Holmes Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
There are several origin theories or meanings to the last name Holmes. First, it is an English spelling variant of the surname Holme, which is a topographic name denoting a person who lived near a holly tree, deriving from the Middle English word holm, which in turn derives from the Old English word hole(g)n. Alternately, it may have derives from the Middle English word holm or Old Norse holmr, meaning island (specifically islands in a river), and hence referred a person who lived on or was from an island. One author asserts the word refers to meadow lands or grass plains surrounded by water, sometimes an island. Another author states in Scotland, it refers to a small and uninhabited island, or a detached or insulated rock in the sea. Second, in Scotland, it is a habitational/locational name deriving from a place called Holmes near Dundonald or from a Holmes in the baronet of Inchestuir. Third, in Ireland and Scotland, it can be an Anglicized version of the Gaelic or Irish surname MacThomais (or McComb). Fourth, in areas of western Ireland, it can be an Anglized version of the surname Cavis, deriving from the Gaelic MacThamhais. While most authors believe the name was Anglo-Saxon in origin, it is also possible its of Norman extraction as history records two bearers living in Normandy, France in the late twelfth century AD: William du Holme and William de Homes.
Common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Holme, Holms, Home, and Homes.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Holmes ranks 161st in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following seven states: Mississippi, South Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia, and Michigan.
The surname Holmes frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (99th), Scotland (283rd), Wales (156th), Ireland (451st) and Northern Ireland (239th). In England, it ranks highest in Derbyshire. In Scotland, the surname Holmes ranks highest in Sutherland and Renfrewshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in county Anglesey. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Mayo. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in Antrim.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (250th), New Zealand (160th), Australia (130th), and South Africa (557th).
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “Widely distributed over England, but rare in the south, especially in the south - west. The northern half of England evidently possesses its home, or rather its homes; in the counties of Durham and Derby, in the West Riding, and in Lincolnshire, occur the greatest numbers of the name”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer of this surname was Roger de Holm, who was documented in the Seals Records of Leicestershire in 1186 AD. Urkell de Holmes was documented in the Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire in 1219 AD. John atte Holme was documented in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1296 AD.The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists two bearers of this surname: Goscelin de Holme (Suffolk) and John in le Holmp (Cambridge). Robert del Holm in county York in 1292 AD in the Placita de Quo Warranto. Adam atte Holme was recorded in the Close Roll in 1338 AD. The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists three bearers of this last name: Thomas del Holme, Adam del Holme, and Johannes del Holme. Early marriages involving this surname include Johanna Homes to Robert Cook, of Isleworth, in 1574 and Anne Holmes to Alexander Foster at St. Pancras Church, London in 1548 AD. An early baptism involving this name was Thomas Holmes at St. James Clerkenwell in 1615. A one Johannes Holmys, capellanus, was a witness in Ayr, Scotland in1460 AD, doubtlessly deriving his name from the lands of Holmes near Dundonald in Kyle Stewart. There were also lands named Holmes in the barony of Inchestuir.
Holmes Family Tree & Holmes Genealogy
Holme of Paull-Holme
The Holme genealogy or Holme family tree begins with the Holmes of Paull-Holme, an old Yorkshire family, which intermarried with various families including the Constables, Ellikers, Hildyards, Stricklands, Asalabys, Lantgtons, Rodes, and others. The male line carried on until the death of Henry and John Holmes, who had no issue, at which point, the property was inherited by their grand-nephew, Reverend Nicholas Torre. This Reverend Nicholas was born in 1756, the son of James Torre of Snydall and Betty Holme, and assumed the surname and arms of Holme. He died in 1833 and was succeeded by his nephew, Henry James Torre, who also inherited the surname and arms of Holme. He became Reverend Henry James Holmes. He was born in 1793 and in 1817 he married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Captain George Mangels, and had issue with her as follows: Bryan-Holme, Edward Ferdinand Holme (Lieutenant in the Royal Navy), Emily Rosellen (married Captain Lawrence Trent Cave of the 54th Regiment). He died in 1850. His son Bryan Holme was an Esquire of Paull-Holme who was born in county York who was born in 1821. He was a Captain in the 88th Regiment, and in 1849, he married Catherine Margaret, daughter of General Sir Patrick Stuart and Catherine Henrietta, and had six children with her: Charles Henry, Bryan Francis, Arthur Rodney, Catherine Mary, Louisa Stuart, and Beatrice Ellen. The Holme Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Holme Family Crest or Shield) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Barry of six or and azure on a canton argent a chaplet gules. Crests: 1st, A holly tree fructed proper; 2nd, Out of a moral coronet gules a hound’s head erased or. Motto: Holme semper viret. They were seated in Paull Holme, Hedon, county York, England.
Holmes of Gawdy Hall
John Wogan was the last male heir of his family who died in 1778, having no posterity, and his wife died as well, whereupon the property of Gawdy Hall was inherited by his newphew, Revere Gervaus Hplesm the son of Reverend Gervas Holmes, of Wigtoft and Brickars, county Lincoln. The Sancroft property dates back to the reign of Henry III in the sixteenth century. In 1812, Revered John Holmes of Gawdy Hall married Anne, daughter of Reverend W. Whitear, Rector of Ore, and had issue with her. His son was named William Sancroft Holmes who was a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant. In 1840, he married Hester Elizabeth, daughter of Davies Gilbert of Eastbourne, Sussex, and fathered four children with her: John Sancroft, Mary Anne, Catherine Sancroft, and Hester Sancroft (Reverend T.T. Perowne, Rector of Redenhall). His son John Sancroft Homes was an Esquire of Gawdy Hall, Norfolk, England who was born in 1847 and was a Justice of the Peace for Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as a Lieutenant Prince of Wales’ Own Norfolk Artillery Militia. In 1877, he married Edith, daughter of Henry Kingscote and Harriett Tower. The Holmes Coat of Arms (sometimes mistakenly called the Holmes Family Crest) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Barry of six argent and azure, on a canton gules, a chaplet argent. Crest: A holly tree vert fructed or.
Holmes of St. David’s
A member of this family came to Ireland and was a secretary to Lord Lieutenant Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who accompanied him to Ireland in 1630. The family possesses the old manor or Peterfield. Gilbert Holmes was an Esquire of Bell Mount, King’s County, who in 1760, married Mary, daughter of Francis Saunderson, of Castle Saunderson, and had a son with her. This son was the Very Reverend Gilbert Holmes, Dean of Ardfert, who in 1810, married Lydia Waller, daughter of Colonel Francis Saunderson, and had six issue with her: William Bassett, Francis (Major of the 8th Regiment), Peter (Lieutenant of the 44th Regiment, died at Mangalor), Alexander (served in the Royal Navy), Cecil, Hardress Robert (66th Regiment, died at St. Ann’s Barbados), and Lydia Catherine (married Captain Lancelot Bayly). His son William Bassett Holmes was an Esquire of At. Davis’d county Tipperary, Ireland who was born in 1820 and was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, and Captain of the Tipperary Militia. In 1856, he married Elizabeth Dean, daughter of W.L. Barter, and had two issue with her: William Bassett Traherne and Lydia Cecil Frances. They were seated at St. David’s, Nenagh, county Tipperary, Ireland.
Holmes of Soole House
The Holmes genealogy begins with Reverend William Holmes of Scole House, Norfolk, England, was a Rector of Scole who was born in 1795, the son of William. In 1835, he married Jemima, youngest daughter of Sir Charles Flower, and had a son with her named William James. This William James Owen Holmes was an Esquire of Scole House, Norfolk, and Monar, Rossshire, who was born in September of 1839. The Holmes Coat of Arms (sometimes mistakenly called the Holmes Family Shield) has the following heraldic blazon or armorial bearing: Barry of eight or and azure, on a canton gules three garlands proper. Crest: A lion’s head erect or. Motto: Ora et labora.
Holmes of Brooke Hall
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Holmes family tree begins with William Holmes, Esquire of Mundham, Norfolk, England, who settled at Mundham and had a property there for several generations. Thomas Holmes, Esquire of Brooke Hall, in 1755, married Sarah, daughter and heir of Thomas Seaman, and had a son with her named Reverend Thomas. In 1787, this Reverend Thomas Holmes married Charlotte, daughter of Edmund Lyon of Liverpool, and had issue with her as follows: Thomas, Reverend John, Reverend Edmund, Martha (married Sir Thomas Combe Miller, Baronet of Froyle Park, Hants), Charlotte, Sarah, and Hannah. He later married Margaret Jermyn, daughter of John Tuthill of Halesworth, Suffolk, and had three issue with her: George John, Emma, and Margaret Wilson (married Very Reverend Joseph Williams Blakesley, had seven sons and four daughters). His son George John Holmes was an Esquire of Brooke Hall, Norfolk, who was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff in 1878 who was born in 1813. In July of 1836, he married Georgina, daughter of William Armit of Dublin, and had seven issue with her: George Armit (1837), John (married Louisa Black and later Ella Campbell), Thomas (Lieutenant in the Royal Navy), Georgina Grace (married Rear Admiral John Corbett of Horstead House), Ellen (married George Tuthill Borrett of The Lodge), Margaret, and Mary. The Holmes Coat of Arms (erroneously called the Holmes Family Crest) is blazoned in the European art of heraldry as follows: Barry of eight or and azure a bordure nebuly ermine, on a canton of the second a chaplet of roses proper. Crest: Out of a crown vallery or, the rim charged with three annulets in fess azure a stag’s head ermine attired gold. They were seated in Brooke Hall, Norwich, England.
