Wallace Surname Genealogy

The English who had arrived from the east as invaders had the cheek to
refer to the original inhabitants as waleis
or foreigners. Waleis
came to be used as a description for Welsh speakers. The surnames
that subsequently developed varied in their spelling probably because
differences in regional dialect. Thus we find Welch mainly in the
English counties bordering Wales, Walsh in Lancashire, Wallis along the
east coast, and Wallace in Scotland.
The name Wallace in Scotland is believed to have come from the
Britons, a mixture of Gaels, Picts and Scots who laid claim to
territories from Lancashire to the Firth of Clyde.
In western Scotland, Welsh-speaking Strathclyde Britons survived well
into the Middle Ages.

Wallace Resources on

Wallace Ancestry

Variations of the name Wallace can be found in records in Ayrshire and
Renfrewshire in the 12th century. Richard Wallensis of Riccarton
appeared as a signature on a charter at Paisley abbey, dated 1163, for
land grants that had been part of the ancient kingdom of

Alan de Waleys can be found in the Ragman Roll of nobles paying
allegience to Edward I in 1296. However, his brother Malcolm of
Elderslie refused to submit and was executed. The banner of
rebellion passed to William Wallace who
beat the English at Stirling but was later captured, tried in London in
1305, and then hung,
drawn and quartered. His death elevated him to
the status of martyr to the cause of Scottish independence, as the film
Braveheart demonstrated.

Ayrshire. The
Wallace line did survive. Wallaces held castles in Ayrshire
from the 1300’s. A century later, General John Wallace commanded
a Scottish army to victory over England at the Battle of Sark.
Their castles
at Sundrum and Carnell
still exist, although now
converted into country house hotels. In the 1730’s, Sir Thomas
Wallace built Craigie House in Ayr to replace his former castle.
The Wallace name was also to be found in Kilmarnock, Dundonald (where
they once held Dundonald castle), and Brighouse.

Many of these Wallaces became, after Knox, staunch Presbyterians.
Colonel James Wallace was a Covenanter at the time of the Civil
War. But when the climate changed after the Restoration he had to
flee the country. Since that time, a number of Wallaces
have emigrated; and many have drifted to Glasgow and its

Glasgow in the mid-18th century was the center of the tobacco trade and
the Wallace name figured prominently here. John Wallace was a
tobacco merchant of that time (a picture shows him eccentrically
wearing a white
nightcap under his cocked hat, instead of the customary wig).
Alexander Spiers, the biggest of these merchants, bought up the estate
of Helen Wallace, the last of the William Wallace line, in 1767.
Spiers built for himself a stately mansion which he named Elderslie

The name Wallace can also be found across the border in England,
particularly in the Pennine hills of Cumbria. Both Wallis and
Wallace appeared in the early parish records of villages such as
and Alston.

Richard Wallasse was a schoolmaster, fluent in Latin
and Greek, and parish clerk in the early 1700’s for the mining town of
Alston. One
Wallace family
, whose forebears were buried in
Abbotsford church, traced their roots back to the mid 1700’s.
the coal reserves being worked out by the early 19th century,
many of these Wallaces emigrated, mainly to Canada.

Ireland. Presbyterian
Scots came to Ulster in the reign of James I to settle in lands that
had been taken away from their Catholic owners. Among them were
many Wallaces.

However, the Presyberians themselves were subject
to discrimination in the 1700’s. There began an major
exodus, this time to America. Among them were:

  • four Wallace brothers from Donegal – Peter, Andrew, William and
    Adam – who came to Lancaster county in Pennsylvania in the
    1720’s. Adam’s son Benjamin was a captain in the Revolutionary
  • while three Wallace brothers from Ballymena in county Antrim –
    Ephraim, John, and James – also came to Pennsylvania, around 1768, and
    settled in Westmoreland county. John Wallace’s 1902 book Genealogy of the Wallace Family covered
    this line.

Many Wallaces did remain in Ireland. Perhaps the best
noted of these Wallaces was William Vincent Wallace from Waterford, the
son of a Scots regimental bandmaster. He achieved fame around the
world in the 19th century for his musical compositions and

Another Wallace with Irish connections was in fact
English, Richard Wallace. Although known mainly for his Wallace
art collection in London, he represented the town of Lisburn in county
Antrim for many years and left his name on many of its public buildings.

However, some Wallaces were less fortunate. The Donegal Woman, recently
published, tells the story of Margaret Wallace a century ago in rural
Donegal. Born of poor Protestant farmers, she was hired out as a
child, raped by her master, and then, pregnant, forced to marry another
many times her age. Yet she managed to survive, driven on by her
passionate determination to do right by her children.

America. There were
early Wallace arrivals into New England and Virginia:

  • many of the New England Wallaces ended up in New Hampshire and
    where they were freer of the Puritan restrictions.
  • Matthew and
    Elizabeth Wallace came from Donegal in the 1680’s and settled in
    Somerset County, Maryland.
  • while John Wallace arrived in
    Virginia from Scotland around 1700 and Michael Wallace, a tobacco
    merchant, in the 1730’s.

