Newman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Newman Surname Meaning
Recorded as Newman in England and Neumann in Germany, this surname derived from the Old English and Germanic neowe, meaning “new,” and mann or “man.” It initially developed as a nickname for someone who was a newcomer to the area. Some have interpreted the name as describing a trusted outsider used by a Norman baron to help him to deal with local disputes in the village.  The German Neumanns who came to America often anglicized their names to Newman.  As did many Jewish immigrants of Yiddish roots.

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Newman Surname Ancestry

England. Newman appears to have been a west country name.

Wiltshire  Early sightings were in Wiltshire where the Newman name at Castle Combe dates from 1340. They were said to have held “a messuage and a half-virgate of land in the manor.” The name disappeared from Castle Combe in the late 15th century but reappeared in the 17th. One family traces their Newmans back to William Newman, a yeoman farmer in Castle Combe in the early 18th century.

Devon   A Newman family in Devon were Dartmouth merchants, dating back to the early 1400’s, first in cloth and then in French wines. They prospered in the 16th century in the dried cod trade with Newfoundland and Portugal. The firm of Newman and Holdsworth owned ten ships engaged in this trade at one point. And these Newmans remained influential in Devon well into the 19th century.

Dorset  John Newman was rector of Fifehead Magdalen in Dorset in 1405. This line continued via his brother Robert and they held Fifehead Manor through Tudor and Stuart times. Colonel Richard Newman supported the Royalists strongly during the Civil War.

“At the battle of Warwick in 1651 he held the gates of the city to enable Charles II’s retreat, a valiant feat of arms which earned his grandson a baronetcy in posthumous gratitude following the King’s restoration.”

Somerset  A branch of this family was to be found in North Cadbury, Somerset and then at Hendford in Yeovil. They were also at Preston Deanery in Northampton. Another line, through Thomas Newman of Mount Bures in Essex, included in its number Abram Newman, a grocer who became one of the richest men in London in the late 18th century.

SE England  In the southeast, one Newman family history began in Dorking, Surrey early in the 17th century and proceeded to London in the late 18th. Henry Newman lived in the Oxfordshire village of Finmere in the mid 17th century. Cardinal Newman’s grandfather was a London grocer, originally from Cambridgeshire, and his father a London banker.

Later Newmans included Neumanns of German origin such as Max Neumann, one of the Bletchley codebreakers during World War Two. Max had his family name changed to Newman in 1916 because of the anti-German feeling during World War One.

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

  • one in the west, from Hampshire stretching north and west into Gloucestershire
  • and the other around London, with additional Newmans in Essex and Kent.

Ireland. Newmans in Ireland have been of English extraction and were to be found in Cork, Dublin, and Meath. Richard Newman of the Dorset/Somerset Newmans had acquired the Newberry manor estate in Mallow, Cork in 1686 and the family established themselves there as local gentry. Newmans from Schull parish in Cork, flax farmers, emigrated to Canada in 1832.

America. Newmans came to America from England, Ireland, and Germany primarily.

The Newman name is prominent in East Providence, Rhode Island (Newman road, Newman cemetery, and Newman Congregational Church) because the Rev. Samuel Newman, the eminent clergyman and Bible scholar, had taken his church there in 1643 to found the new settlement of Rehoboth.

Another early English settler was Francis Newman, Governor of the New Haven colony in 1658. In 1775 a young Boston sexton Robert Newman achieved everlasting fame as the man who lit the lanterns to warn the patriots of the British advance. There is even a Robert Newman Family Association today.

Walter Newman, a carpenter, came from Ireland as an indentured apprentice in 1683. It was said of him: “Walter Newman. His ear mark is a hole in the right ear and a square on half crop off the fore part of the left ear. His brand mark is a triangle on the side of the buttocks.”

He settled in Pennsylvania in what is now called Newmanstown.
Descendants moved onto Virginia and Ohio. Much later, in the 1850’s, Samuel Newman arrived from Cork, fought in the Civil War, and lived out his life in Boston.

