Warren Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Warren Surname Meaning

Warren has Norman roots introduced into England at the time of the Conquest. There are two possible origins of the name.

One source of the name is the Normandy village of La Varenne which gave the name to William de Warenne who fought at the Battle of Hastings and whose descendants later became Warren.

A second derivation is from the Norman French warrene, a warren or piece of land set aside for the breeding of game. The surname could describe someone who lived by a game park or someone who was employed in such a place.

Warren Surname Resources on The Internet

Warren Surname Ancestry

  • from SW England and Ireland
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. William de Warenne who had arrived in England with William the Conqueror was the forebear of the subsequent Earls of Warren and Surrey. However, this line died out in the 14th century.

The knight Sir Edward de Warren married Cicely de Eton in the 1340’s and she brought with her the estates of Poynton and Stockport in Cheshire. Poynton Hall, long since demolished, was built by Sir Edward Warren in 1552 and then replaced by Sir George Warren with a larger structure in 1750.

Kent The county of Kent provided some early Warren sightings. A certain William Warren left his house to Canterbury Cathedral “for pious uses” in 1371. The Warrens of Dover may have been related. William Warren was mayor of Dover in 1493, his son John three times major of Dover in the early 1500’s. Subsequent Warrens from the village of Ripple near Deal included emigrants to the New World.

SW England  However, there were probably more Warrens in the southwest, in Devon in particular. The Warrens were long-established there in the village of Ottery St. Mary. One family account follows the Warrens from Ashburton in Devon to Marnhull in Dorset.

Other Warrens in Dorset were to be found in Fordington and Tincleton, villages near Dorchester. Later Warrens have been traced to the area around Chard and Ilminster in Somerset. Warrens from Bristol became shipbuilders in Hayle in Cornwall in the mid 19th century.

By the time of the 1891 census the southwest overall accounted for just over 20 percent of all the Warrens in England.

Elsewhere Warrens also appeared in the English Midlands.  Thomas and Ann Warren were married at Ratcliffe Culey in Leicestershire in 1735.  His son John was a coach-maker at Loughborough, a profession carried on by his sons and grandsons.     .

Ireland. Warren in Ireland is mainly an English implant. Edward Warren had arrived with Strongbow in 1172. From their base at Warrenstown in county Meath, these Warrens became one of the old-established Dublin familiesThere were related Warrens in Wexford.

A later line in county Carlow started with Captain Humphrey Warren in the 1500’s.  Richard Warren and his family lived at Ballymurphy in county Carlow from 1735 to 1823.

Robert Warren, an English soldier in Cromwell’s army, was the forebear of the Warren landed gentry in county Cork. And some Irish O’Murmaines anglicized their names to Warren in Cork and Kerry.

America. Warrens came to New England and also to Virginia and Maryland.

New England Three early Warren settlers in New England produced a heap of descendants:

  • Richard Warren from London, a passenger on the Mayflower, who arrived at Plymouth rock in 1620.
  • John Warren from Suffolk, who arrived in 1630 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts.
  • and Peter Warren, a mariner who arrived in Boston in the 1650’s and bought land there. .

Richard Warren and his wife had seven children, all of whom survived, and a multitude of descendants, including apparently Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Franklin Roosevelt and the actor Richard Gere.

John Warren’s descendants included Moses Warren, an early settler in Ohio, and Levi Gale Warren, a merchant and trader in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Peter Warren was the forebear of the famous Warrens from Roxbury:

  • Joseph Warren, the horticulturist who developed the “Warren russet” apple (sadly in 1755, whilst gathering fruit in his orchard, he fell from his ladder and was instantly killed)
  • Dr. Joseph Warren, an early hero of the American Revolution who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775  (it was said, after him, that Warren became popular as a first name in America)
  • his younger brother John Warren, the surgeon who founded Harvard Medical School
  • and his son John Collins Warren, one of the most renowned surgeons of the 19th century.

Samuel Warren, born in Grafton, started a paper mill in Pepperell, Massachusetts and became a very successful paper manufacturer in the latter part of the 19th century. His family, known in Boston as the Mount Vernon Street Warrens, were prominent art connoisseurs and collectors.

Other Massachusetts Warrens headed West. Lyman Warren set off in 1818 with his brother for Wisconsin when it was still largely Indian territory.  This Warren family befriended the local Ojibwe Indians of that region.  Fitz Henry Warren moved to Iowa territory in 1844. And Francis Warren headed further west and later represented Wyoming in the US Senate.

Virginia and Maryland There were also early Warren arrivals into Virginia and Maryland:

  • Thomas Warren came to Surry county, Virginia in 1641 with his Kentish cousin Daniel Gookin, the founder of Newport News.
  • Humphrey Warren from Cheshire was in Charles county, Maryland by 1662 and his family operated a plantation of 500 acres there at Hatton’s Point.
  • George Warren and his family moved from Maryland to Washington county, Virginia in the 1760’s. They were buried at the Warren family cemetery near Abingdon.

Virginia accounts also relate the story of William Johnston Warren, a slave in Tazewell county who bought his freedom in 1858. He and his brother-in-law subsequently operated a tannery in Tazewell for many years. His home there remained in family hands until 1994.

Some Warrens moved onto Kentucky after the Revolutionary War was over. William Warren came to Lincoln county in 1779 and settled along the Dix river. Twenty years later, Hugh Warren and his family arrived in Green county. His son Hardin and wife Lydia later settled in the Ozone mountain area of Johnson county, Arkansas.

Georgia and Points South  Benjamin Warren headed south at this time to Georgia. He and his great friend James Coleman were business pioneers in this new state. He was the owner of the Bedford plantation (which included land now occupied by the Augusta National Golf Club on which the Masters is played), a flour milling operation, and several other business enterprises. It is said that many of Augusta’s institutions today were influenced and molded by Benjamin Warren.

Other Warrens, in this case from South Carolina, came to Heard county, Georgia in the 1830’s as a result of a land lottery draw.

Meanwhile, around 1820, Benajah and Ferriba Warren left their home in Georgia to settle in Jefferson county in the newly opened Mississippi territory. By the time of the Civil War, Warrens had begun also to settle in Texas. African American Warrens in Linden, Cass county date from the early 1800’s. By the early 20th century, the state of Texas had the largest number of Warrens in the United States.

Canada. The Warren name in Newfoundland records dates back to 1760. Henry Warren was a fisherman in Petty Harbor in 1794. John Henry Warren arrived from Devon in the 1830’s and ran a fish export business out of St. John’s. He turned politician and represented Bonavista Bay where he found many supporters from Devon. Later, William Robertson Warren from St. John’s rose to become briefly Prime Minister of the province in the 1920’s.

Samuel Russell Warren was the outstanding figure in Canadian organ building in the 19th century. He was a descendant of the Richard Warren of Mayflower fame and had come to Montreal from Rhode Island in the 1830’s. Other Warrens entered Canada by sea around this time, including a number from Ireland.

Australia. Mary Warren, a convict, arrived in Australia in 1790 on the notorious Lady Juliana. She married a few years later but died through drowning in 1804. John Warren – transported to Western Australia in 1852 – had a happier outcome, however. Managing to escape the convict stigma by becoming a schoolmaster, he ended up marrying a wealthy widow who owned a hotel and a farm.

Early Warren free settlers were:

  • Thomas Warren and his family from Sunderland who came on the James Carson in 1852. They later settled in Melbourne.
  • James and Mary Warren from Suffolk who arrived in the mid-1850’s. Daughter Mary lived to be ninety nine before her death in East Maitland, NSW in 1941.

Warren Surname Miscellany

William de Warenne and His Line.  William de Warenne was born in Normandy.   His line there has been traced back three generations to Walter de St. Martin, born around 953.

He himself accompanied William the Conqueror to England and commanded a detachment of the Norman army at Hastings.  His reward in the victory was land and estates in Norfolk.  In the next few years he married a certain Gundreda who may or may not have been William the Conqueror’s daughter.

The Warenne family made its first appearance in records in 1164 when Hamelin Plante Genest (later changed to Plantagenet), a Norman baron and illegitimate half brother to King Henry II, married Isabel de Warrene.  He assumed the surname of Warren, settled in Surrey, and was granted the Earldom of Surrey.  This family also held lands in Suffolk, Somerset and Sussex.  John, the last de Warenne Earl of Surrey, died in 1347.  Soon afterwards they appear to have been inexplicably disinherited.

The line may not have gone dead.  The last earl was said to have had a mistress Maud de Nerford and an illegitimate son Edward.  This Edward has been linked to the Warren family of Poynton and Stockport in Cheshire.  And once this connection had been made, some much more far-reaching genealogical linkages were concocted.

In 1782, the  Rev. John Watson published his Memoirs of the Ancient Earls of Warren and Surrey and Their Descendants to the Present Time.  This was a vain attempt to prove that Watson’s patron, Sir George Warren, was entitled to the earldom of Warren and Surrey.

Later, in 1902, came Thomas Warren’s A History and Genealogy of the Warren Family in Normandy, Great Britain and Ireland, France, Holland, Tuscany, United States of America etc, 912-1902.  This book supposedly joined up all the dots between the Warennes in Normandy and Warren immigrants into America.

Reader Feedback – Warren Origins.  I am trying to find out about the surname Warren and its origins. I have seen elsewhere that all Warrens derive from the De Warennes that appeared after the Norman Conquest. My surname is Warren and I have gone back five generations. I live in Leicester in England and they lived in Leicester and Northampton.

Tony Warren (tonyaniml70@hotmail.com).

The Warrens of Old Ireland.  The Warrens got their estates in the days of Strongbow and held them through all the vicissitudes of olden Ireland.  They were a house called “English-Irish” or “inside the pale,” which meant that they stood high in British favor and contributed heroes to the army or navy from each of their hardy generations.

They had no title, but to be The Warren of Warrenstown, Meath was to be entitled to look down with disdain upon upstart baronets and newly created peers.  Sir Christopher Aylmer’s daughter Catherine was honored to marry Captain Michael Warren and her brother, Admiral Lord Aylmer, only too glad to take charge of her boy later on.

Born in 1703, Peter was the youngest of the family and the most ambitious of the lot.  When he was nine years old, his father Captain Michael died and he was sent to his uncle Lord Aylmer to be trained for the service.  Two years later, at fourteen, young Peter enlisted.  He rose rapidly through the ranks, attaining the rank of admiral in 1747. 

Reader Feedback: Warrens from the West Country.  The Rev. Thomas Warren published his History of the Warren Family in 1898-1902 and I have researched his findings on my own line which have suffered the ravages of Warren want for many years. Below is my line beginning with my own grandfather and ending back in 1617 (proven) and possibly from there going back to the Norman conquest and beyond.  I am still working on my own blog site, the Warren Family from Normandy to Australia.

My grandfather Alfred Samuel Warren migrated to Australia from New Zealand in 1887, my great grandfather Albert Frederick Warren migrated from Winchester in Hampshire to New Zealand where he took up the post of Government printer in 1860.

  • Albert was born to Nathaniel Short Warren (printer and minister) in 1830.
  • Nathaniel was born to Christopher and Anna Maria Simms Warren (stonemason and churchman) at Southampton in 1805.
  • Christopher was born to Martin Warren and Anna Maria Short Warren in October 1768 at Marnhull in Dorset.
  • Martin was the son of Christopher Warren, born in 1698, who married Elizabeth Crow or Crew around 1721 with their firstborn John being born in March 1723.
  • Christopher Warren was the son of John Warren, born in 1658, perhaps at Exeter in Devon.  He married Ruth around 1693 with his firstborn son John being born in 1695.
  • John, born in 1658, was the son of John Warren, born in 1617 and buried in Marnhull 1698, at Ashburton in Devon.
  • His father was Christopher Warren who married Alice Webb Warren in 1613.

My family have been ministers of the church and parish clerks for hundreds of years, as proven by the Rev. Thomas Warren in his history.  The minister Harry and Conyers Place and the Rev. John Hutchins in his Histories and Antiquities all verify that my line have come from Ashburton in Devon to Marnhull in Dorset via Ilsington in Devon.

That we are of the Ashburton line is a surety for me, but I refuse to go back past 1617 until I have absolute proof of John’s father. The turmoil that occurred in 1641/2 was perhaps the cause of the migration of John away from London or Ilsington in Devon and he became the first of my line to be parish clerk of Marnhull, a line that continued there for two hundred years.

Regards, Raymond J. Warren (ray.j.warren@hotmail.com) 

Richard Warren of the Mayflower.  Richard Warren of the Mayflower was a London merchant who had married Elizabeth Walker in Hertford in 1610.  Little else is known about him, however, not even who his parents were – despite extensive searches of the records.

