Spears Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Spears Meaning
Spears is the main American spelling of this
surname.  It has its origins in earlier
spellings of the name in England and Scotland.
Spiers and Speirs derived from the Old French word espier,
to watch or observe, and was the title for a keeper of the Watch or an
form of policeman.  Spiers has been the
most common spelling in England.  Speirs
and Spiers have both been found in Scotland.
Pronunciation has tended to be like Spe-ars, except in
the West
Midlands where it has been like Spy-ers.
Spear derived from the Middle English spere, meaning a spear.  The name, found mainly in Devon and Cornwall, described either a spear-maker or a spearman, a soldier with a spear.
The Spiers, Speirs, Spear, and Spears spellings are all found today.  There are also German, Dutch and Jewish origins for these names.
Select Spears Resources on The Internet

Spears Ancestry

Both Spiers and Speirs appeared in earlier
Scottish records, but now Speirs has become the more common spelling.

Some have thought that the place-name of
Spierston, between Ayr and Glasgow, might have been the origin of the
surname.  But this appears unlikely as no
Spiers or
Speirs were recorded in the immediate vicinity.
Even so, the main concentration of the Spiers/Speirs name has
been in
that general area.  The name of John
Speir did appear in the 1587 and 1597 Ayr borough records.

Ayrshire.  A Spiers family of
cabinet-makers in Ayr has
been traced back to Robert Spiers, born in Ayr in 1743.
Perhaps the best known of these Spiers was
Stewart Spiers who thrived in the late 19th century.
Robert Speir purchased Campbell farm in
Dairy, Ayrshire in 1741.  It appears that
Speirs are still farming there.

Speirs married Janet Sheddan at Kilmaurs in eastern Ayrshire in 1758.  Through this marriage the Speirs family
became owners of the Kersland mill and Marshalland estate in Beith.  The family prospered.  Margaret
Spiers, who outlived both her
husband and her son, bequeathed on her death in 1870 funds for a school
to be
established in memory of her son.
Spiers’ School was opened in 1888 and continued until 1972. 

Renfrewshire and Glasgow.  The line of
the Speirs of Burnbrae in Renfrewshire
began with the birth of Robert Speir there in 1688.
They became major landowners in the
area.  A branch of the family moved to
county Tyrone in Ulster in the 1740’s.

The famous Speirs merchant family of Elderslie in Renfrewshire is
thought to have had  its origins in
Perthshire.  John Spiers, an Edinburgh
merchant, was probably born there.  His
son Alexander Speirs became involved in the tobacco business, owning a
plantation in Virginia and trading tobacco from Glasgow, and amassed a
huge fortune. This was inherited in 1782
by his son

Alexander had sought without
success to establish a cotton mill at Fintry some 20 miles north of
Glasgow.  His youngest son Peter
with a water-driven mill in 1800.  This
mill thrived for about thirty years, but then became uneconomic and was

The Speirs remained a powerful and
influential force in Glasgow life throughout the 19th century.  Perhaps the best remembered has been Lady
Anne Speirs
, in part because of her philanthropic work but more
because of
her alleged curse on the town of Linwood.

England.  Spiers and Spear
have been the two main spellings in England.

The Spiers Surname.  The
name seems to have first appeared as Spier in the West Midlands.  John Spier of Newbold-on-Avon in Warwickshire
died in 1618.  Another John Spier married
Ann Brand at Severn Stoke in Worcestershire in 1721.
Later the spelling was Spiers or sometimes Spires.
The Spiers family of Stoneleigh in
Warwickshire dating back to the 1750’s used both spellings.

Spiers meanwhile has been a long-established
name in the village of Ludgershall in Buckinghamshire.
There was an early account of a Richard
Spiers “possessed of the friary.”  And
under the tower of the church there is a huge monument to William
Spiers, dated
1814, who was a local benefactor.

Spiers in England were of foreign origin.
Alexander Spiers the lexicographer, who was born on the coast in
in 1807, had German parents.  His
grandson Edward Spiers changed his name from
Spiers to Spears
.  He had a lengthy
political career that
benefited from his close relationship with Winston Churchill.  Morris Spiers, also Jewish, came to London
from Poland in the 1860’s.  The Rev.
Bernard Spiers, from Poland as well, was a Jewish dayan leader
in London
in the 1870’s.

