Nichols Surname Genealogy

Nicholls are the patronymic forms of the medieval given name Nicholas –
from the
Greek Nikolaos (meaning “to
conquer people”), a name popular among Christians because of a fourth
century saint that bore that name.
spellings of the surname were variable. The
spelling became more common in eastern England, Nicholls in western
England. Nicholls is more common in England, Nichols
in America.

Nichols/Nicholls Resources on

Nichols/Nicholls Ancestry

Nicoll was recorded in the village of Islip in Northamptonshire
in 1467, the year that the names John and Ann Nicoll were inscribed in
the chancel of the local church. Matthias Nicoll left the village
for America and was the first English Mayor of New York in 1671. Another
family has been traced back to William Nicholls who acquired Ecton
manor in
1540. His family used the same coat of
as those of
Nicholls of Cornwall and the Nicholls of
Llandwit Major in Glamorgan.

Nicholls has been a relatively common name in
Cornwall. The county ranked second after
London in terms of Nicholls frequency in the 1881 census:

  • the
    oldest family was probably the Nicholls of Penvose near St. Tudy who
    had held a manor
    until 1678 (this family may trace back to a John Nicholl of Bodmin who
    was murdered
    in the town on Easter Day 1398).
  • the Nicholls of Trereife near
    date from about 1600.
  • a
    Nicholls family
    in Redruth has been traced back to the birth of William Nicholls in
  • another William Nicholls was in
    the 1690’s the first in a long line of stonemasons in St.Keverne.
    Sir George Nicholls
    of St. Keverne was
    the 1830’s
    first British Poor Law Commissioner.

in general is a west country
surname. The surname is also common in
Devon, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, and Staffordshire.

Nichols, by contrast, has appeared primarily
on the east coast of England, in a line running south from Yorkshire to
with a particular concentration in Norfolk.
The Nichols, however, are outnumbered by about three to one by
the Nicholls.

Wales. Some
say a Nichols line began in Wales with Nicol de Albini in the 11th
century. A Norman Bishop Nicol of
Llandaff followed. From this line, it is
thought, came the Nicholls
of Landwit Major in Glamorgan, beginning with Nichol ap Thomas in 1465. This family lived in the Great House, a
building later abandoned and then restored in the 1950’s.

Matthias Nicoll, the mayor
of New York in 1671, was
the patriarch of the Nicoll family which settled and
owned much of Long Island. Numerous
place names there bear his name.
Nicolls of Bedfordshire (originally from a Nicholls family in London)
was New
York’s first Governor, although he later returned to England.

However, the main spelling in America has
been Nichols. Francis Nichols from
Sedgeberrow in Worcestershire was an early arrival in New England,
recorded in
Stratford, Connecticut in 1639. Thomas
Nichols was the forebear of the
Nichols of Rhode Island
. They
included two deputy colonial governors
of the state, Jonathan father and son.

Nichols from London came to Pennsylvania in 1681, having received a
land grant
from William Penn. His son, also named
Amos, was a trader along the Chesapeake Bay, but of dubious reputation.

was described on several occasions as
owing debts, being a vagrant, and possibly inciting trouble among the
Indians. He stood trial for both robbery
and forgery, but managed to get acquitted each time.”

Amos Nichols died in Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1725.
His son John was
one of the first settlers of
western Maryland.

Today Texas has the largest number of Nichols. One
early line of Nichols there began in
Virginia with Solomon Nichols at the time of the Revolutionary War. George Washington Nichols and his family
migrated via Tennessee via Arkansas to Texas in 1836 and made their
home in Gonzalez
county. His brother Rowland Nichols came later to Kerr
county in 1856, but tragically
met his death there in 1859 as a result of an Indian attack.

Thomas Nicholls was the seventh son of a Cornishman,
Edward Church Nicholls, who had come to America at the conclusion of
Revolutionary War and settled in Louisiana.
His seventh son Francis was a Brigadier General in the
Confederate army
and served for two terms as the Governor of Louisiana.

America may have other origins. An early
example was a Hessian soldier Christoph Nicolaus who defected during
Revolutionary War and stayed in Charleston, South Carolina as
Nichols. More recent examples have been
Jewish, like the film director Mike Nichols and the comedian Dan

Canada. Some
of the first Nichols in Canada were Loyalists who crossed over the
border after
the Revolutionary War was lost. Captain
John R. Nichols arrived from Long Island and settled with his wife
Katherine in
Digby, Nova Scotia. Another John
Nichols, this time originally from Rhode Island, was in Quebec by 1790. William Nichols of New Haven, Connecticut
never made it, as he died in 1783. But
his wife and five children reached Wilmot, Nova Scotia where they
compensation from the British Government.

From Devon in England in 1836 came George and Sarah Nicholls, followed
by George’s brother John. They settled
in Binbrook, Ontario.

John Nichols, arrested for stealing in London,
was one of the First Fleeters transported in 1788 on the Scarborough
to Australia. He
obtained his release in 1791 and took up a grant of land.
He and his wife Ann raised eleven
children. Kaye Purnell’s 1988 book The Story of John Nichols narrated his
story and those of his descendants through five generations.

brothers, Henry and Charles, left London for Melbourne in 1853 and
headed for
the Victorian goldfields. Their hopes of
organizing miners into a cooperative ended in failure.
Henry pursued a life as a journalist and
ended up as the editor of the Hobart Mercury. One of his sons, Herbert, became Chief
Justice of Tasmania. Lake Nicholls in
the Western Highlands was named after him.

Nichols/Nicholls Miscellany

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

Nichols/Nicholls Names

George Nichols from Oxford was an
English Catholic martyr during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
J. C. Nichols was a prominent real estate developer in Kansas City
in the first half of the 20th century.
His projects included America’s first suburban shopping center.

Herbie Nichols was the
American jazz pianist and composer who wrote Lady Sings the Blues.
Mike Nichols, born Mikhail
Peschkowsky, is a well-known American film director. He arrived
with his parents in America as Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

Select Nichols/Nicholls Today

  • 48,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 54,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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