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Phillips Family History
This surname comes from the Greek name 'Philippos' which means 'a lover of horses', and is made up of the elements 'philein' (to love) and 'hippos' (horse).
Philip of Macedon was the father of Alexander the Great, and the use of Philip as a given/personal name throughout Greece and Asia Minor, and subsequently in western Europe, was largely due to him. Its popularity was further enhanced by the fact that the name was born by five Kings of France including Philip I who reigned from 1060 to 1108, and several Kings of Spain. It entered England via France in the 12th Century, and appears as 'Filippus' in the Lincolnshire 'Documents relating to the Danelaw', dated 1142.
It was therefore originally a patronymic name, and as such such would refer back to an ancestor with the first name Philip who lived some centuries ago. The 's' added to the end of the word would in this context mean 'the son of Philip'.
In Wales, its popularity as a personal/first name probably stems from its associations with the New Testament, in particular with Philip, one of Jesus's Twelve Apostles. Historically, it was originally found as a personal name mainly in south west Wales and in the south eastern county of Monmouthshire. It developed into a settled, hereditary surname in the country during the 16th and 19th centuries, where such fixed surnames generally came into being much later than in England.
In England, the surname was historically most common in Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Devon, Worcestershire and Somerset. Far fewer references to the name appear in the north of England. In Somerset the variant 'Phelps' was a particuarly favoured form of the surname.
In Ireland, it is found in Cavan and Monaghan with the prefix 'Mac' (son of), and the name is associated with a branch of the Scottish clan MacDonnell of Keppoch.
Other variants of the surname include Philpot, Philpots, Philpin and Philbin along with associated spelling variations of those names.
Some early bearers of the name across the UK include Simon fil. Philippi of Kent, Henry Phelipe of Norfolk, Alicia Philippes of Huntingdonshire, and Ellis fil. Philip, of Huntingdonshire who all appeared in the Hundred Rolls of 1273; and Cecilia Philipp who appeared in the Yorkshire poll tax of 1379.
Phillips is the 38th most popular surname in England and Wales, with around 131,000 individuals recorded in those two countries as a whole, with the largest groups seen in Bristol, Birmingham and Coventry. Elsewhere in the world, the Philips surname is common in Wellington, New Zealand (one in 652 families), Canberra (one in 657) and Melbourne (one in 707). The United States is home to more people who bear the Philips/Phillips surname than the entire population of the English city of Coventry, with an estimated total of just under 380,000 which makes this the US's 40th most popular surname.
- The Scottish physician Sir Robert William Phillip played a major role in its prevention and cure of tuberculosis, and founded Europe’s first TB dispensary at Edinburgh in 1887.
- Anton Frederik Philips founded Philips Electric in the Netherlands in 1891. It is now one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electrical appliances and lighting equipment.
- In 1687 the English colonial administrator Sir William Phipps (1651—95) headed an expedition to the Caribbean in search of sunken treasure and came back with £300,000 of Spanish gold. With his newfound wealth he bought himself a knighthood, and eventually rose to become Royal Governor of Massachusetts. He was later recalled to England, however, to face charges of misgovernment, but died before his trial.
A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (1896) by Charles Wareing Endell Bardsley
A Guide to Irish Names (1964) by Edward MacLysaght
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain (1890) by Henry Brougham Guppy
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