Show ContentsBristol History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Bristol is a name that first reached England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Bristol family lived in Gloucestershire, where the name is derived from the Old English words byrst and stow and when combined mean place by the bridge.

Early Origins of the Bristol family

The surname Bristol was first found in Surrey where they were anciently descended from Hamon aux Dents, Lord of Thorigny, who died in 1045. His son Hamon was at Hastings and became the Sheriff of Kent. His second son was ancestor of the Bristows through Stephen de Burstow about 1294. "Twyford Hall [in Twyford, Derbyshire] is the residence of the Bristowe family, who have been seated here from the early part of the 17th century." [1]

Interestingly, one of the first records of the family was found not in England, but Ireland. Ralph de Bristol (d. 1232), Bishop of Cashel, "is mentioned by William of Malmesbury as having granted fourteen days of indulgence to the Abbey of Glastonbury. He became the first treasurer of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, in 1219, and was consecrated bishop of Cashel in 1223. He died about the beginning of 1232." [2]

Early History of the Bristol family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bristol research. Another 132 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1538, 1581, 1662, 1706, 1698, 1701, 1797 and 1806 are included under the topic Early Bristol History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bristol Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Bristol are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Bristol include Bristow, Bristol, Bristoe, Bristo, Bristowe and many more.

Early Notables of the Bristol family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Nicholas Bristow, Custodian of the Crown Jewels; Richard Bristow (1538-1581), an English Catholic controversialist and Biblical scholar; Robert Bristow...
Another 27 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bristol Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bristol Ranking

In the United States, the name Bristol is the 5,102nd most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [3]

United States Bristol migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Bristol, or a variant listed above:

Bristol Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Dan Bristol, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773 [4]
Bristol Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Bristol, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [4]

Australia Bristol migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Bristol Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • George Bristol, English convict from Wiltshire, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on October 22nd, 1824, settling in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Arthur Bristol, English convict from Leicester, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on September 21, 1826, settling in New South Wales, Australia [6]

New Zealand Bristol migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Bristol Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Bristol, aged 25, a farm labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Arethusa" in 1879

Contemporary Notables of the name Bristol (post 1700) +

  • Mark Lambert Bristol (1868-1939), American Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, eponym of the USS Bristol (DD-453), a Gleaves class destroyer and the USS Bristol (DD-857), an Allen M. Sumner class destroyer
  • Wheeler Hutchison Bristol (1818-1904), American engineer, railroad executive and politician, New York State Treasurer from 1868 to 1871
  • Nathan Bristol (1805-1874), American merchant and politician, Member of the New York State Senate (1852-1853)
  • Johnny Bristol (1939-2004), American musician, songwriter and record producer for the Motown label in the late 1960s and early 1970s
  • James David Bristol (b. 1933), American former Major League Baseball manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, and San Francisco Giants
  • Arthur LeRoy Bristol Jr. (1886-1942), American Vice Admiral in the United States Navy, eponym of the USS Arthur L Bristol (DE-281), a destroyer escort
  • Clarence D. Bristol, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for Connecticut State House of Representatives from Brookfield, 1926, 1948 [7]
  • Cheryl Bristol, American Libertarian politician, Candidate for Presidential Elector for Michigan, 1976 [7]
  • Charles E. Bristol, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Ansonia, Connecticut, 1869-85 [7]
  • Burton N. Bristol, American Republican politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from Canton; Elected 1908 [7]
  • ... (Another 29 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Bristol Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vigilantibus non dormientibus
Motto Translation: For the vigilant not for the sleeping.

Suggested Readings for the name Bristol +

  • Bristol Genealogy by Warren Edwin Bristol.

  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  3. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  4. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Asia 1 voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1824 with 9 passengers. Retrieved from
  6. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Albion voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1826 with 192 passengers. Retrieved from
  7. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from on Facebook