West Surname Genealogy

The four points of the compass transposed in England into
surnames. Of these, West has been the most popular
by far.Wests, curiously, were mainly to be found in the east of the
country. The first West surname recorded was in fact Maurice de
West in the pipe rolls of Essex in 1152. It was not where you
were but where you had come from
that determined your name here.

West Resources on

West Ancestry

One West family in fact originated in Devon in the west country, from
Thomas West of Hampton Cantilupe in the 13th century. These Wests
gained their spurs abroad, at Crecy and at Agincourt where Thomas West
died in the battle.

“A West, a la Warr and a Pelham took
King John of France prisoner at Poitiers in 1356. The West was
knighted on the field of battle by the Black Prince and after receiving
the honor said to the Prince, “Monseigneur, c’est Ie plus beau jour de
ma vie.” The West and la Warr families were shortly afterwards
united in marriage and “jour de ma vie” was adopted as the family

Their home
later, as Barons West
and de la Warr
, was Oakhanger in
Hampshire. One line made a name for themselves in Virginia
across the Atlantic. The main line eventually became the
Sackville-Wests and numbered Vita Sackville-West of the Bloomsbury set.

Another notable West family began traces back to Edmund West, clergyman
at St. Pauls in London in the 1550’s. The Rev. Richard West
married into the well-connected Temple family and was appointed
Archdeacon of Berkshire in the early 1700’s. His children were:
Vice Admiral Temple West (from whom came a judge in Bombay and the
private secretary to Prime Minster Gladstone); Mary West who married
Admiral Hood; and the writer and minor poet Gilbert West.

One West family started with Thomas West, born in the
village of Sibsey in Lincolnshire around 1470. These Wests were
yeomen farmers in the fens. Nicholas West, the Tudor bishop and
diplomat, was born in Putney. Another family line included the
scrivener John West, born in Twickenham
near London in 1641.

The Wests/de la Warrs came to America with Thomas West, Lord Delaware,
who arrived in Virginia in 1610 but died eight years later. Later
came Colonel John West who held land at West Point along the York river
and was also, like Thomas and another brother Francis, governor of
colonial Virginia.

Matthew West was a Baptist tailor who came to New England in 1635 and
settled with his brothers in Rhode Island. Another West, Francis
West, was also in Rhode Island by this time. He had married
Susannah Soule, daughter of one of the Mayflower passengers. These
Wests became large landowners in North Kingsdown, Rhode Island.
William West was a militia general during the Revolutionary War and
later served as deputy governor of the state.

Other early Wests in America were:

  • Anthony West of Accomac county, Virginia – thought to be related
    to the Wests/de la Warrs – who arrived in
    the colony as early as 1622. His descendants were among the
    early landed gentry on the Eastern Shore.
  • and Francis West who came to Duxbury, Massachusetts in the 1630’s
    and whose son Thomas
    , a doctor, had moved to Martha’s Vineyard by the
    1670’s. This line was covered in Carlton West’s 1987 book Descendants of Francis West of Duxbury.

Lette Brock Stone’s 1928 book The
West Family Register
traced the early Wests in America.
Later West arrivals included some Wests from Germany.

John West from Scotland had come via Canada to California in 1849 in search of gold.
Finding none, he moved to Oregon where he started a sawmill. The community of Westport grew up around his
sawmill. He later started a fish cannery
there and invented an automatic can-filling machine.
His name lives on in the British company John
West Foods.

South Africa. Thomas West from
Bristol, having served the
Royal Navy, was an early arrival in South Africa, pre-dating even the
Settlers. He was resident in Cape Town
by 1796 and married Dorothea van der Schyff there a year later. Many of their children settled in Grahamstown
on the Eastern Cape.

Australia. John West came out to
Tasmania with the
Colonial Missionary Society in 1838. He
became pastor of a Congregational chapel there and, after some
experiences, became editor of the Sydney
Morning Herald

Thomas West from
Sussex came in a different capacity, as a convict sentenced to life for
burglary in 1801. Twelve years later he
received a conditional pardon in Sydney and, starting with the gift of
a cow,
developed a herd of cattle and extensive grazing lands.
On his death in 1848 his son Obed West expanded
the family’s sizeable land holdings in NSW.

West Miscellany

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

West Names

Nicholas West, sometime Bishop of Ely and chaplain to Catherine
of Aragon, served as an English diplomatic envoy in the early 16th
Thomas West, Baron de la
Warr, was captain general in Virginia in 1610. The state of
Delaware was named after him.
Captain John West was a
Scottish emigrant to Oregon on the West Coast who started the canning
and exports of salmon. His name has continued in the John West Foods brand.
Vita Sackville-West was an
English author and poet, part of the Bloomsbury set.
Rebecca West, born Cicely
Fairfield, was an English writer and journalist.
Mae West was an American
actress and sex symbol of the 1920’s and 30’s.

Select Wests Today

  • 57,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lincolnshire)
  • 71,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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