Martin Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Martin Meaning
a famous fourth century saint, St. Martin of Tours, and,
because of him,
the name
became extremely popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages,
in Mediterranean countries and in Normandy in France.

Martin Resources on

Martin Ancestry

remains a common surname in Spain and France, as well as in England. Martins today run about:

  • 600,000
    in Spain
  • 220,000
    in France
  • versus
    153,000 in the UK.

Martins from France in particular have added to the
Martin numbers in America and Canada. In
France they have been mainly concentrated in the Normandy region of
France (where Martin is the second most common surname today). Blessed
Louis Martin
, the father of Saint Therese, came from Normandy.

The Normans
brought to the name to England. William
Martyn de Tours joined up with William the Conqueror and was granted
Martin in Devon. His family became the
FitzMartins. Another FitzMartin family
owned Blagdon Manor in Somerset.
However, both of these lines apparently died out about 1350. Clusters of Martins were also to be found at
an early date in Sussex, near where the Normans had landed.

The names Martin has remained strong in the
southwest of England, in both Devon and Cornwall, as well as in the
southeast. The variant Martyn is evident
in Cornwall.

A Martin family was established at Anstey village in Leicestershire
from the 14th century.
A branch of this family built Leeds castle in
Kent. They had s strong seafaring side
to them, as their numbers included Admiral Thomas Martin, Captain
Martin, and John Martin who circumvented the world with Sir Francis

Another Martin family, said to have originated from
Dorset, was settled at Melford Place
in Suffolk from the early 1400’s. Roger
Martin was a Catholic recusant during Elizabethan times; but these
Martins, having
supported the Royalist cause, became baronets in the next century. They departed Melford Place in 1762. The last of the Martins died in India in 1854
with his mistress, leaving no heir

Huguenots from France brought
the Martin name to England. Jean Martin
a Huguenot exile in Sandwich, Kent in 1622.
There were 14 Martin exiles recorded as being naturalized in
between 1682 and 1702.

Ireland. The name Martin came with the Normans to
Ireland, Thomas Martyn arriving in Galway around the year 1365. These Martyns were one of the fourteen tribes of Galway at the time
Cromwell, by which time they had become Catholic in their sympathies.

Richard Martin of this family was the founder
of the RSPCA (Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) in
London in
1824. He married twice and had various
literary sons and daughters, but none so noteworthy as his son Thomas:

the revelation of his wife’s
affair, he sued her for ‘criminal conversation’ and was awarded 10,000
pounds. He had this distributed to the
poor by throwing it out of the windows of his coach on the long journey
from London to Galway.”

Martins also
came to Ireland during the Protestant plantations.
Many of them settled in Tyrone where they
became MacMartin or Gilmartin. There
were also some
early Gaelic Martin-like names

Fearghal O’Martain, for
instance, had been Bishop of Killala from 1425 to 1432 – that
Martin during the English

Scotland. Early
Martins or MacMartins
in Highland Scotland were the MacMartins of Letterfinlay, associated
with clan
Cameron, and
the Martins of Skye, associated with clan Donald. Martin
Martin of Skye (Martainn Martainn in
Gaelic) was a travel writer of the Western Isles in the late 17th

Christopher Martin and his
family from Essex arrived on the Mayflower
at Plymouth Rock in 1620. However, they
all perished there that first winter.

early Martin who remained was Peter Martin, a Huguenot refugee
Virginia sometime around 1700. Joseph
Martin, the second son of a Bristol merchant, came to Virginia in the
and settled in Albemarle county. His son
Joseph was a brigadier general of the Virginia militia during the
War and later was an early settler in what was to become Tennessee.

Martin was also a Mennonite name and many Martins arrived in
Philadelphia and settled in Pennsylvania in the years between 1722 and
1732. Christian
, who arrived on the Plaisance
in 1732, is
considered the patriarch of these Martin Mennonite families.

Canada. Jacques Martin from
La Rochelle in France was an early arrival with his family in Quebec
in the 1650’s. Joseph Martin was born in
Nova Scotia in 1736 but made the trek southward with other Acadians to
Louisiana in the 1760’s. However, some
– the Martins of Madawaska – managed to escape the deportation and

Paul Martin, Canada’s Prime Minister from
2003 to 2006, has an Irish immigrant background, his great grandfather
having arrived from county Mayo in the late 19th century.


Martin Miscellany

St. Martin of Tours.  Martin of Tours was the 4th century Bishop of Tours, whose
shrine in France became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims in the

The story most known about him ran
as follows.   One day as he was
approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, he met a scantily clad
beggar. He
impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man. That
Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away.