German Newmans.  The first Neumann/Neuman immigrants from Germany were recorded in Berks county, Pennsylvania in the 1750’s. The Newman numbers increased in the 1800’s, particularly with the arrival of Jewish Newmans.

Leopold Newman was a Jewish hero of the Civil War. His father
Charles had fought in the Mexican War and he enlisted in New York on the Unionist side, but died of battle wounds in 1863. His
tombstone read: “His fought for his country with the army of the Potomac in every battle from Bull Run to that in which he fell leading his regiment in the storming of Morys Heights.”

The abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman, born in the Lower East Side of New York in 1905, was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland who had arrived five years earlier. Other well-known Jewish Newmans are the singer/songwriter Randy Newman and – which may surprise some – the actor Paul Newman.

Canada. The first Newmans in Canada were the Newmans of Dartmouth who had set up a trading post for fish in Newfoundland in 1700. The business still prospers there. Later came Newmans from Ireland and Germany. There are even Newmans (originally Nyman) from Finland in Canada. Nestor Nyman arrived in the 1890’s and settled with his family in Saanich, British Columbia.

Australia. Charles Newman from Dorset, who had served out in India, brought his family to Tasmania and Victoria in the late 1830’s. James Newman from Sussex arrived in Victoria with his family on the Medway in 1854 (some of these Newmans later crossed over to Tasmania to work as miners).

New Zealand.  Another Newman who had served in India, Captain Alfred Newman, came out to New Zealand in 1853 and took up a farm at Arlington, south of Napier. Most of these Newmans now live in the Hawkes Bay area.

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Newman Surname Miscellany

Francis Newman of North Cadbury.  Francis was the third and last of the Newmans of North Cadbury.  This Francis bought and had built Newman Street near Oxford Street in London and Newman Hall in Essex, both acquired on credit.  He married Jane Sampson, daughter of the Clerk Prebend of Wells, and seems to have lived a life of extravagant pleasure.

By her he had three daughters. The eldest Frances fought with her father, eloped and married her cousin Francis at Piddletrenthide in Dorset in 1778.  On May Day 1788, the two younger daughters were married in a lavish double wedding at North Cadbury, probably in the fashionable rococo style, to the Rev. James Rogers of Newnton, Wiltshire, vicar of South Cadbury, and to Sir William Yea, baronet of St. James in Taunton.

Fond of gambling, alone in a large house (his wife had predeceased him in 1784), and with mounting debts, Francis is said to have lost house and everything that he owned in an all-or-nothing gaming bet one evening in late 1789.  As a result his creditors foreclosed on his properties and there were reports that he ended up in debtors’ prison. Disowned by his two flamboyant younger daughters, he was taken in by and reconciled to his elder daughter Frances and nephew Francis at Piddletrenthide on the Piddle River.  He died there on Christmas Day, 1796.

Arthur Newman of Hendford.  Arthur Newman was one of the last “hunting, shooting and fishing parsons.”

He achieved notoriety in the strange case of George Chilcott, a parishioner who Rev. Newman refused to bury.  Instead he kept him in a coffin for three days “whereafter Mr. Chilcott showed signs of life and later made a full recovery” (as reported in the Bridgewater Times in 1880).

In midlife he absconded from his parish with a mistress, ready to embark for America.  Intercepted by his son on the ship before departure, he was persuaded to return.  However, on his
return, he found a petition from his parishioners in Axminster nailed to the locked door of the church barring him from entry.

James Newman of Preston Deanery.  Charles Toll, a cousin of the Newmans, had taken over the Preston Deanery estate in Northamptonshire in 1775 and assumed the name of Newman.   He lost his son at sea in 1811.  A plaque at the church of Preston Deanery commemorates this son’s life and death.

