Morris Surname Meaning, History & Origin
Morris derived in England from the personal name Maurice which was
to Britain by the Normans. Maurice, the name of some early
saints, was the learned spelling of the name, Morice its more common
in Wales with the Welsh personal name Meurig (with a hard
ending) or with
(a Welsh prince of the 12th
century) sometime during the 15th century.
is different. It came from the Spanish moresca
dance from the Moors, first brought to the English court in the 16th
century. However, it is possible that the
could sometimes have been a nickname, from Moorish to describe someone
- Morris Family Association. Morris family
- Morris Families of Cheshire
Morris in Cheshire.
- The Morris Branch. US Morris genealogy.
Select Morris Ancestry
England. Nicholas Morris was recorded as
the Abbot of Waltham Abbey in Essex from 1371 to 1390.
The Morice name applied to a family from
Royden in Essex in the early 1500’s at the court of Henry VII. Another family of that name at Werrington in
Devon had Welsh ancestry.
West of England.
Morris became a common
name in the English border counties. The town that is said
to have the most Morrises per square mile is Bishop’s Town, just by the
of Wales in Shropshire. Overwhelmingly they are likely to be
One of the earliest records of the name there (reflecting the Welsh
influence) was a Hugo Morys, son of Maurice ap Phelip, in the 1450
rolls. In the 1720’s Robert Morris
moved from Shropshire to Wales to help start a copper works in
His son John built an industrial village for his workers called
still exists today.
A Morris family of Clifford Chambers and
Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire dated from the 1540’s. Later
were contemporary with Shakespeare
at Stratford. The family remained there in succeeding centuries,
although Samuel Morris of this family emigrated
to South Carolina in the 1780’s.
The main numbers of Morrises in England seem to have been in a line
running north from Shropshire into Lancashire. The name has also
up on the Isle of Wight in southern England.
Wales. Many of
the early Morrises were from
north Wales, such as the Morris family of Llanfihangel Tre’r Beirdd in
and the brothers Edward and Hugh Morris, the 17th century Welsh bards
of Morris ap Edward from Perthi LLwydion in Denbighshire.
Some in Caernarvonshire who took English
surnames initially adopted the more formal Maurice name.
Sir William Maurice of Clenennau, a member of
an old Caernarvon family, was the son of Moris ap Elise.
The line from Morus ap Griffydd of Aberdaron
went to Henry Maurice, the minister who transformed himself from
to Dissenting preacher in 1670.
The Morris family of Tintern in Monmouthshire was a
supporter of Parliament during the Civil War. After the
Restoration two Morris brothers
left for Barbados in
the Caribbean. The younger brother Richard later moved onto New
York with great
success. Another Morris found mixed
fortunes in St. Vincent. Colonel Valentine Morris returned from
Vincent in 1736 and bought the Piercefield estate near Chepstow.
Most Morrises are
to be found in south Wales today.
Ireland. Morris was one of the fourteen Tribes of Galway.
Richard Morris was
recorded as the town Bailiff in 1486. The Morris home was later
Spiddal and they became Barons Killanin in the 19th century.
Morris in Ireland was also an anglicized form
of the Gaelic O’Muirghis,
variants of which also produced the surname Morrissey.
Morris was a shipbuilder and a Puritan from London who had left England
other pilgrims on the Hector in
1637. It was said that two of his
forebears had been killed during the reign of Bloody Queen Mary for
give up their Protestant faith. He led a
party in 1638 to New Haven, Connecticut and a forested area where he
his shipbuilding. This area was known as
Morris Cove and now as Morristown.
Morris from Monmouthshire in Wales, a soldier in the English Civil War,
in York in 1670 and bought land in the
Bronx. This land was and is called Morrisania and the Morrises
important New York landowners. Their
sometime Governor of New Jersey and Chief Justice of New York
Gouverneur Morris, the man who drafted
much of the US Constitution.
brothers, Staats Long Morris, was a Loyalist.
