Seymour Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Seymour Surname Meaning

The place-name Saint Maur in Normandy was said to have been the origin of the English Seymours.

These Seymours claimed to have come over to England with William the Conqueror.  They rose to prominence during Tudor times, being ennobled as the Duke of Somerset.

Seymour Surname Resources on The Internet

Seymour Surname Ancestry

  • from Western England and from Ireland (Limerick)
  • to America, Canada and New Zealand

England.  The Seymour origins may have been in northern France.  But their first recorded sightings were in fact in Monmouthshire on the Welsh borders in the mid-13th century.  Sir William Seymour, who was an attendant to the Black Prince, was the first to use the anglicized version of the name.  His son Roger established the family home at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire.

Sir John Seymour was the first to bring the family into national prominence.  He took an active part in suppressing the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 and afterwards attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.   His daughter Jane became the King’s third wife; his son Edward, created Duke of Somerset, acted as Lord Protector following the death of the King.

The Seymours were never again to be so close to royal power again.  In fact Edward the Lord Protector and his brother Thomas, who had married Henry VIII’s widow Catherine Parr, were both executed for treason in the early 1550’s as the political tide turned.

The Seymour family did remain haughty, influential and wealthy for several generations after this, although they split into several lines including a few illegitimate ones as well.  The Protector himself was married twice.  Probably due to the adultery of his first wife Catherine whom he repudiated in 1535, his titles and estates were entailed first on the issue from his second wife Anne:

  • Edward Seymour of this second marriage became the Earl of Hertford.  His descendants re-adopted the title of Duke of Somerset until this male line died out in 1750.
  • Edward Seymour of the first marriage meanwhile established himself at Berry Pomeroy in Devon.  Six successive Edward Seymours followed, the last of whom succeeded as Duke of Somerset in 1750. From Francis Seymour, a second son, came the Marquess of Hertford line.

The Marquess of Hertford line had become the most conspicuous Seymour line by the late 18th century. Their numbers included Lord Hugh Seymour, a senior naval officer who was for a time a close drinking friend of the Prince Regent. He died of yellow fever in the West Indies in 1801. 

His younger brother George, once described as “the handsomest giant in the world,” was also a carouser with the Prince.  He lived on, an inveterate place-seeker, until his death in Brighton in 1848.   From this line or thereabouts came the Seymours of Thrumpton Hall in Nottinghamshire.

The Seymour name has also been evident in Hampshire since the mid-16th century when Sir Henry Seymour, a brother of the Lord Protector, acquired Marwell Hall near Winchester.  There had in fact been earlier sightings of the name in Andover.  One Seymour family line at Ringwood has been traced back to Robert Seymour who was born in East Lulworth in 1624.

Ireland.  The Seymour name extended into Ireland.  One line via John Seymour, a second son of the Seymours of Berry Pomeroy, apparently settled in Limerick where James Seymour was recorded as mayor in 1729.  From this line, it is thought, came:

  • Sir Michael Seymour the naval officer who saw combat with the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and rose to be Rear-Admiral.
  • many other Seymours in Limerick who at this time were Quakers.  
  • and Horatio Nelson Seymour who was a prominent merchant in the city from the 1830’s to the 1870’s.  

Colonel Francis Seymour of the Hertford Seymours was in charge of the British troops stationed in Antrim in the early 1700’s and his descendants became sizeable landowners in the Lisburn area.  Another Seymour branch in Ireland began around this time with Thomas Seymour, also an army officer who with his brother John established himself at Ballymore castle in Galway. 

America.  Colonel John Seymour was appointed the colonial Governor of Maryland in 1704. He came in fact from the Bitton Seymours of Gloucestershire, an illegitimate line from the Lord Protector. Upon his death in 1709 his family returned to England. 

Richard Seymour, a Puritan from Hertfordshire, came to New England in 1635 and settled in Norwalk, Connecticut.  His line through six generations was covered in the 1939 book A History of the Seymour Family by George Seymour and Donald Jacobus.  One line extended to Horatio Seymour who served twice as Governor of New York and was the Democratic Presidential candidate against Ulysses S. Grant in 1868.

John Granderson Seymour arrived in North Carolina in 1792 from England.  Family legend has it that he came as a remittance man in that he had left his influential family behind and severed all family ties.  In 1829 he headed west with his family on horseback to Morgan county, Illinois where they settled.  Esther Seymour Atwood’s 1960 book The Descendants of John Granderson and Agnes Seymour covered this history.

Some of the other Seymours in America came from Ireland. Their numbers included: 

  • Felix Seymour from Ulster who arrived in 1737 and settled in Hardy county, Virginia.  
  • and William Seymour, also probably from Ulster, who reached South Carolina in 1798. He and his family later moved onto Mississippi.  

James Cunningham, born in Belfast in 1823, changed his name to Seymour when he arrived in New York.  There he became a popular Irish actor.  His son William Seymour was a prominent American stage actor, manager and director over a lengthy seventy year career.  

Canada.  Frederick Seymour, born in Belfast, came from an illegitimate Hertford Seymour line and consequently had to fend for himself. He served as a colonial administrator in various parts of the world before becoming the Governor of British Columbia in 1864.  He only lasted in the post for five years before his death from dysentery. But his name has lived on in a number of places in the province.

Maurice Seymour was said to have been born in Ireland around the year 1820.  After serving in the British army, he migrated from Jamaica to New York and then to Goderich in Ontario.  His son Maurice, born there in 1857, was in charge of public health in Saskatchewan for more than forty years. 

