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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


The name Fitzwilliam arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Fitzwilliam comes from the Norman form of the Old French personal name Wilhelm, which is composed of the elements will, which means will, and helm, which means helmet or protection. The prefix Fitz indicated that the bearer is the son of someone named William or Wilhelm.

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The surname Fitzwilliam was first found in Buckinghamshire where they were granted lands by William Rufus, King of England. The first on record was Alard Fitzwilliam who married Cecilia, daughter of Emma Langetot, who was descended from the Cheyneys and the Crispins. The Fitzwilliams inherited Gethampton which had belonged to the Crispins in the Domesday Survey in 1086, and this became the Fitzwilliam principal seat. Conjecturally he may have been the natural son of King William Rufus. Gatehampton, as it was later known, continued as the family seat. Some of the family held estates in the parish of Sprotborough in the West Riding of Yorkshire. "This place anciently belonged to the Fitzwilliam family, one of whom founded an hospital here, dedicated to St. Edmund, which flourished till the Dissolution." [1] And another branch of the family was found at Tankersley, again in the West Riding of Yorkshire. "The parish is bounded on the west by the river Don, and comprises about 8500 acres, of which 2500 are in the township of Tankersley, and chiefly the property of Earl Fitzwilliam, who is lord of the manor. On an eminence in the grounds, which are still preserved as an appendage to Wentworth, the principal seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, is a building in the Grecian style, commanding extensive prospects." [1] Withern in Lincolnshire was also an early family seat. "It was formerly a seat of the Fitzwilliams, and a large moated area is still pointed out as the spot on which their mansion stood." [1]

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Fitzwilliams, Fitzwilliam and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fitzwilliam research. Another 129 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1327, 1537, 1609, 1658, 1640, 1653, 1699, 1581, 1650, 1667, 1554, 1610, 1670, 1640 and 1704 are included under the topic Early Fitzwilliam History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 59 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Fitzwilliam Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Fitzwilliam family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 171 words (12 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Fitzwilliam or a variant listed above:

Fitzwilliam Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • T. Fitzwilliam settled in Pennsylvania in 1692

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  • Charles E. Fitzwilliam, American politician, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, 1993
  • William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam, British administrator, sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1795
  • Richard FitzWilliam, 5th Viscount FitzWilliam, an Irish nobleman and politician
  • William Fitzwilliam (1748-1833), British statesman
  • Viscount Richard Fitzwilliam (1745-1816), 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Meryon


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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: Appetitus rationi pareat
Motto Translation: Let your desires obey your reason.

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  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  2. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  10. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  11. ...

The Fitzwilliam Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Fitzwilliam 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 3 March 2016 at 14:14.

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