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Welles Family History


This surname has a number of possible origins - topographical, locational, or even job descriptive. If locational, it originates from any of the various places such as Well near Bedale in North Yorkshire, or Wells in the county of Norfolk and in Somerset. However spelt all derive from the pre 7th century word "waella" which describes not a well, but a spring, and probably one that was associated with a holy place. "Wells next the sea", in Norfolk is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Guelle"...


Wells (Variants: Welles)

An English locative name from Wells next the Sea, Norfolk or Wells Somerset, or topographic name from residence near a group of springs, from Old English wella.

A name given to a local person who resided there. "John, at the Wells"—John Wells. Also, evolving into Attell ‘dweller by a spring or stream’, from mediaval sources ‘atte, de, de la Welle’. The form Well has been absorbed by Wells.

In German, from the personal name Wels. Also a translation of French Dupuis or any of its variants.

Early bearers of the surname include: Toke de Welles, 1177 in Pipe Rolls (Norfolk); Ricardo de Welles, 1381 in Poll Tax (York); William Wells, 1540 in IGI (Dorking, Surrey); John Welles, 1541 in IGI (West Clandon, Surrey); Andrew Wells, 1547 in IGI (North Elmham, Norfolk); Elsabz. Wells, 1547 in IGI (Rye, Sussex).

In 1891 census, the location of surname was widespread across England and Wales with 25,923 occurrences and a further 527 in Scotland. In 1881, the surname was prevalent in West Yorkshire and Lancashire, as well as the south east of England. The county of Kent in the south east of England was reported as a top county with 2,180 occurrences.

In 1881, the most common Wells occupation in the UK was Agricultural Labourer, along with Farmer and Labourer, which were the top 3 reported jobs. A less common occupation for was Bricklayer.

Best known for his science fiction novels, the noted English writer, Herbert George "H.G." Wells (1866-1946) wrote novels including The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Geographically, another locative town in West Kent is named Royal Tunbridge Wells. It is located close to the county of East Sussex, near the edge of the rock formation - High Rocks. The location was formed when the hardened silt was exposed after a melting ice sheet at the end of the ice age, which would have been deposited in the area when it was part of the Wealden Lake. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

1881, 1891 Census

1881 Census in Kent

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


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