Rees/Reese Surname Genealogy

is commonly considered a Welsh surname, although it has English origins
as well. The root is the Old English name Rhys meaning “ardor” or “fiery
warrior.” The name appeared as Hris
in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles for Cambridgeshire in 1052.
Welsh Origin.
Rhys ap Tewder was the name borne by the last ruler of
independent Wales. He died in 1093 after unsuccessfully resisting
Norman advance. A century later, there was Rhys ap Gruffydd,
often called Lord Rhys, the Welsh warrior-prince. Rhys in time
became a common Welsh name. It
sounded like “Rheece” in south Wales and it was probably scribes who
changed its spelling to Rees (although there were other
lines that went to Rice and Price).

Origin Elsewhere.
The Rees surname can also be found in Germany and Holland. The
town of Rees in the Rhineland contributed the German Rees (now mainly
to be found in Baden/Wurttemberg); while there
were the van Rees in the Netherlands.

Rees changed to Reese
sometimes to Reece on its arrival in
America. Today Reese outnumbers Rees in America
by more than four to one.

Resources on

Rees/Reese Ancestry

Rhys and Rees are names that are primarily to be found in south

In the days of Welsh patronyms and before the advent of English-type
surnames, the Rhys name was associated with the ancient Welsh kingdom
of Deheubarth and with the powerful family which made its home in the
Tyvi valley at Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.

Their most prominent
member was Sir
Rhys ap Thomas
. He it was who fought with Henry Tudor
1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field and was rewarded with lands and
power in south Wales.

to his enthusiasm for
unconventional dalliances, Sir Rhys became father of a considerable
of natural children, most of whom found no difficulty in marrying
wives and founding families of their own.”

In Pembrokeshire there was one Rhys/Rees line that held the estate of Sandyhaven in
Llanisan-yn-Rhos and
another at Rickeston in Brawdy.

Gruffydd ap Rhys
was beheaded by Henry
VIII in 1531 and had his lands confiscated. His descendants in
Carmarthenshire – who styled themselves Rice – were restored to some of
their estates and were ennobled to the
Dynevor peerage in the 18th century.
But most of the Rhyses in Carmarthenshire became
Rees as English-style surnames came to be adopted.
There were early Rees in:

  • Cilymaenllwyd (near
    Llanelli). The
    Reeses of
    were prominent local magistrates. A
    CDROM The History of Cilymaenllwyd,
    which covers these Reeses, was released by the Llanelli History Society
    in 2009.
  • Llandovery. The Rev. Owen
    Rees was a minister for Protestant dissenters here in the 1740’s and
    his son Josiah a noted scholar and Unitarian minister. William
    Rees was a cleric and antiquarian. His son William started up the
    nearby Tonn printing press in 1829.
  • Llandybie.
    The early Rees ministers here were Methodists. Bowen Rees, the
    son of a stonemason, was a missionary to Africa in the 1880’s.
  • and Trelech (near
    Rev. David Rees was an early 19th century nonconformist preacher known
    as “the agitator.” The Reeses in Trelech lived on Pant-hywel farm.

This part of Wales had become active with religious nonconformity by
the early 1700’s. Today the Rees name in Carmarthen is very much
associated with Carmarthen ham. Albert Rees’s stall in Carmarthen
market is run by the fifth generation of Rees butchers. Their ham
has been a particular favorite of Prince Charles.

Glamorgan The
Rees name spread east into Glamorgan in the 19th century as
industry and mining developed there, initially probably into
Swansea. There were Rees sea captains who brought copper ores
from Cuba and Chile back to Swansea in the early 19th century.
Many Reeses became coal miners in the Rhondda valley. The Rees
name has become particularly common in the towns of Merthyr Tydfil and

America. Rees nonconformists
and Quakers were in Pennsylvania by the early 1700’s. The Rev.
Duffyd settled at that time in Lancaster county and his
family, starting with his son William, adopted the name Reese in their
new land,

The descendants of the Quakers Thomas and Margaret Rees
and Morris and Sarah Rees were to be found in Frederick county,
Virginia and then, as Reeses, inland in Ohio and Indiana and south in
Tennessee and the Carolinas. Solomon Reese married a sister of
Daniel Boone in Boonville, North Carolina and David Reese was a signer
of the North Carolina Mecklinburg Declaration in 1775.

By that time, there were also German Reeses in Pennsylvania.
Reinhold and Christina Ries had arrived in Philadelphia from
Wurttemberg sometime around 1760. Their Reese descendants settled
in Ohio. The iimmigration data for the 18th and 19th centuries
showed that approximately
60 percent of the Reeses in America had come from England and Wales and
40 percent from German-speaking lands.

The 19th century saw further Rees Welsh immigration. This time
many of them were miners – as part of the 80,000 or so Welsh miners who
migrated to the NE Pennsylvania coal mines between 1860 and

  • John
    Rees had arrived in 1866
    with his wife Sarah and settled in
  • another John Reese came a year later. But he soon
    developed a new line of work, healing athletes’ injuries. His
    nickname was “Bonesetter” and he gained national recognition as the
    doctor for major league baseball.

New Zealand. William Gilbert Rees
from Bristol emigrated to
Australia in 1852 where he worked as a sheep farmer.
He later moved to New Zealand and was one of
the early settlers in Central Otago. He
is considered the founding father of Queenstown. The
Rees river in central Otago was named
after him. A cousin, William Lee Rees,
settled in Auckland where he was an MP. His daughter Lily founded
Cook County
College, a girl’s school in Gisborne.

Rees/Reese Miscellany

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

Select Rees/Reese Names

Rhys ap Thomas
was the chief backer of Henry Tudor in the Battle
of Bosworth Field in 1485 and emerged as the most powerful man in south
Abraham Rees was an 18th
century Welsh nonconformist minister and the compiler of Rees’s Cyclopaedia.
was the inventor of Reese’s
Peanut Butter Cups
and the founder of the Reese Candy Company.
Dai Rees was the Welsh golfer
who captained the British side which won back the Ryder Cup in 1957.
Eberhard Rees was the
German-born rocket engineer who in 1970 succeeded Wernher von Braun as
the chief of American rocketry efforts.

Select Reeses

  • 48,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glamorgan)
  • 32,000 in America (most numerous
    in Pennsylvania)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).





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