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

Silliman is one of the many names that the Normans brought with them when they conquered England in 1066. The Silliman family lived in Devon. Ancient records reveal the name Silliman is derived from the Old English word saelig, meaning one who is happy and blessed.


The surname Silliman was first found in Devon where they were granted lands by William the Conqueror for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. They were Lords of the manor of Rackenford, and were conjecturally descended from Jocelyn who held the lands at the time of the taking of the Domesday Book in 1086 A.D. from Baldwin, the Sheriff. The family may have originated in Cornwall as in "John Silly, gentleman of St. Wenn, altered his name from Ceely to Silly." [1] No dates were given with the previous quote.

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Silley, Silly, Cele, Sully, Silliman and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Silliman research. Another 133 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 136 and 1361 are included under the topic Early Silliman History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Silliman Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Silliman name or one of its variants:

Silliman Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Daniel Silliman, who landed in Fairfield, Conn in 1630

Silliman Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • C. H. Silliman, aged 44, who emigrated to the United States, in 1896

Silliman Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Blanche G. Silliman, aged 38, who settled in America, in 1904
  • A.W. Silliman, aged 38, who emigrated to the United States, in 1908
  • Charles H. Silliman, aged 58, who emigrated to America, in 1910
  • Ella D. Silliman, aged 61, who emigrated to the United States, in 1911
  • Frederick H. Silliman, aged 48, who landed in America, in 1920


  • Lynn Silliman (1959-1976), American bronze medalist rower at the 1976 Summer Olympics
  • Benjamin Silliman Jr. (1816-1885), American professor of chemistry at Yale University
  • Michael Barnwell Silliman (1944-2000), American Olympic gold medalist, later professional NBA basketball player
  • Horace Brinsmade Silliman (1825-1910), American businessman and philanthropist who gave a $10,000 gift to start Silliman Institute, now Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines
  • Ron Silliman (b. 1946), American poet who has written and edited over 30 books
  • Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), American chemist, one of the first American professors of science at Yale University, the first to distill petroleum


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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.

Other References

  1. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  2. Bardsley, C.W. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6).
  3. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  4. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  5. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  7. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  8. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  9. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  10. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  11. ...

The Silliman Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Silliman 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 2 July 2015 at 12:59.

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