Other Holmes Pedigree and Family Trees
Thomas Holmes was born in Colchester, Essex around in 1567 AD. He was likely the son of Thomas. He had a son named John. John was born in St. James, Colchester, England before 1603. He went to colonial America where he married Sarah Thomas in 1635 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They had two sons together (and perhaps others): John and Nathaniel. His later son Nathaniel Holmes was born in Plymouth Colony in 1643. He married Mercy Faunce and had issue with her as follows: Elisha, Mercy, Nathaniel, Sarah (Ellis), John, and Eleazer. The former son John Holmes was born in Plymouth, MA in 1636, and he married Patience Faunce, having four issue with her: John, Ebenezer, Desire (Churchill), and Thomas. His son John was born in Plymouth, MA in 1663. He married Sarah Thomas and had the following issue with her: Patience (Wood), Nathaniel, John, Cornelius, and Sarah. His son Nathaniel was born in Plymouth, MA in 1692 and he married Martha Cushman, having the following children with her: Nathaniel, Jebediah, Jabez Sr., Elkanah, and John. His son Jabez Holmes Sr. was born in 1723 in Middleborough, Plymouth. In 1749 in Canterbury, Connecticut, he married Experience Cleveland and had the following children with her: Sarah, Experience (Gardenier), Priscilla, Jabez, John, Jebediah, Roswell, and Lydia. His son Dedediah was born in Amenia, New York in 1763. He married Hannah Brown and had a son with her named Hiram. His son Hiram Holmes was born in New York in 1802. He married Submit Andrews and had a son with her named Homer. This Homer Dickson Holmes was born in La Porte County, Indiana in 1858. He married Mary Eliza Ballard and had a son with her named Earl William. Earl William was born in Kansas in 1887. He married Anna Cora Jones and had a son with her named Dale Wendell Holmes. Dale was born in Milliken, Colorado in 1913. He married Lucy Fultz and had a daughter with her named Betty Lou (married Edward J. Eder in 1956). He died in 2007 in Oregon.
Robert Holmes was born around 1480. He married a woman named Margaret and had a son with her named Robert. Robert was born in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire around 1510. He had a son named Lawrence. This Lawrence Woodall Holmes was born in the same town around 1540. He married Kilany Louth and had a son with her named Peter. This Peter Holmes was born in Killarney, Ireland around 1570. He had three issue: Mary Paddock, Peter II, and Francis.
Nicholas Holmes was born between 1535-1595. He had a son named Frances Holmes of Stamford who was born in Beverly, Yorkshire, England around 1600. He married Ann Stevens and had issue with her named John, Stephen, Richard, and Ann Dean.
Early American and New World Settlers
A one Captain Holmes was recorded in Virginia in February 1623.
Alice Holmes was recorded as living in Virginia in February 1623.
Richard Holmes, age 24, came to the Barbados aboard the Hopewell in 1634.
Henry Holmes, age 44, came to the Barbados aboard the Hopewell in 1634.
Joseph Holmes, age 22, came to St. Christopher’s aboard the Paul in 1635.
Samuel Holmes, age 20, came to Virginia aboard the Speedwell in 1635.
Mathew Holmes, age 21, came to the Barbados aboard the Hopewell in 1634.
John, son of James and Mary Holmes, was baptized in the parish of Christ Church, Barbados in 1679.
Susanna, wife of Henry Holmes, was buried in the parish of Christ Church in 1678. Henry was buried in July 1679.
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions 23 bearers of this last name:
1) David Holmes (or Homes) of Dorchester died in 1666. He had a wife named Jane and children including David, Margaret, and two other sons.
2) George Holmes of Roxbury, a freeman in 1639, who had issue named Nathaniel (1640), Deborah (1642), Sarah (1644), Deborah (1645), Joseph, and others.
3) John Holmes of Plymouth in 1632, may have had a daughter named Sarah
4) John Holmes of Duxbury, 1658, may have been the son of William. In 1661, he married Mary, daughter of John Wood or Atwood, and he died in 1675, with no issue from said marriage.
5) John Holmes of Northampton, had a son named John in 1678. He moved to Deerfield and died there in 1692.
6) John Holmes, Duxbury, in 1661, he married Patience, and had issue with her named John, Richard, Patience, Mehitable, Sarah, George, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, Thomas, Joseph, and Desire. He died in 1697.
7) John Holmes of New Hampshire, 1689
8) John Holmes, Roxbury, married 1690, Hannah, the daughter of Isaac Newell
9) Joseph Holmes, Roxbury, 1561, married Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Roger Clap, moved to Boston, where he had Joseph (1661), Elizabeth (1662), and Nathaniel (1664). He might have been the son of George.
10) Joseph Holmes of Boston, a tailor by trade, 1677
11) Joshua Holmes, Westerly, married Abigail and had issue named Joshua (1678), Mary, and another son.
12) Josiah Holmes, Duxbury, in 1666, married Hannah, daughter of Henry Sampson, who had issue named Hannah, Josiah, Mary, John, William, and others.
13) Nathaniel Holmes of Plymouth, in 1667, married Mercy, the sister of Elder Fannie
14) Obadiah Holmes of Salem, MA, 1639, was from Preston in Lancashire, England. He married Catharine and had issue named Martha, Samuel, and Obadiah. It is said he was perverted in faith and was excommunicated. He moved to Rehoboth and then Newport, where he had five more issue. He was a preacher and died in 1682 at the age of 76.
15) Richard Holmes of Rawley, 1643, was born in 1610 or a few years earlier
16) Richard Holmes of Norwalk, 1654, had two children
17) Richard Holmes of Cambridge in 1636, was a freeman in 1651, had a wife named Jane and had issue named Dorcas, John, Elizabeth, Mehitable, Sarah, Ephriam, Samuel, Sarah, John, Joseph, and Elizabeth.
18) Robert Holmes, Newburg, in 1669, married Esther, daughter of Anthony Morse, and had issue named Robert (1670) and Esther (1673).
19) Samuel Holmes of Rehoboth, had issue named Samuel (1674) and again Samuel (1675). He moved to Duxbury perhaps.
20) Thomas Holmes, Hingham, came as a servant to William Ludkin, was of the city of Norwich
21) Thomas Holmes, New London, born at London, who came in 1665, and had wife named Lucretia or Lucia, daughter of Thomas Dudley of New York, and had a son named John. He died in 1724.
22) William Holmes of Plymouth in 1632, who was sent with armed force the next year to reestablish a trading house near Hartford against the Dutch. He served in the Pegnot War and was a Lieutenant in Scituate. He died in Boston in 1649. He had a farm in Scituate and an estate in Antigua. He served in the Civil War or great rebellion.
23) William Holmes of Scituate, 1646, was a freeman in 1658. He had children named Abraham (1641), Israel (1642), Isaac (1644), Sarah (1646), Rebecca (1648), Josiah (1650), Mary (1655), Elizabeth (1661) and maybe John. He moved to Marshfield. He died in 1678.
Some settlers in colonial America bearing this surname who came in the eighteenth century include: Grace Holmes (Virginia 1703), Susannah Holmes (Virginia 1703), Anne Holmes (Virginia 1711), Avis Holmes (Virginia 1713), and Eliza Holmes (Virginia 1714).
In Canada, one of the earliest settlers bearing this name was Bacon Holmes, who came to the province of Nova Scotia in 1749. In Australia, one of the first bearers was James Holmes who was a convict from Sussex, England who came to New South Wales (then a penal colony) aboard the Asia in 1824. In New Zealand, three bearers of this name came to the city of Wellington in 1840: William, James, and John Holmes.
Early Americans Bearing the Holmes Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains four entries for this surname:
1) [Argent] a stag at gaze [azure attired or?] Crest: a cubit arm holding an arrow. Bookplate John Holme.
2) Barry wavy of 8 or and azure (?) On a canton gules (?) a lion ramp or (?). Crest: out of a coronet an armed arm embowed, holding a trident (?) proper head or. On a portrait of Gov. David Holmes of Miss. from Va. In Mrs. Rowland Jackson's Campaign against the British, 1812, p. 46.
