Lawrence Surname Genealogy

derives from the male name Laurentius, which itself originates
from Laurentium, the “city of laurels,” in Italy. The idea of the
laurel as a symbol of victory was probably one factor behind the
popularity of the name.
In addition Lawrence was the
name borne by a
saint martyred at Rome
in the 3rd century AD
who enjoyed a considerable cult following throughout Europe in
medieval times. In England Laurence, the second Archbishop of
Canterbury, was revered as a saint after his death in AD 619.
The main spellings in English have been Lawrence and Laurence, together
with the abbreviated forms of Laurie and Lowrie. Elsewhere
Laurent is a common name in French, Lorenzo in Italian and Spanish,
Lourenco in Portuguese, and Laurenz in German.

Lawrence Resources on

Lawrence Ancestry

The founder of the first Lawrence line in England
said to have been Robert Laurens. The story about him runs as

“During the Third Crusade in 1191
Robert Laurens
was knighted by Richard the Lionheart. King Phillip of France had sworn to have his men reach
the battlements ahead of the English at the great walled city of Acre. Both
he and King Richard came down with a bad case of the ague and could not
fight. But Robert Laurens ran and climbed and affixed the banner
of St George on the highest tower.”

Lancashire. The
Lawrence family established themselves
at Ashton
near Lancaster. Edmund
Agnes de Wessington in 1390 and thus began the entwining
of the Lawrence and Washington families. Lawrence Washington
Sulgrave manor in Oxfordshire in the 17th century, the home
from which George Washington’s great-grandfather departed for
Virginia in 1656. Meanwhile the Lawrence family – now based in
St. Albans in Hertfordshire – were Royalists during the English Civil
War. They later became landowners in New York.

Elsehwere. Early
Lawrence lines
from the 16th century show a wide
distribution around the country, from Lancashire to Gloucestershire and
Dorset in the southwest and from Durham and Yorkshire down the east
coast as far as Suffolk and London.

The Lawrences of Suffolk have been traced back to Thomas Lawrence of
Rumburgh who died in 1471. John Lawrence emigrated to
America in 1630. Another Lawrence line extended to
Chelsea in
Middlesex in the 16th century. Their numbers included Sir Thomas
Lawrence, goldsmith and merchant adventurer in the City of
London. He was the grandfather of the Robert Lawrence who
to Virginia in 1638.

Henry Lawrence, a Huntingdonshire landowner, was a Puritan who came
to prominence with Cromwell. He served as President of the
Council of State during the Protectorate. His younger son John
emigrated first to Barbados and then in 1676 to Jamaica where he
founded a
wealthy dynasty of plantation owners.

William Lawrence had been born in Burford, Oxfordshire in 1753 but
moved to Cirencester in Gloucestershire where he became the town’s
chief surgeon and physician. His son William became an even more
famous surgeon, recognized as one of the best in the land and the
recipient of a baronetcy from Queen Victoria. His son and
grandson were both noted horticulturists.

The St Lawrence family in Ireland descended from Christopher St
Lawrence who was elevated to the peerage as Baron Howth around 1425.
This Anglo-Irish family held Howth castle near Dublin. The third
and fourth barons both served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

From the Lawrences of Lancashire, it was said,
came John Lawrence and his brother Walter in 1584 as Irish
serving Queen Elizabeth. John settled at
Ballymore in Clonfert parish in east Galway where he built himself a
castle. Being Catholic and Royalist, they
during the Cromwellian years.

descendants moved to Lisreaghan
the early 1700’s and made their home at Belview. The
Prince of Wales, later George IV, visited
Belview in the 1780’s.

“According to family tradition, the visit
allowed the Prince to tide himself over some domestic difficulties he
having with his father. His stay was
said to have coincided with the arrival from Italy of a bust of the

The Lawrence estate fell into decay in the late 19th
century and by
1908 there were no longer any Lawrences left living at Lisreaghan.

