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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Nelson family come from? What is the English Nelson family crest and coat of arms? When did the Nelson family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Nelson family history?

The history of the name Nelson begins with the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It is derived from a patronymic name created from the given name "Nell," or for the Irish, "Niall." The name is also listed as a baptismal name "the son of Eleanor" from the nickname "Nell."

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The English language only became standardized in the last few centuries; therefore, spelling variations are common among early Anglo-Saxon names. As the form of the English language changed, even the spelling of literate people's names evolved. Nelson has been recorded under many different variations, including Nelson, Nellson, Nelsan, Nelston, Neleson and others.

First found in Lancashire (located in northwest England and dates back to 1180), where records show many instances of the name in the Hundred Rolls of 1273 where Adam Nel was listed. Most are from Lancashire, but there is another from Cambridge: John filius Nel. William Neleson was listed in the Rolls of Parliament.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Nelson research. Another 171 words(12 lines of text) covering the years 1350, 1766, 1638, 1686, 1656, 1715, 1654, 1734, 1758, 1805 and are included under the topic Early Nelson History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 131 words(9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Nelson Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Nelson family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 139 words(10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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For many English families, the political and religious disarray that shrouded England made the far away New World an attractive prospect. On cramped disease-ridden ships, thousands migrated to those British colonies that would eventually become Canada and the United States. Those hardy settlers that survived the journey often went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Nelson or a variant listed above:

Nelson Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Francis Nelson, who arrived in Virginia in 1606
  • George Nelson, who came to Virginia in 1623
  • Miche Nelson, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1627
  • Provost Nelson, who arrived in Virginia in 1652
  • Provess Nelson, who landed in Virginia in 1653


Nelson Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Thomas Nelson, who came to Yorktown, Virginia in 1700 (his son William became President of the Dominion of Virginia under the English crown and his grandson was to later become Governor of Virginia)
  • Paul Nelson, who landed in Virginia in 1701
  • Mary Nelson, who landed in North Carolina in 1702
  • Joan Nelson, who landed in North Carolina in 1702
  • John, Nelson Sr., who landed in North Carolina in 1702


Nelson Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Mathew Nelson, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1808
  • Gerard Nelson, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • Dawson Nelson, aged 18, arrived in Delaware in 1812
  • Alexander Nelson, aged 33, landed in Virginia in 1812
  • Robt Nelson, aged 38, landed in New York in 1812-1813


Nelson Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • Charley Nelson, who arrived in Arkansas in 1904
  • Peter Nelson, who arrived in Arkansas in 1906
  • Emma Elizabeth Nelson, who landed in Colorado in 1907
  • Andrew Gustaf Nelson, who landed in Wisconsin in 1910
  • Karl Nelson, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1910


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  • David Oswald Nelson (1936-2011), American actor, director, producer
  • Prince Rogers Nelson (b. 1958), better known as "Prince", American seven-time Grammy Award, Golden Globe, and an Academy Award winning pop musician, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004
  • Sergeant William L Nelson (1918-1943), American soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1943
  • Ann Nelson (b. 1958), American particle physicist
  • Willie Nelson (b. 1933), American country music singer and songwriter
  • Gaylord Anton Nelson (1916-2005), American Democratic politician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • George Driver "Pinky" Nelson PH.D. (b. 1950), former NASA astronaut with 411 hours in space
  • Judd Asher Nelson (b. 1959), American actor
  • Edward Nelson (b. 1932), American mathematician awarded the Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research in 1995
  • John Byron Nelson Jr. (1912-2006), American PGA Tour golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974

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  • Torger and Gertrude Nelson: Their Ancestors, Descendants and Related Families by Twila Ruth Eckstrom Schroeder.
  • Morrison-Wells and Nelson-Watson Families and Collateral Lines by Dorothy Nelson Grant.
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  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  2. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  3. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  4. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  5. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  6. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  7. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  11. ...

The Nelson Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Nelson Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 21 August 2014 at 09:52.

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