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Morris Family History
This surname is found all over the British Isles, but it has more than one origin. In part, it stems from the Latin word "maurus" meaning moorish, or dark and swarthy. Variations of the surname include Maurice, Morse, Morice and Morriss, along with Morrison which of course means literally 'the son of Morris'.
It was a popular name in northern France, and was introduced to England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. It was first recorded in England in 1176 when Mauricius de Edligtona appears in the documents of the Danelaw, for the city of London.
In Wales, a Welsh version of the name – Meurig – became popular in medieval times, and was used as a personal name. It was later anglicised to Morris. It is believed that Meurig and the Welsh family name of Morris, rather than stemming from a Latin or Norman French root, instead generally derive from the Welsh words 'mawr' (meaning great) and 'rys' (a hero warrior or brave man). In Wales therefore it was originally a patronymic name, and it refers back to an ancestor who lived some centuries ago and had Meurig or Morris as a given name. It gradually became a settled, hereditary system in the country between the 16th and 19th centuries.
In Ireland, it relates to one of the Tribes of Galway and a family of Norman origin. In other cases it derives from the Norman name Fitzmaurice. Variations of the surname in Ireland include Morrissey and the Irish form Mac Muiris.
Highest concentrations of the surname appear in Wales and in the English counties which border Wales, namely Herefordshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire. From those counties it has spread east and can be seen in the English Midlands.
- The English artist, poet and social reformer William Morris (1834—96) revolutionised Victorian taste with his designs for furniture, fabrics and wallpaper-which remain influential in interior design to this day.
- A key figure in the development of the British motor industry was William Richard Morris (1877—1963), who later became Lord Nuffield. He started his business in a bicycle repair shop, and later set up his factory at Cowley, Oxford. The Morris Oxford car was his greatest popular success.
- Liverpool-born American patriot Robert Morris was dubbed ‘the Financier of the American Revolution’ for his private rôle in procuring supplies and borrowing money to keep Washington’s army going through the most crucial years of the revolution. Later he loyally served the fledgling nation by securing loans to help it through early financial crises. But by 1798 disastrous land speculations had eaten up his personal fortune, and he was arrested and clapped into a debtor’s prison, where he stayed for 3½ years. After his release he died in obscurity, a broken man.
Today, Morris is the 28th most popular surname in England and Wales, and there are over 22,000 Morrisons in Scotland. Morris remains a notable surname in terms of numbers in Wales, in particular in and around the capital city, where around one in about 215 families bears the surname. There are also significant clusters relating to the name in the English cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Liverpool. Elsewhere in the world, the Morris and Morrison surnames appear to be relatively common in Wellington, New Zealand (one in 435 families), Auckland, New Zealand (one in 442) and Vancouver (one in 485). But the United States is home to more people named Morris and Morrison than the entire population of Bristol – in combination, an estimated total of just under 478,000 – which is the US's 27th most popular surname.
A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (1896) by Charles Wareing Endell Bardsley
An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names (1857) by William Arthur
A Guide to Irish Names (1964) by Edward MacLysaght
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