Summers Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Summers Surname Meaning

The Summers surname has both German and English origins and includes variants such as Sommer (German) and Somers (English), as well as Summers.  The root is the same – the old German and English sumer meaning “summer.”

The surname might have started out as a nickname, describing someone who had a warm or sunny disposition or given to a child who had been born in the summer.

The English Summers has other possible origins.  If introduced by the Normans, it could have derived from the Old French somier meaning a “sumpter,” a term describing one who drove pack horses or mules.  Or Summers might have come from the English sumner or “summoner” (whose job it was to ensure that the witnesses in a trial were present).

Summers Surname Resources on The Internet

Summers Surname Ancestry

  • from SW England, Scotland (East Coast), Germany (Bavaria) and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America, Canada and Australia

The surname as Sommer is more common in Germany (some 75,000 today) than it is in England as Summers (18,000 today).  Maybe Bavaria, where the name is thought to have originated, is just a sunnier place than England.  Today the Sommer name ranks highest in south Germany – in North Rhine-Westphalia followed by Bavaria and then Baden-Württemberg.

Siegfried Sommer was a 20th century German writer from Munich and his statue of him can be found in the city center there.

England.  Summers has been a name of southern England largely, with its first recording as a surname in Worcestershire – William Somer being listed in the Worcestershire pipe rolls of 1275.

SW England.  Some have speculated that early Sommers/Somers in Worcestershire might have been of Flemish origin.

One Worcestershire line was reported to have begun with John Sommer who was born at Clifton in the parish of Severn Stoke around the year 1450.  Later Somers of this family emigrated to America.

Another line began at Claines near Worcester where the Somers family had been tenants of a small property since Elizabethan times.  John Somers, born there in 1651, rose to national prominence in the reign of William III.  He served as the Lord High Chancellor of England and was the chief architect of the union between England and Scotland in 1707 and the Protestant succession in 1714.  Later Somers of his family were Baron Somers of Evesham.

Other west country Somers have been:

  • Sir George Somers from Lyme Regis in Dorset who, as an admiral of the Virginia Company, set sail from Plymouth in 1609 to relieve the Jamestown colony.  Instead he was blown off-course and discovered Bermuda.  He died there a year later.
  • Alexander and Mary Somers who were married in Tortworth, Gloucestershire around 1660
  • George and Mary Somers who were married in Bishop Tachbrook, Warwickshire in 1749.  Shortly afterwards, they left for North Carolina where their name became Summers.
  • and Dr. Benjamin Somers who started a smelting operation on Troopers Hill near Bristol in 1828 and became wealthy from its proceeds.

The surname spelling began to shift from Somers to Summers in the 18th century and gathered pace in the 19th.

Scotland.  An early spelling was Symmer.  These Symmers were to be found in Angus on the east coast from around 1450.  In 1682 the Symmers of Baljordie were described in Spottiswood’s Miscellany of Scots History as “an ancient family and chief of that name.”

The Symmers/later Summers at Rathen in Aberdeenshire, first recorded in 1691, seem to have been an offshoot of this family.  Rathen lies four miles from the port of Fraserburgh and later Summers there tended to be either mariners or fishermen.

Wilson Summers, born in 1829, was captain of the schooner Philorth and well-known in the town.  His son, also named Wilson, was a master cabinetmaker and was in business with his brother William as Summers Brothers Furniture Saloon.

Ireland.  There were some but not that many Somers in Ireland. In Sligo the name was adopted as an English equivalent of the Gaelic Ó Somacháinfrom Somachán, a nickname for someone gentle and innocent.

America.  There was an early Summers presence in Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Early Arrivals.  Henry Summers arrived in Virginia in the 1640’s and later moved onto Connecticut.  His Connecticut line soon settled in Stratford, Fairfield county.  Summers here migrated to Pennsylvania and then to Ohio and Illinois.  John Summers meanwhile was born in 1650 of parents unknown in Jamestown, Virginia.  His son John, born in 1686, lived to the mighty age of 103.