The Spear Surname.  The
Speare name appeared in the Devon subsidy
records in 1332.  By the 1600’s Spear
seems to have been mainly
concentrated in central Devon in an area around the villages of
Winkleigh and Monk Okehampton
northwest of
.  One family has traced
back to the
mid‑Devon village of Sandford in the 1730’s
.  The Spear name extended to
Cornwall and later
to Somerset and Bristol. 

America.  Spiers and Speirs may have
been spellings
in England and Scotland.  Some may have
come to America by that spelling.  But
over time Americans spelt the name as they heard it and this became
Spear and

Northeast.  George Spear’s origins in
England are
uncertain.  He came to Braintree,
Massachusetts in 1644 and tradition has it that he lived in the Mount
farm previously occupied by John Quincy.
His descendants were numerous in New England.
According to Verne Spear’s 1988 book The
Descendants of George Spear:

“George Spear had over
200 descendants fighting in the Revolutionary War,
with more than 100
bearing his name
and 16 of
them officers.
 An equal
number of
descendants from the Spear daughters enlisted from Massachusetts alone
fought to free a nation.

The Speer and Spear names were common in
Essex county, New Jersey in the early 1800’s.
These names harked back to the early Dutch immigrant Hendrick
Spier who
arrived in what was then New Amsterdam in 1650.

Virginia.  There were three
notable early Spiers/Spears lines into Virginia – one from Scotland,
another of
uncertain origin, and a third from Germany.

Henry Spiers was born to Scottish parents in Prince George county
the year 1720.  He was a tobacco
planter.  Many of his descendants
remained in the area through the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  William Spiers was with General Lee at
Appomattox in 1865 when he surrendered to General Grant.
This line was covered in Mary Spiers Kennette’s
1979 book Descendants of Henry Spiers.

James Spears was born in Albemarle county in 1729.
He was a neighbor of the Jeffersons and
appeared in the will of Thomas Jefferson’s father in 1757.
His sons William and Samuel moved to Georgia
in the late 1790’s.

Christian Spears,
born in Virginia in 1755, was the son of German Speers immigrants.  He was in Kentucky as early as 1780 and was
in fact captured there by the British during the Revolutionary War.  Laroux Gillespie’s 1987 book History and Descendants of John E. and Noah
is an account of two Christian Spears’
descendants and their westward adventures during the 19th century. 

Georgia and Mississippi.  The Spears name came south
Georgia into Mississippi.  Archibald
Spears, from a Scottish line, died in Twiggs county, Georgia in 1812.  His son, also Archibald, moved to Jones
county, Mississippi and later to Texas.
He lost three of his sons in the Civil War.

Old John Spiers, who lived to
ninety, was born in Georgia in 1799 and came to Pearl River county on
Mississippi shoreline as a young man.  He
was one of the early settlers there.
Pascal Spears was born at Osyka, Pike county in 1862.  He is the first known Spears ancestor of the
Mississippi-born singer Brittany Spears.

Canada.  David Spiers from
Ayrshire, despairing of the farming life there, came out to Canada in
the late
1840’s as a teenager.  In Galt, Ontario
he prospered in a number of businesses and became one of the civic
leaders of
the town.  Spiers Crescent was named
after him. 

Australia and New Zealand.  Felix
Spiers who arrived in Melbourne in 1857
came from a Scottish family which had its origins with Joseph Spiers,
born in
Glasgow around the year 1700, and later Spiers who were tobacco
merchants in
France.  He formed a partnership, Spiers
& Pond, with Christopher Pond to run restaurants and hotels.  However, they are best remembered for
bringing the first All-England cricket team to Australia in 1861 to
play a
series of matches.  Felix Spiers left
Australia for London in 1863.

James and
Harriotte Spiers from London were on-board the Oriental which
arrived in
New Zealand in 1839.  They settled in the
Karori suburb of Wellington.  There is a
street now named Spiers in Karori.


Spears Miscellany

Spiers, Speirs, Spear and Spears Today

Numbers (000’s) Spiers Speirs Spear Spears Total
UK     3     4     2     2    11
America     1     4    10    15
Elsewhere     2     1     1     2     6
Total     6     5     7    14    32

Spiers as Spy-ers.  A Spiers family of Evesham in Worcestershire pronounced their name as spy-ers and often spelt it as Spires.  This pronunciation seems to have extended
across the West Midlands.

Richard Spiers
was Mayor of Oxford in the 1850’s.  His
father was a hairdresser and perfumer whose shop was on the High Street
in the
town.  The family joke was that when
Wordsworth wrote his poem Oh Ye Spires of Oxford, it was in
fact in
praise of this shop.

