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Elis Family History
This surname derives, originally, from the personal name Elias, a form of the Biblical name Elijah, and which had become popular in France as a baptismal name by the 8th century. It later became popular as a personal name across Europe, including Britain, during and after the 11th and 12th cenutry crusades.
It was therefore originally a patronymic name, meaning 'son of Ellis' before it became fixed as a hereditary surname (by the early 1400s in England), although in some cases it may derive from the Middle English female personal name 'Elice', a diminutive of Elizabeth. The variants 'Ellison' and 'Elisson' which were sometimes contracted to Ellis would also reflect this patronymic origin.
Earlier bearers of this surname and its derivatives in England include Alicia Elys, Robert Elleson, Adam Elisson, and Stephanus Elisson who all appear on the 1379 Yorkshire Poll Tax.
In Wales, while the origin of the surname is also patronymic, it did not become fixed as a hereditary surname until between the 16th and 19th centuries – prior to that time it would be recorded as 'ap Elis' meaning 'son of Elis'. Its popularity in the country is partly due to the Biblical name Elias, although in some cases it may have evolved into a shortened form of from the Welsh peronsal names Elystan (derived from the English name Aethelstan) and Elisedd (meaning 'kind' or 'benevolent'). It appears more frequently in north Wales than it does in the south.
In 1881, most Ellis family members who lived in the UK worked as farmers, agricultural labourers and coal miners.
In 1891, the surname was widespread across England and Wales with 44,830 occurrences and a further 867 in Scotland.
- Ruth Ellis (1929 – 1955), a model and nightclub hostess was the last female in the UK to endure execution by hanging after being convicted of the murder of her husband.
- Havelock Ellis (1859 – 1939), an English physician and psychologist, who, in 1897, co-wrote the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality. He also published works on a variety of sexual practices and inclinations, as well as on transgender psychology.
1881, 1891 Census
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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