Jewell Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Jewell Meaning
Jewell is an English surname of French Breton or Celtic Cornish origin. The root is the Old Breton Iudicael or the Celtic Jud and hael, composed of elements meaning “lord” and “generous” or
“bountiful.” The name was borne by a 7th century saint, a king of Brittany who abdicated and then spent the last part of
his life in a monastery.
As Jule, Jewel, Jewell, or even Jekyll, it was a name found mainly in Devon and Cornwall.

Jewell Resources on

Jewell Ancestry

EnglandJudhael de Totnes from Brittany, a prominent
supporter of William the Conqueror, was granted a large landholding in Devon
after the invasion. He may have been the origin of many of the
Jewell names in that county.

Jewell has been mainly a name of Devon and Cornwall (which together accounted for just
under half of the Jewells in the
1881 census
). Early reported
Jewells from these counties

  • The name Warinfilius (son of) Juelis, recorded in Devon
    in 1273.
  • John Jewel, a freelance English captain who fought in Brittany in the 14th century. His troops were defeated
    by a Breton army under Bertrand du Guesclin in 1364.
  • another John Jewell, born in
    Buden (Devon) in 1522, who became a priest. He
    was persecuted by the Catholics because of his strong
    Protestant beliefs. He was mainly known from his writings on ecclesiastical subjects which
    were later collected and published as a book.
  • and George Jule or Jewell, who was
    born in Poughill in Cornwall, close by the Devon border, in 1567 and was the
    first of a Cornish Jewell family that has been traced.
    These Jewells moved to the Wendron area of
    Cornwall in the early 1700’s.

A Jewell line from Clovelly in north Devon began with Jonathan Jewell, born there around
1710. Clovelly church records contain
nineteen references to different members of this family over time. They tended to be either farmers or
seamen. Jonathan Jewell was drowned in
the great storm of 1821. A number of
Jewells emigrated to Australia and Canada in the mid-19th century. But there were still ten Jewell families left
in the village by the time of the 1871 census.

Archie Jewell, from nearby Bude in Cornwall, was a lookout on the Titanic on its fateful voyage in
1912. He was one of the few to
survive. Later he served aboard and
survived the sinking of the Britannic.

Jewell can be a Jewish name. A Jewish
family fled Poland at the time of
Napoleon’s invasion and ended up in Jersey in the Channel Islands. Some of these Jewells remained there, others
came to London. Joel Jewell, a furniture dealer in Paddington,
died in 1892 and was buried in Balls Pond Jewish cemetery.

America.  Thomas Jewell, origin unknown, came on the Planter at
the age of 27 to New England in 1635. He was a miller but died in
Braintree at a relatively young age in 1654.
His wife Grissell was to marry a further four times before her
death in 1669 and two of her husbands provided financial support for her five children
by Thomas. These Jewells later
established themselves at Marlboro in Middlesex county, Massachusetts. Their lineage was covered in Pliny Jewell’s 1860 book The Jewell Register.

This Pliny Jewell, born in
1797, was the founder in Hartford, Connecticut of the largest maker of industrial leather belting in the world at the time.
His son Marshall Jewell was twice Governor of
Connecticut before making his name on the national stage, first as US Minister
to Russia and then as US Postmaster General.
He looked the part. He was distinguished by his fine
“china” skin, grey eyes, and white eyebrows, and was popularly known as the ‘Porcelain Man.’”

Another line from Thomas Jewell via his son Joshua led
to Eliphalet Jewell, an earlier settler in Oneida county, NY in 1814, and after whom the Jewell hamlet was named.

The Maryland Jewells started
with George Jewell who was born there in 1710.
A later George Jewell migrated to Virginia, Kentucky, and then
to Missouri where he started the first Baptist church at Columbia in 1820. It was his son William – a church minister,
educator, physician, and surveyor – who was to leave his mark on the town, serving as its mayor and later as a state legislator.
His legacy is the William Jewell
College. Inside the Jewell cemetery, his
tombstone reads: “His work is done, he did it well and faithfully.”

There were Jewells as well in New
Jersey. Moses Jewell was born in
Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the 1760’s.
He moved to Greene county, Pennsylvania and his descendants were to be
found in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas.
Donavene Brian Liggett’s 1998 book A
Jewell Family History
covered this line. Another
Jewell line began with Thomas
, orphaned at a young age, who was born in Montgomery
county, Virginia in 1765.

Australia.  The collapse of the mining industry
in Cornwall in the 19th century caused many Jewells to emigrate to

  • Thomas Jewell and his family from Crowen, for instance, departed Cornwall for
    Australia in 1852 and settled in Geelong, Victoria.
  • a few years later Joseph
    Jewell and his brother Edwin left their home in Clovelly, Devon to seek their
    fortunes in the Victoria goldfields. Joseph
    survived the wreck of the General
    off the coast of New Zealand in 1866.
  • while John and Elizabeth Jewell
    left Cornwall for the Victorian goldfields on the Caduceus
    in 1869. John became a mine manager in Bendigo and prospered.

Richard Jewell had emigrated to Western Australia from Devon in 1852 to seek a better climate for his frail wife. Trained as
an architect, he designed many of the public buildings put up in Perth during the latter half of the 19th century.