Some Wallaces lost out as a result of the Revolutionary War. Two
young Wallaces from Ireland, Hugh and Alexander, had come to New York
in the 1750’s and married well. Hugh became a wealthy New York
merchant. But the war took it all away. As his brother

“If ever a man is to be pitied, it is
he. His losses hang heavy on him and his being away from his wife
hurts him very much.”

One who lived to fight another day was another merchant loyalist, the
Glasgow-born Michael Wallace. He operated out of Virginia and
South Carolina and was able to re-construct his business and his
contacts from Halifax in Nova Scotia. He did, however, lose his
servant Belfast who, perhaps not relishing the cold weather, escaped by
stowing away on a ship.

Later on, George Wallace ran the Glencoe
plantation along the North Carolina border. His wife Elizabeth
kept a diary of her experiences of the Civil War which was subsequently
published as the Glencoe Diary.

By that time many of the Wallaces in Virginia had moved on.
and his wife were among the pioneer settlers who had crossed the
Cumberland Gap into Kentucky in 1779. Others went
south. Perhaps the most celebrated of these Wallaces was “Big Foot”
, born in Lexington, Virginia in 1817. He
joined the Texas Rangers and provided his followers and later the
reading public with a fund of stories.

From the 1720’s, the main point of entry for Scots and Scots Irish
Presbyterians was Philadelphia. Pennsylvania offered religious
toleration, unlike Puritan New England. Some of these immigrants
stayed; others moved inland, to Ohio, Indiana and, in one notable case,
to Iowa.

David Wallace had been an early settler in Lack township,
Pennsylvania. From here came another David who moved to
Indiana and, rising through the ranks, became Governor of that state in
1837. His son Lew Wallace was a Union General
who in later life wrote the best-selling novel Ben Hur.

Meanwhile, a Scots
Irish family came to West Newton, Pennsylvania in the 1830’s.
Their son Henry Wallace set off for Iowa in 1863 as a Presbyterian
missionary. He subsequently turned his attention to agriculture,
starting up the Wallace’s Farmer
newspaper. His son and grandson both became US Secretaries of
Agriculture, the latter also serving for a term as FDR’s Vice

Other Wallaces.
American Wallaces outnumber British Wallaces by a factor of
three-to-two. Many of these Wallaces have other
origins. The surname was adopted in the 19th and 20th centuries
as an Americanized form for various Jewish and Eastern European
surnames. From Wallechinsky came Irving Wallace the writer; from
Mike Wallace,
the CBS 60 Minutes

Caribbean. Wallaces from
Scotland were planters in Jamaica in the 18th century.

But they
probably made a bigger mark on the small island of St. Vincent.
William Wallace, the son of a Scottish naval officer, worked for many
years on New England whaleboats before returning in the
1870’s to set up a whaling station on the island. Curtis Wallace
this seafaring tradition in the 20th century with his development of
sea going links in the Eastern Caribbean.

Among the
Loyalists who left America after the Revolutionary War was Michael
Wallace. He set up his trading business in Halifax and soon
became the treasurer of the province of Nova Scotia,
a position he held for more than forty years. Many of the
Wallaces in Atlantic Canada are his descendants.

Scots immigrants poured into Ontario as the 19th century
progressed, including many Wallaces. Later, a number headed west
to homestead. The rail terminus was at Medicine Hat in the 1880’s
and the onward journey, for Richard Wallace to High River, was on
freight teams.

An English Wallace, Alfred Wallace from Plymouth
with a shipping background, made it to Vancouver in the 1890’s.
He started the Burnall yard shipbuilding business in north Vancouver a
few years later, a business that was later carried on by his son

New Zealand. Early
Wallaces came from both Scotland and Ireland:

  • three Wallace brothers from
    Antrim – Arthur, John, and James – came to New Zealand with the
    65th Regiment in 1846, stayed, and settled in Wanganui. Arthur’s
    son William joined the Wanganui constabulary and spent much of
    the 1860’s and 1870’s in skirmishes with the Maoris. His
    reminiscences of those times were collated in James Cowan’s book The New Zealand Wars.
  • while David Wallace arrived from
    Dundee via Australia in 1856 and brought his wife out two years
    later. They were early settlers in what was originally the
    electorate near Dunedin on South Island.

Billy Wallace, the son of a
cook in Wellington, was a New Zealand rugby hero.
He was the star performer of the victorious All Black team that toured
the British Isles in 1905 and he managed a number of touring teams

Wallace Miscellany

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

Wallace Names

William Wallace was the
Scottish patriot who fought the brave battle against the English until
he was caught and executed in 1305.
Lew Wallace was the Civil War
General who later wrote the best-selling novel Ben Hur.
Edgar Wallace, born Richard
Edgar, was a prolific and hugely popular English crime writer in the
DeWitt and Lila Wallace
co-founded Reader’s Digest
and published its first issue in 1922.
George Wallace was elected
Governor of Alabama for four terms and stood as a pro-segregation
Presidential candidate in 1968.
Randall Wallace is the Scots
Irish hillbilly from Tennessee who wrote and put together the film Braveheart which starred Mel Gibson.

Select Wallaces Today

  • 41,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Renfrewshire)
  • 72,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • and 34,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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