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Family spelling variants includes Watkin, Waters, Walter, Watkin, Walters, Watte, Wattessone, Wattes, Wat, Watts, Wattson

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Wattson Family History

This is an old surname that derives originally from the Anglo-Saxon personal name Wat or Watt which, in turn, was a diminutive of the name Walter.

Its roots go as far back as at least the 7th century, when it origially meant 'powerful warrior' or 'battle leader' ( from the Old Germanic 'wald' = rule, 'hari' = army). It grew in popularity after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and by the 13th and 14th centuries it was a relatively common personal name, in the north of England especially and in the Scottish borders, and had acquired different spelling variations, including Waltier, Walt, Wat, and Watt.

It was from the shortened forms of the name that the hereditary surnames Watts and Watson later developed which literally meant 'son of Wat/Watt'.

Another diminutive of Walter was Watkin which itself later developed into a separate hereditary surname. Walter also developed into a surname, commonly as 'Walters' (son of Walter) but also as 'Waters'.

Early references to the surname appear in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1273 (William Wattes), and in the 1379 Poll Tax of Yorkshire in which a Johannes Watson, an Alicia Wat-wyf (literally, 'Wat's wife'), and a Johannes Watte were named.

Watson is the 43rd most popular surname in England and Wales, where around 118,000 individuals bearing this surname are recorded. There are a further 21,000 Watsons living in Scotland where it is the 17th most popular surname. Watson is most common in and around Edinburgh where an estimated one in around 195 families bears the name. Around the world Watsons are most common in Wellington, New Zealand (one in 562 families), Canberra, Australia (one in 605) and Auckland, New Zealand (one in 607). It is the 71st most popular surname in the United States where an estimated total of just over 252,000 Watsons live.

Notable people

  • The Scottish inventor James Watt (1736—1819) is credited with the invention of the steam engine; and the watt, an unit of power, is named after him.
  • The Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (1892—1973) was knighted in 1942 for his role in the development of RADAR (Radio Detection And Ranging), a device for locating aircraft which played a vital part in the defence of Britain against German bombing raids in World War II.
  • James Dewey Watson (b. 1928), won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for his crucial role in the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, the vital constituent in the genetic process.
  • English clergyman Isaac Watts (1674—1748) wrote hundreds of hymns, including ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’ and ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’.



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

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jeanne a sumner

Major Watson, 1747-1840 Book The History of St. Lawrence County, a footnote pg. 148 to father is John Watson it also says Major was captured by Indians when younger. He was born in the area of Sacketts Harbour, New York at the time was New France. He fought in the revolutionary war and was captured and taken to Canada and held until the end of the war. He married Marie Robertson in 1782 at Montreal. He returned to New York and with others in the 1790's he made land deals with the Indians. Laws were passed against it and Major went to jail for a year. When war broke out again in 1812 he signed up at the age of 65 and again was captured. He was taken to Halifax and was held on a prison ship. He went back to New York when he was released and lied with his daughter and son-in-law Daniel Downs. He moved to Walworth County, Wisconsin in 1840 and died there. There are several John Watson's listed in the Quebec census for the time period. The name Major is unusual and i found a Major Watson, born 1688 at Stamford, England father listed as Christopher, but no other records. Major had 3 children Zelotus 1783-1836 ( maybe a namesake for the trapper who helped him escape the indians) Joseph 1785- 1860 and Clarissa 1804- 1868 I don't think he is related to the John Watson family from Londonderry who emigrated to Palmer, Massachusetts and married Mary Blair.


Major Watson, born 1747 New France died 1840 Walworth County, Wisconsin


not a famous Watson, but interesting,POPS Watson,as he was known to the M.G.M movie studios, sound effects department. During the 30s 40s and 50s he was awarded a medal of sorts (a coin about the size of a silver dollar) with his name pops thanking him for his work on the movie musical Oklahoma.My grandfathers real name was Harris Watson.Born in Iowa in the late 1890s came to California in 1915 landed right by the M.G.M. movie studios just south of Los Angeles can't think of the name of the city.Died in the late 50s buried at forest lawn Glendale CA.

