This ancient surname of many spellings, is a "crusader" import into Europe from the Holy Land. Recorded as Elliss, Elix, Ellice, Eles, Elias, Heelis, and many other forms, it derives from the Greek "Elias", itself from the Hebrew "Eliyahu", and meaning "Jehovah is God". The name became popular among Christians in the Middle Ages partly because of its adoption by various early saints and martyrs including a 7th Century Bishop of Syracuse, but mainly as a reult of soldiers and pilgrims from the 11th and 12th century crusades. These people on their return home, often christened their children with the ancient names of the Old Testament in memory of the father's efforts to free the Holy Land from the Saracens...
Ellis (Variants: Elliss, Elis, Ellice, Elys, Elles, Else, Ells, Eales, Eeles, Hellis)
In English and Welsh, from the Middle English personal name Elis, an Old French vernacular form of Elijah (Elias), which is the Latin and New Testament Greek form of Hebrew Eliyahu.
In Wales this surname absorbed forms derived from the Welsh personal name Elisedd, a derivative of elus ‘kindly’, ‘benevolent’.
The Ellis family name is linked to the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. Their name comes from the baptismal name for the son of Ellis.
It is possible that this is also an English relationship name from the Middle English female personal name Elice, which is a pet form of the personal name Elizabeth.
Earlier bearers of the surname derivatives include; John Elys was the son of Elias de Bampton, 1318, 1331 in London Husting Wills William Elyas, 1200 in Pipe Rolls (Yorks); William Elis, 1202 in Pipe Rolls (Lincs); Willelmus filius Helis, 1212 in Curia Regis Rolls (Somerset).
In 1891, the general population was widespread across England and Wales with 44,830 occurrences and further 867 in Scotland. In 1881, Ellis was among the frequently occurring surnames in the Bristol area.
In 1881, the most common Ellis occupation in the UK was Farmer along with Agricultural Labourer and Coal Miner were the top 3 reported jobs worked. A less common occupation for the Ellis was Labourer.
Ruth Ellis (1929 – 1955), a model and nightclub hostess was the last female in the UK to endure execution by hanging after being convicted of the murder of her husband.
Havelock Ellis (1859 – 1939), an English physician and sexual psychologist, co-wrote the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897. He also published works on a variety of sexual practices and inclinations, as well as on transgender psychology. He was also the author of one of the first written reports to the public about an experience with mescaline, which he conducted on himself in 1896. Mescaline is a naturally occurring alkaloid that induces psychedelic states similar to LSD.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Gloucestershire
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain