Swan Surname Genealogy

The Swan surname has a number of possible origins.
The Viking
explanation looks the most likely. The Swan name was to be found
in areas where the Vikings, whether they be Norwegian or Danish,
The root here is the Old Norse word svein,
meaning – depending on
context, friend, partner or servant. Sweyn known as
Forkbeard was the king of Denmark and, briefly in 1013 after he had
London, the king of England; while another Sweyn was a notorious Viking
preyed off the Scottish coastline for many years.
Swan and Swann
have been the main spelling variations in England; Swan and,
at a later date, the Gaelic McSwan in Scotland. The Irish Swan
may have gotten mixed up with Swayne, Swain, or Sweeny from different
origins. There have been also German Schwanns becoming Swanns in
England and Swedish Svensons becoming Swans (as well as Swansons) in

Resources on

Swan Ancestry

The 1327 subsidy rolls for Wigston Magma in Leicestershire showed a
family as prominent among a small class of relatively well-off

Swans in the South
Swans of Hook Place
near Gravesend in Kent were an early
established family, calling themselves gentlemen by the
late 1300’s. There were also Swan references in Essex in
Thaxted and Saffron
Waldron. One family history traced Swans from the
1500’s as yeoman farmers near Saffron Waldron, first at Ashdon and then
at Radminster. Another history started in the 1730’s with a
William Swann of Burrough Green in Cambridgeshire.

Swans in the North
The Swan name was also prominent in Yorkshire and the North East.
John Swan was a merchant in Hull in the early 1500’s and this Swan
family remained influential in the town for the next 250 years (although the last
years turned out to be tragic)
. A Swan family from
nearby Eastrington produced early emigrants to America.

the Swans of Newburn in Northumberland contributed the Swans of what
was to become the Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside. In the
1880’s, Joseph Swan made the first electric light bulbs at a plant in
the Benwell suburb of Newcastle. His son CV Swan, but univerally
known as “Swannie,” was a stalwart of the scouting movement for fifty
years from 1910.

Scotland and Ireland. There were early references to Swan
in Perth (where the raider Sweyn was said to have settled down) and
possible linkages to the Gunn clan in Caithness.

The Swan name
may have been in Ireland by the 14th century. But it crops up
mainly in the northern counties of Ireland (Antrim and Monaghan in
particular) and is more likely to have been a later English
implant. Edward Swan was the high sheriff of Dublin in
1679. Hugh Swan ran a linen bleaching operation in the Muckamore
area of Antrim in the 1790’s. Swans from Antrim later emigrated
to Australia.

America. Swans came
to New England and Swans and Swanns to Virginia.

New England
Swans in New
England started with Richard and Anne Swan and their six children who
came to Rowley, Massachusetts from Yorkshire in 1636. James Swan
arrived from Scotland in the 1770’s, just in time for the Boston Tea
Party. A land speculator, he left his name to Swan’s Island
in Maine.

Robert Swan arrived from Eastrington in Yorkshire in
the 1650’s and settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
His son John was rather upstaged by his wife Susannah Swan, a true pioneer
woman who
was abducted not once but twice by Indians and yet lived to be a
hundred years old.

Virginia A
Swan family from Gravesend in Kent became a well-to-do Swann family in
William Swann of Jamestown was the connecting point in the
1630’s. His family
were planters at Swann’s Point along the James river, one of a
small group of wealthy families whose lives there were tied together by
marriage and economic interest.

Morven Park
near Leesburg in Virginia, acquired in 1808, was a
later home of these Swanns. Governor Thomas Swann of Maryland
lived and died there. The Swanns also owned cotton
and rice plantations in North Carolina. Samuel Ashe Swann from
side of the family set off for Florida in 1855 and after the Civil War
involved in the early land development there.

One Swann line migrated from South Carolina to Tennessee in the late
1700’s. Edward Swann moved from South Carolina in the 1830’s by
covered wagon to Georgia and thence to Blount county, Alabama as the
land there began to be opened up for settlement. He and his sons
Francis and William prospered as farmers. Later Swanns moved onto

Australia. Samuel Swan
was transported to Australia in 1834. The reports he sent back to
Kent must have been good because four of his brothers – Richard,
George, Edward and Henry – joined him there in the 1850’s. Other
Swans arrived from Antrim in Ireland and from the Scottish Highlands
(originally McSween or McSwan) at that time.

Swan Miscellany

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

Select Swan/Swann Names

Sweyn Forkbeard was the Danish king
who briefly became king of England in 1013.
James Swan from Scotland was
an American patriot during the Revolutionary War who ended up in a
French debtor’s prison.
Thomas Swann was
Governor of Maryland in the 1860’s.
Joseph Swan from Sunderland
invented the electric light bulb in 1860.
Henry F. Swan designed the
world’s first ocean-going oil tanker at the Low Walker yard on Tyneside.
was one of the
Flanders and Swann duo of comic songwriters.
Robert Swan is a
polar explorer, the first man to have walked both the North and South

Select Swans/Swanns Today

  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Edinburgh)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous
    in Maryland).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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