Lady Anne Speirs and Her Curse.  The Speirs family was once a very wealthy family at
Linwood in Renfrewshire.  They lived in
Bumbrae House and owned much of the surrounding land.
Five members of the Speirs family were buried
in the family vault under the old parish church hall.
It was said that if the vault were ever
disturbed then Lady Anne Speirs would haunt the villagers of Linwood.

The origin of the curse is shrouded in mystery.  But the
“wrath” of
Lady Anne was first said to have been incurred in the early 1980’s with
the closure of the nearby Rootes car plant,
Linwood’s main employer.  The
plant ceased
operations in 1981, five years after the parish church was pulled
down.  More recently, superstitious
locals have warned that the plans by Tesco to move
the remains of the five Speirs from their crypt and
reunite them with their descendants in
North Berwick
will bring tragedy to the town.

local historians have asserted that Lady Anne Speirs was not among
those Speirs
being moved (in fact she was unrelated) and that the curse has no

Edward Spiers Who Became Edward Spears.  Edward
Louis Spiers changed his name from Spiers to Spears in 1918.
He claimed that the reason
was his irritation at the mispronunciation of Spiers.  Yet it is
possible that he wanted a more English-looking
name, something
more in
keeping with his rank as a Brigadier General
and head of
the British Military Mission to the French War Office.

denied that he was of Jewish stock.  But his
great grandfather
had been
an Isaac Spiers of Gosport who had married
Hannah Moses, a shopkeeper in the
same town.  His
ancestry was known.

Old John Spiers, Mississippi Pioneer.  John Spiers was a
hunter, woodsman and trapper and a
legendary character
in the early history of what is now Pearl River county, Mississippi.  He was born in the state of
Georgia in 1799.  He grew
up in the great
forest section of western
Georgia where few people except Indians
lived.  He
learned well the way of
wild things and Indians as he grew up.

came to Hancock county (now Pearl
River county)
about 1816 or 1817.  One
story has it that he
was having
problems with a
teacher in Georgia.  On one day
it came to a
head and John pulled out his pocket knife and cut across the front of
teacher’s suit.  After
the incident he was
afraid to go home to his father and face the consequences, so he ran
away.  Another
story has him joining General
Andrew Jackson’s army and coming to Mississippi that way.

settled in the
Henleyfield area on the old river.  He killed
hundreds of bears over a period of years
and was almost solely responsible for ridding the area of wolves.  He was the forefather
of the many Spiers living in this area.  Eight of
John’s nine sons fought in the Confederate army during the
Civil War and two
died in the war.  John
lived a long life and died in 1889.

Reader Feedback – Christian Spears in Kentucky.  Christian Spears,
a young German immigrant, arrived in Kentucky in 1778 shortly after
Daniel Boone
had been captured by the Indians.  Two
years later Christian and his friend John Burger registered their land
right behind Daniel in January 1780 after he had escaped.

1,200 Indians
and British soldiers came to Ruddell’s Settlement in Bourbon county and
took these
two friends along with almost 350 others, everyone’s life
changed.  Murder,
slavery, captivity, and families were torn apart and kept by the
Indians while
those who were marched to Detroit experienced great suffering along the

joined the British army in Detroit; some were imprisoned in Detroit or
Montreal; some were captives there for several years, yet allowed to
roam the
area working for others, and some settled in Canada and lived their

Gillespie’s 2015 book Christian
Spears in Kentucky
is the story of Christian and the people he
with over the period from 1778 to 1811.

LaRoux Gillespie 

Noah and John E. Spears.  Noah and John E. Spears were both descendants of the Virginia-born Christian Spears who had moved to Kentucky at the time of the
Revolutionary War.  Noah was born in
Kentucky in 1828, John in Missouri in 1836.

Laroux Gillespie, a descendant, has written an account of
their times in
his History and Descendants of John E. And Noah Spears.  The book describes the life, travels and
descendants of these pioneers.

story starts out in Missouri.  It was the
Union soldiers that destroyed their peace in Cass county, Missouri.  They made the journey to Vernon, Texas and
then, when opportunity presented itself, to Grady county in Oklahoma.



Spears Names

  • Alexander Speirs, based in Glasgow,
    was one of the leading British tobacco merchants of the mid-18th century.   
  • Britney Spears is an American singer from Mississippi who burst into the hit charts in the late 1990’s and established herself as a teen icon.

Select Spears Numbers Today

  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply