Show ContentsSnell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The origins of the Anglo-Saxon name Snell come from its first bearer, who was a brisk or active person. Snell is a nickname surname, which belongs to the category of hereditary surnames. Nicknames form a broad and miscellaneous class of surnames, and can refer directly or indirectly to one's personality, physical attributes, mannerisms, or even their habits of dress. This surname comes from the Old English word smell, which means quick or lively or a descendant of Snell (strong, smart). 1

Early Origins of the Snell family

The surname Snell was first found in Devon and Cornwall. 2 However, nicknames typically are found throughout ancient England, but in this case, the name was "in use before the Conquest." 3

By example, Johannes filius Snel was found in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire in 1196 and Alexander filius Snell was listed in the Assize Rolls for Yorkshire in 1219, but William Snel was a Templar in Kent in 1185 and Edwinus Snell was listed in the Feet of Fines for Norfolk in 1195. 4

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 listed Snel in Derbyshire and William Snell in Oxfordshire. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed Johannes Snell, Willelmus Snell and Ricardus Snell as all holding lands there at that time. 5

Further to the north in Scotland, William Snelle was master of the ship Seinte Marie of Dundee in 1390, William Snell, presbyter Glasguensis, was a notary public in 1449 and Schire William Snell, chaplain, was burgess of Prestwick in 1470. 6

"The Cornish Snells are represented in the district of Liskeard. Snel was a name found in Oxfordshire, Derbyshire, and Shropshire in the 13th century." 2

Early History of the Snell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Snell research. Another 154 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1623, 1629, 1638, 1679, 1685, 1694, 1700, 1701, 1702, 1708 and 1717 are included under the topic Early Snell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Snell Spelling Variations

The first dictionaries that appeared in the last few hundred years did much to standardize the English language. Before that time, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. The language was changing, incorporating pieces of other languages, and the spelling of names changed with it. Snell has been spelled many different ways, including Snell, Snel and others.

Early Notables of the Snell family

Notables of this surname at this time include:

  • Sir John Snell (1629-1679), Scottish-born, son of Andrew Snell, smith at McCalanstone in the parish of Colmonell, Ayrshire, founder of the Snell Exhibitions at the University of Oxford
  • George Snell (died 1701), English clergyman, Canon of Exeter Cathedral (1685-1700), Archdeacon of Totnes (1694 until his death in 1701)

Snell Ranking

In the United States, the name Snell is the 1,222nd most popular surname with an estimated 24,870 people with that name. 7

United States Snell migration to the United States +

Thousands of English families in this era began to emigrate the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. Although the passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe, those who made the voyage safely were rewarded with opportunities unavailable to them in their homeland. Research into passenger and immigration lists has revealed some of the very first Snells to arrive in North America:

Snell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas and John Snell, who settled in Virginia in 1656
  • John Snell, who landed in Virginia in 1656 8
  • Mary Snell, who landed in Virginia in 1658 8
  • Roger Snell, who landed in Maryland in 1661 8
  • John Snell, who arrived in Virginia in 1665-1666 8
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Snell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jacob Snell, who landed in New York in 1715 8
  • Jan Adam Snell, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1738 8
  • Johann Jeremiah Snell, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773 8
  • Major and Mrs. Elizabeth Snell who settled in New York State in 1774 with their children Elizabeth, and Richard
Snell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Snell, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1802 8
  • Ana Sophia Snell, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1802 8
  • Johst Snell, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1802 8
  • Lewis Snell, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1802 8
  • James Snell, aged 31, who arrived in Virginia in 1813 8
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Snell migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Snell Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Barnard Snell U.E., (Barnett, Schnell) who settled in Canada c. 1784 9

Australia Snell migration to Australia +

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

Snell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Snell, British Convict who was convicted in Suffolk, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 27th October 1819, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) 10
  • Mr. John Snell, (b. 1808), aged 20, English labourer who was convicted in Bristol, England for 14 years for burglary, transported aboard the "Eliza" on 25th June 1828, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1883 11
  • P. Snell, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Dumfries" in 1839 12
  • Mr. Henry Snell, (b. 1819), aged 21, Cornish farm servant travelling aboard the ship "Lady McNaughton" arriving in Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia on 16th December 1840 13
  • Mr. James Snell, (b. 1819), aged 19, Cornish settler convicted in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK on 26th December 1838, sentenced for 10 years for robbing the shop of Mrs. Edwards, transported aboard the ship "Maitland" on 19th March 1840 to New South Wales, Australia 14
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Snell 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:

Snell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Snell, Australian settler travelling from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria aboard the ship "Earl Stanhope" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 15
  • Mr. R. Snell, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Joseph Fletcher" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 19th March 1858 15
  • Frederick Snell, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jura" in 1861 15
  • John Snell, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jura" in 1861 15
  • William Charles Snell, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jura" in 1861 15
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Snell 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. 16
Snell Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mary Snell, who settled in Barbados in 1682 with her husband

Contemporary Notables of the name Snell (post 1700) +

  • William "Pete" Snell (d. 1956), American popular sports car racer whose death of head injuries inspired research and education about safety helmets under the Snell Memorial Foundation name
  • David Snell (1921-1987), American reporter and cartoonist
  • Earl Wilcox Snell (1895-1947), Oregon businessman and the 23rd Governor of Oregon
  • Ada Jack Carver Snell (1890-1972), American short story writer
  • George D. Snell (1903-1996), American geneticist and co-winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • David Snell (1933-2021), English professional golfer who won the 1959 News of the World Matchplay, the British matchplay championship
  • Sir Peter George Snell KNZM, MBE (1938-2019), New Zealand five-time gold medalist Olympic and Commonwealth athlete
  • Hannah Snell (1723-1792), British woman born in Fryer Street, Worcester, on St. George's Day who disguised herself as a man and became a soldier in search for her husband who had left her with child
  • Philip Snell (1929-2014), British livestock breeder, chief steward for the Royal Bath and West Show
  • Henry Snell (1865-1944), 1st Baron Snell, a British socialist politician

HMS Hood
  • Mr. John Snell (b. 1905), English Chief Engine Room Artificer serving for the Royal Navy from Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, who sailed into battle and died in the HMS Hood sinking 17

The Snell 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: In cruce victoria
Motto Translation: Victorious in the Cross.

Suggested Readings for the name Snell +

  • The Snell Family by Jane Lawrence Stone.

  1. Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  6. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  7. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  8. 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)
  9. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  10. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th March 2021). Retrieved from
  11. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th February 2022). Retrieved from
  12. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) DUMFRIES 1839. Retrieved from
  13. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, May 30). Ships' Passenger Lists of Arrivals in New South Wales on (1828 - 1842, 1848 - 1849) [PDF]. Retrieved from
  14. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 30th May 2018). Retrieved from
  15. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  17. H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook