Hughes Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hughes Meaning
Hughes is a patronymic surname from
Anglo-Norman Hugo which developed in the vernacular as Hue and
Hugh.  St. Hugh of Lincoln established the first Carthusian
monastery in England in the 12th century.
Select Hughes Resources on The Internet

Select Hughes Ancestry

Wales. The name became prevalent in Wales, being first found
there in Carmarthenshire. This may seem surprising as Hugh was
Anglo-Norman in origin rather than Welsh. But Hugh (and
Hughes) became a Welsh name simply because it bore a resemblance to the
Welsh name of Hywel or Howell. Hughes gradually replaced Hywel in the
15th and
16th centuries.

North Wales. The
Hughes name in Wales today is mainly to be found in north
, in present day Clwyd and Gwynedd. Among early Hughes
in this

  • Daffyd
    Llwyd ap Hugh
    , who set up his family home at Plas
    in Anglesey in
    the 16th century. A descendant William Bulkeley Hughes was
    in developing Llandudno as a holiday resort in the 19th century.
  • David Hughes, a
    native of Beaumaris in Anglesey, who funded the free Grammar School
    there in
  • the Rev. William Hughes who became Bishop of St. Asaph
    in Flintshire in
    1573. A descendant the Rev. Edward Hughes bought the Kinmel
    Flintshire in the 1780’s. He had owned land on Parys mountain in
    where copper was discovered and had grown rich on its proceeds.
  • and John ap Hugh, a
    Quaker from Merionethshire, who emigrated to Pennsylvania on the Robert and Elizabeth in 1698. His
    descendants there became Hughes.

William ap Huw was born in Flintshire around
1570 and his descendants, who held land at Llewerllyd, became Hughes. They apparently had to fight for the right to
a seat and burial plot at their local church at
Dyserth. But their family tomb is there
and can be seen beneath a gnarled yew tree.

A 17th century Hughes line from
Gelle Faulor in Flintshire descended to the Rev. Thomas Hughes,
headmaster of
Ruthin School in Denbighshire, and to:

  • five generations of Hughes who were vicars of Uffington
    Berkshire over the course of the 18th century. The last of them,
    Thomas Hughes, was
    canon at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • and to Thomas’s grandson Thomas Hughes, famous for his book about Rugby school, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, which came out
    in 1857.

England. There have
been Hughes recorded across the border, in Cheshire, Lancashire

One notable Hughes family was involved in the papermaking
industry from the 1760’s in the Manchester and Bolton area.
Hughes was a successful industrialist in St. Helens who became a major
landowner in Sutton. Some of the English Hughes had originally
come from
Wales. Quentin Hughes who did much to preserve Liverpool’s
architectural heritage had Welsh parents.

Ireland. Hughes came to
Ireland from Wales; or it can also be Irish – from the Gaelic O’Haodha,
meaning “fire.” The name crops up principally in Armagh (where it
the second most common surname), but is also in Fermanagh and Tyrone.

A Welsh Hughes family
came over with Cromwell in 1649 and settled first in Monaghan and then
Tyrone. Hughes from this family
emigrated to Tennessee and Canada in the early 1800’s.

began to arrive in America around the year 1700, into Virginia and

Virginia. There
Hughes in Virginia by 1700, reportedly from Wales.
One old account talks of a Trader Hughes
who established a trading post with his Indian wife on the north side
of the
James river. Another line was in
Powhatan county. Jesse Hughes, whose
father had been killed by Indians in 1778, later became one of the most
frontier scouts of his time.

Hughes, born of uncertain origins in Virginia around 1780, was the
forebear of
Howard Hughes
senior, who made his fortune in oil drilling equipment,
and of his
more famous son Howard Hughes junior, the aviator pioneer and film

John Hughes, formerly
John ap Hugh, was the forebear of the Quaker Hughes in Berks county. His son Ellis moved from Gwynedd to Olney in
1731 and was a leader at the Exeter Meeting.
Ellis’s son John married Daniel Boone’s daughter Hannah in 1742
and they
had two children before Hannah died at the age of 27.

Another Ellis Hughes of this family, a
public surveyor, was among the first settlers of the Catawissa area in
county in the 1770’s. William Hughes,
his cousin, laid out the township in 1786 and Job Hughes, his brother,
was a
Quaker minister there.

Other Hughes
from Merionethshire came to Montgomery county, Pennsylvania where they
established their home, Walnut Grove,
in the early 1700’s. John Hughes of this
family was appointed the stamp officer for Pennsylvania by Benjamin
Franklin in
1765. Isaac Hughes was in residence at Walnut Grove during the Revolutionary
War and General Washington visited him frequently there during his time
Valley Forge.

Thomas Hughes, from a wealthy Irish family in
Donegal, came to Virginia in 1739 because of religious problems. His family
large landowners, first in Virginia and then in Pennsylvania, retaining
house servants that they had brought with them from Ireland. Later Hughes migrated west to Indiana and
Ohio. Thomas Hughes’s 1880 book Memoirs of My Family described their

Hughes from a Hughes sept in Tyrone emigrated to America in
1817. He
became a Catholic priest there and
was regarded as “the best known if not exactly the best loved Catholic
in the country.” He
was the
first Archbishop of New York and founder of Fordham University.

Canada. In 1804 Job Hughes, the Quaker
minister at Catawissa, moved to the new Quaker settlement at Newmarket
Ontario. His son Samuel became a
president of Canada’s first farm cooperative, the Farmers’ Storehouse
and was a reform politician.

Hughes, the Canadian munitions minister in World War One, had Irish
blood in
him. His father John Hughes worked at Tyrone,
Ontario and then at Solina nearby,
which was where Sam was born.

Australia. Billy
Hughes, born and raised in London, was the son of Welsh-speaking
parents. He came to Australia in 1884 at
the age of 22
and involved himself in politics, first with the Socialist League and
then with
the newly-formed Labor party. He was
Labor Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923 and
proved to be an effective and popular war leader


Hughes Miscellany

Daffydd Llwyd ap Hugh at Plas Coch.  Daffydd Llwyd ap Hugh began the construction of his home at Plas Coch in Anglesey in 1569.  He was the first of his family to take the English surname of Hughes.

He married into the Montagu family (the Dukes
of Manchester) which brought him many contacts in the English legal and
political establishment of the time.  He
was Anglesey’s MP in 1597 and then Attorney-General for North Wales.   In 1609 James I appointed him Lord Chief
Justice of Ireland, but he died before being able to take up the post.The Plas Coch manor house and grounds were
recently restored into a luxury holiday home park.

The Rev. Thomas Hughes of Ruthin School.  Ruthin School is one of the oldest private schools in
the country.  The Rev. Thomas Hughes,
previously a master at Hanmer School in Flintshire, was appointed its
headmaster in 1739.  It was said that “he
carried the School to a degree of celebrity it had not before obtained.”  He held the position until 1768.
He was also the rector at Llanfwrog until his
death in 1776.

Rev. Thomas, born in 1713, had been the son of Captain Myndic
Hughes of Liverpool and the grandson of a Hughes from Gelle Faulor in
Flintshire.  He apparently bore the arms
of his uncle Thomas Wood of Hillingdon in Middlesex whose estate he
in 1748.

children of the Rev. Thomas
and his wife Elizabeth (nee Salusbury) included Robert Hughes of
Holborn in
London and the Rev. Thomas Hughes of Kew in Surrey.
This Rev. Thomas was the grandfather of Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s
and of his sister, Jane Hughes, described
by Florence Nightingale as ‘a noble
army of one’ on account of her work for pauper children. 

The Hughes of Kinmel.  The Kinmel estate in Flintshire, which had been
around since the 16th century, was acquired in 1786 by the Rev. Edward

The family money had come when Edward, a
young curate in Anglesey, had fallen in love with Mary Lewis, the
daughter of
his employer, the rector of Trefdraeth.  She had been left on the
death of
her uncle the house of Llysdulas on Anglesey, along with a “barren

This hill was what is now known as Parys Mountain, the great
copper mine that was to be owned by Edward Hughes and his partner Sir
Bayly.  At its peak the mine employed
1,500 miners and Hughes and Bayly divided upwards of £300,000 a year, a
amount of money at the turn of the 19th century. Through this windfall
Edward Hughes had built up a prodigious estate, the jewel of which was

In 1860 Kinmel passed to a nephew of the
family, Hugh Robert Hughes, affectionately known as HRH.
This was a reflection not just of his
initials, but of his grand lifestyle and affectations.
HRH embarked upon a massive construction
program for the estate.  Kinmel Hall was
built with 52 main bedrooms and quarters for 60 live-in servants and a
used only for ironing the newspapers.
The flamboyance of HRH proved the old adage of: “It takes one
to start an estate, one to consolidate it, and a third to lose it.”

Although the
family ceased to live there in 1929, it still occupies a prominent
situation in
the park and serves as a reminder of Victorian splendor and excess.

The Hughes Name Distribution in 1881.  There
were approximately 84,000 Hughes in the UK
census of 1881.Some 25,000 or 30% were in north Wales and 35,000 or 42%
Wales as a whole.

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Caernarvon    8.1 23
Denbighshire    5.5    16
Anglesey    5.4    15
Flintshire    4.3    12
Merioneth    2.2     6
Elsewhere in Wales   10.1    28
Total   35.3   100

Hughes name had extended principally into the
English counties that were neighboring to north Wales.

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Lancashire   12.5 26
Staffordshire    3.9     8
Cheshire    3.6     7
Shropshire    2.3     5
Elsewhere   26.3    54
Total in
  48.6   100

largest numbers in Lancashire were to be found
in Liverpool, notably in Toxteth Park and Everton.

Trader Hughes in Virginia.  Most histories of Amherst county, Virginia recount
the first settler in the area to be an Indian trader known as “Trader
Hughes.”   He had established a
trading post on the James River about a half-mile west of the mouth of
Creek.  He had the first stone chimney in
the area, which qualified him as the first permanent settler.  This location was where several Indian paths
intersected and near the river access to the Valley of Virginia,
apparently a
busy intersection in the mid/late 1600’s.

Indian wife was said to be Princess
Nicketti Powhatan, the niece of the famous Pocahontas.
Hughes and Nicketti had one daughter
Elizabeth, born around 1654.  She married
Nathaniel Davis, a Welshman and an early settler in the region.  He made a large fortune by having choice
river-bottom lands and trading with the Indians.

who was Trader Hughes?

historical references described him as a
Scotsman, others said that he was an English cavalier, and others again
that he
may have been Welsh.  His first name could
have been John; or Rees or Rice.  There
is no known connection with any other Hughes in Amherst county. 

The Howard Hughes Line.  Howard Hughes Jr – the aviator, film maker and latter
day eccentric – has captured all the headlines.
But it was his father, Howard Hughes Sr, who was the source of
family fortunes.

had been a classic
entrepreneur, trying and failing at many endeavors before eventually
success.  This came in the form of the
two-cone roller bit which he patented.
It allowed rotary drilling for petroleum in places previously
inaccessible.  He then made the shrewd
and lucrative decision to commercialize the invention by leasing the
instead of selling them, and founded the Hughes Tool Company in 1909.

traceable Hughes line is five generations long:

  • William
    Hughes (born 1780), born in Virginia (of possible English origin).
  • Joshua Hughes (1808-1901), a farmer and
    blacksmith who migrated west to Illinois.
  • Felix
    Hughes (1837-1926), born in
    Illinois.  He fought in the Civil War and
    later settled in Missouri.
  • Howard
    Hughes Sr. (1869
    – 1924), born in Missouri.  The
  • and
    Hughes Jr. (1905
    – 1976), born in
    Texas.  The famous son.

John and Sam Hughes in Canada.  The following were some recollections about John Hughes and his son Sam by a man who knew them both:

“John Hughes was a
man of rare and varied ability, a typical Irish gentleman endowed with
all the
Irish man’s wit and humor.  Possibly his
most marked characteristic was a marvellously tenacious memory. The
recalls hearing him one night in John Gray’s store, at the time of the
Fenian raid, repeat a humorous parody of over two hundred, four line
descriptive of the Fenian trouble in Ireland some years previous.  At its conclusion he stated that he had not
repeated this poem for twenty years.

Of his sons we all know Sir Sam, first in
prominence, as Minister of Militia in the country’s most critical
period.  He
achieved a success not surpassed by any incident of the Great War, not
over-shadowed by immortal Verdun. In a non-military country just
emerging from
colonial status, he raised, trained, equipped and transported to Great
an army of 33,000 men in the inconceivable limited period of six months
and two

Later that band of heroes faced
and held and defeated the onslaught of the army outnumbering them ten
to one,
part of the most highly trained and perfectly equipped fighting machine
ever took the field in the world’s history. The place of Sir Sam in
history is assured.”


Hughes Names

  • Thomas Hughes was the Victorian author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays.
  • Billy Hughes, of Welsh parentage, was Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923.
  • Charles Hughes, a Republican politician from New York, was the Chief Justice of the United States from 1930 to 1941.
  • Langston Hughes was an African
    American poet who flourished during the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Howard Hughes was an American aviator, industrialist, and film maker. He was one of the wealthiest men of the world in the
    1930’s but ended his life as a recluse.
  • Ted Hughes was the English Poet
    Laureate from 1984 to 1998.

Select Hughes Numbers Today

  • 148,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gwynedd)
  • 90,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 69,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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