Richards Surname Genealogy

comprises the elements ric
meaning “powerful” and hard
“ruler.” This personal name was introduced to England by the
Normans. It gained popularity in the 13th century because
of the Crusader exploits of King Richard the Lion Heart.
as a surname meaning “son of Richard” took root in
the west country and in Wales; while the surname Richardson is
generally to be found in the north of England and in Scotland.

Resources on

Richards Ancestry

The Richard name arrived with the Normans and has been mainly
associated with the west country. Richard FitzScrob, a Norman
knight, built Richard’s castle on the borders between Herefordshire and
Shropshire in 1050. An early surname record was that of Thomas
Richardes in Worcester in 1327. The Richards surname subsequently
appeared in border counties such as Shropshire and Staffordshire and in
the southwest in Devon and Cornwall.

Richards is very much a Cornish name. Alexander Richards, born in
Wendron in 1586, was the forebear of one Cornish Richards family based
in St. Ives. Another Richards family (which subsequently emigrated to
New Zealand
traced itself back to Zennor and St. Ives in the mid 1700’s.

Richards were engaged in tin and copper mining. William Richards
was a mine captain in Camborne in the early 1800’s; and Isaac Richards
mine agent for Devon Great Consols (briefly the richest copper mine in
Europe) in the mid 1800’s.

Elsewhere The
Richards name was also to be found in Elizabethan times along the
south coast in Kent and Hampshire.

Wales. Richards only
seemed to emerge as a surname in Wales in the 1700’s.
Sometimes the early name was Richard and it only changed to Richards in
later generations. David Richard, for instance, was born in the
Llandovery area of Carmarthenshire around 1750. A descendant,
Timothy Richards, was a Baptist missionary to China in the late 19th

The best known Richards was probably Sir Richard Richards of the Coed
family from Dolgellau in present day Gwynedd. He was a well-known
judge who eventually became Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. In
1785 he secured through a propitious marriage Caerynwch Mansion which has
remained with his family until the present day. The Dolgellau
area also produced Richards Quakers and Richards Baptist ministers.

Other notable Richards of the late 18th century were:

  • Edward Richard, the son of an inn-keeper from Ystradmeurig in
    Cardiganshire. He was a scholar and poet and he started a school
    in Ystradmeurig which became famous in Wales.
  • the Rev. Thomas Richards of Darowen in
    Montgomeryshire. He and his large family were all active in
    Welsh church and cultural affairs, in particular his eldest daughter
    Mary who compiled over twenty volumes of transcripts and memoranda.
  • and Walter Richards of the Richards farming family of Llanharan
    in Glamorgan, a well-known herbalist of his day. His recipes have

Richards has been very much a name of south Wales and this became even
more so during the 19th century as industry developed there. The
name distribution in the 1891 census showed that
half of all
in Wales were to be found in the county of Glamorgan.

Ireland. Colonel Solomon
Richards came to Ireland in the 1650’s under Cromwell and was appointed
governor of Wexford City in 1658. He later was granted the
Solsborough estate in Wexford and his family settled there:

  • a
    descendant was the
    Dublin doctor Solomon
    , who had the reputation of being the fattest
    in Britain.
  • later came the naval Edwin Richards and his three
    sons – Edwin (killed in the Crimean War), Frederick (who became Admiral
    of the Fleet and after whom Richards Bay in South Africa is named), and
    Urban (who served in the British Army and later emigrated to New

Another Richards line in Wexford produced Elizabeth Richards, an Irish
sympathizer who recorded the events of the 1798 rebellion in her

Among the early Richards in New England were:

  • Thomas Richards from Somerset who came to Dorchester,
    Massachusetts in 1630. His son Benjamin was a merchant in Boston.
  • Edward Richards, an indentured servant from Plymouth, who crossed
    the Atlantic in 1633. He trained as a carpenter in Lynn,
    Massachusetts. His descendants are numerous. One branch
    headed west in the 1840’s to Utah and later to Wyoming.
  • and Edward and Nathaniel Richards, brothers from Southampton, who
    settled in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1638.

Pennsylvania The
Welsh Richards came later and entered mainly via
Pennsylvania. Some of these early Richards were Quakers, seeking
relief from persecution at home:

  • Daniel
    arrived from
    Dolgellau in Merionethshire in 1686 and settled in Chester county (as
    did Maud Richard from Carmarthen some seven years later).
  • Owen
    Richards from Merionethshire came around 1715 and settled in Berks
    county (his descendants were traced in Lewis Richards’ 1882 book A Sketch of Some of the Descendants of
    Owen Richards
  • while Matthias and John Richards, Pennsylvanian
    Congressmen after the Revolutionary War, were the sons of German
    immigrant Matthias Reichard.

Elsewhere Two
Richards brothers, David and Joseph, were responsible for a
large influx of Welsh settlers to America in the years following the
Civil War. They began the Knoxville Iron Company in Knoxville,
Tennessee and invited other Welsh immigrants to work for them in the
coal mines and iron works there.

Canada. The French
Richard and Richer could become Richards in Canada. The Richard
name appeared in Acadia (Nova Scotia) with Michel Richard as early as
1650. When the British ejected the Acadians in 1752, Richard
descendants made their way to Louisiana and they formed part of the new
Cajun community there. Some Richards remained in Canada, in and around
Montreal and in New Brunswick.

and New Zealand.
Thomas Richards, born in Dolgellau in
Wales, was a ship’s surgeon when he came out to Tasmania in the early
1830’s and stayed. He turned his hand there to writing and
journalism and has been called “the father of the Tasmanian

A number of Richards came this way from Cornwall later in the 19th
century, including:

  • Simon Richards, who arrived in the 1850’s, married, and settled
    in Singleton, NSW.
  • John Richards, who came to Victoria during the gold rush of
    the 1850’s. He and his family later moved to Queensland.
    Two sons, Tom and Bill, represented Australia in rugby football in the
    early 1900’s.
  • Richard Richards, who brought his mining skills to the Moonta
    mines in South Australia in the 1860’s. His son Robert became a
    mine union official and later a Labor politician.
  • and John Richards and his family, who came to Auckland, New
    Zealand in 1874.

The Rev. William Richards arrived in South Australia from Portsmouth in
1865 and helped establish the Methodist church there.

Joseph and Henry Richards came from a long line of Richards farmers in
Shropshire. Apparently their father was angry with them and sent
them packing to New Zealand in 1850. Both bought land and farmed
near Christchurch, South Island. Joseph was described in middle
age as “a typical John Bull, one who could carry an enormous amount of
liquor and could still still sit on his horse as it carried him
home.” He weighed about twenty stone.

Richards Miscellany

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

Select Richards Names

Henry Brinley Richards was a 19th
century pianist and composer from Carmarthen in Wales. His best remembered piece
is God Bless the Prince of Wales.
Sir Gordon Richards is thought
to be
Britain’s finest jockey. He finally won the Derby on Pinza in 1953.
Keith Richards is founding
member and lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones.
Viv Richards is considered one
of the greatest cricketers to have come out of the Caribbean.

Select Richards

  • 83,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Surrey)
  • 50,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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