A later line of these Morrises settled in South Carolina and
the Confederate side in the Civil War.
was the home of two notable Morris families:
began with Anthony Morris, a Quaker preacher of Welsh extraction who
was an early arrival from London in 1683. His
son Anthony was the mainstay of the Philadelphia Quaker
for forty years. Later Morrises were
merchants. From 1787 until the early
1900’s they lived at Morris House in the city (which now operates as
the other started with
Robert Morris, a tobacco factor from Liverpool who had moved to
Maryland in the
1740’s. His son Robert developed such a
profitable trading business in Philadelphia that he could help finance
American Revolutionary War.
sometimes adopted in America as a Jewish name.
The most well-known example is Zelman Moses who arrived with his
from Germany as a nine year old boy in 1882.
He went into business in New York as William Morris, Vaudeville
which is now the oldest entertainment talent agency in the
business. Meanwhile Joseph Morris started his
funeral business in Brooklyn in 1888.
Morris was an early English
name in Nova Scotia history. Charles
Morris from Boston came there as early as 1748 to help establish the
garrison. He remained as an
administrator and judge until his death in 1781. Son
Charles was Chief Surveyor for Nova
Scotia, as was his son and grandson.
Their home in Halifax, Morris House, has been preserved.
Alexander Morris from Paisley in Scotland
brought his family to Canada in 1801.
His sons William and James were merchants in Perth, Ontario and
held prominent positions in the Legislative Council of what was then
Canada. William’s son Alexander was
Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories from 1872
Caribbean. Samuel Morris,
thought to have come from Scotland, was an early settler in Jamaica,
there in the 1740’s. He was referred to
as Colonel Morris “of old St. James.” He
was a tavern keeper in Hanover parish.
John Ball Morris was a London merchant who held estates in Jamaica in
the early 1800’s. His son Mowbray, born
there, was editor of The Times from
1847 to 1873.
Mawrrhys. The Welsh name Mawrrhys is composed of two elements, mawr
meaning “great” and rhys meaning “chief.” Perhaps as a result, many of the early Kings of Wales had the Mawrrhys name. Mawrrhys, the last so named to bear this title, died in the year 1200.
Morris at the Time of Shakespeare. The Morris family was recorded as living at
Stratford-on-Avon or nearby Clifford Chance since the 1540’s.
During the reign
of Queen Elizabeth these Morrises included:
Morris who had a son Ferdinand
- John Morris who married Elinor Jones and had a
- and Jasper Morris, the rector of the church at Clifford
Clifford Chance has in fact been
claimed by some as the
real birthplace of William Shakespeare as the bubonic plague was rife
town of Stratford at that time.
The Morris estate was at
Shottery, a suburb of Stratford, and was where Shakespeare married Ann
Hathaway. Kathryn Morris served in the
Shakespeare household when he was growing up, whether as governess,
maid it is not possible to say. She died
The later Morris line in Stratford took as its starting point George
Morris who was born in Clifford Chance around the year 1605.
The Morris Family of Galway. The Morris family was one of the fourteen “Tribes of Galway” who were leading merchants of the town. Richard Morris was its first Bailiff in 1486, under a charter granted
the previous year by the English King empowering them to elect one
two bailiffs. The Morrises, sometimes
written Mares or Morech, had apparently first arrived in Galway at
Various Morrises succeeded Richard Morris as Bailiff of Galway during
16th century. Anthony Morris was the
town Mayor in 1588. A later Anthony
Morris took part in the defense of the city against Cromwell’s forces
in 1651. The Morrises, like the other
then lost their position.
They did manage to survive the changing political
fortunes of the later 17th century, establishing their home at Spiddal. The family later became the Barons Killanon
of Galway. In the 1970’s Lord Killanin
was the sixth President of the International Olympic Committee. His sons were the filmmaker Redmond Morris
and the horse-trainer Mouse Morris.
The Morris Brothers in Barbados and New York. Colonel Lewis Morris, said to have commanded a Troop of Horse under Cromwell, may have visited the West Indies as early as 1633. He served under Admiral Penn in 1655, taking
part in the attack on Jamaica and later acquiring an estate in Barbados. He was described in 1670 as a “merchant of
Barbados.” He died in 1691.
brother Captain Richard Morris had also served with the Parliamentary
Army. After the Restoration in 1660, he
deemed it unwise to remain in England.
