Thomas Surname Genealogy

The Biblical Thomas was initially a priest’s name but then emerged as a surname throughout Europe.  The English pronunciation as “t” rather than “th” (as would have been proper from the Greek theta) is the result of French influence from an early date.  The name became popular as a personal name in England after the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket in 1170. 
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The Thomas numbers today in Europe today are approximately as follows:

  • UK, 220,000
  • France, 110,000
  • and
    Germany, 50,000.  

The Welsh influence
accounts for the higher Thomas numbers in the UK.  Thomases
in France are highly concentrated in
Brittany.  There is another area of
Thomases, in Lorraine near the German border and in Rheinland on the
other side

  Thomas first emerged as a surname in Wiltshire
in 1275.  Its usage had spread to Cornwall by the 16th
century.   Thomas records at Helston date from the 1610’s and
Sithney from the 1660’s.  Thomas was the second ranked name in
Cornwall in
1881.  Many were miners at that time and had begun to
emigrate.  The actress Kristin Scott Thomas hails from Redruth in

Thomas began to appear as a surname in south Wales in the 16th
Early Thomases were:

  • various Thomases lived at Plas Llanmihangel near
    in Glamorgan from the 1520’s to the 1680’s.  This Thomas family
    was said
    to be wealthy and linked to the Herberts who became the Earls of
    Pembroke.  They were later to be found at Tregroes House in
  • a Thomas family obtained the Wenvoe castle estate near
    Cardiff in 1560 and Edmund Thomas built an imposing mansion
    there.  A later Edmund
    Thomas was a staunch Cromwellian supporter during the Civil War.
  • while the Thomases of Llanbradach
    Ystrad Mynach dated from the 1640’s.  William Thomas was sheriff
    Glamorgan in 1675.

One Thomas family from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire
was copper
refiners in the early 1800’s before the copper mines there were all
worked out. 
Thomases from Aberdare in the
Rhondda valley were pioneers of the Welsh coal industry, starting with Samuel Thomas in the
1850’s.  He made his home at Ysguborwen House.  D.A.
Thomas, the 15th of his 17 children, was the one who expanded his coal
and was made Viscount Rhondda in 1918 for his war services

By the time of the
1891 census
, more than half of the Thomases in Wales were to
be found in the county of Glamorgan, with the largest concentration
there in the Rhondda valley.

America.  Pennsylvania
attracted many from Wales, at
first because of its religious tolerance of dissenters and second
because its
emerging iron and coal industry in the 19th century mirrored the one in
Wales, but there was the promise of higher wages.

Two dissenting Thomases were:

  • James Thomas. a Quaker in Carmarthenshire who
    had been excommunicated with his wife from their
    local church
    at Llanboidy.  They came to Pennsylvania
    in 1686 and settled in Merion, Chester county.
  • and the Rev. Owen Thomas who became a Baptist minister for the
    Welsh tract in
    Pennsylvania in 1707.  One line of his
    family migrated to Kentucky.  John Thomas
    Kentucky was a General in the War of 1812.  Another line
    established themselves in 1778 at the Glenowen Farm in Loudoun county,
    where they breed cattle today.

David Thomas, one of the
ironmasters in Wales, relocated to Pennsylvania in 1839 and started in
Lehigh valley the first successful anthracite iron furnace in the
States.  His achievement earned him the
nickname of “Father Thomas.”  John J. Thomas, brought up in
the coal mining
town of
Brynmawr in Breconshire, departed with his family for Pennsylvania in
1848.  He
settled in Scranton, being one of the
first Welsh miners to arrive there. 

A Thomas family from Devon was prominent from the late 1700’s in the
history of Newfoundland, as sea captains, merchants, and land
developers.  William Thomas built his
home Devon
in the
capital St. John’s in 1843.

Australia.  Robert Thomas
from a Welsh farm in Montgomeryshire was an early arrival in South
Australia, getting there with his family in 1837 and living for a time
in tents and a rush hut.  He published the colony’s first
newspapers.  The diaries of his wife Mary have been preserved and
they provide a valuable account of the early settlement.  Their
son William and their grandson Sir Robert were also South Australian
newspaper proprietors.

Many Thomas
miners from
set off for South Australia in the 1850’s and
1860’s.   They went principally to the Moonta and Kapunda
copper mines there.  Some later moved onto the Broken Hill mine in

Thomas Miscellany

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

Select Thomas Names   

Samuel Thomas was one of the pioneers of the Welsh coal industry in the mid 19th century.  His son David expanded his father’s commercial empire.
David Thomas, an immigrant
from Wales, helped develop the iron industry in the LeHigh valley of
Pennsylvania in the mid 19th century.
Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh
poet-soldier who died on the Western front in 1917
Dylan Thomas was the celebrated
Welsh poet.    Dave Thomas from New Jersey
founded and developed the Wendy fast
food restaurant chain.

Select Thomas Today
  • 220,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 254,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 77,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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