Reynolds Surname Genealogy

The name Reynolds was a Norman import to England, from Reginald or in
Old French Reinold. The
earlier root is the Old Norse Rognvaldr,
comprised of the elements ragin
meaning “counsel” and wald
meaning “rule.” Reynold was a Viking leader who harried the English and
Irish shores in the 10th century.
Name variants have included Reynold and
Reynell. The Irish MacRaghnaill derives from the Gaelic of Randal
or Reginald.  This name became anglicized to Reynolds.

Reynolds Resources on

Reynolds Ancestry

The Reynolds
name first appeared
in Somerset where they were granted
lands after the Norman Conquest in 1066. William filius Raunaldi
is recorded in the Domesday Book.

SW England. A
Reynell family originally from Cambridgeshire transplanted themselves
to Devon in the 14th century where they were substantial
landowners. They were described as “men of great credit,
fidelity, and service to their kings, country and state in peace and in
war.” Both the Reynell and Reynolds names were to be found in
Devon. A Reynolds family in Plympton produced the great 18th
century portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds.

naval Reynolds came from Cornwall. They
made their home in the late 18th century at Penair near Truro. And the Reynolds name was also prominent in
tin mining at St. Agnes, starting possibly with William Reynolds who
was born
there in the 1680’s.

Reynolds, a yeoman farmer from Melcombe in Dorset, was five times its
mayor in
the 1550’s. His nephew Edward benefited
from the patronage of the Earl of Essex and died in 1623 in London a
rich man.

Kent. A Reynolds
line dating back to the 16th century in East Bergholt in
Kent included descendants who were among the early immigrants to
America. From a later naval family came George Reynolds who got
himself involved in the Chartist movement in the 1840’s. He
founded a radical newspaper, Reynolds’s
Weekly Newspaper,
which became popular. The paper
continued in a different guise as
Reynolds News
until 1967.

East Anglia.
The birth of Thomas
Reynolds was recorded at Great Chesterford in northern Essex in 1569. He appeared in court in 1598 after a brawl
with a neighbor. One family history dates
back to the marriage of James Reynolds and Susannah Wood at Little
Bardfield in
1711. In the churchyard of the nearby
village of Great Sampford there are a number of Reynolds gravestones of
late 18th and 19th centuries.

Just across the border into Cambridgeshire were
the Reynolds of Castle Camps and the Reynolds of Leverington:

  • Sir James Reynolds, a Cromwellian general,
    had taken a lease on the Castle Camps estate as a safe retreat for his
    during the Civil War. His grandson Sir
    James was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1727.
  • while Richard Reynolds was rector of
    Leverington near Wisbech in the 1670’s. His
    son Richard, born there, became the Bishop of Lincoln.
    He acquired Paxton Hall in Huntingdonshire in
    1730 where the family remained for several generations.

There was a Reynolds family in Lancashire which inherited the
Strangeways estate near Manchester in 1711. Francis
Reynolds from this family distinguished himself in naval actions in the
West Indies and later took over the family estates at Tortworth in
Gloucestershire (his home there is now a country house hotel).

Lancashire received an influx of Irish Reynolds in the 19th
century. Mary Reynolds from Mohill in county Leitrim settled her
young family in Manchester after the death of her husband during the
famine years. Her letters recently published, The Reynolds Letters: An Irish Emigrant
Family in Late Victorian Manchester,
present a story of Irish
immigrants making good in industrial England at that time.

Ireland. The Reynolds
name came to Ireland at the time of Strongbow in the 1200’s.
These English invaders took the titles of
Earls of Cavan, Lisburne and Mountmorris. A later English
invasion in the 17th century gave rise to the Reynells from Devon of

However, the largest numbers of Reynolds have been home-grown.
From early times the lands around Lough Rynn in county Leitrim were
owned and settled by the MacRaghnaill clan.
Sean na gCeann or John of the Heads, so called for beheading his
rebellious clansmen, was their chief in the late 1500’s.