  • “Reader, Within these consecrated Walls
  • This Marble Tablet (With Tribute that is due)
  • Is inscribed to the Memory of
  • James Newman Newman, Esq. of the Royal Navy,
  • Captain of his Majesty’s Ship Hero,
  • Of seventy-four Guns.
  • Wrecked on the 24th December 1811,
  • Upon the Haak Sands, off the Texel Island,
  • And every Soul on Board perished!
  • He was the Son of Charles Newman, Esq.
  • Of Preston-Deanry, in the County of Northampton,
  • And of Esther his Wife, who was
  • Niece of the late Sir John Langham, Bart.
  • Of the same County.
  • He has left an aged Father to lament
  • The Loss of a beloved Son
  • In the prime of Life;
  • An affectionate Wife to bewail the Death
  • Of an excellent Husband;
  • And his Country to regret as they regard
  • The Loss of a good and gallant Officer.
  • He was a Man amiable in the
  • highest Degree in Disposition,
  • And estimable in every Relation of Life.”

Newmans Coming to America.  The table below shows where Newmans came from:

Country Numbers Percent
England   871   53
Ireland   514   31
Germany   229   14
Poland    32    2

Some may have come Newmans after their arrival in America, boosting the German and Jewish totals above.

The Rev. Samuel Newman of Reheboth.  The real founder of Rehoboth was the Rev. Samuel Newman.  The son of Richard Newman, a glover from Banbury in Oxfordshire, he had been a  pastor in the West Riding of Yorkshire for many years. However, disgusted with the religious persecutions of Archbishop Laud, he had come to America in company with a large number of like-minded emigrants.

He resided four years at Dorchester and was chiefly engaged there in writing his Concordance to the Bible. In 1639 he became pastor of the church at Weymouth.  Four years he led the majority of his church, together with others of Hingham, to a place on the east bank of the Pawtucket river that was called by the Indians Seekonk.  He gave it the name of Rehoboth, a scriptural word meaning enlargement.

Newman had purchased the land from the Plymouth colony and had the land surveyed with title to him.   He had also thought it morally correct to purchase the land from the Indians, rather than just assert the land title granted him by the colony, and had done so.

The early history of the Newman church was closely identified with the progress of the town, as both were under one government until 1759.

Robert Newman, Those Lanterns, and That Famous Ride.  On the night of April 18, 1775, the sexton of Boston’s Old North Church, Robert Newman, climbed the 14-story steeple and held up two lanterns to alert patriots across the harbor in Charlestown that British troops were advancing their way on a munitions raid to Lexington and Concord.

A patriot living in the British commander’s own house had informed Revere’s Sons of Liberty resistance movement.  Before Revere began his famous ride warning of the looming invasion, he had asked Newman to raise the alarm using the lantern code: “one if by land, two if by sea.”  Newman held two lanterns up.

The next day, April 19th, is celebrated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Patriots Day and is a legal holiday.

Paul Newman was Jewish.  Paul Newman was born in 1925 in the Shaker Heights suburb of Cleveland to Arthur and Theresa Newman. Arthur was Jewish, the son of a peddler immigrant from Hungary, Theresa Catholic from a Slovak family who had immigrated as a young girl in 1904.

His looks might say WASP – fair-skinned with curly light brown hair and striking aqua-blue eyes.  But Newman, who had no religion as an adult, always identified himself as Jewish because, as he once declared wryly, “it’s more of a challenge.”

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Newman Names
  • Colonel Richard Newman was one of the staunchest supporters of Charles I during the Civil War.
  • The Rev. Samuel Newman was a colonial Massachusetts clergyman and author of the highly influential Concordance of the Bible. 
  • Cardinal John Newman was a leader of the 19th century Anglican Oxford Movement who then crossed over to Catholicism. He was recently beatified by Pope Benedict.
  • Paul Newman was a highly acclaimed and popular American actor.
  • Randy Newman is a noted American singer/songwriter.

Newman Numbers Today
  • 45,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 43,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).
Newman and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.

AckermanHoffmanLangSpringer
AstorHooverNewmanStern
BergerKaiserSchaeferStrauss
BuckKellerSchlesingerWagner
EversKlingerSchultzWolf
FisherKrugerSnyderZimmerman

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