Meredith Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Meredith Surname Meaning
Meredith, or Meredudd in its earliest manifestations, is a very old Welsh forename.  The closest English translation would be “great lord.”  Royal princes bore this name in Powys (mid Wales) and in Deheubarth (south Wales) before the Anglo-Norman invasions.

The name appeared in the Welsh patronymic style as:

  • Madoc ap Maredudd the prince of Powys in the 1100’s
  • and as Rhys ap Meredith in Lampeter in the late 1200’s.

Owen ap Meredith, from these Welsh lines, succeeded by battle to the throne of England in 1485.  He elected to use an anglicized form of his grandfather’s name.  As a result, we have the royal house of Tudor rather than the royal house of Meredith.

The transition to English-style surnames did not really occur in Wales until the mid-16th century.  Maredudd ap Gronwy was born around 1500.  His grandson, born in 1550, was the bishop Richard Meredith.


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Meredith Surname Ancestry

Wales.  The Meredith families of Llambister and Llangulo in Breconshire were among the first to adopt the English style Meredith.  John Meredith, later knighted, was the high sheriff of Brecon in 1762.  Among present day Brecon notables is the Welsh novelist and poet, Christopher Meredith.

Border Counties.  The Meredith name was soon to be found as well in the Welsh border counties of Radnorshire and Monmouth (present day Powys and Gwent) and the abutting English counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire.  Waterden in the county of Shropshire recorded the following Merediths in the Welsh style in wills during Elizabethan times:

  • Jenkyn ap Meredith in 1560
  • James ap Jennk ap Meredith in 1570
  • and Rees ap John ap Meredith in 1587

Rhiise ap Meredith died in Presteigne, Radnorshire in the 1550’s.  His Meredith descendants established themselves at Stapleton in Presteigne and later in Kington in Herefordshire.  John Meredith ran an iron foundry in Kington in the early 1800’s.  Mary Webb was born Mary Meredith in the small village of Leighton in Shropshire in 1881.  The novels she wrote strongly evoke the countryside of her day.

North Wales. Further north, an old Welsh Meredith family established themselves in the 1640’s through Amos Meredith at Henbury Hall in Cheshire (near Macclesfield).  They remained there until Sir William Meredith sold the house in the 1770’s.

There were also Meredith lines near Wrexham in north Wales.  A Meredith family who made their money from local coal mines was based at Pentrebychan Hall from the 1620’s; and there were Merediths as well at Allington and Stansty nearby.  Billy Meredith from Chirk was Wales’s first football star.

England.  A Meredith family, probably originally from Wales, was first found in Portsmouth with the baptism of Melchizedek Meredith there in 1763.  His grandson was the writer George Meredith.

Ireland.  Merediths were also in Ireland.

Some would have been descended from Bishop Richard Meredith and his brother John who had arrived from Llanafan Fawr in Breconshire.  Both lived in Dublin and were buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral there.  These Merediths were later to be found in Dublin and in Templerany in county Wicklow.  Another Meredith family resided at Rosenallis in county Laios, starting with Rice Meredith in the late 1600’s.

America.  The first Merediths arrived in America in the 1700’s.  A number prospered.  Reese Meredith, a merchant, reached Philadelphia from Radnorshire in Wales in 1730.  His son Samuel rose to become the first Treasurer of the United States and issued the first American banknotes.

Other early Meredith arrivals included:

  • Robert Meredith to Maryland in the 1670’s from Radnorshire.  A descendant, Davis Meredith, fought in the Revolutionary War and settled in West Virginia.
  • David Meredith to Chester county, Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s from Radnorshire.  He and his wife Sarah settled in the Welsh tract granted by William Penn in 1705.
  • Simon Meredith to Philadelphia in 1708 from Radnorshire.  His son Hugh was for a short term a printing partner with Benjamin Franklin.  Hugh later promoted Welsh settlement in the Carolinas.
  • James Meredith to Doylestown, Pennsylvania in the 1730’s.  His son Hugh was the practicing physician there.
  • Jonathan Meredith and his wife Elizabeth to Philadelphia in the 1750’s from Herefordshire.  Jonathan started a tannery business in Philadelphia and prospered.
  • Luff Meredith helped set up the Baptist church at Cow Marsh in Delaware in the 1760’s.  Later Merediths from this family moved onto Ohio.
  • and three Meredith brothers came to America in the 1760’s, John to Virginia, Charles to North Carolina, and William to South Carolina.

Some Merediths found the going harder.  One family account tells of Merediths from the debtor prisons of Wales being shipped out to Georgia where they struggled to make a living; and there was another account of Merediths in the poor house in Delaware.  In the 1850’s, six Meredith children were orphaned in Iowa after their parents died.