America. Initially, the
Lawrence name was to be found in New England and New York.

New England.
Three Lawrences
came to New England in the 1630’s and were the forebears of illustrious
Lawrence families in America:

  • John Lawrence arrived on the Arbella
    in 1630 and settled in Groton, Massachusetts where he died in
    1663. His descendants were to be found there for a number of
    generations. In the early 1800’s
    four brothers – William, Amos, Abbot, and Samuel –
    made names for themselves in Boston as merchants, manufacturers and
    Amos’s son, Amos
    Adams Lawrence
    , was a key figure in the abolitionist
    in America in the years leading up to the Civil War.
  • William Lawrence came on the Planter
    in 1635 and ten years later received a grant
    from the Dutch for land in Flushing in present-day Brooklyn. He
    resided at what became known as Lawrence Neck and died there in
    1680. Joseph, his second son, had his mansion on Long Island
    Sound and entertained lavishly, his home being frequently crowded with
    society people from New York and Brooklyn.
  • and
    Lawrence came some years later. He obtained possession of a tract
    of land
    in Newtown,
    Long Island in 1655 and afterwards
    purchased the whole of Hell-Gate Neck, from Hell-Gate Cove to Bowery
    Bay. He died in Newtown in 1703.

    Jonathan Lawrence, his great grandson, made two fortunes – one before
    the Revolutionary War and one after.

New York
and New Jersey
. The Lawrence family in New York
rich and powerful through colonial times and well into the 19th
century. Meanwhile the
of Hertfordshire were also large landowners in New York by this
time. T
last of this Lawence line, Emma Lawrence, brought her land in the Bronx
on Long Island to her marriage to Leonard Jacob in the 1860’s.

Elmira in upstate New York in 1842 was born William Van Duzer
Lawrence. He became a millionaire real-estate
and pharmaceutical mogul who is best known for having founded Sarah
Lawrence College in 1926.

Another Lawrence family was prominent in the early history of New
Jersey. John Lawrence created the “Lawrence Line”
when he surveyed the boundary between East and West Jersey in
1743. Lawrence’s great grandson,
Captain James Lawrence, achieved lasting
fame in the War of 1812.

“Captain Lawrence of
the Chesapeake, with a green
and mutinous crew, unwisely
accepted a challenge from the British Captain Broke of the Shannon. He
sortied from Boston to defeat and glorious death on June 1, 1813.
As he lay mortally wounded, he
uttered the immortal phrase, ‘Don’t give up the ship.'”

Ironically, his Loyalist father had fled to Canada during the
Revolutionary War, leaving a half-sister to raise him.

German Lawrences.
Johann Philipp Lorentz departed the Rhineland
Palatine for America in 1748, settling first in the Shenandoah valley
and then
moving to Beaver county, Pennsylvania.
The spelling by this time had changed to Lawrence.
Isaac Lawrence headed west to Dearborn county,
Indiana in 1818 with several of his brothers and they founded the small
hamlet of Lawrenceville

Australia. A line of Lawrences went from the Lawrences of
Newtown, New York to Effingham Lawrence, a merchant in Trinity House,
London after America was lost, to William Effingham Lawrence, who
travelled independently to Australia on his own boat in 1822. He
received large land grants in Tasmania and became one of the largest
landowners in the colony.

Lawrence Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Lawrence Names

Sir Thomas Lawrence was a leading English portrait
painter of the early 1800’s.
Amos Lawrence of Boston was a key
figure in the abolition movement in America in the years leading up to
the Civil War.
D.H Lawrence was an acclaimed
but controversial English writer, author of such novels as Women in Love and Lady Chettersley’s Lover.
T. E Lawrence,
the “Lawrence of
Arabia,” fought for Arab independence during the First World War and
wrote his account in Seven Pillars
of Wisdom
David Lawrence founded in 1933
the weekly newspaper that became US
News & World Report

Select Lawrences Today

  • 51,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Surrey)
  • 48,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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