Another John Summers arrived in Maryland as an indentured servant around the year 1662.  By 1672 he had worked off his indenture and acquired some land.  His son John, born in 1695, prospered as a planter.  He and his wife Mary had thirteen children.  That pattern continued.  Perhaps because of this one family, there were more Summers in Maryland in the first Federal Census of 1790 than in any other state.

And John Somers, a Quaker, came with his family from Worcester to Pennsylvania on the Society in 1682.  Both his wife and one of his children fell sick and died on the voyage across.  The remaining family settled in southern New Jersey.

According to family tradition, John brought his own boats, bricks, and furniture with him, but this may not be true. In any case, John’s son Richard built the family mansion overlooking the Great Egg Harbor Bay in 1725.  It is still standing today.  The full family story was told in Joseph Mitchell’s 1972 book The Somers Family of South Jersey. 

German. William C. Summers’ 1979 book The Sommer, Sommers, Somers and Summers That Missed The Boat traced his family history and the evolution of his family name in America from Sommer to Summers.

The starting point for this family journey was the Rev. Peter Nicolas Sommer.  He left his home in Hamburg (his family was originally from Holstein) for Schoharie in upstate New York in 1742.  His descendants migrated west in the 19th century, primarily to Illinois and Michigan.

Meanwhile Hermann Sommer arrived in Philadelphia with his family on the Brothers in 1752, with three of his sons following two years later on the Edinburg.  They settled in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania and their name soon became Summers.

Four of the sons fought in the Revolutionary War.  Martin Summers was an employee of the US Mint in Philadelphia from 1792 until his death in 1804, as were some of his descendants down to 1899.  The life of another son George was covered in Byron Summers’ 1918 booklet A History of George Summers.

Jewish.  Frank and Ella Samuelson were Jewish immigrants from Poland who had come to Gary, Indiana in 1908.  Their son Paul Samuelson, born there in 1915, became the famous economist.  His family had some well-known economists, including:

  • brother Robert Summers
  • sister-in-law Anita Summers (of Romanian Jewish ancestry)
  • and nephew Larry Summers.

Curiously Paul’s brothers Robert and Harold had both elected when young to change their names from Samuelson to Summers.

Canada.  Andrew Summers – German by birth and part of their community at Schoharie in upstate New York – had taken the British side during the Revolutionary War.  He was thus a marked man.  In the summer of 1777 he and his family left Philadelphia under the escort of Indians to make the long trek to Montreal.  He was resettled by the British and made his home at Charlottenburg in Glengarry, Ontario where he died in 1806.

JL Sommers and his wife Elsie were much later German immigrants, arriving in Alberta in 1889.  Their son Robert Summers, born in 1911, entered politics in British Columbia and became a Government minister there in the 1950’s.  However, in 1958 he was convicted of bribery and corruption and went to prison.

Australia.  Patrick Somers was arrested in Wexford for sheep-stealing and transported from Ireland to Tasmania in 1843, leaving behind his blind wife Johanna and children.  They did join him in Tasmania in 1851 after his release.  Patrick changed his last name from Somers to the more English Summers then, perhaps because Somers had a convict tinge to it.  He farmed at Burnie in NW Tasmania and later was a carter.

Samuel Summers, born in London in 1830, was the son of clergymen, from his father the Rev. Samuel and his grandfather the Rev. William Summers.  But not wishing that life he departed for Australia at the age of nineteen, arriving in Adelaide on the Anna Maria in 1849.  He moved to Glenelg in South Australia and joined the post office as a clerk.  In 1902 he was honored by the G.P.O. for having completed 50 years’ of service there.

Summers Surname Miscellany

Summers of Flemish Origin.  Henry Barber in his 1903 book British Family Names reported the following in regard to this last name:

“The Summers family is said to be of Flemish origin and to have been first known in England at the time of the Reformation. Property was granted to them at a former religious seat a short distance from Worcester and this became the family seat.