He heard Jesus say to the angels: “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.”  The part of the
cloak kept by Martin became the famous relic that was preserved in the oratory
of the Merovingian kings of the Franks at the Marmoutier Abbey near

St. Martin’s Feast or
Martinmas was considered the first day of winter in the Christian
calendar for
practical purposes.  It occurred in the
second week of November.  Alluding to the
snows of that season, Germans would say: “St. Martin comes riding on a
white horse.”   It was said too that
one could predict what sort of winter one might have by the conditions
of St.
Martin’s Day.  The saying went: “If
the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at

Blessed Louis Martin and Saint Therese.  Louis Martin became “blessed” because he was the father of
Saint Therese of Lisieux, a French nun who died of TB in 1897 at the
age of
twenty four.  The impact of her
autobiographical writings, The Story of a
published a year after her death, was so enormous that she has
after Francis of Assisi, one of the most popular saints in the church.  She is known as “Petite Fleur.”

Louis Martin had died before his daughter’s
fame.  He himself came from an old
Normandy family which has been traced back to an earlier Louis Martin,
born in
Normandy around 1650.

The Martins in Anstey Village.  Anstey village was sandwiched between Leicester and Charnwood forests in the Middle Ages.  It was the home of the Martin family from 1341.
These Martins may have been related to John Martyn, a merchant
who was
mayor of Leicester and its MP around this time.
But the linkage has been disputed.

Two members of the family
held the position of Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire and the local
school was named after them.  The
family leased Anstey Pastures within Leicester forest in 1585 and later
acquired this 110 acre site.  Their home at
Anstey Pastures was built in 1833 and they lived there until 1892 when
moved to a house in Bradgate known as the Brand.

The Martins of Melford Place.  The Martin family of Melford Place in Suffolk was a great supporter of the Holy Trinity church in the village.  Laurence Martin who died in 1460 led the
rebuilding of the church during his lifetime.
His monument is to be found on the south aisle of the church,
along with
the other family brasses.

Martin became churchwarden in the reign of Mary and was very active in
re-establishing Catholic worship there.
Under Queen Elizabeth he was marked down as a recusant (one who
the Anglican rites) and was fined £200,
an enormous sum in those days, and deprived of some of his income.  He was imprisoned more than once for
sheltering Catholic priests and is said to have escaped pursuit on
occasion by
hiding in a hayrick.  He died in 1615 at
the ripe old age of 89 and was buried (in spite of his known
Catholicism) in
his family’s chapel at Holy Trinity church.

brother Laurence moved to London and
his son, Sir Roger Martin, prospered there as a merchant and was Lord
Mayor of
London in 1567.

The Martins of Galway.  Thomas Martyn, a descendant of the Anglo-Norman FitzMartin
family, had come to Galway around the year 1365.  His
descendants became merchants there, one
of the twelve so-called “Tribes of Galway.”

Wylliam Martyn was in 1519 the
first Mayor of the Martyn family which would ultimately produce
nineteen Mayors
and close to thirty Bailiffs and Sheriffs of Galway.
He was also responsible for the erection
during his term of what is known today as the Spanish Arch.  This was an extension of the town wall from
Martin’s Tower to the bank of the Corrib as a measure to protect the

The Martin home from the early
1600’s was Dunguaire Castle, a tower house near Kinvarra on Galway Bay. Richard Oge Martin, a Catholic nationalist of
the 1630’s and 1640’s, was resident there.
It remained with the family until 1922 when the last of this
Martin line

Christian Martin and His Mennonite Family.  Christian
Martin is generally considered as the patriarch
of the Mennonite Martin families in Pennsylvania.  He
was born in the Swiss canton of Bern
around the year 1669 and arrived in Philadelphia on the Pink
in 1732 at the age of 63 years.
He was accompanied by his wife Ells Marty
and two of his children.

other younger Martins who had come earlier – Christian’s son Christian
in 1724,
David and Jacob Martin on the Molly
in 1727 and Hans Heinrich Martin and his sister on the Britannia
in 1731.  All of them settled in the Weaverland valley in
what became Earl township in Lancaster county.
There were more Martins than any other name in the township’s
1757 tax

The early years were harsh.  The
community was quite isolated (few
consequently learnt much English) and they had to endure a number of
summers and cold winters and Indian attacks.




Select Martin Names

  • Joseph Martin was an Indian
    trader and pioneer settler in what was
    to become Tennessee.
  • Lionel Martin founded the
    British car company Aston Martin.
  • Dean Martin, the Italian-American singer, was born Dino Crocetti.
  • George Martin was the record
    producer for the Beatles.
  • Paul Martin was Prime Minister
    of Canada between 2003 and 2006.
  • Steve Martin is an American comic actor.

Select Martin Numbers Today

  • 153,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 262,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 120,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Martin and Like Surnames.

These are French-originated names, French Canadian surnames that were brought by French settlers to what was then New France.  Many are found in Louisiana after the Acadian exodus from the Canadian maritime provinces in the 18th century.  Here are some of the French surnames that you can check out.


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