Watts Surname Genealogy

Wat as a given name in England dates back to the 8th century and an early Saxon king
of Sussex (who was recorded in charters at the time as Wattus
). A later Wat was Wat Tyler,
leader of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Wat de Carnegy appeared
in Scotland in 1446. Wat by this time was
short for Walter, a popular name in medieval times derived from the Germanic Wattier or Wautier brought to England by the Normans.
The surnames Watt
and the patronymic Watts later emerged, as did
other forms of the name such as
Walters, Watson,
Watkins, and Watkinson. Some of the Watts in America were
originally Watz who had come from the German state of Hesse.

Watts Resources on

Watts Ancestry

Watts was a surname of southern England, but was widely spread
there. It was found on the east coast and the west coast, with
the largest numbers in London.

Richard Watts,
born near
Rochester in Kent, was a successful London merchant during
Elizabethan times and a benefactor to the city. Isaac

the famous hymn writer, born into a Nonconformist household in
Southampton, lived in Stoke
Newington on the outskirts of London for most of his life – from 1690
and 1748. Watts from Odiham in Hampshire
date from the
1700’s and possibly earlier.

Watts, initially de Wath and Wathes, were to be
found at Eston in Worcestershire from the 14th century.
One later line of this family was the Watts of
Hawkesdale Hall in Cumbria.

There were other Watts in the north. A Watts family, dating back
Manchester to the 1730’s, were small farmers in the area who also
engaged in handloom weaving. James Watts founded with his elder
brother Samuel what was to become the largest wholesale drapery
business in Manchester.

Watts was the classic type of Manchester
entrepreneur: son of a self-made man, a free trader and a dissenter. He was concerned not only with business
success, but also to make a social mark.”

was mayor of Manchester in 1855 and bought
Abney Hall in Cheadle where many distinguished visitors later


Scotland. As
Watt and Wattie, the surname was to be found in Aberdeenshire and
Banffshire in NE Scotland.. There was a fishing
village in Banffshire where, amazingly, 225
out of
the 300 inhabitants once had the name of Watt.

Watson rather than Watt has been more common in Lowland
Scotland. But James Watt, renowned for
his development of the steam engine, was born in Greenock on the
Clyde. One son Gregory Watt, a promising
geologist, died at a young age in 1804. Another son James Watt – who
carried on his father’s work – died unmarried, the last of the direct
1848. A line did run to Robert
Watson-Watt, born in 1892, who was one of the pioneers in the
development of
radar. Another line, the Gibson-Watts, was
to be found in Wales.

Watts of Rose Hill near Edinburgh were
staunch supporters
of King James VI of Scotland in 1596.
Watt, subsequently Watts, emigrated to America around the year
1700. The Rose
section of Manhattan, which his family later acquired,
was named after the Scottish home.

America. Edward Watts
from Somerset was an early arrival in America, coming to Virginia first
in 1640 and marrying in Stafford county and then travelling between
England and Virginia over the rest of his life. Later Watts of
this line were to be found in South Carolina, Georgia, and
Alabama. Thomas Watts became Governor of Alabama at the time of
the Civil War.

Frederick Watts came to America from Wales in 1762 and settled in
Pennsylvania. He was a Brigadier General during the Revolutionary
War. He and his wife Jane raised six daughters and their
youngest, David, a son. His son Frederick Watts, a prominent
agricultural reformer, was the founder of Penn State University.

Early Scots Watts in America included Robert Watts, whose family
settled in Manhattan, and John Watts, an Indian trader and interpreter
out of Virginia who worked primarily with the Cherokees. His
mixed race son John Watts, born in 1753, was a leading chief of the
warlike Chickamanga faction of Cherokees that waged war on the American
frontier. Descendants were later to be found in Georgia and

A German Watz family was in the Carolinas by 1820. They then
spread throughout the South, most notably settling in Tennessee,
Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Several Watz have at least
partial Cherokee blood and a number served in the Civil War.
Today many of the descendants bear the Watts name. Most Watz who
arrived later in the 19th century settled in New York and the Upper

Canada. Two
Watts brothers, William and Matthew, made the long sea voyage from
Ireland to
Canada in 1850. They were boat-builders
and set up shop on Georgian Bay near Toronto to supply fishing boats
for the
local fleet. Twenty years later William
Jr. moved to Vancouver to build boats for the west coast market. The business passed from William to son Fred,
but there the tradition stopped. It
struggled through the late 1930’s and early 1940’s until Fred Watts
lost his
battle with cancer in 1947.

and New Zealand.
John Cliffe Watts was an Irishman who joined
the British army and came to Australia in 1813.
He became Governor Macquarie’s aide-de-camp and was an architect
many of the new buildings in Sydney. He
later settled in Adelaide where he took up the position of Postmaster

Scotland came:

  • John
    Brown Watt, who
    arrived in Sydney from Edinburgh in 1840 and prospered in business
    there. One son Ernest followed in his
    business footsteps, another son Oswald (known as Toby) was an aviation
    whose life was cut short by drowning in 1921.
  • and
    James Michie Watt, a farmer from Aberdeen who came to Melbourne around
    the year 1843. His son William rose to
    become Premier of Victoria in 1912.

and Sophia Watts
came to New Zealand on the Oriental from
Kent as early as 1841. However, they
were not happy there and, after a few years, settled in Jamberoo, NSW. However, one son Edward returned to New
Zealand and was one of the Kaikora pioneers in Hawkes Bay.
His farm remained in family hands until 1960.

Watts Miscellany

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

Watts Names

Isaac Watts was an 18th century English
hymn-writer credited with being the father of English hymnody.
James Watt
was the Scottish inventor
and mechanical engineer whose improvements to steam engines were
fundamental to
the changes wrought during the Industrial Revolution.
He developed the concept of horsepower and
the watt unit of power was named after him.
James Watts
was a prominent cotton trader and wholesale
distributor in Manchester in the mid-19th century.
Alan Watts
was a
British-born writer and speaker in America, best known as an
interpreter and popularizer
of Eastern philosophy.

is a British-born
Hollywood actress.

Select Watts Today

  • 46,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gloucestershire)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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