The next century saw the English taking over Leitrim and the
Irish, including the McRaghnaills, being gradually pushed out. A
second exodus occurred at the time of the potato famine. Even so,
nearly half of the Reynolds in Ireland today come from Leitrim.
The Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds was born in nearby

Portugal. A
Reynolds family from Kent has been in
since 1820, first as cork importers and then as wine

America. The English
Reynolds in America came first. Early Reynolds settlers
in New England were Robert and Mary Reynolds and their four children
who got there in 1630. Christopher Reynolds from Gravesend
Kent arrived in Virginia in 1622 on the Francis and John. Their
family line is documented in Stephen Tilman’s 1959 book, The Rennolds-Reynolds of Virginia and

Members of this family were subsequently involved in the freighting
business in upstate New York. They later moved west:

  • P.G.
    Reynolds became a mail contractor and stage operator in Dodge City for
    the trails heading south to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
  • his brother Milton, who adopted the writing name of Kicking Bird,
    covered Indian council meetings as a roving reporter and became an
    advocate for Western settlement.
  • another Milton Reynolds, but of
    German origin, introduced the first ballpoint pen to an unsuspecting
    public in 1945.

Abraham Reynolds was a poor tobacco farmer in Virginia in the early
1800’s. His son Hardin started a plantation at Rock Spring
Patrick county. Hardin’s son RJ, the second of sixteen children
born there,
embarked on a plan to build his own tobacco factory at Winston
Salem. It was
he who developed the huge tobacco empire that is RJ Reynolds.

Irish. Irish
Reynolds also came to America. John Reynolds arrived in
Virginia in the 1770’s. His descendants moved onto Kentucky and
Missouri. Robert and Margaret Reynolds from Louth reached
Tennessee in 1784 and then continued to Illinois. Their son John
rose to be the
fourth governor of that
state. Nineteenth century arrivals were more numerous. And
many Reynolds went to Canada at that time as well.

Canada. Early arrivals
had been Empire Loyalists, such as William Reynolds, leaving America
after the Revolutionary War. William had been a coronet in the
British army and led a group of Loyalists out of New York in
1796. He and his family ended up in Dorchester (near London),

Bernard and Mary Reynolds came in the late 1830’s from
county Leitrim and settled in Renfrew county, Ontario. Other
Reynolds followed, from both England and Ireland, as the 19th century

South Africa. In 1850 two
Devon farmers, Thomas and Lewis Reynolds, set off on the Justina for South Africa to seek
their fortunes (their uncle Charles had previously emigrated to
Australia). The brothers’ business took them to sugar refining in
Natal. But it was the next generation – Frank and Charles
Reynolds – who are generally considered as the founders of South
Africa’s sugar industry. Frank built the family home of Lynton
Hall at Pennington on the south coast. It now operates as a
luxury hotel.

Australia. Two brothers,
Richard and Edward Reynolds, were convicted of petty theft in
Chelmsford and were transported to Australia in 1791. They were
educated and literate and Edward kept a diary of the hardships of the
journey. The brothers later surfaced in Hawkesbury, NSW.
Richard petitioned for a land grant:

“The petitioner arrived in this colony
on the Atlantic in 1791, has
been free about 28 years, has endured all the hardships to which and
infant colony could subject him, and has reared a family of ten
children to the habits of industry.”

His petition was successful. He died in Wilberforce in 1837 and
left a large number of descendants.

John Reynell
from Devon was an early settler in South Australia. He
came in 1838 and started the first commercial vineyard in the
colony. Meanwhile Thomas and Mary Reynolds arrived in
Western Australia from Oxfordshire in 1842. Their descendants are
still to
be found there. Charles Reynolds from Devon came to Tocal in
the Hunter valley in 1844 and worked there until his death in
1871. In his time he was recognized an an expert on horse and
cattle breeding in New South Wales.

Select Reynolds Miscellany

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

Reynolds Names

Walter Reynolds was the
son of a Windsor baker who became a favorite of King Edward II.
The king made him Archbishop of Canterbury.
Joshua Reynolds
from Devon was a leading English portrait
painter of the
18th century.
R.J Reynolds, a Virginia
tobacco farmer, founded the R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1890.
Richard S. Reynolds, nephew of
RJ, founded the American Metals Company in 1919 and developed it as one
of the world’s leading aluminium companies.
Paul Revere Reynolds, a
descendant of the American patriot Paul Revere, was the first literary
agent in New York, in 1893.
Milton Reynolds, a Chicago
businessman, introduced the first ballpoint pen on the market in 1945.
Albert Reynolds was the Irish
Minister in the 1990’s.
Debbie Reynolds, born in
Texas, is an American actress and singer
Burt Reynolds is a well-known
American actor.

Select Reynolds Today

  • 85,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cambridgeshire)
  • 76,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)





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