Williamson Surname Genealogy
has been a Scottish and northern English patronymic
surname, from the William that had been brought to England by William
Conqueror. William is derived from the
Germanic elements of wil meaning “will”
or “desire” and helm “helmet” or
popular patronymic surname than Williamson in England.
But Williams was never common in Scotland
which preferred the longer Williamson form.
Williamson is mainly found in the Lowlands.
It has also cropped up in the Highlands and
the Shetlands (in some cases from the Highland MacWilliams).
Williamson Resources on
- Ancient History of the Williamson Surname
Alexander Williamson of Glasgow.
- Williamson Family History
Williamsons from Ireland to Australia.
- Williamson Reunion
Williamsons of Wheeling, West Virginia.
- Williamson DNA Project
was first found in Peebles on the Scottish borders:
- Adam, son of William, rendered the
accounts of the burgh of Peebles in
- and John, son of William, was baillie
there in 1365.
Williamsons were one of the recognized border clans.
However, they – like other border clans –
were dispersed in 1603 when the Scottish and English crowns became
Williamsons did remain in the Scottish borders.
There are Williamson
Peebles and they were Williamsons also at Balgray in Dumfries. But many migrated north to the more populated
areas of the Scottish Lowlands.
Williamsons here have included:
Rev. David Williamson, the preacher
at St Cuthbert’s church in Edinburgh in the late 1600’s.
His is forever remembered by the Scottish
folk song Dainty
Williamson was a councillor at his
home-town of Kilrenny in Fife around the same time.
A descendant, also named Stephen, grew up in
Fife and co-founded the shipping company of Balfour & Williamson in
Liverpool in 1851. His son Archibald was
made Lord Forres.
there has also been a long line of Williamsons in
Kirkcaldy in Fife, prominent merchants there in the 19th century.
who was resident in
Edinburgh from 1760 until his death in 1799, came there in an
that had begun with a kidnapping as a boy in Aberdeen and was followed
by a hair-raising
spell in the American colonies, a return to Aberdeen where his
was not believed, and finally a sanctuary in Edinburgh.
a seepage across the border into northern England and across the Irish
Ulster. Of the 7,600 Williamsons
recorded in the 1891 Scottish
just 5% remained in the Scottish border counties.
Highlands. Williamsons, possibly as
an offshoot of the Gunn clan, were recorded at Banniskirk in Caithness
1665 onwards. Benjamin Williamson was a
colonel in the Caithness Highlanders.
His sons James and John both died in the Peninsular War in Spain
1812. Other Williamsons held the castle of Craighouse near
Dingwall at the head
of the Cromarty Firth in the 1700’s.
Shetlands. Williamson was the fifth
most common surname in the Shetland Isles in 1804.
The name had appeared there as early as
1630. Williamsons were recorded at
Ruster on the island of Fetlar from the early 1700’s, according to a
descendant Laurence Williamson. Some
like Robert Williamson of Lerwick were seafarers. He
died after a shipwreck off the coast of
Ireland in 1877.
England. Scottish Williamsons
undoubtedly crossed the
border into northern England, but it is difficult to trace which
there might have come from Scotland.
had some early Williamsons. John and
Jane Williamson were married at Newhall in Crosthwaite parish in 1568. Joseph Williamson was the vicar of Bridekirk
from 1625 to 1634. His son Joseph,
knighted in 1671, rose to high office in London as a civil servant and
in the late 1600’s.
Robert Williamson acquired the village and estate of
Markham in Nottinghamshire in 1606. His
family came from nearby Wakeringham, although some reports have
Scottish origin. Robert’s son Thomas, a
Royalist, was created a baronet in 1642.
The family moved to Whitburn Hall in Durham in 1723 and
baronets served as High Sheriffs of Durham and local MP’s.
Other early English
Williamson, the son of a Gainsborough draper and
descended from Lincolnshire yeoman farmers, who was an influential MP
and was knighted in 1604.
Williamson, born in Yorkshire in 1769, who amassed a fortune in
selling tobacco and snuff. But he is
best remembered as an eccentric businessman who constructed a maze of
in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool.
Williamsons came to Ulster with grants of land in the 17th century on
understanding that they would remain Protestant. A
Williamson family was at Donaghadee on the
Ards peninsula in county Down as early as 1603 and another Williamson
from Ayrshire was in Down four years later.
Later Williamsons came because of Covenanter persecution in
Scotland. They settled primarily in the
of Armagh, Antrim and Down. Many
departed for America in the 18th century.
Notable Williamsons in Ulster in the
18th century were:
Rev. John Williamson of Magheradroll in Antrim who died
in 1724. His family was to remain
prominent there until the 1850’s.
John Williamson who bought up much of the
village of Lambeg in Antrim in 1760. He
played a role in the development of the linen trade through
ownership of the Lambeg bleach green.
