Maxwell Surname Genealogy

a Scottish surname originating from a place-name in Roxburghshire on
Scottish Borders.  The original Maccuswell
came from Max
or Maccus
a former owner of Maxwell
lands south of the river Tweed, plus well
meaning “well.”  The place-name Maccuswell
was first recorded in 1144, the
surname shortly afterwards. 
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Maxwell Ancestry

Scotland.  It
is thought that a Norman called Herbert came into possession of the
lands in Roxburghshire in the late 12th century.
John de Maccusweil followed Herbert and was, from 1200, the Great
of Scotland.  His services to the kingdom
brought him the barony of Cærlaverock in Dumfries.
He died without issue around the year

Sir John was succeeded by his younger brother, Aymer de Maxwell, the
to adopt the modern spelling of the surname.
From Aymer’s sons sprang many of the branches of
the family that were to be found in SW Scotland:

  • from
    his eldest son Sir Herbert
    came the main
    line in Dumfries.   Cærlaverock castle
    served as the family
    stronghold from the 13th century.  They were ennobled as Lord Maxwell in 1440.  These Maxwells were staunch
    Catholics during the religious turmoil of the 17th century.  Their last hurrah came with the 1715 Jacobite Uprising where the Maxwells narrowly escaped death.
  • from a younger son Sir John came the Pollock line in Renfrewshire.  The Pollock lands there were divided into Upper and Lower Pollock, with the Maxwells settling in
    Lower Pollock.  Through marriage Robert Maxwell became the laird of Calderwood in Lanarkshire in 1394.

The Maxwells at
Kirkconnell in Dumfries date from about 1430.
Their laird James Maxwell was Bonnie Prince Charlie’s
aide-de-camp at
the Battle of Culloden in 1746, after which he hurriedly left for
France.  He
returned in 1750 with a band of French bricklayers to construct a brick house alongside the ancient 13th century fortified tower.
This house stayed with his descendants, but
was recently put up for sale.

.  The Rev. Robert Maxwell, from
the Calderwood
Maxwells, had come to Ireland around 1600 and been made the Dean of
From this Robert came the Maxwells of Farnham in Cavan (who were later
barons) and the Maxwells of
of Ballyrolly in county Down.

A Rev. James Maxwell was a Presbyterian minister
in Omagh, county Tyrone for sixty years, from 1690 to 1750.  Some records have connected him with the
Maxwell of Strabane who grew up in the Presbyterian settlement there
and served
as the High Sheriff of Tyrone in 1681.  Another Thomas Maxwell in
Tyrone, this
time from the Kirkconnell Maxwells in Scotland, emigrated with his
family to America
in 1747.

England.  Maxwells from the Borders
also crossed south
into England.  The largest numbers,
according to the 1881 census, were to be found in Lancashire.

Prominent here
were four sons of an old Maxwell family in Dumfries who came to
Liverpool in
the early 1800’s and made their fortunes as merchants with some shrewd
investments in railways.  Not so rich was
Thomas Maxwell, an Irish immigrant and laborer to Liverpool in the
1830’s.  John Maxwell from a Scottish
family in Liverpool perished on
the Titanic
in 1912.

Maxwells in America have been Scots or Scots Irish.
Genealogical books
that have covered these early Maxwell arrivals in America plus some
Maxwell history have been:

  • Halbert’s
    1900 book The World Book of Maxwells.
  • Florence
    Houston’s 1916 book Maxwell History and Genealogy.
  • and
    Norman’s 1966 book Thomas Maxwell of
    Virginia and Georgia.

Virginia Arrivals
.  The earliest Maxwell
arrival might well have
been Joel Maxwell who came with his son to Virginia around the year
1707 from,
according to family lore, Maxwellton in Scotland.

His grandson the
Rev. Thomas Maxwell
became a
Baptist preacher who was arrested for preaching a non-Anglican faith.  In 1792, seeking religious freedom, he moved
to Elbert county, Georgia to preach and to set up Baptist churches.  He died there in 1837 at
the grand old age of ninety seven.  He and
his wife Mary had raised eleven children, many of whom migrated to

Thomas Maxwell from the
Kirkconnell Maxwells in Scotland had fought for King James in Ireland.  In his later years he left Ireland for America
in 1747 and settled in Augusta county, Virginia.  His grandson
John, a
small boy
at that time, came to Kentucky in 1774 and was one of the founders of
the town
of Lexington.  Maxwell Springs and the Maxwell Graveyardwere
his legacies that
did not, however, survive.

Maxwell, said to
have been from the Calderwood Maxwells, came to Albemarle county,
Virginia in
1751.  Later Maxwells of this family
moved to North Carolina, Kentucky and onto Overton county,
Captain James
, coming to Virginia from Ulster, fought in the
Revolutionary War.


William Maxwell, who had grown up in
resided for a time in Lexington, Kentucky before moving west to Ohio in
1793 and
publishing the
first newspaper for what was then the Northwest Territory. 

Alexander and Jane
Maxwell left their home in Scotland in 1770 and, after a brief sojourn
Ireland, came to America and settled in New York state.
Their grandson William, based in Elmira, was
active in the early railroad developments in the area in the 1840’s.

Hugh Maxwell, the son of an Englishman in
Dublin, had come to New York in 1815 and departed a year or so later
Kaskaskia, Illinois on the western frontier.
His son Lucien, born there in 1818, headed further west in the
1840’s as
far as New Mexico.  Here, through a
marriage and subsequent land acquisitions, he became the owner of huge
(in excess of 1.7 million acres) which came to be known as the Maxwell Land

Canada.  Many of the early Maxwell
arrivals in Canada
were Irish or more probably Scots Irish.
William and Agnes Maxwell came to Owen Sound in Ontario sometime
1830.  Their sons William and Hamilton
later moved west to Saskatchewan.
William Maxwell meanwhile, also from Ireland, settled in
Bloomfield, New
Brunswick as a young man in 1850.

Henry and Susannah Maxwell were free blacks in
Pennsylvania who faced harassment and left for Canada in 1858. They settled in Richmond Hill near
Toronto.   Susannah died in 1923 at
remarkable age of 117.

New Zealand.  Thomas Maxwell, probably
from Aberdeen, was a
very early settler in New Zealand, arriving at the Bay of Islands on
whaling ship Harriet in 1820 or
thereabouts.  Known locally as Tame Kohe,
he married the daughter of a local Maori chief and seemed to have
adapted himself
to Maori ways.  He apparently drowned
while on a sea voyage up the east coast of North Island in 1841.

James Maxwell came
with his wife Mary to Wellington in 1840.
The family later settled in Auckland.
James died in 1857 at the age of thirty seven when he fell off
his horse.

Maxwell Miscellany

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

Maxwell Names


killed at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, is considered the
of the Maxwell

Clerk Maxwell

was the Scottish 19th century scientist who made pioneering discoveries
in the
field of electromagnetism.

Elsa Maxwell
an American
gossip columnist and writer, renowned for her parties for royalty and
society figures of her day.
, a Jewish entrepreneur who was born Jan Hoch and escaped
the Nazis,
developed a publishing and newspaper empire in Britain after the War.   He fell overboard from his yacht in 1991
as his
businesses began to fail

Select Maxwells Today

  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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