Vaughan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Vaughan Meaning
The surname Vaughan comes from the Welsh fychan, itself a mutant of hychan meaning little or small.
It could be added to a family name, meaning junior, and
apply to a son who had the same name as his father. For example.
the Welsh patriot who was captured by
the English and executed in Llandovery in 1401 was styled as Llywelyn
Gruffydd fychan, Alternatively, Fychan might simply have
developed as a nickname.
Fychan could pass from father to son in the Welsh patronymical
style. Thus the son of Dafydd Fychan ap Daffyd was Gruffydd ap
Dafydd Fychan. However, his son was born at a time when surnames
in the English style were starting to get used and he was known simply
as Hugh Fychan.
The earliest example of Fychan as a surname was probably Rhosier Fychan
who fought and died at Agincourt in 1415 (when Gryffydd of the same
name was
said to have saved the life of King Harry in the battle). Rhosier’s
sons assumed the
Fychan name. Sometime later in the
century the Welsh Fychan changed in spelling to the English Vaughan.

Vaughan Resources on

Vaughan Ancestry

Wales. There were various
Vaughan landed gentry in mid-Wales:

  • They started with the Vaughans of
    Tretower near Crickhowell. Sir Roger Vaughan took over the
    property in 1450 and it stayed with his family for the next three
    hundred years.
  • The
    Vaughans at
    Trawsgoed near Aberstwyth were equally long-standing. This family
    really established itself
    in the 17th
    century when Sir John Vaughan was made Chief Justice of the Common
    Pleas by Charles II. They remained locally powerful and
    influential despite their spendthrift habits in the 18th
  • A third Vaughan family can be found at Hengwrt near
    Dolgellau in Gwynneth from Elizabethan times. They included the
    noted antiquarian Robert Vaughan. One of these Vaughans later
    emigrated with the Quakers to Pennsylvania.

In addition to the gentry families, the Vaughan name can also be found
in mid-Powys church records in Llanerfyl and Llanfylllin from the

South Wales. In
1485, a Welsh
prince, Owen Tudor, had captured the throne of England
by his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field. In his wake came
Hugh Vaughan
who became wealthy through this royal
connection. His son John subsequently established the family
estate at Golden
Grove near Carmarthen in South Wales. From this family came Walter
, one of the
early developers of the town of Llanelli, and various courtiers and
politicians on the Royalist side in the 17th century.

A Vaughan family,
originally from Gloucestershire, ran an iron forge at Whitchurch near
Cardiff from the 1700’s for five generations. More Vaughans were
to be found in Glamorgan in the 19th century as
industrialization based on coal and iron developed.

England. Welsh names
extended across the border into England from an early time. The
1327 Subsidy Rolls
for Shropshire showed that one in five names recorded there was Welsh,
including a Cardogan Vaughan.

There were Vaughan gentry families
at Courtfield in Herefordshire and Ruardean in Gloucestershire in
Elizabethan times. Many of
these Vaughans were staunch Catholics who paid for their
allegiance at times. In the 19th century, Roger Bede
Vaughan from this family became Archbishop in Sydney in Australia and
Herbert Vaughan, in 1892, Archbishop of Westminster.

Ireland. Protestant
came to Ireland with the Protestant land-grab in the 1600’s. The
Carmarthen Vaughans established themselves in Donegal. George
Vaughan, governor of Donegal, built Buncrana castle in 1718.
The Vaughan name has remained in Donegal, particularly in Ballyshannon.

From Ireland in the 1750’s came Samuel Vaughan, who became rich as a
merchant in London and owned sugar plantations in Jamaica. One
son emigrated to Hallowell in Maine; another, also a merchant, lost
most of his money.

A Vaughan family lived on Quilly Road in Dromore in county
Down. There has been some suggestion that their
name might have formed the basis for the popular Irish folk song, Polly Vaughn. The song goes
roughly as follows:

“A man called Johnny Randle goes
for birds.
He sees something white in the bushes.
Thinking that it is a swan, he shoots.
To his horror, he has killed his true love,
Polly Vaughn, sheltering from the rain.”

There were some early Vaughan immigrants into New England, such as John
Gillian Vaughan recorded in 1638 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Virginia. But
more came via Virginia. Rebecca Vaughan’s house, built in 1795,
still stands in Courtland, SE Virginia. She herself was killed in
the 1831 slave insurgency. From Virginia:

  • we find Vaughan/Vaughn
    families moving to Tennessee, North Carolina, and to Montgomery,
  • other Vaughans/Vaughns pushed inland – William
    and Fereby Vaughan
    got to NW Arkansas in the 1820’s (where
    there is a Vaughan

    today); John Vaughn to Jefferson County, Illinois;
    and Amos and Susan Vaughn to Iowa (then part of
    Wisconsin territory) in the 1830’s.
  • while Colonel Alfred Vaughan was an
    Indian agent based in St. Louis in the 1850’s.

