Wallace Surname Meaning, History & Origin
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.
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
- Clan Wallace. Wallace clan genealogy.
- Wallace and Wallis Origins.
The name and family of Wallace and Wallis.
- The Wallace Family.
Wallaces of Moore county, North Carolina.
- Wallace DNA Wallace DNA project.
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
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.
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
Richard Wallasse was a schoolmaster, fluent in Latin
and Greek, and parish clerk in the early 1700’s for the mining town of
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.
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
However, the Presbyterians 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
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
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”
Wallace, 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,
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
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
the CBS 60 Minutes
Caribbean. Wallaces from
Scotland were planters in Jamaica in the 18th century.
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.
Canada. 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
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
William Wallace and the Wallace Oak and Yew. At Elderslie in Renfrewshire two famous trees once stood, the Wallace
oak and the Wallace yew. The yew alone remains. Some doubt
has recently been cast on the antiquity of this tree. But parish
records from the 1700’s refer to it as “the ancient tree.”
As the oldest tree in Europe is a yew which stands in Fortingall in
Perthshire and is over 3,000 years of age, it is interesting to think
that this tree is named the Wallace yew because of its association with
The famous Wallace oak which is claimed to have afforded shelter to
William and his followers from an English patrol fell in a storm in the
1800’s. This ancient tree had been measured some years before its
fall when it was found that its branches covered 495 square yards!
When Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army began its march south in 1745, they
used the words “Wallace oak” as a camp password. The story of
this tree must have been well known to the highland soldiers to have
understood its meaning.
Sundrum and Carnell Castles. Sundrum Castle is amongst the oldest inhabited
castles in Scotland, dating back to the war of Scottish independence
when it was declared forfeit to the crown. Sir Robert Wallace, a
relative of Sir William Wallace the Scottish freedom fighter, was
appointed Sheriff of Ayr in 1342, succeeded by his son Duncan in 1359
who commissioned the building of the present castle in the 1360’s.
The Tower, which has been recently refurbished, re-equipped and
redecorated to a very high standard, makes excellent accommodation and
is a perfect choice for keen golfers, anglers, horse riders, and
The tower of Carnell was built in the 16th century for the
Wallaces. Carnell was extended to what can be seen today by the
architect William Burn in the 1840’s. Set in a 2,000 acre estate,
Carnell offers accommodation, weddings, falconry, archery, and shooting
(clays, pheasant, and grouse).
Wallace in the Canadian Wilderness. Mary McKerley nee Wallace was interviewed for the Granby Leader in 1898. These
are some extracts from the article.
“Mary McKerley of Abbotsford, widow of the late William
McKerley, is now 83 years of age and has resided at Abbotsford since
early childhood. She is a native of Alston Moor,
Cumberland. Her father’s name was William Wallace and when they
came to this country they had quite a large family of which she was the
youngest. Some of them went to Upper Canada.
Those best known in this vicinity were: Job Wallace,
father-in-law of the late James Irwin of Granby; Joseph Wallace, father
of William Wallace of Granby who settled in Canaan; and Thomas Wallace
who recently died at Waterloo at an advanced age.
The family sailed from Liverpool in 1820. At the
same time came Isaac and Jacob Wallace, the survivors of triplets.
The Wallace family located at the east end of Yamaska
Mountain, on a place where there was an old rude cabin. As they
had masons in the family they built a stone house as soon as they
could. Her brothers went to Granby to mill, a distance of eight
miles, with a bushel of corn on a hand sled and blazed trees to guide
them. At times they had to come back without their grist, the
mill being so full. Mr. Wallace had to pay 25 cents per day for
the use of a plough and he had the first pair of cartwheels in the
place that had iron tiers or bands around them.
When he commenced to farm in Canada, he had only six
shillings in his pocket and he owed his brother the amount of his
passage money. He was a miner in England and consequently did not
know much about farming. When he began land clearing he chopped
all around the tree to his own great danger. Then he sat down and
shed tears at the hard prospect before him. Plucking up courage,
he tried again until success rewarded his efforts.”
Big Foot Wallace. At his birth he weighed 13 pounds and “could kick harder and yell
harder than any youngster I ever saw,” so said his favorite aunt who
was his midwife.
But why Big Foot? A name as long as William Alexander Anderson
Wallace demands a nickname. The reason for Mr. Wallace’s peculiar
nickname is easy to explain. He simply had big feet. They
measured 11 and 3/4 inches. That doesn’t seem so large
today. But Wallace at 6’2″ and 240 pounds was considered quite
large by early 19th century standards.
He arrived in Texas from Virginia in 1837 and joined the Texas
Rangers. Many are the stories that have been told about his
He was part of a splinter group that mutinied and headed off to Mexico,
determined to make it worth their time and trouble. However, they
were surrounded and captured by a larger force. They were rounded
up and made to participate in what became known as the “black bean
incident.” There was a lottery in which 159 white and 17 black
beans were drawn from a crock to determine which men (one in ten) would
be executed. A black bean meant execution; a white bean meant
prison. Wallace, always a non-conformist, drew a grey bean.
The Mexican officer in charge determined the bean to be white and he
was thereby spared death.
Once Wallace went without water for six days and then drank an entire
gallon at once. His fellow prisoners attempted to stop him, but
he fought them off. He collapsed in sleep and everyone, including
his captors, never expected him to awaken. He awoke the next day
Since the captives were allowed free access to quills and ink, many
letters and memoirs were published about their captivity and it remains
one of the most written-about incidents in Texas history.
Over the years his willingness to recount his adventures insured he
would become a genuine Texas legend. He never told a story he couldn’t
later improve upon. In 1870 The
Adventures of Big Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger was published
and later went into multiple printings, becoming perhaps the first
best-selling book on a Texas personality.
Lew Wallace. Lew Wallace grew up in Indiana. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted
and a year later was a Major General. He had an up-and-down
war. He was known as “the man who arrived too late at
Shiloh.” But he fought later at Monocacy which became known as “the battle that saved Washington.”
He became even more well known after President Lincoln
was assassinated, being second in command of the military court that
convicted and hanged the conspirators. Later he became Governor
of New Mexico and then US Minister to Turkey.
But he is not remembered for these accomplishments.
On retirement back in Indiana, he sat down and wrote a book which was
published in 1880. The title was Ben Hur. It became the
biggest selling novel of the nineteenth century.
Mike Wallace and Jewishness. In 2005, Wallace talked about his Jewish background to author Abigail
Pogrebin. He recounted how he grew up in a moderately observant
home and said he still recites the Sh’ma prayer every night before
retiring. However, he has not been a practicing Jew in his adulthood
and only his first wife was Jewish.
Wallace said that he was hurt by charges that he was a
“self-hating Jew” because of some hard-hitting pieces he did on Israel
and he defined himself in general terms as a supporter of Israel.
He told Pogrebin that he has to remind his son, Fox cable
newsman Chris Wallace, that Chris is in fact Jewish. Wallace
explained that Chris was raised by a non-Jewish stepfather, is married
to a non-Jewish woman, and barely acknowledges being Jewish. Why
a Jewish couple should name their son Chris was a question Pogrebin
- 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 1920’s.
- 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 Wallace Numbers Today
- 41,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 72,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- and 34,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Wallace and Like Surnames
These were names originally given to outsiders in the British Isles that became surnames. Thus Walter the Scot became Walter Scott. Outsiders could also have been Welsh, Irish, French or Flemish. These are some of the “outsider” surnames which are covered here.
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