Vaughan Surname Genealogy

The surname Vaughan comes from the Welsh fychan, itself a mutant of hychan meaning little or
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

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

Vaughan Names

Sir Roger Vaughan was said to
be the richest commoner in Wales when he acquired Tretower castle in
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 been the captain of the English cricket team in the early 2000’s.

Select Vaughans 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)




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