Select Elliott Surname Genealogy

Elliott the surname is seen by some to derive from the Anglo-Saxon personal name Aelfward or Elewald, meaing "elf ruler."  This may apply to the Border Elliotts in Scotland and England.  An Elewald was recorded as living in Cumberland in 1279 and the Elliott name occasionally occurred in the form of Elwald or Elwold until the 15th century.

Alternatively, some see Elliott deriving from the Scandinavian name Alyot or as a diminutive of Ellis or Elis, medieval vernacular forms of the Biblical Eliyah meaning "Jehovah is God."   This explanation may more readily fit with the Elliotts in southern England.

It has also been argued that the Elliott name is of Breton origin.

The name comes with many variants, Elliot, Eliot and Ellot among them.  The Elliotts are the most numerous today.  But the other names have had their importance in the past.

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Select Elliott Ancestry

Scotland.  The Elliots were one of the great riding clans of the western Scottish borders.  There were different banches of the clan over time.  But leadership resided initially with the Redheugh Ellots (Robert Ellot who fell at Flodden in 1513 had been their 12th chief).  This clan built strong towers around their base in Liddesdale and held Hermitage castle south of Hawick at times as well.  They were a rough and hardy sort, as this story might suggest:

"A visitor to Liddesdale found no churches there and remarked on it, asking: 'Are there no Christians here?'  He received the reply: 'Na, we's a' Elliots and Armstrongs."

The Ellots of Redheugh were involved in much of the Border fighting during the 16th century.

After the pacification of the Borders in the early 1600's, many Elliots were hanged, outlawed and banished, with a number heading to Ulster in the 1609 plantation.  The Redheughs became Stobs and then Minto.  The Mintos took the right side during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and were rewarded with knighthood and titles and became part of the political establishment.  A clan history The Elliots: The Story of a Border Clan was written by Lady Eliott of Stobs and Sir Arthur Eliott.

The Borders themselves depopulated, with many Elliots drifting to Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Elliot and Elliott became the main spellings, with the older forms dying out.

Ireland.  The Elliots, dispossessed in the Borders, settled as tenant farmers in Ulster, manly in Fermanagh. Here they formed a cohesive group, strong enough to ride out the 1641 rising.  They perpetuated their Border traditions, large closely-knit family groups with intense clan loyalties and ongoing feuds.  Today the Elliotts, together with the Armstrongs and the Johnstons from the Borders, comprise three of the five most common names in Fermanagh.

Other Elliotts were to be found in county Donegal, to the north of Fermanagh.  The first records of them there date back to the 1630's.  The main concentration was around Castlefin in Donaghmore parish.  Some Elliotts are still farming the same lands there today.  The Elliotts of Donegal Town used to have a rather fierce anti-Catholic reputation.

Many of these Scots Irish Elliotts emigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, America and Canada being the principal destinations.

England.  The Elliott name, generally as Elliot, was also present south of the border, in Northumberland and in Durham as the coal industry started to attract miners there.

NE England  Sir George Elliot from Gateshead worked his way up in the business in the 19th century and became a rich and influential mine owner. 

The Elliotts of Birtley grew up in a Durham mining town.  The first of their numbers was a foundling.  Jack Elliott, a coal miner himself, launched the family into folk singing and the Birtley Folksong and Ballad Club was begun by him in 1962 (it still runs today).   According to a descendant Laura Elliott:

"My great grandfather was indeed a foundling.  He was left on the doorstep of a family named Taylor in Gateshead with a tag around his neck which read: 'My name is Frank Elliott.  Please look after me.'"

The film Billy Elliot was based in a Durham coal town.  Its fictional young hero sought a way out of mining through ballet dancing.

SW England  Elliott has also been a name of the southwest of England.  The early spelling here was Elyot.  A William Elyot appeared in the Assize rolls for Somerset in 1327 and an Edmund Elyot was recorded there in 1417. 

The Elyots were prominent in the town of Bristol around 1500, Hugh as merchant, John as bailiff, and Robert as abbot of St. Augustine.  Hugh sponsored overseas exploration and claimed to have discovered Newfoundland before Cabot (although this is unlikely).  Another Elyot family bought St. Germans in Cornwall later in the 1500's.  From this family came Sir John Eliot, an early defender of Parliament against the King.  