Missouri. The
Vaughn name also cropped up in Missouri. Elisha and Patsy
Vaughan reached there in the 1820’s.

Cornelius Vaughn was a slave
owner in Missouri in the years prior to the Civil War. After the
war, he and his family departed for Spokane in Washington. Victor
Vaughan, who later became Dean of the Medical School at Michigan
University, recorded his memories of slavery and growing up on a farm
in Missouri in his 1926 book, A
Doctor’s Memories

South Africa. Lieutenant
Colonel Edward Vaughan came to Cape Colony with the British troops
in the 1820’s. He died in Cape Town in 1833 and there is a
commemorative plaque to him in St. George’s Cathedral.

Vaughans arrived in the 1850’s. Cecil Vaughan was a magistrate in
the Eastern Cape in the late 1800’s. His young daughter wrote a
diary of her daily life at the time of the Boer War. The Diary of Iris Vaughan
was lost
but rediscovered in the 1950’s and attracted a great deal of interest
on its


Vaughan Miscellany

Gryffyd Fychan.  Gryffydd Fychan was the son of Gryffydd ap Ieuan ap Madoc ap
Gwenys.   There is the persistent tradition that he was in
the band of Welshmen who were said to have saved the life of King Henry
V when he rushed to rescue his brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in
the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The belief grew that he, like
Dafydd Gam, Rhosier Fychan and others, was knighted on the field.
These knights are not recorded in Shaw’s Knights of England.   If
Gryffydd were of age, he could well have been at Agincourt; but it
cannot be confirmed.

In a tournament in Wales in 1443, he pierced with his lance the heart
of his master, Sir Christopher Talbot, the third son of the earl of
Shrewsbury and the champion tilter of England.   As the death
of a young knight was not regarded as an accident, he was outlawed and
a reward of 500 marks was offered for his capture. He remained at large
for four years.  Then Sir Henry Grey, the earl of Tancarville,
managed to entice him into Powys castle and he was there peremptorily
beheaded.  The Welsh poets were so incensed by this treachery that
they wrote indignant elegies.

Hugh Vaughan’s Duel.  In May 1492 it is said that Hugh Vaughan, esquire of Kidwelly and gentleman usher to Henry VII, took part in a great
tournament held by the king at Richmond in Surrey.  Vaughan fought
a duel with the knight, Sir James Parker, concerning a disagreement
over the arms to him and for which he had the king’s permission to

to an account published in 1631, the unfortunate Sir James was
accidentally killed in the first encounter, as described thus:

“A combat was holden and done betwixt Sir James Parker,
knight, and Hugh Vaughan, gentleman usher, upon controversy for the arms
that garter given to the said Hugh Vaughan, but he was there allowed by
the king to bear them; and Sir James Parker was slain at the first
course.  The cause of his death was thought to be the lack of a
false helmet, which, by the force of the cronacle, failed and so he was
stricken into the mouth that his tongue was borne into the hinder part
of his head and he died incontinently.”

Thomas Vaughan the Alchemist.  Thomas Vaughan was the twin brother of the metaphysical poet Henry
Vaughan, both being born in Brecon “at Newton in the parish of St. Briget’s in the year 1621.”  He took up medical studies, initially motivated by the lack of doctors in Wales.  Although he did not practice medicine, he sought to apply his chemical skills to preparing
medicines in the manner recommended by Paraclesus.  He
corresponded with Samuel Hartlib and established a reputation with his
book Anthroposophia, a
magico-mystical work.  It is possible that he was also the author
of tracts published under the pseudonym Eugenius Philalethes.

Vaughan became involved with the plan of Dr. Robert Child to
form a chemical club with a laboratory and library, the main aim being
to translate and collect chemical works.  In the course of
litigation with Edward Bolnest, Vaughan was accused of spending “most
of his time in the study of Natural Philosophy and Chemical
Physick.”  He is reported as having confessed that he had “long
sought and long missed … the philosopher’s stone.”

The Monument to Walter Vaughan in Llanelli, 1683.  The following was the commemorative inscription to Walter Vaughan in Llanelli on his death in 1683.

“Reader, who’re thou art, have regard to the unsullied
ashes of Walter
Vaughan, ye son of John Vaughan of Llanelli esquire, descended from the
honorable family of Golden Grove and born to a plentiful estate.

He had also acquired so many laudable virtues in his life
that he deserves to be remembered after his death. Such was integrity,
and so equal in the discharge of his duty in several offices of trust
under the prince, so constant in his obedience to his parents, so
impartial his kindness to his relations, so faithful his inclination to
his friends, and so sweetly disposed his temper towards all sorts of
men, that he died lamented by all.

Anno Domini 1683.

This monument his most indulgent and mournful mother
dedicated to his memory, which nor death nor time can extinguish.”

Vaughan’s Valley in Arkansas.  The most fertile and beautiful landscape in Northwestern Arkansas is
named from its pioneer settlers, Samuel and Daniel Vaughan.  Born in Virginia, their father, William Vaughan, removed to Warren County,
Tennessee and thence to Wayne County, Missouri, where he was one of the
first settlers, and subsequently to Crawford County, Arkansas, where he
located on the Arkansas river near Short Mountain Creek.

Crossing the Boston mountains, Samuel and Daniel Vaughan settled near
Evansville, Washington County before the Indian title to that section
had been relinquished, and, being encroachers, their improvements were
destroyed by the regular soldiers.

In 1826 they removed to Cane Hill, Washington County, where they were
the first settlers and in 1828 migrated to what is now known as the
Tuttle settlement on Richland.   In 1831 Samuel Vaughan
removed to the valley and bought the improvements of one Friend, an
Indian half-breed of migratory habits, then its only occupant.
Vaughan dealt largely in Government claims.  He died at the age of
seventy seven.  Daniel Vaughan lived all his life on his first
claim, a short distance west of Hindsville.

Reader Feedback – The Line from William and Fereby Vaughan.  William and Fereby Vaughan migrated from Virginia to NW Arkansas in the 1820’s.  One
line from them ran from their son William Jr. to his daughter by his second
wife Peggie who was named Jane or “Gencie.”  Jane married
John Bowlin in Hancock county, Tennessee and one of their sons was called Alfred.

Interestingly the census
listed Alfred as partially blind at the age of nine months.  Since
I am
one of the Bowlins that carry the DNA of an extra long eyelid (mine and
cousin’s actually had to be cut) I am curious to find out if this is a Bowlin
or a Vaughan DNA gene.

None of the
Bowlin women as far as I can tell had this gene, except possibly
sister Susan “who went blind at an early age.”  There is
research going on through Harvard at Boston Children’s Hospital that
has mapped
out the very gene that has caused this eyelid problem.

Thank you in advance, Cissie Norris (

The Diary of Iris Vaughan.  Iris Vaughan’s diary, began when she was only seven, is as much
autobiography as diary.  It also gives a charming, keenly observed
and brilliantly amusing picture of colonial Africa as Victorianism made
way for the twentieth century.

Iris, the eldest daughter of a magistrate at the time of
the Anglo-Boer War who was transferred from town to town, writes about
her family life in various small towns of the Eastern Cape.  This
personal diary is a first hand account.  Thus we have Iris’s
impressions, as an English ten year old child, of Cradock, Maraisburg,
Adelaide, Grahamstown, Cookhouse, Bedford, Pearston, and other small
African dorps.

She writes that Cradock is a place where there are “nice
trees by the furrows,” while Maraisburg “has no trees or rivers.
Only sand and two hills and some milk bush becos it is a godforsaken
Karroo.  That is what Pop calls it.”

Iris writes about the parson in Maraisburg, Mr. Damp, who
is a young but bald bachelor and is “very strange sometimes.”  The
school inspector, Dr. Room, “has a very long head and blue eyes with
big glasses.”

The Diary of Iris
has been a bestseller every time it has been
printed.  It was originally released as a series of excerpts by
the magazine, Outspan, and
subsequently released in book form by the Central News Agency in 1958.

The editor of Outspan, Charles Barry, says in his foreword that, initially, he was suspicious that the text might not be genuine.  But after its publication, letters poured in from around southern Africa from people who had not seen Iris since childhood.  They substantiated the events that she described.


Vaughan Names

  • Sir Roger Vaughan was said to
    be the richest commoner in Wales when he acquired Tretower castle in 1450.
  • Henry and Thomas Vaughan were twin brothers from the Tretower family who grew up in Brecon in the
    1630’s. Henry became a metaphysical poet, Thomas an alchemist.
  • Sir John Vaughan was Chief Justice of the Common
    Pleas in the reign of Charles II.
  • Herbert Cardinal Vaughan was
    appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 1892. His two brothers, Bernard and John Stephen, were also prominent Catholic clergymen.
  • Arky Vaughan, born in rural
    Arkansas, was the premier baseball shortstop of the 1930’s and was later inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
  • Sarah Vaughan made her breakthrough as a jazz singer in 1943. He family came from Virginia and she grew up in Newark.
  • Michael Vaughan was the captain of the English cricket team in the early 2000’s.

Select Vaughan Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glamorgan)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Virginia)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Vaughan and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.




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