Somerset History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Somerset is one of the many names that the Normans brought with them when they conquered England in 1066. The Somerset family lived in the county of Somerset, to which their name is a reference.

Early Origins of the Somerset family

The surname Somerset was first found in Somerset where "this is one of the few instances of a surname having been borrowed from a title. Henry Beaufort, third Duke of Somerset (great-grandson of John of Gaunt), who was beheaded in 1463, for his adherence to the cause of King Henry Vi., left issue a natural son, Sir Charles Somerset, Knight of the Garter. He was elevated to the peerage, and his lineal descendant, Henry Marquis of Worcester, was created Duke of Beaufort in 1682. Thus in the same blood, the surname and the title have changed places, and instead of Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, we have Somerset, Duke of Beaufort." [1] Apart from this ironic twist of fate, we found the following in early rolls: Walter de Sumerset in Lincolnshire in 1206; John de Somersete in 1331 in Wiltshire; and Edmund Somerset in the Subsidy Rolls of Wiltshire in 1545. [2] William de Somersete was listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 in Shropshire. [3]

Early History of the Somerset family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Somerset research. Another 92 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1463, 1476, 1507, 1601, 1667, 1629, 1700, 1654, 1667, 1660, 1698, 1677, 1679, 1677, 1679, 1629, 1700, 1630 and 1715 are included under the topic Early Somerset History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Somerset Spelling Variations

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 Somerset, Somersett, Sommerset and others.

Early Notables of the Somerset family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Elizabeth Somerset, 3rd Baroness Herbert (c.1476-1507), the sole heir and daughter of William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke; Viscount Somerset; Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester (1601-1667), an English nobleman involved in royalist politics, and an inventor; Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort, KG, PC (1629-1700), an English politician who sat in the House of...
Another 63 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Somerset Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Somerset family to Ireland

Some of the Somerset family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Somerset migration to the United States +

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 Somerset name or one of its variants:

Somerset Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Somerset, who landed in Virginia in 1622 [4]
  • William Somerset, who settled in Virginia in 1684
Somerset Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Somerset, who arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1822 [4]
  • Robert Somerset, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1834
  • Geo Somerset, aged 15, who landed in New York in 1854 [4]
  • Robert Somerset, aged 27, who arrived in New York in 1854 [4]

Australia Somerset migration to Australia +

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

Somerset Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Daniel Somerset, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Duke Of Bronte" in 1849 [5]

New Zealand Somerset 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:

Somerset Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William James Somerset, (b. 1824), aged 37, British farm labourer travelling from London aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th January 1862 [6]
  • Mr. Hugh Somerset, (b. 1827), aged 34, British farm labourer travelling from London aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th January 1862 [6]
  • Mrs. Georgina Somerset, (b. 1833), aged 28, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th January 1862 [6]
  • Mr. John Somerset, (b. 1857), aged 4, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th January 1862 [6]
  • Miss Ann Jane Somerset, (b. 1858), aged 3, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Mystery" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th January 1862 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Somerset (post 1700) +

  • Robert Edward Henry Somerset (1776-1842), British general, commonly known as Lord Edward Somerset, born on 19 Dec. 1776, third son of Henry, fifth Duke of Beaufort
  • James Henry Somerset (1788-1855), Lord Fitzroy, British field-marshal, youngest son of Henry, fifth Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen
  • David Robert Somerset (1928-2017), 11th Duke of Beaufort, British peer and politician, Member of the House of Lords (1984-1999)
  • Tracy Louise Somerset (b. 1958), Marchioness of Worcester, née Ward, a former British actress and currently an environmental activist
  • Sir Henry Beaufort Somerset CBE, Kt Cr, FTSE (1906-1995), Industrial chemist and Company director
  • FitzRoy Richard Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan
  • Hon. Nigel Somerset, Brigadier, Australian Army
  • William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), known as W. Somerset Maugham, an English playwright, novelist, and short story writer; reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s; he was a spy for the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War I, known for Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence, Cakes and Ale and The Razor's Edge
  • Derrick Somerset Macnutt (1902-1971), British crossword creator who provided crosswords for The Observer newspaper under the pseudonym Ximenes
  • Admiral of the Fleet Sir Somerset Arthur Gough- Calthorpe GCB, GCMG, CVO (1865-1937), British Royal Navy officer


The Somerset 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: Mutare Vel Timere Sperno
Motto Translation: I scorn to change or fear.


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The DUKE OF BRONTE 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849DukeOfBronte.htm
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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