Here they resided and here they entertained Queen Elizabeth in her progress through Worcestershire in 1585. Many of the members of this family became men of distinction and renown. One branch of the family moved to Dorset and it is from this branch that the Virginian family is descended.

The name has been variously spelt Somers, Sommers, Sumers, and Summers.  But the Virginians of this stock have in general used the form Summers.”

William Sommers, Court Jester to Henry VIII.  He was said to have been born in Shropshire.  He came to the attention of Richard Fermor, a merchant of the Staple at Calais, who brought him to Greenwich on a holy day in 1525 to be presented to the King.

The King was reported to have noticed favorably his witty sallies.  He installed him at once in the royal household as the court fool. According to tradition, Sommers was soon on very familiar terms with the King. He puzzled him with foolish riddles and amused him by playing practical jokes on Cardinal Wolsey.

He remained in service to the King until Henry died in 1547. In the King’s later years, when he was troubled by a painful leg condition, it was said that only Sommers could lift his spirits.

Summers in the 1790 US Census.  The 1790 census recorded that there was a total of 177 heads of families bearing the names of Summers, Somer, Somers, Summer, and Sommers who were distributed as follows:

  • 35 in Maryland
  • 29 in Pennsylvania
  • 29 in Connecticut
  • 23 in Virginia
  • 22 in North Carolina
  • and 39 elsewhere.

Dent Summers in Maryland.  Dent Summers was born in Prince Georges county, Maryland in 1727, the fourth son of John and Mary Summers.  He grew up on their farm with a large extended family of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles.

He was by some accounts a private, suspicious, and possibly obnoxious man. In 1776 when the new America commissioned a census of all its people, Dent Summers told the census taker there were nine in the family but refused to give their ages.  When they came back again to do another census in 1790, he was a bit more cooperative and listed his kids along with five slaves.

The Summers Trek from Philadelphia to Montreal.  Andrew Summers – from upstate New York but born in Germany – had taken the British side during the Revolutionary War.  Serving in the King’s Regiment and never taking any part with the rebels, he was a marked man.  His worldly possessions were described in the bitter phrase “all lost and destroyed.”

In 1777, when in the vicinity of Philadelphia, he was advised to leave America for Canada by friendly Indians.  These Indians would escort his family and others on the six-week march from Philadelphia to Montreal.  In 1908 Amy Summers, his great great grand-daughter, described the trek as follows:

“My great-great-grandfather’s family, consisting of four sons and five daughters, were very intimate with the Indians, especially Chief Red Cloud.

This Chief informed the family about two weeks before it took place that they were going to take 200 prisoners to Canada; that they must prepare to go along to reach safety; to get dried meat and other things they could carry to help sustain them on the way as they had 5-600 miles to travel through the wilderness from Philadelphia to Montreal. Andrew Summers at this time was in the British Army and his brother Jacob a captain there.

They met many hostile Indians on their path.  The number of Indians who conducted the prisoners through the wilderness were about 300.  It took lots of food to feed 500 people.

There were a number of babies in the party.  They traveled about four weeks without any mishap, although the women with the babies were becoming exceedingly weary. Some of the Indian chiefs started to complain about the slow marching, fearing an attack by American Indians. On the third day after the grumbling began, some of the chiefs took all of the babies from their mothers and made them go ahead with the rest of the prisoners.  To their horror, the babies were never seen again.

Then, about that time, the provisions ran out and they had nothing to eat for three days but one deer among 500. On the fourth day they came to an Indian village where they stayed for three days to recover their strength. They then started out again, rushing the prisoners as fast as they could to get to their destination before they were attacked.  Their scouts had informed them that a hostile tribe was on their track trying to overtake them.

This march took place in the latter part of July and the fore part of August.  While they were at the Indian village, they had new corn and pumpkins to eat.  The Indians made them eat very sparingly at first because of a fear of sickness.

When they got to Montreal there were three sons (one son had died) and five daughters.  My great-grandfather David was the youngest, aged ten. The Indians gave them all up to the British, except for one of the girls.  The old chief kept her and took her to Western Ontario.”

