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Lewis Family History
Recorded in over fifty different spellings from Lewis, Lois, Lowis and Loisi, to such as Ludovici, Lotze, Lohde, and Ludwikiewicz, throughout Europe this great and ancient name is generally accepted as being of pre 5th century Frankish origins. It was borne by the founder of the Frankish dynasty, who was recorded in the surviving chronicles of the Roman Empire as Ludovicus and Chlodovechus, the latter form becoming the French Clovis. Lowis or Lewis is the Norman-French form of the name, and Lowis le Briton was entered in the 'Red Book of the Excheque', Essex, in 1166.
The surname derives from the Middle English personal name Lewis, itself from Old French Clovis, Louis, Leweis & c. The original personal name was Hludwig, containing the German roots 'hlod'- fame, and 'wig'- war. It was the name of the founder of the Frankish dynasty in 814 CE who appears in records under the latinised form Ludovicus and Chlodovecus.
A second origin of this surname is the Welsh personal name Llywelyn, also anglicised as Llewellyn. The root of this surname is probably the Old Welsh 'llyw'- leader.
Another origin is the Gaelic, Scottish and Irish, surname Mac Lughaidh. Lugh is a very ancient and esteemed personal name: it comes from the word 'lugh' which means brightness. It was the name of the Celtic deity Lugh and gave rise to the high summer festival of 'Lughnasada'. Lugh was regarded as the equivalent of the Greek god Appollo. Woulfe (1913) states explicitly that the Irish Lewis familes of Dublin, Kildare, Wexford & c. are of the Anglo-Norman derivation.
Lewis can also occur as a synonym of the quite distinct Lewes, a surname taken from the place in Sussex.
It is surely significant that in 1881 the highest frequencies of the name were in Wales, especially South Wales. In Glamorgan the 1881 poulation was 13, 453. It is most likely that the Bristol frequency of 3000 in that census reflects the movement of the Welsh surname; as other Bristol surnames also have a Welsh provenance: Thomas, Williams, Parry. In fact the surname in England in 1891 was most numerous outside of London, in Lancashire (6% of the England & Wales total) and Gloucestershire (4% of the England & Wales total); London was (11%).
An early Welsh bearer was Llewelyn ap Madoc alias Lewis Rede, 1413 (History & Antiq., St. Davids).
As for the English/continental origin of the name, examples of early bearers are the 12th century Lowis le Briton (see above), Walterus filius Lowis, 1209 (Pipe Rolls, Warwicks).
As for Bristol, the International Genealogical Index has John Lewis, 1554.
William Lewis, a convict from Gloucester, was transported aboard the "Asia" on September 3rd, 1820.
1881, 1891 Census
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London, 1890
A Dictionary of English & Welsh Surnames, C.W.E. Bardsley, 1872, 96
Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall, P. Woulfe, Dublin 1913
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain & Ireland, eds Hanks, Coates, McClure, 2016
Dictionary of American Family Names, P. Hanks, OUP, 2003
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