A better Meredith Iowa story recounts the success of Edwin T. Meredith, the son of immigrant Thomas Meredith (who arrived in 1852), in starting the Meredith Publishing Company in Iowa and the Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

Merediths were also to be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas primarily.  There is a spot in East Texas called the Meredith Camp Grounds where Eber Meredith and his family were jumped by Indians in the 1850’s. The Lake Meredith Recreational Area near Amarillo in Texas is named after AA Meredith, the father of the Canadian river dam.

Canada.  The Rev. Thomas Meredith was born in Wicklow in 1777, but died in tragic circumstances there in 1819.  The family then uprooted themselves to Canada where his son William Meredith became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Quebec.

Other Merediths from Templerany started heading for Canada in the 1830’s, including John Cooke Meredith and his wife Sarah who settled in London, Ontario.  Their children came to be known as “the eight London Merediths” because of their prowess in law and finance.

Australia.  Frederick Meredith from Denham in England arrived in Australia as a seaman onboard the Scarborough in the First Fleet in 1789.   He married in Australia four times – to Mary Allen in Sydney in 1789, to Ann Case on the high seas in 1792, to Mary Kirk one year later in Sydney, and to Sarah Mason in Sydney in 1811.  Only the marriage to Sarah Mason produced sons.

A later arrival, in 1821, was George Meredith from Pembrokeshire and his wife Sarah.  They were early settlers on Tasmania’s east coast.  George’s son Charles was active in political life in both Tasmania and New South Wales.  His wife Louisa Anne was a noted artist and painter.  A mountain range in northeast Tasmania commemorates him.  It was said that his family was descended in a direct line from the last kings of Wales.

At the turn of the century, James Meredith moved further afield, to Samoa.  Here his family run a coconut cream factory.

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Meredith Surname Miscellany

Meredith Meaning and Pronunciation.  The original spelling was Maredudd.  The final element of the original spelling, “udd,” means lord.  The same element is present in the ancient form of Griffith which is Griffudd.  The first part of the name has been a subject of much discussion.  Some schools of Welsh scholarly thought place the “mar” as possibly another variant of mawr meaning great or large.

Maredudd is pronounced “Mredeeth,” with no mention of the “e” following the “m.”  In the Welsh language and in English speaking Wales, the accent and stress is always on the penultimate syllable.  The modern pronunciation is therefore – Mer-ed’ith.

The incorrect pronunciation that strikes the name outside of the Welsh borders is the one widely accepted in the US and the rest of Britain. which curiously causes “Merry” to be a suitable shortening.  To those who are Welsh, it is grating to the ears to say the least to hear the name so mutilated!

Merediths in Pwllheli.  One fateful day in 1566, a Dutch merchantman laden with sugar, molasses, goats’ skins, and other wares on a voyage from North Africa to Antwerp dropped anchor off St. Tudwal’s, two small islands a few miles west of Pwllheli.  The ship was way off course because pirates had captured it.

The pirates sold the stolen cargo to the inhabitants of Pwllheli who were desperately short of provisions. Having pocketed their profits, they sailed off into the sunset, leaving local brothers Jevan and Richard ap Meredith to face the noose.

Merediths in Ireland.  A DNA project has been established to study the genetic heritage of the Meredith and related families from Queen’s county (now Laois) in Ireland.

There were four distinct geographical clusters of Meredith families in 16th and 17th century Ireland, centered around the present counties of Laois, Dublin/Wicklow, Sligo and Kerry.  Additionally, there is a fifth cluster comprising descendants of Richard Meredith, Bishop of Leighlin in the late 16th century, that is less well-defined geographically.

Bishop Richard Meredith.  In 1584 Richard Meredith left Pembrokeshire in Wales for Ireland where he was appointed the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  He was described as being noted for his “diligent preaching” and for “keeping a good house to the relief of many people which likeness was not done this thirty years by his predecessor.”

His latter days were spent in poor health and in religious harassment.  He appeared before the Star Chamber in 1592, when he was fined £2,000, and again in 1594, when he was imprisoned for eight days.  He died three years later.  But his two sons, William and Charles, prospered in Ireland in the next century.

The Thomas Meredith Monument in Cookstown.  The following inscription was written on Thomas Meredith’s memorial of black and white marble in the Church of Ardrea.

“Sacred to the memory of Thomas Meredith D.D, former Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin and six years rector of this parish.

A man who gave to learning a beauty not its own and threw over science and literature the luster of the Gospel and the sweet influence of Christianity.  The talents which he clothed in humility and his silent and unobtusive benevolence were unable to escape the respect and admiration of society.

But those who witnessed him in the bosom of his family and shared the treasures of his conversation seldom failed to find the ways of wisdom more pleasant than before and to discover fresh loveliness in that Gospel upon which his hopes and ministry were founded.  He was summoned from a family of which he was the support and delight and from the flock to which he was eminently endeared on 2nd May 1819 in the 42nd year of his age by a sudden and awful visitation, but he knew that his Redeemer lived.

