Show ContentsFitzwilliams History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Fitzwilliams is an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Fitzwilliams 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.

"As to the time and occasion of assuming this surname, the greatest certainty I have found is that William, the son of William FitzGodric, in King Henry the Second's dayes, called himself William Fit/ William. It probably here stands for the Robertus filius Willelmi who held de capite both in Derby and Nottingham (Domesday), and became a very considerable landowner during the reign of Henry I., whose tutor he had been." [1]

Early Origins of the Fitzwilliams family

The surname Fitzwilliams 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." [2]

Another source has a slightly different understanding of the family's heritage. "The Earl of this title and surname is lineally descended from William Fitz-Goderic, a cousin of king Edward the Confessor. His son, William Fitz-William, is said to have been ambassador from England to the Norman court, and to have accompanied Duke William in the invasion of this country. He was at the battle of Hastings, and tradition asserts that in reward for his prowess, the Conqueror gave him a scarf from his own arm." [3]

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." [2]

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." [2]

"The manor of Perran-Arworthal, [Cornwall] which includes about two thirds of the parish, belonged to the ancient family of Fitz William, by whose heiress it was carried in marriage to the Mohuns." [4]

Early History of the Fitzwilliams family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fitzwilliams research. Another 65 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1327, 1537, 1460, 1534, 1542, 1542, 1526, 1599, 1547, 1609, 1658, 1640, 1653, 1699, 1581, 1650, 1667, 1554, 1610, 1670, 1640 and 1704 are included under the topic Early Fitzwilliams History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fitzwilliams Spelling Variations

A multitude of spelling variations characterize Norman surnames. Many variations occurred because Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England also had a pronounced effect, as did the court languages of Latin and French. Therefore, one person was often referred to by several different spellings in a single lifetime. The various spellings include Fitzwilliams, Fitzwilliam and others.

Early Notables of the Fitzwilliams family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir William Fitzwilliam (1460?-1534), Sheriff of London, son of John Fitzwilliam. Another William Fitzwilliam (d. 1542), was Earl of Southampton (d. 1542), Lord High Admiral of England and was the younger son of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam of Aldwarke, West Riding of Yorkshire. Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526-1599), Lord Deputy of Ireland, was eldest son of Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton in the hundred of Nassaburgh, Northamptonshire. He was also the grandson of Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sheriff...
Another 83 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Fitzwilliams Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Fitzwilliams family to Ireland

Some of the Fitzwilliams family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 91 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Fitzwilliams migration to the United States +

Many English families left England, to avoid the chaos of their homeland and migrated to the many British colonies abroad. Although the conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and some travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute, once in the colonies, many of the families prospered and made valuable contributions to the cultures of what would become the United States and Canada. Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Fitzwilliams or a variant listed above:

Fitzwilliams Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John FitzWilliams, who arrived in Maryland in 1663 [5]

New Zealand Fitzwilliams 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:

Fitzwilliams Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Alfred Fitzwilliams, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Sydenham" in 1870

West Indies Fitzwilliams migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [6]
Fitzwilliams Settlers in West Indies in the 18th Century
  • Richards Fitzwilliams, who landed in Barbados in 1704 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Fitzwilliams (post 1700) +

  • C. M. FitzWilliams, American Democratic Party politician, Kansas Democratic State Chair, 1936-40; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Kansas, 1940 [7]

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

  1. Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 2 of 3
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  5. 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)
  7. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 7) . Retrieved from on Facebook