He went to Barbados disguised as a Quaker and married there. His only son Lewis was born in
1671. By that time, however, he had
himself as a merchant in what was then New Amsterdam (still in the
of the Dutch) and what was to become New York.
1668 Richard Morris purchased
land granted by the Dutch in 1639 to Jonas Broncks, the first white
settler of Westchester
county. This was the basis to what became
Morrisania. Richard himself died in 1672
and it was his
infant son Lewis who was later to inherit his estate.
Morris and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. In the 19th century, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was
adapted to fit prominent American surnames
of the time, including Morris. The Morris
version had three stanzas of specific references. They
ran as follows:
Nicholas were fathers of our clan;
Posterity of Anthony and Owen never ran.
was a hero, Roger was a famous man.
The clan goes marching on!
Martin was an
Irishman and statesman of renown;
And Anthony was mayor of a Pennsylvania
With great men of Jersey, Richard’s name is written down.
The clan goes
was captain of the ship that sailed across the sea.
When Lafayette returned to
France, America was free.
Jacob was an aide-de-camp to General Robert Lee.
clan goes marching on!”
and Thomas Morris were early settlers in
Massachusetts, Nicholas Morris came to Virginia in 1640. Anthony Morris
Quaker preacher in Pennsylvania, Owen Morris an early settler in
county, Pennsylvania. Jacob’s
is uncertain. Roger Morris was a colonel
who fought in the French and Indian War. Roger Morris was also a
successful suitor for the hand of Mary Philipse, a beauty of her day,
Morris Jr was the second mayor of Philadelphia.
The Richard Morris name probably refers to the first of the line
Morrises, a leading New Jersey family in the 18th century.
Sir Martin’s renown escapes us.
Morris was in charge of the vessel named Brandywine
by which Lafayette, the French hero of the Revolutionary War, returned
France in 1825 after his tour of America.
was indeed an aide-de-camp to General Robert Lee at the time of the
The Morris Family Coming to South Carolina. Another
verse poem written for a 1921 reunion celebrated
the Morris family that emigrated from Stratford-on Avon to South
1788. The following are some stanzas
from this poem:
eight they came,
Samuel and wife Lucy by name
To this American haven
Mother Morris, she
And the eight little Morrises
To grow the family tree.
son, Sarah daughter,
They brought across the water,
William, George, Thomas, Alice,
Lucy and Mary – too young for malice
Farmer Morris, he
Mistress Morris, she
the eight little Morrises
That came across the sea.
South Carolina —
could be finer?
They built their family home
E’er their sons began to roam
Samuel Morris, he
Lucy Morris, she
And all the other Morrises
In glad felicity.”
Joseph Morris of Brooklyn. Morris is a common Jewish name, more popular as a first
name because of its similarity to or derivation from Moshe or, as it is
known, Moses. Morris is less common as a
surname but does appear.
Morris was a prominent citizen of early
Brooklyn. He owned and operated livery
stables to furnish horse-drawn hearses and carriages for the conduct of
funerals. His firm was established in
1888 as I.J. Morris and incorporated in its present form in 1929.
Morris location was at Thatford and Sutter Avenues in the almost
Jewish community of Brownsville in Brooklyn.
Most of the prominent Jewish schools, yeshivas, rabbinical
and synagogues had their roots in the community serviced by I.J. Morris.
Select Morris Names
Robert Morris, a Philadelphia merchant, was one of the main financiers of the American Revolutionary War. William Morris was an artist and writer of the late 19th century, the founder of the English Arts and Crafts movement. William Morris, 1st Lord Nuffield, was a pioneer UK automobile manufacturer. William Morris, born Zelman Moses, was the founder of the William Morris talent agency in New York. Desmond Morris was a well-known British zoologist through his TV appearances. Jan Morris is the author and travel writer from Wales formerly known as James Morris.
Select Morris Numbers Today
- 131,000 in the UK (most numerous
in West Midlands)
- 120,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 52,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Select Morris and Like Surnames
Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name. The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales. Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.
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