3) Or 3 bars azure on a canton argent a chaplet gules. Crest: a lion's head erased. Seal ring of Wm. Edward Holmes, M. D., of Charleston and Boston.
4) Per chevron (the chief per pale) argent and ermine a chevron gules and in chief 2 dragons' heads erased, the neck pierced by an arrow. An escutcheon of pretence: Per chevron and chief per pale a chevron gules between 5 lions passant. Crest: a lion ramp. Per stabilitas et per fortitudo. Bookplate J. Henry H. Holmes, Va. The chevron is engraved purpure and vert.
Matthew’s American Armoury (1907) and Bluebook contains one entry for this name:
1) Edwin Bradford Holmes of Brookline, Massachusetts was born in N. Abington in 1853. He was the “Most Worshipful G.M. of A.F. and A.M. of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”. In 1880, he married Sarah Frances, daughter of Isaac Reed Pratt and fathered three people with her: Edwin Pratt, Francis Bradford, and Mary Frances. He bore the following armorial: Barry of six or gules; on a canton of the second a chaplet of the first. He was the son of Bradford Reed Holmes (born 1825) and Mary Elizabeth, the daughter of Noah Perry Ford. He was the grandson of Jonathan (born 1794) and great grandson of Jonathan (born 1755). He descended from Thomas Holmes of Colchester, Essex, who lived in the early seventeenth century.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) does not contain an entry for this last name.
I have identified eight Holmes family mottoes:
1) Ora et labora (Pray and labor)
2) Grandescunt, aucta labore (By work, all things increase and grow)
3) Justum et tenacem propositi (Just and firm of purpose)
4) Holme semper viret (It is always thriving)
5) Per stabilitas et per fortitude (Stability and strength (?) )
6) Avito evehor honore (I am exhalted or influence by ancestral honour)
7) Fide, sed cui vide (Trust, but in whom take care)
8) Holme semper viret (Holme always flourishes) (of Paull-Holme)
Sir Robert Holmes (1622-1692)
We have 36 coats of arms for the Holmes surname depicted here. These 36 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore an Holmes Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Holmes Family Crest)
1) Holme of East Holme, county Lancashire, 1613 by R. Sr. George
2) John Holmes of North Mymms, Hertfordshire, 1551 by Hawley
3) Thomas Holmes of Cambridgeshire, confirmed 1558
4) Sir Robert Holmes, third son of Henry, of Mallow, county Cork, Rear Admiral, Captain and Governor of Isle of Wight, augmentation 19 January in the 1660s.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Holmes surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Benjamin Holmes (1846-1914) who was the Democratic Mayor of Kansas City from 1890-1891, 2) Katie Noelle Holmes (1978) who is an American actress born in Toledo, Ohio who is best known for her roles in Dawson’s Creek and Batman begins, as well as her marriage to the iconic actor Tom Cruise, 3) Alfred Holmes (1837-1876) who was an English violinist, composer, and music educator from London known for his orchestral works, chamber music, and solo violin, 4) Major Andrew Hunter Holmes who was a Captain of the 24th Infantry during the War of 1812 who was killed in the Battle of Mackinac Island in Michigan (Holmes County, Ohio and Holmesville, Mississippi are named in his honour), 5) Arthur Holmes (1890-1965) who was an British genealogist born in Hebburn, United Kingdom who pioneered the use of radiometric dating of minerals and was the first to understand the mechanical and thermal implications of mantle convection, leading to plate tectonics, 6) Charles Horace Holmes (1827-1874) who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York who was born in Albion, Orleans County, 7) Charles Holmes (1711-1761) who was a Rear Admiral in the British Navy during the Seven Years’ War and was third in command at the capture of Quebec in 1759, 8) Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935) who was an associate Justice of the US Supreme Court who served from 1902-1932, born in Boston, MA, who advocated legal realism and opposed the doctrine of natural law, 9) Major William Holmes (1862-1917) who was an Australian Army officer in World War I, born in Sydney, New South Wales, who died at the Battle of Missines, and 10) Elizabeth Anne Holmes (1984) who was an American entrepreneur and investor born in Washington, DC who is the founder and CEO of Theranos, a blood test company.
David Holmes, Governor of Mississippi
Rear-Admiral Charles Holmes (1711-1761)
Major General William Holmes (1862-1917)