The Summers Family in Arkansas.  Calvin Summers from Rutherford in Tennessee was one of the pioneer settlers of northern Arkansas, arriving there with his wife Lucinda in the early 1850’s.  He was by occupation a tanner and farmer.

He had heeded the call to arms for both the Mexican and Civil War.  But he never fought in either.  Peace had already been declared in the Mexican War before he came to serve; and the Confederate Government sent him home after he enlisted, telling him to tan leather for soldiers’ shoes instead.

Calvin and Lucinda Summers made their home in Marion county, Arkansas and raised eight children there.  Two of their sons – Pleasant B. and David C. – became Methodist ministers, Pleasant in Blanco county, Texas and David in Washington county, Arkansas.

Johanna Summers, a Blind Mother in Tasmania.  The following article appeared in the Tasmanian Advocate Burnie in 1934.

“Not far south of the present Emu Bay railway crossing was the farm occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Summers and family. Mr. Summers was usually known as “Old Pat Summers” long before he reached old age.  An Irishman with a stooping gait, Mr. Summers could endure hardship with complacency. Farm work was carried on with his two sons, John and Thomas.

Johanna, Mrs. Summers, had been blind from young womanhood.  But she was a capable, energetic mother and housekeeper. I believe three of her children were born after she was so sadly stricken – all honor to such a wife and mother. She died comparatively young.

Her husband who then lived with his son, the late Thomas Summers, lived to an old age.  Shortly after 1863 he became a successful land and team owner. He was one of the pioneer tin-ore carters from Bischoff and an energetic member of the original Emu Bay Road Trust for many years.”

Who Was Ann Summers?  This sexy lingerie chain of shops, begun in London, had been founded by a certain Michael Caborn-Waterfield.  Known as Dandy Kim, he had been a roguish figure around post-war London, a gentleman adventurer who’d smuggled guns into Cuba, dated Diana Dors, and served time in a French jail.  Having traded in black-market nylons, he opened his first ‘sex shop’ on Edgeware Road near Marble Arch in 1970.

There was an Ann Summers around at that time, although her real name was Annice Summers. Described as a “honey blonde girl” with a “girl next door smile,” she was the young secretary-come-lover of Dandy Kim.  As Dandy’s own name was too notorious, he decided to use a version of hers.

The Ann Summers shop was initially a success, but then ran into financial difficulties.  Both Annice and Dandy Kim left the scene.  In 1971 Annice broke up with Dandy Kim after seeing how seedy the shop had become with its sexually explicit products.  And Dandy Kim sold out his business to David and Ralph Gold also that year.  It was the Gold family that transformed Ann Summers into the established British high street chain that it is today.

What of Annice Summers?  She had been born Annice Goodwin in 1941, but later took her step-father Harry Summers’ surname.

After Ann Summers, this honey blond girl met and married the Jewish-American millionaire Murray Resnick.  She moved into his mansion in Umbria that overlooked Lake Trasimeno, two hours from Rome.  After his death in 1998, she lived there alone with her Alsatian dogs and visitors from England as company.  She died of cancer in 2012.

Summers Names

  • William Sommers was the court jester and amuser in chief for Henry VIII from 1525 until the King’s death in 1547.
  • Sir John Somers served as the Lord High Chancellor of England under William III and was the chief architect of the union between England and Scotland in 1707 and the Protestant succession in 1714.
  • Ben Sommers from New York was a leading philanthropic figure in the world of dance from 1940 to his death in 1985.
  • Donna Summer, born Donna Gaines, was known as the Queen of Disco during the 1970’s.
  • Larry Summers is an American economist who served as the US Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001.

Summers, Somers and Sommer Numbers Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 41,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 18,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

Summers and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

The seasons of summer and winter could emerge as nicknames and later as surnames – Summer or Summers as a person of a sunny disposition and Winter or Winters as a gloomy or frosty person.  They are both surnames in England and Germany.  But, interestingly, Winter is the more common surname in both countries.

Nicknames could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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