Little Surname Genealogy

The common explanation of the Little surname was that
it originally was a nickname describing a little man. Alternatively,
it might signify the younger of
two men bearing the same name. Little has
its surname counterparts as Klein in Germany and Petit in France
However, many with the name of Little originated from the Scottish
border clan of Little. The early spelling seems to have been
Lidil or Litil. The meaning here is unclear.

Little Resources on

Little Ancestry

Little surname
in Scotland may have been English. The name
then appeared at the time of William Wallace in the late 1200’s.
Soon afterwards the Littles were to be found in Dumfriesshire on the
Scottish borders. In 1426 Simon
Little became the first Laird of Meikledale.

Border Reivers.
For three centuries the Littles
shared with the Armstrongs and Beatties the steep-sided dales
immediately to
the north and west of the present town of Langholm at the extreme east
end of
Dumfriesshire. These clans
thrived during the lawless times of the 1500’s on the
Scottish borders. One source of income
was sheep.
Another source was stealing
horses, from the
English or wherever they could find them.

1568 over a hundred Littles rode with the Armstrongs and other Border
in John Maxwell’s raid on Stirling. Family tradition has it that
the Littles
returned with many more horses than they set out with.”

1603 King James of Scotland and England was determined to put down this
lawlessness. His wish was carried through with sword, noose and torch. Chiefs were hanged and those who survived
were forced to quit their lands.

David Little was to be the
last Laird of Meikledale. He was given
work as a groom at Windsor castle and his line died out a century later.

Elsewhere. The Littles of Liberton in
Edinburgh, burgess
merchants, were a branch of the border clan that dated from around
Clement Little was a founder of the University of Edinburgh Library in
His son William Little was twice Provost of Edinburgh.
These Littles later became Little

The Border Littles had begun to
scatter in the early 17th century, fleeing from persecution, poverty
overcrowding. They crossed the English
border into Cumberland and to the Ulster plantations.
Littles in both Cumberland and Ulster now
outnumber those in Dumfriesshire.

England. The English county of
Cumberland was a
natural settling point for Border Littles, the town of Carlisle being
twenty miles south of the Scottish western Marches.
Littles found work there as cloth

William Little, born in 1676 and
a tenant farmer in Stapleton parish, seems to have been the ancestor of
Littles, both in England and in America (a descendant Thomas Little
for South Carolina in 1806).

There were
Littles, probably unrelated, in SW England.
William Little and his son George were merchants in
Dorchester, Dorset in the 1630’s
. Thomas Little departed Devon for Plymouth,
Massachusetts in 1631. John Little of Corsham in
Wiltshire was transported to Barbados in 1657. Other Littles
Wiltshire included John Little who
married Margaret Wait in Corsham in 1761 and Joseph Little who married
Jones in Trowbridge in 1790.

Ireland. Little is a name found in
Ulster. Interestingly the largest numbers
in Griffith’s Valuation of the mid-19th
century were in the inland counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Fermanagh was where many Armstrongs had
migrated and Littles had followed them there.

Robert and Jane Little had four children born in Enniskillen between
1676 and 1682. They had descendants at
Aghalurcher and elsewhere in Fermanagh. Meanwhile a Little family
had been leasing land at Pubble township near Enniskillen from 1744. Archibald Little of this family married
Isabella Potters
around 1788 and they later emigrated to America. Francis
Little was born near Clones in
in the late 1700’s

The Gaelic surname O’Beagain
was derived from beag meaning
“small” or “little.” This sometime got
as Little in Munster.

America. The first Littles in America were English.

English. Thomas Little who sailed from
Devon was first recorded in Massachusetts in 1633.
He later made his home in Littletown,
Marshfield. George and Nathaniel Little,
both born in Marshfield, fought in the Revolutionary War:

  • George was a Navy officer who was captured
    by the British,
    imprisoned, but later escaped. His
    capture of a French vessel in 1800 caused controversy.
  • while
    Nathaniel served on land as a captain
    during the Revolutionary War. He later
    made his home in Ohio.

Another English
arrival, from London, was George Little who came to
Newbury, Massachusetts in 1640. His
descendants included Colonel Moses Little
and Colonel Joshua Little,
remarkable men of vigor at the time of the Revolutionary War, and
Coffin Little, born in Maine, who co-founded the publishing company of
Brown & Co in 1837. George Little’s
1877 book Descendants of George Little covered
this line.

to family legend (although unproven), John Little was born about 1675
Scotland and came to what was then East Jersey sometime in the early
1700’s. He was the forebear of a notable
New Jersey family based in Monmouth county.
He and his son John were both sitting Judges on
the Court of Common Pleas in the county.
Interestingly, these Littles of Scottish
extraction all married Dutch women between the years 1735 and 1820.

The Littles
were Patriots during the
and suffered brutality from the British as a result. After the war one son Thomas became a member of the New Jersey legislature. Another son Theophilus purchased several
thousand acres of land in Pennsylvania in an area that was to become
county. His family moved there in stages
between 1803 and 1813. His son Thomas,
known as Squire Little, moved to Ohio in 1815 and there were later
descendants in Illinois.

Captain George
Little from Dumfries arrived in South Carolina and fought in the
War. He was severely wounded during the
fighting, leaving him a cripple. He died
in Kentucky. His son John migrated to
Tennessee and then to Texas. William
also from Dumfries and also in South Carolina, was killed in 1781
during the
Revolutionary War. His son William Joseph
Little settled in Georgia, fought in the Creek Indian War, and was a Justice
of the Peace in Carroll county.

German. There were also Kleins who became Littles in
America. Johann Peter Klein, also
known as Peter Little, was the founder of Littlestown in Adams county,
Pennsylvania in 1760. Colonel Peter Little was a US Congressman for
Maryland in
the early 1800’s; while Henry Little settled in Frederick county,

Another Klein/Little line began with Johann
Daniel Klein who became Daniel Little in Rowan county, North Carolina. Pauline Shook’s 1994 book was entitled Captain Daniel Little and His Contemporaries. Daniel’s descendants started a family
organization at their reunion in Hickory, North Carolina in 1978.

Caribbean. George and
Matthew Little left Dumfriesshire for Jamaica in the early
1800’s. Both died young there in their twenties within a year of
each other. But they left descendants.

Australia and New Zealand.
Francis Little from Dumfriesshire came out to
Australia on a convict ship in 1823. His
brother Archibald followed him two years later.
They were early settlers in Hunter Valley, NSW.
Archibald later returned to Britain. Francis
stayed. On his death in 1860 his Invermian estate reverted to his eldest son William who
held it for
another seventeen years.

James Little
was a shepherd in Midlothian who came to New Zealand in the
1860’s. He worked initially as a
shepherd at the Corriedale station in Otago, SI before leasing land in
Canterbury. There he became a successful
sheep breeder.

Little Miscellany

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

Little Names

Simon Little, the Laird of of Meikledale in 1426, is considered
the first chief of the Scottish border Little clan.  

Frank Little was an American labor
union leader of the early 1900’s who was murdered by his opponents in
Arthur D. Little founded the chemical engineering consulting company of
D. Little in Boston in 1909.
His nephew Royal Little, the founder of Textron, is
generally considered as the father of conglomerates.

Malcolm Little
, better known as Malcolm X,
was an African American Muslim
minister and human rights activist who was assassinated in 1965.
Tasmin Little
is a highly acclaimed English
classical violinist

Select Littles Today

  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



Leave a Reply