Jewell Miscellany

Judhael de Totnes.  Judhael de Totnes from Brittany was a prominent supporter of William the Conqueror.  His recording in the Domesday Book suggests
that Judhael took the title “de Totnes” when he was granted authority over this
region in Devon.  After Baldwin the
sheriff, Judhael was the largest landowner in Devon and Totnes was the seat of his power.

Notes in the Devon Domesday Book suggest that Judhael was expelled from Totnes in 1087 and that the barony was granted to another.  However, he secured the barony of Barnstaple
sometime between 1095 and 1100.  As such, he witnessed a charter of Henry 1 in
1123.  But he was dead by 1130.  At that
time his son Alfred appears as if he was paying relief on his father’s lands.

Joseph Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant.  On May 6, 1866 the American clipper General
left Melbourne bound for
England via Cape Horn.  On board were 83
passengers and crew, and a cargo of wool, hides, wood,
and 2,500 ounces of gold.

After ten days at sea the ship was wrecked on the west coast of the Auckland islands.  Thinking it unwise to abandon ship in
darkness the captain waited until morning before launching the
longboats.  By this time the swell was high with
hazardous backwashes.  Only two partially
loaded boats were able to clear the wreck and all but 13 men and one woman were lost.

There were no living inhabitants on the island and the survivors were there for 18 months before they were rescued by a passing whaler.  Two of these survivors were Joseph Harvey Jewell from Clovelly in Devon and his wife Mary Ann.

The couple returned to
Australia.  Joseph wrote to his
father Captain John Jewell back in Clovelly of his experience:  “Such a night of terror I think was never
experienced by human beings.”  His wife
Mary Ann was quite successful in her lecture tours, traveling round giving accounts of
their shipwreck and survival.  She
dressed up in her sealskin outfit to add impact to her story.

Jewells in the 1881 Census

County Numbers Percent
Devon    680    22
Cornwall    610    20
London    460    15
Elsewhere   1,400    43
Total   3,150   100

Reader Feedback – Jewells from London.  Very interesting.  My father Clifford Jewell was born in London. He married my mother Erda from South Africa.  We emigrated from South Africa to Florida in 1994.

Avi Jewell (

Early Jewells in America.  Pliny Jewell’s
1860 book The Jewell Register traced
the descendants of Thomas Jewell who came to New England in 1635 and settled in
Braintree.  The book had the following
things to say about other early Jewells.

“Our lists contain over eighteen
hundred Jewells and there may be as many more that we cannot trace to our progenitor.  George Jewell was at Saco in Maine in 1637 and Samuel at Boston in
1655.  They may have been brethren or
kinsmen of Thomas. Nathaniel in Boston in 1694 and George sen. of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, were brothers, and probably related to the above.

We find some Jewells in Maine, some in New Hampshire (which descend from Mark), some
along the Hudson river, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in the South and West
which have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Harmonand Robert to their fathers.  Some are the children of Richard Jewell who
came from Devon in 1774.”

A Jewell Orphan in Virginia.  The family
story is that Thomas’s father was killed as he returned from Norfolk where he had gone to collect some money from property there.  He was said to have stopped at the home of
his brother John, who kept a tavern, and to have said that it was time he was
getting home as he was paying for his dinner with the last of his money.  He was then shot and killed as he was nearly
home.  The murderer was never
discovered.  Thomas’s mother did not live much longer.

The young Thomas was bound
out when he was around 14 years old to John McFarling by a Loudoun county court order in 1779.

Jewell in Upstate New York.  Jewell is
a hamlet on the north shore of Oneida Lake in Oneida county, New York.  At
present it consists of a church, a cemetery, and year-round and summer residences.  In the past it was a thriving community with a store, hotel, mills,
boat-building and lumber industries.

The first settler was said to have been
Eliphalet Jewell from Connecticut, a soldier in the Revolutionary War, who
owned land there in 1814 and soon installed a gristmill.
Eliphalet died in 1826.  Another Jewell, Silas a distant
cousin, also lived there for a while.
The place was known as West Vienna until 1921 when the name was changed to Jewell in honor of the Jewell family.

Elmira Jewell, Pioneer Woman.  In 1856
Harrison Jewell from New Hampshire married Elmira Sawyer in Iowa.  They had two children, Viola and
Clarence.  Then in 1860 Harrison
disappeared.  Family lore has him going
West during the Gold Rush.  Or was there
another reason?

Elmira became Granny Jewell to her family.  Both
her children subsequently married, but
both then died.  It was Granny Jewell who
came to look after the various grandchildren.
She remained active into her nineties, quilting and crocheting
many projects.

At the Central City home of her granddaughter Julia in 1930, at the age of ninety six, Elmira’s long life came to an end.
Her five grandchildren and countless great
and great-great grandchildren survived her.


Jewell Names

  • Judhael de Totnes, an early landowner in Devon, was probably the main source of the Jewell name in Devon. 
  • John Jewell, the Bishop of Salisbury during Elizabethan times, was a prolific writer on ecclesiastical matters. 
  • Marshall Jewell was a prominent US politician of the late 19th century, serving twice as Governor of Connecticut and later serving as US Postmaster General.
  • Archie Jewell was a lookout (and a survivor) on the Titanic
    on its fateful voyage in 1912.

Select Jewell Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Devon)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Jewell and Like Surnames

Many surnames originated from SW England, the principal counties there being Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestershire.  These are some of the prominent and noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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