenots. They
never married, although their liaison
lasted about fifteen years.
was their second son. He migrated to the
North American colonies
for educational purposes, got caught up in the American Revolution, and
George Washington’s chief military aide.
name lives on in Nevis. The Alexander
Hamilton Museum in Charlestown interprets the life of Alexander
well as offering a view on the history and culture of Nevis.
Colonel Hance Hamilton in Pennsylvania. In 1729
the Governor of Pennsylvania set out a request to bring in fighting men
order to stop any further encroachment on their territory by Maryland. In response some one hundred and forty
families were brought over from Ulster.
Their leader was Captain Hance Hamilton. These families landed
Castle, Delaware and almost immediately went to what is now Adams
Pennsylvania where they took up land and began to build their homes.
remained the leader of this group of
made his home in Menallen township next to the Hamiltonban township in
probably had some naming rights. It
that this Hamiltonban name came about from the bawn (a fortified
stone or earthen walls) built by Hamilton as a defense against the
were marauding the area. He had earned
a reputation as an Indian fighter by this
Hance Hamilton died in
1772. Later the Hamiltons made their
home just north of the present site of Gettysburg where a large stone
built. It was used by General Lee in the
Civil War as his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg.
John Hamilton in Pennsylvania. The journey began in 1769 in Scotland when John
Hamilton and his wife Nancy took their two young children, Thomas and
and set sail to the New World from Campbelltown. The trip probably took
three months and had to be so hard on everyone, but more so on Nancy
pregnant with her third child John who was born while still at sea, 30
off the New York coastline.
first settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania from the years 1770 to
1775. John Hamilton then moved his family
Washington county, Pennsylvania and to the Hamilton plantation where
generations to follow, this would be the Hamilton home.
It still is.
to the Pennsylvania state archives, the father John Hamilton
served as a private in the Pennsylvania Regiment Continental Line in
Westmoreland county in the years 1776 and 1777.
His son John served in the reconstruction period of the American
Revolution and was a Major in the War of 1812.
- James Hamilton became Lord Hamilton in 1445 and was the first to adopt Hamilton as a surname.
- James, Duke of Hamilton, was Charles I’s supporter in Scotland during the Civil War. Like his King he was tried and executed in 1649.
- Alexander Hamilton was an early
18th century Scottish privateer who wrote an account of his experiences in 1727, A New Account of the East
- Alexander Hamilton was the first US Secretary of the Treasury in 1789 killed in a duel in 1804.
- George Hamilton founded the city of
Hamilton in Ontario.
- Willie Hamilton was the Scots anti-monarchy MP for Fife in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
- Lewis Hamilton is the British challenger for the most wins in the F1 motor racing championship.
Select Hamilton Numbers Today
- 38,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 73,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 43,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Select Hamilton and Like Surnames
These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands. Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history. Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.
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