Show ContentsWelles History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The history of the Welles family name begins after the Norman Conquest of 1066. They lived in Lincolnshire, at Wells. In ancient records the name was listed in the Latin form "de Fontibus." [1]

"Both Wells in Somerset and Wells in Norfolk occur in charters of the Anglo Saxon period as ‘æt Wyllan - of wylla - and Welles.' The Somerset name refers more specifically to a spring near the cathedral called St. Andrew's Well; but there are 'numerous springs in the neighbourhood.' " [2]

"This is an ancient English name which was represented commonly by Welles in the counties of Oxford and Cambridge in the reign of Edward I. It is at present most numerous in the south of England, in Oxfordshire (as of old), Wiltshire, Berkshire, Sussex, and Kent. It has, however, an independent home in Lincolnshire, and extends northwards into Yorkshire and Lancashire." [3]

Early Origins of the Welles family

The surname Welles was first found in Lincolnshire where they are conjecturally descended from Gilbert de Ghent who held the village and mill of Well from the Bishop of Bayeaux at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. A little later another entry was found for the family at Bitchfield, again in Lincolnshire. "The church was consecrated and endowed by Hugh de Wells, who presided over the diocese from the year 1209 to 1234." [4]

Baron Adam de Welles or Welle (d. 1311), was the son of William de Welle and his wife, Isabella de Vesci. "The family took its name from the manor of Well, near Alford in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, in which neighbourhood nearly all its estates lay; but later and more famous members of it adopted the surname Welles, though in earlier times they were more commonly described as Welle. The earliest of the family mentioned in Dugdale flourished under Richard I. William, Adam's father, paid fine in 1279 for his knighthood to be postponed for three years. " [5]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 listed: Gilbert de Welles, Norfolk; and William de Welles, Lincolnshire while the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 had only one listing: Johannes del Well. [6]

In Scotland, the first records were in the Latin form de Fontibus: "Willelmus de fontibus witnessed a gift by Philip de Mubray to the monks of Dunfermline, c. 1202-14, and Henricua de Fonte was witness to the gift by Philip de Mubray of a toft in Inuerkethin to the church of St. Thomas of Aberbrothoc, p. 1219. " [1]

A few years later, we see the first records in English: "Richard de Welles witnessed a grant in favor of the chaplain of St. Peter at Duffus, 1240 (REM., 213), and Walter de Welles is mentioned in an Aberdeen document of 1277 (Friars, 13). Alisaundre de Welles was warden of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland, 1296." [1]

Early History of the Welles family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Welles research. Another 85 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1199, 1201, 1206, 1207, 1317, 1331, 1342, 1352, 1376, 1405, 1406, 1421, 1448, 1450, 1461, 1478, 1486, 1491, 1493, 1498, 1499, 1501, 1522, 1528, 1535, 1598, 1635, 1636, 1637, 1639, 1654, 1655, 1658, 1660, 1684, 1711 and 1890 are included under the topic Early Welles History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Welles Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Wells, Welles, Well and others.

Early Notables of the Welles family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • John de Welles, 5th Baron Welles (1352-1421), an English soldier and noble
  • Lionel, Leo or Lyon Welles, sixth Baron Welles (1405?-1461), was an English soldier, born about 1405, the son of Eudo de Welles. "From Adam de Welles, first Baron Welles, descended John de Welles, fif...
  • John Welles, 1st Viscount Welles KG (c. 1450-1499), was an English Lancastrian Nobleman who was made a Knight of the Garter; and Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles KG (1406-1461), was an English noble...
  • Thomas Welles (1598-1660), Governor of Connecticut, born in 1598, belonged to the branch of the family of Welles who settled in Northamptonshire. "His property was confiscated, and on 16 April 1635 th...

Ireland Migration of the Welles family to Ireland

Some of the Welles family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 75 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Welles migration to the United States +

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Welles or a variant listed above were:

Welles Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Hugh Welles, who landed in Massachusetts in 1635 [7]
  • Thomas Welles (1590–1659), English settler to Connecticut from Warwickshire in 1635, Governor of Connecticut in 1637, the first Treasurer of the Colony of Connecticut, and later was the colony's Secretary
  • Edward Welles, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1645 [7]
Welles Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Maria Welles, aged 24, who arrived in New York in 1854 [7]

Australia Welles migration to Australia +

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

Welles Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Joseph Welles, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Brankenmore" in 1846 [8]

Contemporary Notables of the name Welles (post 1700) +

  • Thomas Welles (1598-1660), American politician
  • Sumner Welles (1892-1961), U.S. Undersecretary of State, 1937-1943
  • Samuel Paul Welles (1907-1997), American paleontologist
  • Gideon Welles (1802-1878), American Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869. His buildup of the Navy to successfully execute blockades of Southern ports was a key component of the North's victory in the Civil War
  • George Orson Welles (1915-1985), Academy Award-winning American screenwriter, a radio, film and theatre director, a radio and film producer and an actor in film and theatre, as well as a Grammy Award-winning radio personality acknowledged as one of the most important dramatic artists of the 20th century. His masterpiece film "Citizen Kane" is considered the best American film ever made
  • Albert P. Welles, American fighter pilot and flying ace in the U.S. Marine Corps, during World War II, credited with 5 aerial victories
  • George Welles, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Maryland, 1884 [9]
  • Gaylord Welles, American politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from Harwinton, 1832-33 [9]
  • Gardner Welles, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Seneca County, 1839 [9]
  • E. Stanley Welles, American Republican politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from Newington; Elected 1902 [9]
  • ... (Another 17 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  1. 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)
  2. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  3. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  4. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  5. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  7. 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)
  8. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BRANKENMORE 1846. Retrieved from
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 8) . Retrieved from on Facebook