See glossary for symbol meaning.
See glossary for symbol meaning.
Church Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This last name developed as an English topographic name denoting a person who lived near a church, derived from the Old English word cyrice, and ultimately from the Greek kyriakon meaning “house of the Lord”. It is also possible this was an occupational surname for a person who was an official of some sort that worked in a church. William Arthur, in his 1857 book titled An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, states the following regarding this name: “A house of Christian worship, derived from the old English chirch, and Scottish Kirk, Latin circus, and this from the Gaelic cearcal, a temple, a round building. The root of Church is from the Gaelic car, roundness, from which we have cirke or kirke”. The name also made its way into Ireland where they settled in Ulster in the 1600s AD, and in Munster, where it may have been changed to Aglish or Eaglais. In some cases, it’s an Anglicization or Americanization of the German surname Kirch.
It is important to note how pivotal a role churches and monasteries played in the community in medieval times and the Middle Ages. The church plated an important role in affairs of the state and politics as well. Its holidays also gave shape the calendar, as its rituals marked significant moments in a person’s life (ex. baptism, confirmation, marriage, last rites).
Surname Spelling variants
Spelling or names with similar etymologies include Churche, Chyrche, Chyrch, and Chirche.
Early Bearers of the Church Surname
The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists one bearer of this surname: Robert atte Chyrche (Norfolk). Thomas Attechirche was recorded in The Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire in 1275 AD. Stephen Church was documented in Kent c. 1291 AD. John atte Churche was documented in Somerset in 1327 AD. William Attechirche was documented in Norfolk c. 1300 AD.
Church Family Mottos
I have identified three family mottos for the Church family and have translated them into English as follows:
1) Virtute (By virtue)
2) Vulnera ecclesiae liberorum vita
3) Virtus triumphat (Virtue triumphs)
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Church ranks 890th popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: North Caroline (320th), Michigan (489th), Idaho (490th), and West Virginia (497th).
The surname Church frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (766th), Scotland (1,563rd), Wales (665th), Ireland (2,345th) and Northern Ireland (1,076th). In England, it ranks highest in county Northamptonshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Inverclyde. In Ireland, it ranks highest in Leinster. In Wales, it ranks highest in Newport.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,232nd), New Zealand (830th), Australia (1,082nd), and South Africa (7,579th).
In his 1890 book, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, Henry Brougham Guppy, states the following in regard to this last name: “In the 16th century the family of Church or Churche held the manor of Woodham - Mortimer; and in the 17th century, Mr. William Church owned part of the Arnolds estate in Lamborn parish”.
Church Family Tree & Church Genealogy
The genealogy of this branch of the Church family tree begins with John Church, of Woodside, Hatfield, and Belshill, county Northumberland, son of Thomas of Nazeing, Essex, who was born in 1785. He was a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant. In 1826, he married Isabella, daughter of George Selby of Beal and Twizel. He was the father of two sons and two daughters. His younger son, Sir William Selby Church, 1st Baronet, K.C.B, B.A., and M.D. Oxon, was born in 1837. He was the President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1899-1905. He was created a Baronet in 1901. In 1875, he married Sybil Constance, daughter of Charles John Biggie of Linden, and had issue with her as follows: 1) John William (B.A. from Oxford, Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple, Captain of the Hertsfordshire Regiment, married Brenda Pattinson, had issue named Margaret Sybil, Barbara Brenda, Anna Isabella, Lesbia Mary), 2) Geoffrey Selby (discussed below), and 3) Ursula Nina. He died in 1928 and was succeeded by his son Geoffrey. Sir Geoffrey Selby Church, 2nd Baronet, was born in 1887. He was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, and Colonel in the Royal Army who served in World War I and II. He also was educated at Oxford. He married his second wife, Helene Elizabeth, daughter of John L. Traynor of Michigan, United States. The Church coat of arms is blazoned in the medieval European art of heraldry as follows: Or on a fesse engrailed sable, between three greyhounds’ heads of the second erased gules and collared azure, as many bezants. Crest: A greyhound’s head sable, erased gules, collared azure and charged with two bezants. Motto: Mea spes est in Deo. They resided at St. Michael’s, Hatfield, Hertsfordshire, England.
John At Church
John At Church was born in Great Parndom Parish, Manor of Geround, county Essex, England in 1335 AD. In 1360, married Catherine Winchester and had two sons with her: Robert and John. His son, John Church II or John Chyrch II, was born in Leicester, England c. 1365 AD. He had two issue: Catherine and John. His son, John III, was born in the same town c. 1420 AD. He married a woman named Agnes and had a son with her named John. John IV was born in Leicestershire, England in 1455 AD. He had a son named Reynold. Reynold Church was born in Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire, England in 1474 AD. He married Margaret, daughter of Robert Greene and Margaret Chester, and three sons with her: Robert, John, and William. His son Robert Church was born in Castle Camp, Cambridgeshire c. 1505 AD. In 1524, he married Joan Henkyn, and had three sons with her: Bartholomew, John Corant, and Thomas. His son, John Corant Church I was born in the same town in 1525 AD. In 1547, he married Catherine Swan, and had three issue with her: John Corant Church II, Elizabeth, and Thomas.
Richard Church of Plymouth Colony
Richard Church was born in England c. 1608 AD. He was a carpenter by trade. He came over to Plymouth, Massachusetts, Colonial America around 1630 with The Winthrop Fleet, as a servant of Mr. Richard Webb. In 1636-1637, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Mayflower Passenger Richard Warren. He was the father of the following children: Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Joseph, Richard Jr., Colonel Benjamin, Nathaniel I, Charles, Priscilla, Hannah, Caleb, Lydia, Mary, Deborah, Sarah, and Abigail. Four of his sons are discussed as follows:
1) Joseph Church was born in Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts c. 1637 AD. He married Mary, daughter of John Tucker, and had issue with her as follows before his 1711 death in Rhode Island: Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary, John, Deborah, Alice, Benjamin, Sarah, William, and Abigail.
2) Benjamin Church, Esquire, was born in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts c. 1639 AD. He was a prominent leader in King’ Philip’s War. He is considered the father of the Army Rangers. His memoirs "Entertaining Passages relating to Philip's War" were published in 1716 and are considered the first American military manual. He married Alice, daughter of Constant Southworth and Elizabeth Collier, and had issue with her as follows: Elizabeth, Captain Thomas Esq., Benjamin, Edward, Colonel Charles, Elizabeth, Sampson, Nathaniel, Constant, Martha, Catherine, Sarah, Alice, and Alice Mary.
3) Nathaniel Church I was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts c. 1640. He married Sarah, daughter of William Barstow and Hannah Hubbard, and had issue with her as follows: Joseph, Richard, Nathaniel, Charles, Alice, and Sarah.
4) Caleb Church was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts c. 1640. He married three times: Joanna Sprague, Deborah, and Rebecca. He was the father of the following children: Richard, Hannah, Ruth, Lydia, Caleb, Joshua, Isaac, Abigail, and Rebecca
Richard Church of Hartford
Richard Church was born in England c. 1600. He came to colonial America and was an original proprietor of Hartford, Connecticut. He was a carpenter and millwright. He was awarded 12 acres of land there in around 1640. He married Anne, possibly the daughter of Edward Marsh, and had issue with her as follows: Deacon Edward, Mary, Samuel, Samuel (died young), and John. His three sons are discussed as follows:
1) Deacon Edward Church was born in Braintree, Essex, England c. 1627 AD and went to colonial American with his father. He was a church deacon. He married Mary, daughter of Edward Hopkins, and had issue with her as follows: Mary, John, Edward, Rebecca, Samuel, Hannah, Sarah, Richard, Hepzibah, and Naomi.
2) Samuel Church was born in Hadley, Hampshire, Massachusetts in 1639. He married Mary, daughter of Josiah Churchill of Wethersfield, and had issue with her as follows: Mary, Samuel, Richard, Mehitable, Josiah, Joseph, Mary, Benjamin, John, and Martha.
3) John Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1636. He married Sarah, daughter of Sergeant Richard Beckley, and had issue with her as follows: Sarah, Richard, John, Samuel, Deliverance, and Anne.
Marriages of Churchs
1) Anne Church married Richard Sale in Drayton, Shropshire, England in May 1688
2) Richard Church married Martha Withrall in Cheshire, England in July 1728
3) Thomas Church married Mary Brooke in Cheshire, England May 1744
4) Richard Church married Elizabeth Lightfoot in England in January 1754
5) Robert Church married Ann Roads in Sampford, Essex, England in October 1763
6) Samuel Church married Elizabeth Bides in Great Burstead, Essex, England in December 1799
7) Nathan Church married Rachelle Mackranny in Springfield, Massachusetts in February 1728
8) Richard Church married Rebekah Warner in Springfield, Massachusetts in February 1767
9) Lucy Church married Auster Boulwar in Amherst, County, Virginia in August 1796
10) Sarah Church married Peter Kittredge in Maine in May 1795
11) Sarah A. Church married John M. Chisholm in Kings, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1869
12) Alfred O. Church married Alma Gear in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1880
Early American and New World Settlers
Some of the earliest settlers in colonial America bearing this name include:
1) William Church, age 21, came to New England in 1635
2) Richard Church came to Plymouth, Massachusetts c. 1622
3) George Church, age 16, came to Massachusetts in 1638
4) Garrett Church came to Watertown, Massachusetts in 1633
5) Sarah Church came to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1633
6) Richard Church came to Hartford, Connecticut in 1636
7) Thomas Church came to Virginia in 1645
8) Henry Church came to Massachusetts in 1649
9) Nicholas Church came to Virginia in 1650
10) William Church came to Virginia in 1653
11) Elizabeth Church came to Virginia 1655
12) Adam Church came to Virginia 1657
13) Hanah Church came to Virginia in 1658
14) William Church came to Virginia in 1661
15) William Church came to Virginia in 1673
16) John Church came to Maryland in 1676
17) Mary Church came to Maryland in 1677
18) Jud Church came to Virginia in 1678
19) Katharine Church came to Maryland in 1679
20) Elizabeth Church came to Maryland in 1679
21) Thomas Church came to Virginia in 1679
22) Richard Church came to Virginia in 1680
23) Robert Church came to Virginia in 1680
Several thousand members of the Church family came to the United States through Ellis Island, during the nineteenth century, including:
1) John Church came from England aboard the Cornelius Grinnell in 1869
2) John Church came from England aboard the George Washington in 1872
3) Oscar Church came from German aboard the Saxonia in 1868
4) Robert Church came from Ireland aboard the Columbia in 1871
5) Henry Church came from Great Britain aboard the City of London in 1869
6) George B. Church came from Derry aboard the Columbia in 1903
7) Ernest Church came from Guideford aboard the Oceanic in 1904
8) Egbert L. Church came from Hinckley aboard the Campania in 1902
9) Nellie E. Church came from New York aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1904
10) Charlotte Sophia Church came from Palham Manor aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1905
11) Walter Church came from London, England aboard the Saint Louis in 1904
12) John Church came from Antrim, Ireland aboard the City of Rome in 1894
Some of the earliest settlers in Canada bearing this name include:
1) In 1760, Edward, Constant, William, Jonathan Church, and Hannah came to Nova Scotia in 1760
2) Edward Church came to Windsor, Ontario sometime between 1745-1766
3) Charles Lot Church (and wife Lillis Bowen, issue Elizabeth, Fanny, John, Nancy, Patience, Richard, and Susan) came to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1783
4) Johnathan Mills Church came in 1796
5) Oliver Church came in 1796
6) William Church came in 1796
7) Edwin Church came to Upper Canada in 1831
8) Munson Church came in 1834
9) William Church came to Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the Daniel O’Connell in 1834
Some of the earliest settlers in Australia bearing this name include:
1) William Church came from Essex, England to New South Wales aboard the Andromeda in 1832
2) Mary Church came to Adelaide aboard the Inconstant in 1849
3) George Church, age 20, came to South Australia aboard the Gloucester in 1852
4) William Robert Church, age 29, came to Victoria in 1852
5) Miles R. Church, age 23, came to Victoria in 1852
6) Israel Church, age 23, came to Victoria in 1854
7) Henry Church, age 28, came in 1854
8) Thomas Church, age 29 came to South Australia aboard the Punjab in 1855
Some of the earliest settlers in New Zealand bearing this name include:
1) William and Thomas Church came to Tamaki, Auckland in 1840
2) George Church, age 23, and Jane Church, age 18, came to Auckland aboard the Bombay in 1865
3) George Church came from Bedfordshire, England to Canterbury aboard the Glenmark in 1864
3) Anna Church came to Canterbury aboard the Mermaid in 1867
4) William Church, age 42, came to Wellington aboard the Douglas in 1873
5) Arthur Church came to Wellington aboard the Douglas in 1873
6) Charles Church came to Otago aboard the Peter Denny in 1874
Grantees of Arms
1) Church after Handy, Major, of Wells House, Acton, and Holt St. Stephen, St. Albans, county Hertfordshire, England, personal arms, 1830s
2) Church after Pearce, Lieutenant-Colonel (late) John (K.H.), of county Gloucester, and Ffrywdgrech, county Brecon, Wales, died (s.p), 1840s
3) John Church Pearce (a minor), son of William Peace, K.H., of Staverton House, county Gloucester, and of ffrywdgrech, county Brecon, Wales, 1840s
4) Mary Church, mother of John above, and her descendants, 1840s
5) Church, late Phillips, Samuel of Staverton, county Gloucester, and co. Brecon, Wales, Church and Phillips quarterly, 1869
6) late Phillips, Samuel Church, of Wales, 1869
7) Church after King, Henry John, of Acton, county Middlesex, and Albury, county Surrey
8) Reverend William Montague Higginson Church, of Hampton, county Middlesex, Vicar of Hunstanton, county Norfolk, England, 1860s
9) Henry John King Church, sometime of Ordnance in the Tower of London, became an Irvingite Apostle; of Albury, county Surrey, 1840s
10) Bartholomew Church of Erles Colne, Essex, ob. in the Low Countries, 1613, by Camden
11) John Malden Church, Essex, England, grant 20 May 1557 by Harvey
There are hundreds of notable people with the Church surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include:
1) Dr. Benjamin Church (1734-1778)was the first Surgeon General of the United States Army and was also active in the Sons of Liberty movement in Boston leading up to the American Revolution, but was tried and convicted for sending secret information to British General Thomas Gage
2) Benjamin Church (c. 1639-1718) was an English colonist in North America who was a military leader of the prececessor of the United States Army Rangers, becoming Captain of the first Ranger force in 1676, having fought in King Philip’s War, King William’s War, and Queen Anne’s War, born in Plymouth Colony
3) Vice Admiral Albert Thomas Church III (1947) was born in Newport, Rhode Island, known for assembling a team to investigate the detainee incidents at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War
4) Benjamin F. Church (1807-1887) who was an early settler and prominent settler in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, born in New Paltz, New York
5) Brad Church (1796) was a professional ice hockey player who played in the NFL and ECHL from 1996-2006, for teams such as the Washington Capitals and Portland Pirates, born in Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada
6) Charlotte Maria Church (1986), whose birth surname was Reed, is a Welsh singer-songwriter and actress, born in Llandaff, Cardiff
7) Frank Forrester Church III (1924-1984) was a US Senator for Idaho from 1957-1981, born in Boise, having graduated from Harvard and Stanford, having also served in World War II
8) George McDonald Church (1954) is an American chemist, molecular engineer, and geneticist, known for founding the Personal Genome Project, born in MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
9) Ellen Church (1904-1965) was the first female flight attendant, born in Cresco, Iowa, and served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II
10) George William Church Sr. (1903-1956) who was the founder of Church’s Chicken, born in Wise, Virginia
11) Ryan Matthew Church (1978) was a former baseball player in the MLB who played for five different teams from 2004-2010, including the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, born in Santa Barbara, California
12) William Church (c. 1778-1863) was an American who invented the typesetting machine in 1822
Church America Civil War Veterans
There were several soldiers with the last name Church who served in the American Civil War, including the following:
1) Stephen O. Church of the 48th Regiment New York Infantry (Union)
2) Henry Church of the 105th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry (Union)
3) Frederick J. Church of the 44th Regiment Illinois Infantry (Union)
4) William H. Church of the 13th Regiment Maryland Infantry (Union)
5) Edward M. Church of the 1st Regiment Iowa Cavalry (Union)
6) Franklin J. Church of the 6th Regiment Michigan Cavalry (Union)
7) Laroy B. Church of the 17th Regiment Indiana Infantry (Union)
8) Andrew J. Church of the 3rd Regiment Kentucky Cavalry (Confederacy)
9) Thomas A. Church of the 1st Regiment Tennessee Heavy Artillery (Confederacy)
10) Albert J. Church of the 11th Regiment Georgia Cavalry (Confederacy)
11) Thomas L. Church of the 17th Battalion Alabama Sharpshooters (Confederacy)
12) Benjamin F. Church of the 6th Regiment Texas Infantry (Confederacy)
13) Ellis D. Church of the 36th Regiment Mississippi (Confederacy)
14) Lucius A. Church of the 3rd Regiment Florida Infantry (Confederacy)
Church America Revolution Veterans
There were several soldiers with the last name Church who served in the Revolutionary War, including the following:
1) Private Amaziah Church of Vermont
2) Private Ephraim of Massachusetts
3) 2nd Lieutenant Isaac Church of Massachusetts
4) 3rd Corporal John Church of Connecticut
5) Corporal John Church of Virginia
6) Sergeant John Church of Virginia
7) Corporal John Church of Vermont
8) Private Joseph Church of Massachusetts
9) Lieutenant Uriah Church of Connecticut
10) Anthony Church of Rhode Island
11) Benjamin Church of Rhode Island
12) Caleb Church of Rhode Island
13) Charles Church of Massachusetts
14) Private David Church of Rhode Island
15) 3rd Corporal Jabez Church of New Hampshire
1) or Churche - (Earls Colne, co. Essex). Gu. a fesse or, in chief three sinister gauntlets ppr. Crest—An arm erect in armour ppr. garnished or, holding a baton of the last.
2) or Churche - (borne by Henry Church, Esq., R.N., and Rev. William Church, of Hampton, co. Middlesex). Gu. a crosier reversed in bend sinister, surmounted by a sword in bend dexter ppr. on a chief ar. a thistle leaved also ppr. Crest—A hand holding a sword erect betw. two branches of laurel, entwined round the blade, all ppr. Over the crest the word—Virtute.
3) (granted 1822 to Sir Richard Church, C.B., K.H., &c.). Az. a lion ramp. or, over all on a bend erm. three dexter gauntlets clenche ppr. Crest—A demi lion ramp. or brandishing in his dexter paw a battle-axe ppr. and resting his sinister paw on a cross gu.
4) (Ffrwdgrech, St. David’s, co. Brecon, exemplified to Samuel Church Philips, Esq., on his assuming the name of Church, instead of Philips, by royal licence, dated 6 May, 1869). Quarterly, 1st and 4th, ar. on a pile gu. a chev. of the field charged with three roses of the second barbed and seeded ppr. betw. as many greyhounds' heads erased of the first, for Church; 2nd and 3rd, sa. a lion ramp. betw. four mascles saltirewise or, for Phillips. Crests—1st, Church: In front of a passion cross gu. a pelican in her piety ar. the wing charged with a rose also gu. barbed and seeded ppr.; 2nd, Philips: A lion ramp, reguard. sa. semi of pheons, and holding betw. the paws a mascle or. Motto—Vulnera ecclesiae liberorum vita.
5) (Tunstall, co. Salop, 1747). Ar. a fesse engr. betw. three greyhounds’ heads erased sa. collared or.
6) (Slingfield, co. Sussex). Chequy ar. and sa. on a bend gu. three lions’ heads erased or. Crest—A tiger pass. ar. tufted and maned or.
7) (Essex). Ar. on a fesse engr. betw. three greyhounds' heads erased sa. collared or, as many trefoils slipped of the last. Crest—A demi greyhound sa. gorged with a collar or, charged with three lozenges gu. holding a trefoil of the second.
8) (Betton, co. Salop). Ar. on a chev. gu. betw. three greyhounds' heads erased sa. as many bezants. Crest—A greyhound’s head erased erm. collared and ringed or.
9) (Breconshire). Ar. on a fesse gu. betw. three greyhounds’ heads erased sa. collared or, as many trefoils slipped of the last. Crest—A greyhound’s head erased and collared as in the arms, in the mouth a trefoil slipped gu.