Elis (from the Greek Elias and city along with the biblical Elijah) was a popular medieval name, having been adopted by some early saints. It became in Old English Elys or Elis and then Ellis. In Wales this surname seems to have absorbed forms derived from the Welsh personal name Elisedd, meaning one who is kindly and benevolent.
Ellis developed from an early time as a surname in North Wales and in the West Ridings of Yorkshire.
Select Ellis Resources on The Internet
- Ellis Families in the West Ridings. Yorkshire Ellis names and families.
- Quakers of Leicester. Quaker Ellis history in Leicester.
- Calwalader Ellis and Descendants. Ellis from Merionethshire in Wales.
- Ellis Family History. Descendants of Edward Ellis of Virginia.
- The Ellis Car Company. Ellises from Amesbury, Massachusetts.
Select Ellis Ancestry
The Welsh patronymical style, such as Ellis ap Griffith, first applied. Ellis as a surname dates from about 1600 at Ystumllyn near Criccieth in Carnarvon.
The name later was to be found more in Merioneth (present day Gwynedd). This rural part of Wales became a hotbed first of nonconformity and then of nascent nationalism. The farmer Rowland Ellis, a convert to Quakerism, left Dolgellau for Pennsylvania with a hundred like-minded enthusiasts in 1686. They settled in Bryn Mawr, named after his farmhouse in Dolgellau and now a famous women's college. Other Quaker Ellises left for Pennsylvania in 1690 and 1707. Land evictions were the problem in the nineteenth century. Tom Ellis, the son of an evicted Bala tenant, was elected MP in 1886 on a nationalist program at the tender age of 27. Sadly he died young before his promise could be fulfilled.
The Yorkshire Ellises were equally as numerous. Sir John Ellis built Kiddal Hall near Barwick in the late fourteenth century and it stayed with the family for nearly four hundred years. There were clusters of Ellises in Halifax and elsewhere in the West Ridings. Ellis was a common name around Ossett. Joshua Ellis from Ossett bought into the Savile woollen mill in Dewsbury in the 1820's. The mill of Joshua Ellis and Company, one of the oldest in Yorkshire, lasted into the 21st century but was closed down recently.
A Quaker Ellis community established itself in Rotherham and later, further south and in a more substantial way, in Leicester. Starting as farmers, branches of this family in Leicester moved into a variety of merchant and banking businesses. John Ellis began the Leicester and Swimmington railway in the 1840's and became an MP and mayor of the borough. Less monetary-minded were a Quaker couple from Bradford, James and Mary Ellis, who moved to the west coast of Ireland at the time of the potato famine and embarked on a Quaker relief program for the people of Letterfrack.
There was as well an early Quaker Ellis community in Cornwall near St. Just. The Ellis name was to be found from the 1620's in Penzance and Redruth and in the Scilly Isles. And the Ellis name also cropped in Dartmoor villages such as Modbury, Chagford and Belstone in Devon.
Ellis appeared as Elys in Dublin in 1283 and has recurred frequently in Irish records in subsequent centuries in Dublin, Cork, and in various parts of Ulster. Patrick Ellis from Dublin was one of the first English settlers in South Africa, arriving there with British troops when they occupied the Cape in 1795. An earlier rover was Henry Ellis, from an English family in Monaghan County, who became a slave trader and was appointed governor of the British American colony of Georgia in 1757.
Ellises from Ireland were early immigrants into Newfoundland, from the 1790's. The town of Elliston is named after the Rev. William Ellis, a Methodist missionary from County Down. William Ellis ran a construction business in St. John's and helped rebuild the town after a devastating fire in 1892. He was appointed mayor of St. John's in 1910. Edward and Mary Ellis were early settlers in Puslinch township southwest of Toronto. Edward donated the land for the Ellis Methodist chapel that was built there in 1861.
There were a number of Ellises who headed west as the nineteenth century proceeded; such as Robert and Eliza who homesteaded near Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan in 1885; and Thomas and Sarah who moved to Calgary in 1886 and then onto Nanaimo in British Columbia in 1894.
Ellis Island in New York Harbor was the arrival point for immigrants to America in the late nineteenth century. The name was nothing special. A New York tradesman, Samuel Ellis, had bought the uninhabited island in the 1770's and gave it his name. But he resold the island thirty years later.
There were Ellis arrivals there or elsewhere on the East Coast from England, Wales, and Ireland. The descendants of John Ellis were to be found in Sandwich, Massachusetts for many generations. A branch ended up in Maine. Edward Ellis arrived in Virginia in 1636. Later Ellises settled in Tennessee and North Carolina. Daniel Ellis of Tennessee spun his Civil War stories into a popular book, The Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis, that was published in 1867. Archibald Ellis was one of the pioneer farmers of Butler county, Kanas in the 1860's. Other Ellises moved onto Texas. In fact, by the twentieth century, the state of Texas had the largest number of Ellises in the United States.