Erected by his sons.”

He died, according to the words of the inscription, as a result of “a sudden and awful visitation.”  A local legend explains this “visitation” by stating that a ghost haunted the rectory, the visits of which had caused his family and servants to leave the house.  The rector had tried to shoot it but failed.  Then he was told to use a silver bullet.  He did so and was found next morning dead at his hall door.

Nevertheless his name lives on in Meredith College for women, founded in 1891 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Eight London Merediths.  John and Sarah Meredith settled in London, Ontario and raised twelve children, eight boys and four girls.  The boys became known as “the eight London Merediths” because of their prowess in the law and finance.

They were:

  • William (born 1840): a Chief Justice and a leader of the Conservative political party later knighted
  • John (born 1843): Director General of the Merchant Bank in Montreal
  • Edmund (born 1845): a criminal barrister and mayor for London, Ontario
  • Richard (born 1847):  a Chief Justice and President of the High Court of Ontario
  • Vincent (born 1850): President of the Bank of Montreal and created a baronet
  • Thomas (born 1851): President of the Canada Assurance Company
  • Charles (born 1854): President of the Montreal Stock Exchange
  • and Llewellyn (born 1860): an equestrian judge and horse breeder in England

Their four daughters were said to be “remarkable for their beauty.”  But, curiously, none of them married.

Meredith Orphans in Iowa.  James Meredith and his second wife Mary and their five children left Wales for the United States in 1849.  His younger sister Eleanor appears to have travelled with them as well.  After they had landed in New Orleans, the father James and his sister Eleanor died of cholera as the family travelled up the Mississippi river.

Widowed Mary and the five children were in Pottawatamie County, Iowa when the 1850 census was taken.  A short time later she married a widowed Welshman with one surviving daughter.  Later both she and the Welshman died, leaving six orphan children.

Reader Feedback – Meredith Publishing Company in Iowa.  My grandmother Mary Helen Meredith lives in Des Moines.  Her grandfather, Thomas Oliver Meredith, was born in the Brecon Beacons in 1824 and in 1852 emigrated to the United States where he became an early farmer and landowner in Cass county, Iowa.  Known affectionately as “Uncle Tommy” Meredith, he was, according to the local Atlantic Telegraph in its 1902 obituary, a familiar and well-loved figure.

One of his sons, Edwin T. Meredith (my great-great uncle), founded what is now known as Meredith Publishing Company, publisher of Better Homes & Gardens magazine and many more.  He served as the US Secretary of Agriculture in 1920-21.

My great-grandfather, Harry B. Meredith, founded National Manufacturing & Stamping Company in Des Moines and later in Jefferson, with the help of his son-in-law, my grandfather Mathew Henry Stapleton.

Jackie Coyne (jacoyne@gmail.com)

Billy Meredith, A Welsh Football Star.  Billy Meredith, born in Chirk in 1874, was Wales’ first football star.  He wore both the blue and red Manchester shirts – a legend for City and United.  His trademark was a toothpick which he chewed while playing to aid his concentration.  He had first chewed tobacco until the cleaners refused to wash the spit off his shirts.

In an interview in 2002, his daughter Winifred, then aged 95,
reminisced about him:

“He was born and grew up in Chirk where he played football for the school team.  I think his headmaster, Mr. Thomas, was something to do with the FA.  Although we moved away, he never really left Chirk in his mind.  In fact, we used to go back there to live for a few weeks here and there when football was finished for the season.

We stayed at my Nain’s.  I remember going for walks and going fishing with him in Chirk.  My father loved walking.  He said it was the best exercise going.  He was never any different.  We didn’t think he was a celebrity like they are today.  We knew he was a very good player, but that was it.  We weren’t allowed to go to many matches because my father didn’t think the football ground was the place for women.  He couldn’t get away with that today.”

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Meredith Names
  • Medoc ap Meredith was the last prince of Powys.   
  • Bishop Richard Meredith was a well-respected bishop in Wales and Ireland during the sixteenth century. 
  • Samuel Meredith was the first Treasurer of the United States. 
  • George Meredith, born in Portsmouth, was a noted Victorian novelist. 
  • Billy Meredith, born in Chirk in north Wales, was possibly football’s first superstar in the early 1900’s.
Meredith Numbers Today
  • 12,500 in the UK (most numerous in Bridgend)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky).
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).
Meredith and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.

BowenHopkinsMaddoxPritchard
DaviesHowellMeredithRees
EdwardsJenkinsOwenRowland
EvansJonesPowellVaughan
GriffithsLloydPriceWatkins

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