He joined the Leyden band of Mayflower pilgrims at Southampton and was among the ten passengers of the landing party at Cape Cod in November 1620.  After numerous hardships and an Indian fight they set foot at Plymouth.  Richard was a signer of the Mayflower Compact and was one of the nineteen out of forty one signers who survived the winter.  He was described by a contemporary as “a man of integrity, justice, and uprightness of piety and serious religion.”

His wife Elizabeth and his first five children, all daughters, came to America on the Anne in 1623.  Once in America, they then had two sons. Nathaniel and Joseph, before Richard’s untimely death in 1628.  Elizabeth survived another forty years.

Joseph Warren, Physician and Rebel.  Before he was General Joseph Warren, he was Doctor Joseph Warren, a well-respected Boston physician.  He once saved the right hand of John Quincy Adams when a severe fracture of the forefinger caused other doctors to recommend amputation.

Dr. Warren gave the famous oration in memory of the Boston massacre victims.  He was also a good friend of Paul Revere and was the man who sent him on his famous ride.  On the day after the Boston Tea Party, their names appeared in the following street ballad:

  • “Our Warren’s there and bold Revere
  • With hands to do and words to cheer
  • For liberty and laws.”

Joseph Warren arrived at the battlefield of Bunker Hill without any official orders.  So he fought as a private and was shot in the back of the head by a British soldier who recognized him as one of the rebel leaders. The enemy buried him where he fell.

Nine months later, when the British had finally retreated from New England, his body, recognized by his two false teeth, was disinterred and honorably buried.  A little psalm book found by a British soldier in his pocket has been kept by one of his descendants.

The Warrens and the Ojibwes.  In 1818 Lyman Warren and bis brother Truman headed west for the frontier.  They found employment at a trading post run by Michael Cadotte, a fur trader, in Wisconsin.  Michael married Cadotte’s daughter Mary in 1821. Mary was seven-eighths Ojibwe and spoke only the Ojibwe language.

It was after the death of Truman that Lyman came down the Chippewa, building the first sawmill at Chippewa Falls in 1836 and being the first white person to settle in that area.  He traded with the Ojibwes and with other fur traders there for many years.

Lyman’s son William grew up with Indians and had learned to speak their language at a very young age.  He was very much liked by the Indians and invited to be a guest at their lodge-fire circles. Here the Ojibwe would tell stories of history and William in return would translate narratives from the Bible to them.  Then William embarked on a written history of the Chippewa “to save the traditions of their forefathers from total oblivion.”  Sadly, William’s health was poor and he died in 1853 at the age of twenty eight.

William’s brother Truman lived on and was responsible for organizing and leading the Ojibwe people from their old grounds at Crow Wing and Gulf Lake to the White Earth reservation.

Mrs. Fiske Warren’s Vase.  A rare Josean dynasty Korean blue and white porcelain jar set a world record  at the December 2008 auction at the San Francisco salesroom of Bonhams & Butterfields.  It had been discovered by the Asian Art Department Director’s monthly appraisal event at the company’s Sunset Boulevard gallery in Los Angeles. The vase had formerly been within the collection of Mrs. Fiske Warren, part of Boston’s Mount Vernon Street Warren family at the turn of the century; and then became a family heirloom and was in a family member’s southern Californian home for decades.

Mrs. Fiske Warren had been a great beauty of her day.  She had married Frederick Fiske Warren of the Warren paper mills fortune.  The wedding, a union of two of Boston’s most prominent families, was the talk of the town in 1891.

The couple travelled the world extensively and entertained lavishly within their Massachusetts home, a utopian enclave called Tahanto.  Family records relate that their guests included Sun Yat-sen, Clarence Darrow, Booker T. Washington, and Robert Frost amongst others.  It was thought that Mrs. Fiske Warren acquired the vase during one of her many trips to the Far East in the 1890’s.

Warren Names

  • William de Warenne came over with William the Conqueror and started an early Warren line.
  • Peter Warren, from an old-line Dublin family, was promoted to Admiral of the British Navy after a successful engagement against the French off Canada in the 1740’s.
  • Dr Joseph Warren, killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, was an early hero of the American Revolution.
  • William Warren, the son of a British-born actor, was the great comic actor on the American stage in the second half of the 19th century.
  • W.K. Warren from Tennessee was a pioneer in gas liquids production in Oklahoma from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.
  • Earl Warren was three times Governor of California and was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States. He was of Scandinavian stock.
  • Robert Penn Warren was a mid 20th century American writer and critic.

Warren Numbers Today

  • 39,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 66,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

Warren and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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