Lees History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

As a native Irish surname, Lees is derived from the Gaelic name Mac Laoidhigh, which comes from the word "laoidh," which means "a poem;" or from Mac Giolla Iosa, which means "son of the devotee of Jesus." However, Lee is also a common indigenous name in England, many families of which have been established in Ireland since at least the 17th century. [1]

Early Origins of the Lees family

The surname Lees was first found in Connacht (Irish: Connachta, (land of the) descendants of Conn), where they were prominent in the west being anciently associated as hereditary physicians to the O'Flahertys.

Families with the McLees or McAlees spellings were traditionally doctors or physicians.

By the 16th century different branches had developed in Galway, in Leix, and in Munster at Cork and Limerick. The name in Gaelic was O'Laidhigh.

Early History of the Lees family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Lees research. Another 121 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1253, 1650, 1734 and 1600 are included under the topic Early Lees History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Lees Spelling Variations

The recording of names in Ireland during the Middle Ages was an inconsistent endeavor at best. Since the general population did not know how to read or write, they could only specify how their names should be recorded orally. Research into the name Lees revealed spelling variations, including McAlea, McAlee, MacAlee, MacAlea, MacLee, McLee, MacLees, McLees, MacLeas, McLeas, O'Lees, O'Leas, Lee and many more.

Early Notables of the Lees family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Lees Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Lees World Ranking

In the United States, the name Lees is the 4,688th most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [2] However, in Australia, the name Lees is ranked the 657th most popular surname with an estimated 5,956 people with that name. [3] And in New Zealand, the name Lees is the 761st popular surname with an estimated 959 people with that name. [4] The United Kingdom ranks Lees as 466th with 13,973 people. [5]


United States Lees migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Lees family came to North America quite early:

Lees Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Anne Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1656 [6]
  • Richard Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1656 [6]
  • Ann Lees, who arrived in Virginia in 1658 [6]
  • Eliz Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1665 [6]
  • Thomas Lees, who arrived in Maryland in 1679 [6]
Lees Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Margaret Lees, who arrived in Virginia in 1702 [6]
  • Lorentz Lees, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1741 [6]
  • Johannes Lees, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1743 [6]
  • Georg Lees, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750 [6]
Lees Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • David Lees, aged 20, who arrived in Delaware in 1812 [6]
  • Randall Lees, aged 21, who landed in New York in 1812 [6]
  • Robert Lees, who arrived in Connecticut in 1812 [6]
  • J Lees, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851 [6]
  • Joseph Lees, who settled in Philadelphia in 1852
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Lees migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Lees Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Biddy Lees, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the Brig "Ambassador"
  • John Lees, aged 30, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the schooner "Sarah" from Belfast, Ireland
  • William Lees, aged 20, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the schooner "Sarah" from Belfast, Ireland
  • Andrew Lees, aged 45, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Ambassador" in 1834
  • Biddy Lees, aged 35, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Ambassador" in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Lees migration to Australia +

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

Lees Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Samuel Lees, British Convict who was convicted in Chester, Cheshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Spencer" in May 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. Thomas Lees, British Convict who was convicted in Westminster, London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Commodore Hayes" in April 1823, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [8]
  • Mr. George Lees, British convict who was convicted in Stafford, Staffordshire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 1st October 1829, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • Mr. Thomas Lees, English convict who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Captain Cook" on 2nd May 1833, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Mr. Henry Lees, English convict who was convicted in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England for life, transported aboard the "Eden" on 27th August 1836, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Lees 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:

Lees Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Charles Lees, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Sevilla" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd December 1859 [12]
  • Miss Agnes Lees, (b. 1842), aged 23, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship "Eastern Empire" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 4th January 1865 [13]
  • H. Lees, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inflexible" in 1870
  • M. Lees, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inflexible" in 1870
  • Grace Lees, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inflexible" in 1870
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Lees (post 1700) +

  • Robert Lees (1912-2004), American television and film screenwriter
  • Mrs. Maureen Janis Lees B.E.M., British recipient of the British Empire Medal on 8th June 2018, for services to Young People and to the community in Chelmsford, Essex [14]
  • Ms. Claire Marie Frances Lees M.B.E., British Lieutenant Commander for the Royal Navy, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 29th December 2018 [15]
  • Robert James Lees (1849-1931), British spiritualist, medium and preacher who claimed he knew the identity of Jack the Ripper
  • Nathaniel Lees, New Zealand actor, best known for his role in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • John Lees (1740-1807), Lower Canada businessman and politician
  • Meg Heather Lees (b. 1948), Australian politician, member of the Australian Senate from 1990 to 2005
  • Geoffrey Lees (b. 1951), English former Formula One racing driver
  • Thomas James "Tom" Lees (b. 1990), English professional footballer
  • Arthur Lees (1908-1992), English professional golfer
  • ... (Another 1 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Royal Oak
  • Robert Lees, British Stoker with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he survived the sinking [16]


The Lees 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: Fide et fortitudine
Motto Translation: By fidelity and fortitude.


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  5. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  6. ^ 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. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 8th September 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-spencer
  8. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retrieved 4th March 2021, retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/commodore-hayes)
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 10th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bussorah-merchant
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/captain-cook
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th October 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/eden
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  14. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62310, 31 October 2019 | London Gazette, The Gazette, June 2018, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/62310/supplement/B1
  15. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists
  16. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html


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