Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Watkins Name
Watkins Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This primarily Welsh and English last name is a baptismal/patronymic one meaning “the son of Walter”, through the nickname, shortened, or reduced form of the personal (first name) Walter, Wat, a Middle English name, with the diminutive kin added, making the masculine given name Watkin(s). Watkin first is documented as a first name as early as the thirteenth century AD during the Middle Ages (ex. Watkin, the son of Henry Balisariust, during the reign of King Henry III of England). The name Walter derives from the medieval Anglo-Saxon or Germanic/Teutonic first name Waldhar, meaning “people rule” or “ruler of the army”, deriving from the words wald (rule) and hari (army). The name was popular among the Norman French, and was brought into the British Isles during the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD, where it replaced the Old English cognate Wealhere. Once source asserts this is an ancient Celtic family that was first located in Breconshire in southern Wales, where the family held land and titles at Pennoyre in the Welsh Kingdom of Brycheiniog during medieval times.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Wattkins, Watkinis, Waitkins, Watikins, Watkines, Watkin, Watkinson, Watkinns, Gwatkin, Gwatkins, Watkiss, Wattin, and several others. The spelling variation of Watkinson is more closely associated with Scotland or those of Scottish descent.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Watkins ranks 222nd in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following eight states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Arkansas. The surname Watkins frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (276th), Scotland (862nd), Wales (28th), Ireland (1,664th) and Northern Ireland (1,439th). In England, it ranks highest in county Herefordshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in counties Caithness and Clackmannanshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in counties Brecknockshire and Monmouthshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in King’s County. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Londonderry. The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,387th), New Zealand (306th), Australia (343rd), and South Africa (841st). Henry Brougham Guppy’s 1890 book Homes of Family Names in Great Britain states the following in regard to this last name: “The great home of the name of Watkins is in Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, and South Wales. Like”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The Subsidy Rolls of Sussex list one John Watkyns in 1327 AD. A John Wattkyn was documented in Sheffied, Yorkshire in 1553.Thomas Ap-Watkin was documented in the Calendarium Inquisition Post Mortem. An early baptism involving this surname was Jane Watkinnes at St. Peter, Cornhill, London, England in 1547. An early marriage involving this surname was Henry Watkinson to Mary Clarke at St. Peter, Cornhill in 1700. Another marriage was John Gwatkin to Margery Woodward at Ledbury, Herefordshire in 1566. The Register of the University of Oxford lists one Edward Watkinson in county York in 1580 and Edward Watkine in county York in 1594. A one Thomas Watkys was documented in the Preston Guild Rolls in 1662.
Watkins Family Tree & Watkins Genealogy
The following is a discussion of two different noble, royal, landed, or aristocratic families bearing this last name.
Watkins of Badby House
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Watkins family tree traces back to William of Wykeham, through the families of Rushworth and D’Anvers. John Rushworth, of county Northampton, England, married Jane D’Anvers and had ten daughters and one son with her. One of the daughters of this marriage was Alicia Rushworth. She married Charles Watkins of Daventry, and had a son with her, also named Charles. This son Charles first married Elizabeth Dobyns Adams, and had a son with her named Clark. Charles secondly married Sarah Lord, and had three issue with her: William, Sarah (married Miles Wynne of Eyarth House in North Wales), and Selnia (married John Francis Doxat, Esquire). His son William Watkins was an Esquire of Badby House who was born in 1785. He married Charlotte, daughter of David Rattray of Conventry, M.D, and fathered ten children with her as follows: Charles William, Charlotte, Sarah, Eliza (married Charles Doxat, her cousin, son of John Francis Doxat), Selina (married Reverend Griffith Boynton, son of Henry, 3rd Baronet of Agnes), Lucy, Janetta, Jane (married Reverend Thomas Vincent Pusey), and Emma (married James Maconochie, Barrister-at-Law). His eldest son Charles William Watkins was an Esquire of Badby House, Lieutenant of the 38th Regiment, and Captain of the Northampton Militia, who was born in October of 1827. In November 1851, he married Mary Mitchell, daughter of Richard John Uniacke, and died in 1858, leaving three issue with her: Charles FitzGerald, of Badby House, William Uniacke, and Helen Mary C. His son Charles FitzGerald Watkins was an Esquire of Badby House, county Northampton, England (modern day United Kingdom, once called Great Britain) was born in 1852. The Watkins Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Watkins Family Crest or Watkins Family Shield by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned in the medieval European art of heraldry as follows: Azure, a fess vair between three leopards’ faces jessant-de-lis or. Crest: A griffin’s head erased gules. Motto: In portu quies. They were seated at Badbdy House, near Daventry, England (modern day United Kingdom, formerly called Great Britain).
Watkins of Woodfield
The Watkins genealogy of this line begins with a family which is believed to have originally came from county Brecknock, Wales, settling in county Worcester, England around the year 1630 AD. Gregory Watkins, son of John and Anne, was born in 1639. In 1666, he married Anne Cheltham, and had issue with her including John and Gregory (born 1682, in 1714 married Elizabeth Leah, had a son named Gregory who married Mary Roberts of Droitwich). The elder son John was born in 1669 and in 1702 he married Mary, daughter of Thomas Ellis, and had issue with her. His son, John Watkins, was born in April of 1703, and in 1735, he married Ann, daughter of John Dolphin, and had issue with her named John, Gregory, Thomas, and William. His eldest son, John, was an Esquire of Woodfield who was born in 1736 and married Mary, daughter of John Hill of Stone, and had issue with her named John, Mary, and Anne. His son John Watkins was an Esquire of Woodfield who was born in October 1770, and in 1789, succeeded the lands and property of his kinsman/relative, Gregory Watkins of Hagley. In 1800, he married Mary, daughter of Robert Bourne of Shrawley, and had five children with her as follows: John (his heir), William (of Beckford Hall, married Anne, daughter of William Amphlett, had a son named William Hubert who was born in 1843 and became a Lieutenant of the 10th Hussars), Mary (married Thomas Gardner of The Chapel, Ombersley, in 1836), and Harriet. He died in 1837 and was succeeded by his son John. This John Gregory Watkins was an Esquire of Woodfield, county Worcester, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and High Sheriff who was born in June of 1803. In 1834, he married Elizabeth Randal, daughter of John Parker of Balsall Heath and Elizabeth Williams of Perry Hartlebury, and had three children with her as follows: John Gregory (of Lincoln’s Inn, born 1837), Williams Bourne (born 1843), and Mary Elizabeth (in 1866, married Henry Colville Marindin of Lincoln’s Inn and Calcutta, India, the son of Reverend Samuel Marindin of Chesterton in Salop and Isabella Colvile of Ochiltree and Craigflower in county Fife, Scotland, had issue named Arthur Henry, Mary Isabel, and Edith Mary). The Watkins Arms have the following heraldic blazon: Azure, on a chevron between three escallops argent as many leopards’ faces jessant-de-lis gules. Crest: A talbot’s head argent, erased, and gorged with a collar of cinquefoils gules: Motto-Flyddlawn. This family was seated at Woodfield, Ombersley, Droitwich.
Other Watkins Pedigree & Family Trees
Phillip Watkins was born in Wales around 1650. He went to colonial America. He had a son named John Watkins Sr. who was born in Virginia around 1690. He married Mary Katherine Jones, and had issue with her named Margaret Terrill and John. The son John was born in Maryland around 1710. He married Charity Thomas and had a son with her named James. This James Watkins was born in Blackwater, Virginia in 1734. He married Ann White and had children with her as follows: Mary, Charity, Sarah, Susanna, Rueben, John White, Winifred (aka “Winnie”), James Jr. Benjamin, Amos Sr., and Robert. His son James Jr. was born in Sussex, Virginia in 1866. He married Nancy Ann White, and prior to his 1866 death in Logan, Ohio, he had the following issue with her: William White, Henry White, Harriet, Elisah, Joseph, and Mary Polly (Thomas). His son William White Watkins was born in Jefferson Township, Logan County, Ohio, in 1825. He married Rebecca John Elliott and was the father of the following children with her: Jasper, Judge Charles, Wesley, Nancy, James Hamilton, Joseph Milton, Mary Melissa, Eliza Jane, Isaac Newton, Harriet Adeline, and Reverend Aaron Sherman. His son Reverend Aaron Sherman Watkins was born in Logan County, Ohio in 1863. He was a lawyer, reverend, politician, and college president. He married Emma Laura Davis and had a son with her named Willard Merrill. This Willard M. was born in 1898. He married Lena Ferne Smeltzer and Hazel Irene Wilds. He had issue, including a son named Willard Dean Watkins who was born in Canton, Ohio in 1931. He married Ms. Cox and had issue. He moved to Tuscon, Pima County, Arizona.
Here is another pedigree of the family, tracing back to the Middle Ages:
John Watkins I (born in 1305 AD)
John Watkins II (born in 1325 AD)
John Watkins III (born in 1360 AD, married Ann Gassaway, had sons John and Nicholas)
John Watkins IV (born in 1390 AD in Buckinghamshire, England, married Anna Cheney)
John Edward Watkins V (born in 1410 in Holwell, Dorest, England, married Anna Cheney)
John Edward Watkins VI (born in 1438 in Holwell, Dorest, England, married Margaret Phillips)
John Thomas Watkins (born in Holwell in 1473, married Lady Elizabeth Lee, had issue named William and Humphrey)
William Watkins (born in Holwell, Dorset, in 1506married Elizabeth Bishop)
Sir Francis Watkins (born in Shotton, Flintshire, Wales around 1540, married Elizabeth Bishop)
Sir James Watkins (born in Talgarth, Breconshire, Wales, around 1555, went to Jamestown, Virginia in colonial America, married Rachel and Mary Margrey Moslin) He had issue as follows: Henry I, Perregrin, Daniel, and Lady Alice.
Henry Watkins I (born in Talgarth, Wales, in 1585 came to Virginia with his father, married Alice Moslin and had issue with her named John, Edward, Henry II, Lewis, Thomas, William, Joseph, and Elizabeth).
Henry Watkins II (born in Malvern Hills, Varina Parish, Henrico County, Virginia around 1637, married Katherine Rachel Pride, had issue named James, Joseph, Rachel Woodson, Henry II, Elizabeth Bottom, Edward, Thomas, and William)
Henry Watkins III (born in Malvern Hills, VA around 1669, married Mary Mosby, had issue named John Sr., Benjamin, Joseph, Stephen, Henry IV, William, and Thomas)
John Watkins Sr. (born in Henrico, Virginia in 1684, married Elizabeth Sullivant, had children named John Jr., Joyce Thomas, William, Mary, Lucy, Elizabeth, David, Isaiah, and Nathaniel).
Thomas Watkins (born in Prince Edward County, VA in 1748, married Magdalene Duprey)
Joel Watkins (born in Halifax, Virginia in 1784, married Francis White)
Colonel Thomas Allen Watkins (born in Halifax, Virginia in 1820, married several times, had issue named Mary F., Martha D., Allen Dowdle, William Marion, Jesse T., Sallie L., Mary Kate, and Maggie C.)
Allen Dowdle Watkins (born in Tennessee in 1852, died in 1925)
Early American and New World Settlers
Rice Watkins was recorded as living “At Hogg Hand” in Virginia in February 1623. He came at the age of 30 aboard the Francis Bonaventure, under the Muster of Edward Blaney.
Henry Wattkins, Peregree, and Daniell Wattkins were recorded as living “At the Eastern Shore” in Virginia in February 1623. Daniell Wattkins came aboard the Charles in 1621.
Phillip Wattkins came to Boston, Massachusetts who came aboard the Prudence and Mary in May 1679.
Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include James Watkins (Jamestown, Virginia 1607), Evan Watkins (Virginia 1622), Rees Watkins (Virginia 1623), Margery Watkins (1702), Eliza Watkins (Virginia 1714), Robert Watkins (Virginia 1715), Hezekiah Watkins (New York City), and John Watkins (North Carolina 1748).
In Canada, a family of this name came to Bell Vue, Beaver Harbor, New Brunswick around 1783. They were United Empire Loyalists (people from America who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution). The father of the family that came was Samuel Watkins and he had issued named Elizabeth, John, Mary, Michalaleel, and Morris Watkins. In Australia, one of the earliest settlers bearing this surname was Samuel Watkins, a convict from Middlesex, England who came aboard Asia in 1820 to New South Wales (then a penal colony). Two years later, another English convict, from Gloucester, Robert Watkins, came to Van Diemen’s Land (modern day Tasmania) aboard the Southampton. In New Zealand, James E. Watkins came to Wellington in 1840. In the same year, one J.B. Watkins came to the city of Auckland.
Early Americans Bearing the Watkins Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains three entries for this surname:
1) 10 six-pointed stars 4, 3, 2, 1. Crest: crescent with star above. Motto: Immotus. Notepaper Mrs. Pearl B. Watkins, Oklahoma.
2) Azure on a chevron argent between in chief two leopards’ faces argent and in base a Cornish chough of the same three fleurs-de-lis gules. Crest: a talbot’s head gules gorged with a collar argent. Motto: Flydd lawn Bunydd. Watkins of Woodstock, Conn., and Vt. Framed glass, owned by Walter K. Watkins, Boston.
3) Gyronny of eight ermine and sable, over all a lion ramp or. Crest: a hound pass. Motto: Fortis et fidelis. Bookplate John W. Watkins, A. M. Rollinson, sc.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) do not contain an entry for this name.
I have identified ten Watkins family mottoes:
1) Pen awr y chalon wir (A golden head and true heart) (Watkins of Bunigg Pennogie)
2) Virtute (Virtue)
3) Flyddlawn Bunydd or beunydel (Always faithful)*
4) In portu quies (There is rest in port)
5) Sic itur ad astra nec aspera terrent (So we go through hardship to the stars)
6) Saie and doe (Say and do)
7) Virtue avorum (By the virtue of ancestors)
8) Vitae via virtus (Virtue is the way of life)
9) Immotus (Unchanged)
10) Fortis et fidelis (Brave and faithful)
*This motto for the Watkins family of Woodfield, near Detroit, is an allusion to the talbot’s head in the crest of the coat of arms for this branch of the Watkins family tree.
We have 16 coats of arms for the Watkins surname depicted here. These 16 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 Watkins Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Watkins Family Crest)
1) Watkin to Price, of Wales, 1777
2) Sir Edward Watkins, Baronet, 12 May 1880, of county Chester
3) Thomas Moran Joseph, Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms
4) John Gregory (?) Watkins of Ombersley, county Worcesershire, 1841
5) Watkins to Griffith…(minors), of Shropshire and Wales, around 1842
6) Watkins before Rice, George, of Llwyn-y-brain, county Carmarthen, Wales, 1865
There are hundreds of notable people with the Watkins surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) William Turner Watkins (1895-1961) was an American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church who was born in Maysville, Georgia, 2) Wesley Wade “Wes” Watkins (1938) who was a politician that served as a member of the US House of Representatives from Oklahoma’s 3rd district who was born in De Queen, Arkansas, 3) Vernon Phillips Watkins (1906-1967) who was a Welsh poet and painter born in Maesteg, Wales who was described as “the most profound and greatly accomplished Welshman writing poems in English”, 4) Travis Earl Watkins (1920-1950) who was an US Army solider who fought in the World War II and the Korean war, born in Gladewater, Texas, having received the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the Second Battle of Naktong Bulge, 5) Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Ferris Watkins (1877-1943) who was a British colonial administrator who commanded the East African Carrier Corps during World War I and later was the acting Kenya Chief Native Commissioner, having been born in Allahbad, India, the son of Reverend Oscar Dan Watkins, 6) Michaela Suzanne Watkins (1971) who was an American actress and comedian born in Syracuse, New York who is best known for his performance on Saturday Night Live and TV series such as Casual and the Trophy Wife, 7) John or Jean Watkins (died 1812) was the fourth mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana from 1805-1907, 8) John Thomas Watkins (1854-1925) who was a democrat politician who was a judge in state district court, born in Minden, Webster Parish, before becoming a member of the US House of Representatives for Louisiana from 1905-1921, 9) John Arthur Watkins (1955) who served as the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Australia from 2005-2008 and later as the Chancellor of the University of New England from 2013-2014, and 10) John William Nevill Watkins (1924-1999) who was an English philosopher born in Woking, county Surrey, who was a professor at the London School of Economics from 1966 to 1989, known for being an eminent proponent of critical rationalism.