Richard Ellis had left Virginia for Texas in 1834 while it was still part of Mexico. He set up his cotton plantation in Bowie County, attended the Texas convention in 1836, and was the one who signed the Texas Declaration of Indeprendence. William Ellis ran his sugar plantation in what is now Sugar Land before the Civil War on slave labor and after the war on convict labor. Later arrivals included MG Ellis, who started a cattle business in north Fort Worth, and James Ellis, who was a property developer in south Dallas at the turn of the century.
Ellis is sometimes in America a Jewish surname, probably originating from Lithuania. Abraham Ellis and his family were recorded as arriving in New York from Lithuania in 1888.
The name could also be Mediterranean. Toufic Kmeid was an immigrant in the 1920's from Lebanon who changed his name to Ellis (after his grandfather Elias). He started out as a travelling peddler and, after making some money, was able to buy his own store in a small town in upstate New York. In Kisses from a Distance, Raff Ellis chronicles this family history, his parents' marriage and migration to America and their struggle to raise a family and make ends meet during the Great Depression.
John Ellis was an early settler in Jamaica, having arrived there from Wrexham in the 1670's. The Ellises became one of Jamaica's leading planter families (until the nineteenth century when their estates were saddled with debts). The Ellis name has lived on in Jamaica - with Alton Ellis, the godfather of Rocksteady, and Hortense Ellis, who is acclaimed as Jamaica's First Lady of Songs.
Elias and Rebecca Ellis were early Jewish migrants to Australia. They arrived from England in the 1820's and made their home on Pitt Street in Sydney. Louis Ellis became sheriff of Victoria and his daughter Constance one of the first woman doctors in Australia.
Select Ellises Today
- 85,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
- 58,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 44,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Ellis Names
- Sir John Ellis was the forebear of the Yotkshire Ellises in Kiddal Hall.
- Rowland Ellis led the Welsh Quaker migration to Pennsylvania in the 1680's.
- Samuel Ellis (or Dutch Sam) is the boxer credited with having developed around 1800 the uppercut punch.
- Richard Ellis was the signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836.
- John Ellis was a prominent Quaker businessman in Leicester.
- William Ellis was an early nineteenth century missionary in Hawaii and Madagascar.
- William Webb Ellis was the Victorian clergyman often credited with the invention of the game of rugby football while a schoolboy at Rugby School.
- Dowel Ellis was the mayor of Johannesburg after whom Ellis Park, South Africa's national rugby stadium, is named.
- Peter Ellis is a historian and novelist, best known for his works on Celtic history and culture.
Select Ellis Miscellany
Ellis at Kiddal Hall
The road crosses Potterton Bridge and on top of the rise above Potterton Beck stands Kiddal Hall, mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chidale or cow valley.
In the late 14th century, Sir John Elys held Kiddal, whose family had built the Hall and were to be associated with Kiddal for 400 years. Later, John Ellis supported the King in the Civil War. It is thought that he was killed by Parliamentary forces on the doorstep or in a small room in Kiddal Hall. It has often been said that those who live there can still hear the sound of foot haunting the old hall.
On the south wall of the Ellis chapel in Elmet church in Barwick is a stone tablet to William Ellis of Kiddal Hall who died in 1771. He had married Mary Bourne and was the last of the Ellis family to have lived in the Hall. He was a surgeon in London who inherited the hall from his brother in the 1740's and proceeded to pay off the mortgage.
Rowland Ellis and the Quakers in Dolgellau
George Fox and John ap John had travelled throughout Wales, arriving at Dolgellau from Machynileth in 1657. Their preaching made a great impression on many local families. However, these Quakers went through a very difficult time when King Charles II was restored to the throne. They were considered a danger to society. Robert Owen of Dolsenau, the local squire, was imprisoned for five years in a very dark prison on the banks of the river Aran. Rowland Ellis, a gentleman farmer who had joined the Society of Friends in 1672, led a Quaker group which emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1686. He was a man of culture and later wrote A Salutation to the Britains, the first Welsh book to be published in America. Ellis is remembered in Wales. Along the banks of the river Aran still stands his Bryn Mawr farmhouse. In the town there is a permanent Quaker exhibition at Ty Meirion in Eldon Square. Two historical novels by Marion Eames, The Secret Room and Far Wilderness, dramatized his life. They proved a great success when televised in serial form on BBC Wales.
Some Early Ellis Emigrants to America
Birth Ellis Name From - 1593 John Wales (Llanycil) 1607 John, and Elizabeth England 1618 Morris, and Catherine Wales (Llanycil) 1628 John, and Elizabeth England 1647 Cadwalader, and Jane Wales (Llanycil) 1661 John, and Margaret England (Kent) 1683 Cadwalader, and Margaret Wales (Llanycil) 1704 Richard, and Jane Ireland (Dublin)
Cadwalader Ellis was apparently one of William Penn's colonists in Pennsylvania. He married Margaret Edwards, also born in Wales, in Goshen township in 1712. He died in 1730.
Ellis Island was no more than a lot of sand in the Hudson river, located just south of Manhattan. The island was named Kiodhk (Gull Island) by the Michegan Indians that lived on the nearby shores. Soon after the British took possession of the area from the Dutch in 1664, the name of the island was changed to Gibbet Island because men convicted of piracy were hanged there.
In the 1770's, the island was sold to Samuel Ellis, a local joiner made a freeman of New York. He developed it as a picnic spot. Ellis then offered the island for sale and it was eventually sold to the US War Department in 1808 for $10,000. It was not until 1892 that the well-known immigration station on the island was opened.
The Ellises of Leicester
The Quaker Ellises who lived in the county of Leicester were a large and remarkable family, as a recent book, Ellis of Leicester - A Quaker Family Vocation, recounts.
Starting as successful farmers, branches of the family were soon in business, particularly in the extraction industries of lime, slate, coal, and granite. They were merchants for all these commodities and many more products besides. They were also involved in banking, building societies and insurance. From their humble beginnings, many of their businesses have continued as part of larger conglomerates.
Perhaps the best known member was John Ellis of Beaumont Leys and Belgrave Hall, noted most of all for his involvement in the Leicester & Swannington and Midland Railways, but there were many other family members whose achievements are worthy and interesting to record.
From a strong commercial base and a strong adherence to their Quaker beliefs, they were very concerned with social welfare and committed in their work to support hospitals, schools, churches, and the temperance movement. Among them were writers, borough and local councillors, and three members of Parliament.
William Ellis of Belstone
William Ellis who died in 1936 lived all his life in the small village of Belstone on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. He was described by one writer in 1902 as "the most versatile of living Englishmen." The Book of Belstone put it this way:
"Mr. Ellis's skills included photographer, Dartmoor guide, repairer of watches and clocks, chemical manure and seed merchant, dog breeder (red setters a speciality), dealer in game, Knight of Honor and the Warden of Primose League, postman, organist, churchwarden, bell-ringer, lay reader, boot and shoe maker, bicycle repairer, gardener, wireless operator and portreeve."
A later Bill Ellis from this village was well-known locally as a singer of old Devon folk songs.
Archibald Ellis - from Ireland to Kansas
Archinald Ellis grew up in county Mayo in Ireland but set out, at the age of 23, for America. He met his wife Ann on the voyage over and they settled first in New Jersey and then in Lake county, Illinois where he pursued his trade as a chandler.
He had a zest for adventure. When the news first came through of the discovery of gold in California, he rushed out there. He was gone two years before returning to his family in Illinois. But the gold bug had gotten to him and he soon retrurned for another stint, this time staying for seven years before coming back via Cape Horn.
It was in 1859 that he set out from Illinois with his family for Walnut valley in Kansas territory. They embarked on a boat at La Salle on the Illinois river, went down that stream and into the Mississippi, and at St. Louis changed to a smaller boat and turned against the current of the Missouri and finally disembarked at Westport Landing (now Kansas City). The family had horses and wagons with them and they set off across the country to Emporia, a budding new village on the Kansas prairies. There Archibald left his family and went in search of suitable farmland. He found it in what is now Butler county, Kansas.
Archibald and Ann had nine children, of whom the sixth-born, John, became a prominent early Kansas stockman and farmer. He was old enough to remember when buffalo still roamed the area.
The Ellis House in South Dallas
Sitting at 2426 Pine Street, across the street from Charles Rice Elementary, is the former home of James M. Ellis, an Englishman who was among the earliest real estate developers involved with the construction of modern-day Dallas.
It is the last vestige of a time when South Dallas was an expanse of cotton fields and dirt roads that were paved over some eight decades ago. Certainly, it's the last house in the area built in the Classical Revival style, with wood shingles adorning the gables and its wraparound front porch, steeply pitched roof, and once elegant sunroom jutting from the side.
Researchers debate the house's age. Some insist it was built in 1905, others say a few years later. The name of the architect is not known.