Long Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Long Surname Meaning

There appears to be two competing theories for the origin of the Long surname:

  • the first is that it is variation on a Norman-French place name de Longues or de Longa.
  • the other theory is that it is based on a physical characteristic, similar to surnames such as Short or Strong.

The Latin longus produced the Old Englsh lang, meaning “long” or “tall,” which in turn gave rise to the Long, Lang, and Laing surnames.

The spelling may have something to do with local pronunciation. Long as a surname appeared mainly in the south of England, Lang in Devon in the southwest and in the north (early spellings were Berard Long in Suffolk and Adam ye Langge in Yorkshire). There were Longs in Scotland who became Lang or Laing; while the German Lang or Lange often became Long in America.

Well-known extensions of the Long name are Longman, the book publisher, and Longfellow, the poet.

Long Surname Resources on The Internet

Long Surname Ancestry

  • from England, Ireland and Germany
  • to Caribs (Jamaica), America, Canada and Australia

England. The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname of Long started as follows:

“The first record of the name Long was found in Wiltshire where they were seated from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects. They were descended from a Norman noble of Preux in Normandy.”

Wiltshire  The first known of these Longs was the 14th century Roger le Long. His son Robert Long took possession of the South Wraxall and Draycot estates and the Long line extended from him down through thirteen generations.

The Longs led colorful and influential lives in Tudor times. They were in favor at the time of Henry VIII, friends with the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh, yet involved in deadly feuds with their neighbors the Danvers. The line died out in the early 19th century.

A subsidiary line, through Samuel Long, was involved in the conquest of Jamaica in the 1650’s. When Samuel returned to England he acquired Hurts Hall in Suffolk. This house remained with the Long family until the 1950’s. Later came the Viscount Longs, the descendants of the 18th century banker and politician Richard Godolphin Long. Walter Long of this line was the leader of the Irish Unionist party in the early 1900’s.

Warwickshire.  As early as the 13th century a Roger Longus was farming the lord of the manor’s land at Stretton on Fosse, a village in south Warwickshire.  The earliest recorded Long was the Thomas Long who married Margery Proctor around 1560.  Longs were still living there in the 19th century.

Norfolk  The Long name also surfaced in Norfolk. The Longs of Hingham dated from the 1550’s. They took possession of Spixworth Hall in the early 1700’s. The Rev. John Long of Spixworth was chaplain to King George III.

Another Long family held Dunston Hall and were the rectors of St. Mary’s church in Newton Flotman. These Longs built an impressive new manor house of Dunston Hall in 1859. But Fortescue Long who inherited the estate was to spend little time there. He suffered from mental problems and lived most of his life in sanitoriums.

The 19th century distribution of the Long name showed two main clusters:

  • one around Wiltshire in Somerset and Gloucestershire and south into Hampshire;
  • and the other from East Anglia south into London and Kent.

Scotland. Early documents showed Longus and Long spellings. Johannes Longus was recorded in Edinburgh around the year 1200.  But Lang and increasingly Laing dominated as a surname. Long had mainly disappeared by the time of the 1901 census in Scotland.  

Ireland. The Longs in Ireland got their names from a number of different origins. Some are from Norman, English and Scottish descent. The Norman de Longs arrived in the 12th century with the Anglo-Norman conquest and established themselves in a number of locations.

The Longs of Longfield House in Tipperary began with Robert Long from England in the late 1600’s. They remained there as gentry until the famine of the 1840’s. During an outbreak of agrarian violence in 1820, Richard Long, the unpopular landlord at the time, was shot dead while sitting on the toilet. A later Richard Long emigrated to America and a Robert Long of this family became a foreign correspondent for the New York Times.

The Long name also came from the Irish septs of O’Longain and O’Longaig. One sept was located in county Armagh. But the greater numbers were to be found in central Cork from the O’Longs of Cannaway. In 1631 John Long built a mansion overlooking Oysterhaven creek known as Mount Long. He was killed in the subsequent upheavals and his lands were then confiscated.  But Long as a name did continue in Cork.

Caribbean. Samuel Long of the Wiltshire Longs had arrived in Jamaica in 1655 as a lieutenant in the English army and his family established itself as part of the island’s governing planter elite. Edward Long was the author of The History of Jamaica in 1774; while Beeston Long at this time was a highly successful London-based West Indian merchant.

America.  Long in America may be of English, Scottish, Irish or German origin.

English Longs.  Early Long arrivals from England were:

  • Joseph Long from Dorset who came with Winthrop’s fleet in 1630 and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts
  • Robert Long from a family of London innkeepers who arrived on the Defense in 1635 and came to Charlestown (a branch of this family were among the early settlers on Nantucket island)
  • and Deacon Robert Long who was in Newbury, Massachusetts by 1645.

A Long family settled in Culpepper county, Virginia sometime in the late 1600’s. Ware Long of this family was thought by his grandson to have been 112 years old when he died in 1803 (he was in fact probably only in his eighties). J.T. Long wrote Genealogy of the Descendants of Ware Long in 1908.

Meanwhile, John Long had come to Queen Anne’s county, Maryland in the late 1600’s. His descendants later moved onto Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. And it was from Maryland that the forefathers of Huey Long, the Louisiana populist, originated. James Long had moved south to Mississippi in 1841 and it was Huey’s grandfather who then settled in Louisiana.

Irish Longs.  Irish arrivals included:

  • Pierse Long from Limerick in Ireland who came to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1730. His son became a prosperous merchant, trading to the Caribbean, and fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War.
  • Francis Long, Scots Irish from Ulster, who had come to Chester county, Pennsylvania in the late 1720’s.
  • another Pennsylvania arrival, around 1750, was William Long who had come with his father from Derry. It was said that he had seventeen sons, all of whom fought in the Revolutionary War. William, the only one of these sons who has been traced, subsequently married and moved south to Alabama.
  • and another William Long, who had come to Pennsylvania in the early 1760’s, settled in Rutherford county, North Carolina.

German Longs.  Pennsylvania was and still is a state with a large Long population. This reflects as well German Langs/Langes who became Longs. Included in this number were:

  • John Martin Lang who came from Germany around 1720 and settled in Pennsylvania
  • William Long who was born in Pennsylvania in 1769 and moved onto Kentucky and Indiana
  • Ludvig Long who was born in Berks county, Pennsylvania in 1773 and later moved to Ohio
  • George Long who was born in Perry county, Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s and also moved to Ohio
  • and Henry Long who was born in Pennsylvania in 1831 and later moved to Indiana;

while Christian Lange had immigrated to upstate New York in the early 1700’s. It was his grandson Adam, born in 1764, who changed the name to Long.  And there were Langs/Longs from Switzerland who came to South Carolina around 1750.  Their story was covered in Eytive Long Evans’ 1956 book A Documented History of the Long Family.

Canada. An early Long in Canada was the Loyalist Zachariah Long (originally from Litchfield, Connecticut) who crossed the border in 1796 into Prescott county, Ontario. Another Loyalist was Philip Long who settled in New Brunswick. His story was narrated in John Lang’s 1984 book From Hero to Zero: The Story of Philip Long.

Robert Long arrived from county Cork in Ireland in 1835 and settled in Russell, Ontario. He and his wife Sarah raised seven children there.

Australia.  James Long arrived in Australia on the Hydaspes from Ireland in 1851, settling in Victoria.  His descendant Alan Long tracked their family history in his 1983 book Nothing Without Labour.

Long Surname Miscellany

The Long Lineage in Wiltshire.  The Longs have been a continuing force in Wiltshire life from the 14th century.  There have been two main lines, the thirteen generations of Longs who held the South Wraxall and Draycot estates until the early 19th century and the related Long descendants of the banker and politician Richard Godolphin Long.

The Earlier Longs

1. Roger le Long of Wiltshire
2. Robert Long c.1391-1447 first to own the South Wraxall
and Draycot estates
3. Henry Long c.1417-1490 son of Robert
4. Sir Thomas Long c.1451-1509 nephew of Henry
5. Sir Henry Long c.1489-c.1556 eldest son of Sir Thomas
Sir Richard Long c.1495-1546 third son of Sir Thomas
6. Sir Robert Long c.1517-c.1581 eldest son of Sir Henry
7. Sir Walter Long c.1565-1610 eldest son of Sir Robert
Henry Long c.1570-1594 younger son murdered in feud
8. Sir Walter Long c.1594-1637 eldest son of Sir Walter
Sir Robert Long c.1600-1673 younger son of Sir Walter, 1st
9. Sir James Long c.1617-1682 son of Sir Walter, 2nd baronet
10. James Long
11. Sir James Long 1681-1729 son of James, 5th baronet
12. Sir Robert Long 1705-1767 son of Sir James, 6th baronet
13. Sir James Tylney-Long 1736-1794 son of Sir Robert, 7th baronet
14. James Tylney-Long 1794-1805 son of Sir James

The Later Longs

1. Richard G. Long 1761-1835 banker and politician
2. Walter Long 1793-1867 son of Richard
3. Richard P.
1825-1875 son of Walter
4. Walter H. Long 1854-1924 eldest son of Richard, 1st
Richard Long 1856-1938 younger son of Richard, Baron
5. Walter Long 1879-1917 brigadier general in WW One
6. Walter Long 1911-1944 son of Walter, 2nd viscount
Richard Long 1892-1967 uncle of Walter, 3rd viscount

The Long and Danvers Feud.  The Longs and Danvers were neighbors in Wiltshire – and neighbors as well.  Some thought that their feud had dated as far back as the Wars of the Roses.  Others saw it as a challenge by the Longs to the Danvers’ more established position.  Sir Charles Danvers had developed a close friendship with Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.  On the other hand, Sir Walter Long was close to Sir Walter Raleigh who was deeply hostile to Essex.

The mutual animosity came to a head in 1594 when Sir John Danvers from the magistrate’s bench committed one of Sir Walter Long’s servants for robbery.  Sir Walter rescued the servant so Sir John had Sir Walter locked up in the Fleet prison.  He then committed another of Sir Walter’s servants for murder.  On leaving prison, Sir Walter and his younger brother Henry provoked various brawls between their own followers and Sir John’s, resulting in one servant being killed and another being grievously wounded.

Henry then wrote insulting letters to Sir Charles Danvers, calling him a liar, a fool,  a puppy dog, a mere boy, and promised that he would whip his bare backside with a rod.  This made Sir Charles very angry. Accompanied by his brother and some of his men, he went to an inn at Corsham where Sir Walter and Henry Long were dining with a group of magistrates.  Sir Henry Danvers drew his pistol and shortly afterwards Henry Long was dead.

The Longs of St. Mary’s Church in Newton Flotman.  For a hundred and fifty years, from 1797 to 1948, the rectors of the Norfolk village church of St. Mary’s in Newton Flotman were all of one family.  In 1721 Matthew Long of Dunston Hall had acquired the patronage of the living and this remained with the Long family until 1948.  Sarah Long, the patron in 1790, was the unmarried heir of the estate and she appointed the Rev. Robert Churchman Kellett on condition that he assumed the Long name.  It took him seven years to do so!

The church’s pulpit had been given by Miss Alma Long in memory of her brother Octavius Nevill Long who had died in 1890 at the age of twenty nine.  The font cover was given by the Rev. W.N. Long who was the rector from 1917 to 1948, the wood used coming from oaks grown on the Dunston estate.

Mount Long and the Cork Catholic Rebellion of 1641.  John Long of Mount Long was made high sheriff of county Cork in 1641.  But later that year an uprising broke out against the Protestants in the area.  John Long and his sons John and James who were considered the rebellious arm of the family, formed a military camp with their fellow Catholic rebels on a hill a few miles away at Belgooly.  They were, however, defeated the following year by Lord Baltinglass.