Lorraine Watson

My Watson family is not listed in the locations in your dropdown but I have traced them back to the late 1600's where they were living in Ravenstone, Buckinghamshire, England. I am able to link them to present day descendants but would like to find out where they came from before the last link who was Jonathon Watson listed in the Ravenstone Church registry. Any help would be appreciated!


Hi I have a John Watson born 1774, and brother George Watson born 1775. Both living as Farmers with land, weaving etc, in Finaway , County Cavan, there in 1800 , no birth Certs found. Both Married and with family . Johns wife Mary Ann Porterfield and she is second wife and younger than him. George's wife Eliza. Johns been married before and has 3 children from that marriage. Either John or George or both, has a Hibernian School in Finaway, at the Farm where a Patrick Gaffney is also involved. I 'think' both brothers were military men. I found something where an advert was put in Belfast by Farnham ( land owner) offering land to anyone who wanted to live in Cavan, don't know if relevant? Also wondered if there for Irish Rebellion and then regiment disbanded or whether older men retiring after serving in army or Officers too. They had involvement With the Quakers in Balliejamesduff in Cavan and very close to Finaway ( also Finnaway) in Cavan. The Presbyterian Church hall in Balliejamesduff was shared with the Quakers, and in Google Earth, Finaway is a short stroll to the Church meeting hall. One son (my Mothers Gt Grandfather Moses , Johns son) married a Quaker in Ontario too. All Johns sons are buried in Scottish Presbyterian cemetery in Ontario. Can't trace George after 1821 census where all the family are there living next door to each other in Finaway... after that, no death records for John who died in Ireland and didn't go to Canada (family got to Canada 1849) George no death I've found or his wife Eliza... only found John Watson son of George born 1810 married a Phoebe and living in Cavan where both teachers 1841 census. Can't find any other of George's children. The 3 of Johns children born to first wife, can't find them either... a John, Ellen and Jane, no birth Certs, death certs or definite marriages for girls and don't know their Mothers name. My Mother said the Watsons ( her father she never met as he died. in Canada) were from the Black Isle, Scotland... I believe that includes Fife, so I wonder if they are from there? Also Wemyss (Earl of Cavan) mustered men from his local Fife area and Sutherland.... later in Canada my Mothers 2x Gt Grandfather Donald Sutherland from Kildonan, Sutherland, Scotland allows his Grandaughter to marry John Watsons grandson William David Watson. Now Donald Sutherland born 1769 ish, he served in Cavan for the Irish Rebellion in a Sutherland Fencibles regiment, mustered by Wemyss ... I am thinking as the Sutherlanders were quite strict as to who their people married, I think Donald knew John Watson, don't know if mustered to same Barracks Fort George in Scotland , or whether they met in Cavan, fought in Cavan together or something.. or even whether John and George from Sutherland and birth records missing? I think , judging from John and George's children, George's first son was a William and John has a William so maybe their father a William... or James is there with both too but not 1st Children. Im trying to establish which regiment they may have been in, where were they born , as they had a Hibernian school or Hedge School( article calls it both) I read you had to be an officer to have one of those Hibernian schools.. but article also heads the title with Hedge school, they were illegal I thought so article a bit confusing but family are named in there. When in Canada, all the children of John Watson seem to marry quite good families. Also, as John and George are Watsons are they Watsons straight from Scotland or Watsons that were part of Plantations? Whatever they are Presbyterian aquatinted with Quakers. Any help will be so Much appreciated... I would love to know where exactly they came from.. where are John and George buried? And anything.. any clues. Ps When Johns son Moses married a Quaker, she died and was buried in a Quaker Cemetery but he was buried in a Scottish Presbyterian one with second wife... kind of thinking the Quaker aquantance didn't convert at least him, Moses. Wondered if Johns first wife was a Quaker or whether it's by coincidence they all know each other by living close to each other in Finaway and Balliejamesduff. Thank you Karen


Albert Wilfred Grandfather A Warrant officer class one in the British Army ,,and his father was Thomas Watson an Ambassador for Norway and mother was Louvain grandfather died in 1953


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