Show ContentsPelham History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Anglo-Saxon name Pelham comes from the family having resided in the region of Pelham. Pelham is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties.

Early Origins of the Pelham family

The surname Pelham was first found in Hertfordshire at either Brent Pelham, Furneux Pelham or Stocking Pelham. Today they form the civil parish of Brent Pelham and Meesden. They date back to the Domesday Book of 1086 where they were listed as Peleham. 1

The place name literally means "homestead of a man called Peola." 2 Barndepelham was listed in 1230; Stokenepelham in 1235 and Pelham Furnelle in 1240. The prefixes literally mean "burnt, destroyed by fire" for the Old English word "baerned" and "made of logs" for the Old English word "stoccen." 2

The latter was from the de Fornellis family who lived there in the 13th century. Pelham's Lands or Pelhams Land is in the union of Boston, wapentake of Kirton, near the town of Boston, Lincolnshire. 3

The Pipe Rolls of 1170 in Hertfordshire listed Ralph de Pelham and Peter de Pelham was later found in the Assize Rolls for Cheshire in 1260. Gloucestershire records show William Pelham there in 1350. 4

More early records of the family were found in the parish of Laughton in Sussex. "This parish, which is situated on the road from Lewes to Hastings, has been for ages the property of the Pelham family, earls of Chichester, whose ancient manorial mansion of Laughton Place, erected in 1534, is still remaining." 3

Of particular note was Thomas Pelham, 1st Baron Pelham of Laughton Bt (1653-1712.) He was the father of two British prime ministers Henry Pelham and Thomas Pelham-Holles, commonly known as the Duke of Newcastle.

Early History of the Pelham family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Pelham research. Another 96 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1065, 1429, 1486, 1538, 1540, 1556, 1587, 1597, 1602, 1603, 1606, 1624, 1650, 1653, 1654, 1693, 1694, 1695, 1712, 1721, 1743, 1748, 1751, 1754, 1756, 1768, 1805 and 1806 are included under the topic Early Pelham History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Pelham Spelling Variations

Pelham has been spelled many different ways. Before English spelling became standardized over the last few hundred years, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. As the English language changed in the Middle Ages, absorbing pieces of Latin and French, as well as other languages, the spelling of people's names also changed considerably, even over a single lifetime. Spelling variants included: Pelham, Pellam and others.

Early Notables of the Pelham family

Notables of the family at this time include

  • John de Pelham (died 1429), Treasurer of England, son of Sir John Pelham, a Sussex knight who fought in the wars of Edward III in France; Sir Thomas Pelham, 1st Baronet (c.1540-1624), Member of Parlia...
  • In America, Peter Pelham (c.1695-1751), English-born artist and immigrant had two sons: Peter Pelham (1721-1805), an English composer; and Henry Pelham (1748/49-1806), an English engraver. Peter Pelha...

Pelham Ranking

In the United States, the name Pelham is the 9,654th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. 5

Ireland Migration of the Pelham family to Ireland

Some of the Pelham family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 147 words (10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Pelham migration to the United States +

In an attempt to escape the chaos experienced in England, many English families boarded overcrowded and diseased ships sailing for the shores of North America and other British colonies. Those families hardy enough, and lucky enough, to make the passage intact were rewarded with land and a social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families became important contributors to the young colonies in which they settled. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Pelhams to arrive on North American shores:

Pelham Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Pelham arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 aboard the ship "Ambrose" as part of the Winthrop Fleet.
  • Mrs. Penelope Pelham who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 aboard the ship "Ambrose" as part of the Winthrop Fleet
  • William Pelham, who landed in New England in 1631 6
  • Herbert Pelham (1600-1673), thought to have been born in Sussex, or possibly Lincolnshire, having joined the Massachusetts Company in 1629, it is thought he emigrated to New England in 1635 or as late as 1639 6
  • Nathaniel Pelham, who landed in New England in 1651 6
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Pelham Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Peter Pelham, who arrived in New England in 1726 6
  • William Pelham and his wife Mary settled in Virginia in 1774

Australia Pelham migration to Australia +

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

Pelham Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Pelham, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Katherine Stewart Forbes" in 1837 7
  • Matthew Pelham, aged 21, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1856 aboard the ship "Amazon"

West Indies Pelham 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. 8
Pelham Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mary Pelham, aged 21, who arrived in Jamaica in 1684 6

Contemporary Notables of the name Pelham (post 1700) +

  • William Pelham (1759-1827), American bookseller and publisher in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Henry Pelham (1748-1806), American painter, engraver, and cartographer
  • Peter Pelham (1721-1805), English-born American organist, harpsichordist, teacher and composer
  • William Pelham (1845-1933), American Union Navy sailor, recipient of Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Mobile Bay
  • Richard Pelham (1815-1876), born Richard Ward Pell, an American blackface performer; he often performed with his brother, Gilbert Pelham
  • John Pelham (1838-1863), American Confederate artillery officer during the American Civil War, nicknamed "The Gallant Pelham" for his military prowess and personal courage
  • George F. Pelham (1857-1937), Canadian-born, American architect
  • Charles Pelham (1835-1908), American politician, U.S. Representative from Alabama (1873-1875)
  • George Pelham (1766-1827), English bishop of Bristol, Exeter, and Lincoln, youngest child of Thomas Pelham, first earl of Chichester
  • Henry Thomas Pelham (1804-1886), 3rd Earl of Chichester DL, styled Lord Pelham until 1826, an English nobleman
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. Frederick Charles Pelham (1921-1941), Australian Bandsman from South Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking 9
RMS Titanic
  • Mr. George Pelham, aged 39, English Fireman/Stoker from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping on life boat 15 10

The Pelham 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: Vincit amore patria
Motto Translation: My beloved country will conquer.

  1. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  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. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) KATHERINE STEWART FORBES 1837 arrived Holdfast Bay, near Adelaide, on October 17, 1837. . Retrieved from
  9. HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from
  10. Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from on Facebook