Scottish influx has meant that Williamsons outnumber Williams in
Ireland by about two to one today.
America. The early Williamsons in
probably of English origin, such as Timothy Williamson of Marshfield,
Massachusetts in the 1650’s. From his
line came the Williamsons of
including William D. Williamson who was a force behind its move to
Richard Williamson from London came to Isle of Wight county, Virginia
in 1641. He is considered to be the forebear of most Williamsons
in Virginia. One line from him led to Colonel Micajah Williamson
who fought in the Revolutionary War and afterwards became a big
landowner in Georgia. His son Peter was the father of Robert
McAlpin or “three legged Willie” Williamson, a legend in the early
history of Texas.
Scots and Scots Irish.
Most of the early Williamsons in
America, however, were Scots or Scots Irish.
The best known of them was Hugh
Williamson, the son of an immigrant clothier from Dublin.
He was born in 1735 in West Nottingham
township in what was then the frontier region of Pennsylvania. He was a man of many talents – a professor of
mathematics, a scientist, and a medical practitioner – who developed a
friendship with Benjamin Franklin. He
served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War and, after the war,
member of the Continental Congress. The
Williamson counties in Tennessee and Illinois were named in his honor.
Two Williamsons made their mark as rather
blood-thirsty Indian fighters at this time:
Williamson had come to the
Long Cane district of South Carolina with his Scottish parents in the
and survived the Indian attack on the settlement there in 1760.
a soldier in the South Carolina militia, rising to Brigadier General
Revolutionary War, and led numerous attacks against the Cherokees along
David Williamson, born in Pennsylvania in 1752, was
a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia in the Revolutionary War. After the war he lived along the western
frontier, dealing with the Indian menace there. He
is most remembered for his expedition that led to the
massacre of a
hundred Delaware Indians at Gnadenhutten, Ohio in 1782. Sadly, he
died in prison
in 1805 through indebtedness.
Williamson, Scots Irish, came to America about
the year 1733. His wife died at sea
leaving him with six young children in his care.
About eleven years later he remarried and
fathered six more children. These
Williamsons first settled in Pennsylvania and later in Virginia.
In the early 1770’s two brothers, Thomas and
John, made the long trek across the mountains to Fort Henry (now
West Virginia. Thomas was a weaver by trade and carried his
loom with him
over the mountains to his new home.
They migrated to the nearby Union district in Tyler county in
their descendants have been there ever since. The family story
was narrated in
Raymond Bell’s 1986 book The Williamson
should be said that
the first Williamsons in America were in fact Dutch.
1636 a Wiliemson family sailed from Holland to begin a new life in
New York. They settled on Long Island
William Wiliemson was admitted as a burgomaster.
family flourished over the next two
hundred and fifty years, changing the pronunciation and the spelling of
last name to Williamson in 1761. Their
business enterprise began in 1877 when Cornelius Titus Williamson
company in Newark to manufacture corkscrews.
This business prospered under his descendants until 1946 when a
was made to sell out. The family history was covered in
James Williamson’s 1896 book Genealogical
Records of the Williamson Family.
Australia. Williamsons from
England, Scotland and Ireland came to Australia to
settle in the 19th century. Among them
Williamson from Kent who
first came out with his brother to Tasmania in 1822.
He moved with his family to Colac township,
Victoria in 1847 where he farmed and later ran a grocery store. Joseph
Williamson lived in Colac township for sixty four years until
his death in
Williamson from Edinburgh
who arrived in Sydney around 1837. He
did well as a sheep farmer at Port Phillip and later was active in NSW
Michael and Anne
Williamson from Belfast who came to Sydney with their four children on
the Resource in 1840. They
settled in the Redfern suburb of Sydney. Michael
arrived as an unskilled laborer but
prospered there as a local businessman and civic leader.
Michael was mayor of Redfern in 1860 and his
son William and grandson Thomas followed him as mayors.
The family moved to Perth in Western
Australia in 1898.
New Zealand. There were two
Williamsons from Ireland that were early settlers in New Zealand.
James Williamson from Belfast came out in 1840 and made his home in
Auckland. He did well there as a businessman and land speculator,
building a beautiful mansion for himself, the Pah, outside Auckland.
But no sooner had he moved into his mansion that his business empire
crashed on the back of falling land prices. John Williamson
meanwhile from Newry in county Down arrived in 1841. He too moved
to Auckland, set up a printing press there and started publishing a
local newspaper. He died in 1875.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
who died in Edinburgh in
1706 is forever remembered by the Scottish folk song Dainty
J.C. Williamson was
an American actor who
in the 1880’s became Australia’s foremost theatrical manager.
an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, one of the
recorded blues musicians of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Nicol Williamson was
actor in the late
Roy Williamson was the
Scottish song-writer who wrote the de facto Scottish national anthem Flower of Scotland in the 1970’s.
Select Williamsons Today
- 48,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 44,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
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