New Zealand.  Henry Seymour from Gloucestershire was one of the earliest settlers in Nelson, arriving there in 1842 and planting two oak seedlings that he had brought with him from England. He and his compatriot Alfred Fell soon set themselves up as merchants and land agents and became very prosperous in the process.

Seymour Surname Miscellany

Seymour Origins.  According to the Victorian writer Agnes Strickland:

“The Seymours were a family of country gentry who, like most holders of manorial rights, traced their ancestry to a Norman origin.  One or two had been knighted in the wars of France, but their names had never emerged from the herald’s visitation rolls into historical celebrity.

They increased their boundaries by fortunate alliances with heiresses and the head of the family married into a collateral branch of the lordly line of Beauchamp.  After that event two instances were quoted of Seymours serving as high sheriff of Wiltshire.

Thomas Cranmer granted a dispensation for nearness of kin between Henry VIII and his prospective bride Jane Seymour. Although the royal kindred appears somewhat doubtful, yet it is undeniable that the sovereign of England gained by this alliance one brother in-law who bore the name of Smith and another whose grandfather was a blacksmith at Putney.”

Sir Henry Seymour at Marwell Hall.  Sir Henry Seymour who had acquired Marwell Hall in Hampshire in 1551 was a zealous Protestant and, on taking over the property, treated the local Catholic priest at Owslebury with bigoted cruelty.  The priest in revenge solemnly and openly in the parish church cursed him and his posterity with bell, book, and candle. Outraged Sir Henry retaliated by shooting the priest while he was celebrating the rites of his faith.

The story goes that, whether as the fulfillment of the curse or not, by the time of the second generation from Sir Henry, the sons and daughters of his only son Sir John were without land or money and dependent on handouts from the Marquess of Hertford.  One member of the family came to such poverty as to receive a pauper’s burial in the very parish where the curse was pronounced.

The Seymours of Thrumpton Hall.  George Fitzoy Seymour had the haughty demeanor of the Seymour family and the belief that he was descended from Charles II and his bastard son the Duke of Grafton.  He was in fact the son of Lady Byron’s sister Lady Victoria Seymour and related to the Hertford Seymours.  His own father had been a diplomat, but a failed one and the British Foreign Office had parked him off to Paraguay in 1924 where it was believed that he could do no harm.

George was the presumptive heir of Thrumpton Hall, a Jacobean country house in Nottinghamshire, from his nephew Lord Byron.  In the event he had to acquire the house, which he did at an auction in 1949. This made him even more determined to strut around as the local squire.

But not even Thrumpton was enough for George Seymour.  As his daughter Miranda explained:  “The house couldn’t give more than it was,  It couldn’t confer friendship or success. This was a source of bewilderment, sadness and disappointment.”

So in middle age George embraced bikerdom. He bought himself some leathers and a 750-cc Ducati and began tooling around the countryside, usually in the company of young men hardly to the manor born.

Miranda Seymour followed her father George into Thrumpton Hall when he died in 1994.  In 2008 she wrote a bitter-sweet memoir of him in Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir.

Richard Seymour, Early American Immigrant.  Richard Seymour (sometimes Seymer) from Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire was influenced by the Essex preacher Rev. Thomas Hooker to leave England and come to New England. One of the original Puritans, he traveled on the Increase in 1635.  He was one of the first fourteen settlers of Norwalk, Connecticut.  The location of his house there is still known – at present-day Fitch Street and East Avenue.

Records indicate that he and his wife Mercy had three children before they traveled to New England and four more after they reached Norwalk.  Richard was appointed a Selectman in Norwalk in 1655, the year of his death.

Felix Seymour in Virginia.  Felix Seymour, born in Ulster in 1725, accompanied his father to America at the age of 12 on an apparent expedition to spy out the land.  His father left Felix with a Virginia gentleman named Thomas Renick while he returned to Ireland for the rest of the family. He was never heard from again and was presumed lost at sea.

Felix settled near Moorefield in present-day West Virginia and married Margaret, the eldest Renick daughter, in 1753. He and Margaret had eleven children. Felix served with distinction in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and was rewarded with the commission of Colonel. He died in 1798.

Reader Feedback – Maurice Seymour in Canada.  I think I have developed a lead on my Seymour family of Ireland.  I do know from my ancestor’s death certificate specifically states that our family is from England.  Some of my Seymour ancestors were born in Ireland, but their families are from England. They were Roman Catholic.

My Seymours we’re also merchants from Dr. Seymour’s father Captain Maurice Bain Seymour.  Captain Seymour was a captain in the British army but was also a merchant.

Brian MacDonald Seymour ( 

The Seymour Oak in Nelson, New Zealand.  Henry Seymour had been the secretary of the Cheltenham Horticultural Society and brought out acorns with him to New Zealand when he came out in 1842.

He planted two seedlings in Nelson that year.  One grew on the road that became known as Seymour Avenue, the other on private property near a brook.  A high flood shortly afterward washed one of these seedlings away.  A diligent search led to its recovery over a mile away on the banks of the Maitai river of which the brook was a tributary. The seedling was brought back in triumph and this time was planted in the field at a safe distance from the brook.

Today this tree is a fine massive specimen of the oak tree in good health.  There is a plaque from the Historic Places Trust which reads: “Planted by Henry Seymour in 1842 and replanted by Alfred Fell the following year.”

Seymour Names

  • Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry VIII and the only wife to bear him a male heir.  
  • Edward Seymour, her elder brother and the first Duke of Somerset, acted as Lord Protector of England after the death of Henry VIII.
  • Jane Seymour, born Joyce Frankenberg, is a well-known British-American actress.

Seymour Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Seymour and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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