John Long’s daughter followed her father’s final orders and set fire to Mount Long to deny Cromwell the house.  The burnt ruin of Mount Long and the surrounding lands were confiscated and given to one of Cromwell’s soldiers named Giles Busteed.  In 1652 John Long was convicted of treason and sentenced to death.  He was hung on January 1653 on Cromwell’s orders with thirty four other rebels.

According to local tradition the ancient burial ground at Teampuileen by Mount Long was to be avoided after dark.  A local farmer tried to remove a wall surrounding the graves but failed in his aim.  He saw “something” and fled the area, never to return.

Richard Long’s Affairs.  Richard Long, known in the family as Richard the rebel, was born in Tipperary in 1824.  He ran off and married Susanna Reid, the governess of his younger siblings, in his early twenties.  This did not go over well with the family.  He and Susanna moved to New York in 1850, living there for five years until moving on to Covington, Kentucky.  Richard fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side.

During or sometime after the war Susanna returned to Ireland with their youngest child Susan.  Richard then moved onto Fort Erie, Canada.  Supposedly Richard’s sons then told him that their mother and sister had been lost at sea as they were voyaging to Canada from Ireland.

Meanwhile, Richard had fallen in love with Ann Smith Fox, a widow.  When Richard proposed that she join him in Fort Erie she headed north and they soon married.

It would seem that sometime during 1878 Richard’s first wife Susanna and their daughter Susan came over from Ireland looking for him! One story was that that never found Richard.  The other story was that they did find out that he was living and went to see him. When they got there he was out of town and Ann, discovering that Richard’s first wife was still alive, threatened to charge him with bigamy and forced him to leave and turn his property over to her. No one knows which of the two stories was true.

Richard moved to the Kingsville-Leamington area and had one more child, the result of an affair at the age of sixty.  Richard left this child and his mother five years later. 

Longs and Langs and Laings in Scotland.  The following were the number of Longs, Langs, and Laings recorded in the 1901 Scottish census:

Surname Numbers Percent
Long     321    4
Lang   3,203   36
Laing   5,229   60

Longs in America by Place of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Ireland   1,354    50
England and Scotland   1,044    38
German-speaking     319    12

Edward Long’s The History of Jamaica.  Edward Long was born in England, a member of a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and owned plantations there.  Long himself spent only twelve years in Jamaica, where he was a judge, a member of the House of Assembly, and for a very brief period its Speaker.  But he always identified himself with the interests of the Jamaican plantocracy, that is, the group of white landowners whose prosperity depended on the ownership of sugar plantations worked by slaves.

Long’s major work was The History of Jamaica, written in 1774.  This contains an enormous amount of information on all aspects of the island and is still an essential source for historians of the Caribbean. However, the work is strongly marked by his partisan support for the plantocracy, which leads him not only to emphasize Jamaica’s importance to Britain but to assert the plantocracy’s right to rule Jamaica in their own

Long took racist justifications of slavery to new extremes by manipulating contemporary scientific developments to claim that black people differed ‘from other men not in kind, but in species.’ Any evidence that appeared to contradict his argument that black people were naturally inferior to whites Long did his best to explain away.

Even in his own time there were those who found him deeply offensive and his claims were rejected by many writers.  Nevertheless, The History of Jamaica was widely read and had considerable influence on the development of racist ideologies well into the 19th century.

Long Names

  • Sir Walter Long of the Wiltshire Longs was a leading Elizabethan courtier and close friend to Sir Walter Raleigh.
  • Viscount Walter Long was the leader of the Irish Unionist party in the early 1900’s.
  • R.A. Long was an early 20th century lumber baron from Kansas after whom the town of Longview in Washington was named.
  • Huey P. Long was Governor and Senator of Louisiana in the 1930’s (until his assassination in 1935). Nicknamed “the Kingfish,” he was a man noted for his radical populist views.

Long Numbers Today

  • 36,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 84,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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Written by Colin Shelley

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