"Sir John was one of the most prominent members of Parliament 'who early and resolutely opposed the encroachments of the King and defended the Protestant religion against the Papacy.'  He died a martyr to the liberties of England."
Sir John was imprisoned in the Tower of London and died there in 1632.  Through his wayward second son Richard, a line of these Elliotts served abroad with the British army.  However, the main line stayed in Cornwall and later became very distinguished.  Edward Eliot was raised to the peerage in 1784 and his son became the Earl of St. Germans.

Gradually the Elliott spelling displaced Eliot in this region.  Elliotts of that spelling were farmers and millers in Morbury in north Devon in the late 1600's.  By the time of the 1891 census the Eliot spelling had practically disappeared.

SE England  Elliotts were also present in SE England.  The starting point here appears to have been Ely in Cambridgeshire where the name was to be found around the year 1200. 

William Elyot was parson of Worlingham church in Suffolk from 1382 to 1390; and Sir Thomas Elyot, a scholar and diplomat in the court of Henry VIII, probably came from that county.  Edward Elliott held Newland Hall and a number of other estates in Essex during Elizabethan times (from his line came early immigrants to America, including the Rev. John Elliott, known as "the apostle to the Indians"). 

The name had reached Sussex by the 14th century.  John Elliot was born in the parish of Rotherfield around 1558. One family history began with a George Elliott, born in Hartfield in 1765.

America.  Early Elliotts in America were to be found in Newfoundland and Virginia, as well as the larger traffic into New England.

New England  The Andrew Eliot who left East Coker near Yeovil in Somerset for America sometime in the 1660's was the forebear of a formidable Boston Brahmin family who became pillars of the American educational establishment:
  • Charles W. Eliot transformed Harvard from a college into a research institution. 
  • and William G. Eliot founded one of America's major universities, Washington University in St. Louis. 
The Eliot ranks included several college presidents, a Nobel prize winner, and presidents of various American professional associations.  The poet T.S. Eliot moved to England and his ashes were interred in East Coker. He wanted to be laid to rest in the original birthplace of his first American ancestor. 

Henry Eliot Scott has chronicled the St. Louis side of this family's genealogy in his 1988 book The Family of William Greenleaf Eliot and Abby Adams Eliot.

Quaker Elliotts  Quakers arrived in the 1690's, Thomas Elliott among those who came to the Quaker sanctuary in North Carolina at that time.  He settled in Perquimans county.  His descendants, still Quakers, moved onto Wayne county, Indiana in 1815 and then to Kansas.  After the Civil War William Elliott and his wife raised fifteen children at their farm in Rice county.

Scots-Irish Elliotts  Many Scots-Irish Elliotts embarked for America in the 18th century, mainly to Pennsylvania.  They included:
  • James Elliott who came in the 1760's and settled in Orange county, North Carolina
  • George Elliott and his wife Charity who came to York county, Pennsylvania in the 1770's
  • John Elliott who arrived sometime in the 1780's, married in Pennsylvania, and he and his wife Mary later moved to Remington, Ohio.  
  • and Charles and Jane Elliott who came to Washington county, Pennsylvania around 1792
Many of these Elliotts distinguished themselves in the Revolutionary War.

Fannie Blaine Elliott was one intrepid lady who made the trip in 1816.  Her husband John had died seven years prior, leaving her with the responsibility of a large family.  At the age of fifty two she left her home in Donegal and embarked with eight of her thirteen children for Baltimore.  They ended up settling in Coshocton county, Ohio where her remaining sons and their families joined her three years later.  Earl Elliott's 2003 book Fannie Blaine Elliott - Elliott Family History recounts this family story.

Jimmy Elliott was an Irish-American bare-knuckle boxer who briefly, from 1865 to 1868, staked the claim of being heavyweight champion of the world.  The rest of his life was downhill.  Two years later he was arrested and imprisoned for highway robbery.  He was released in 1879 but was shot and killed by a gambler in a Chicago saloon in 1883.

There were Elliott Loyalists from America who crossed the border into Canada, most prominently Matthrew Elliott.  He was an Irish-born trader who had worked for the British as an Indian agent in the War of 1812 and subsequently settled towards the end of his life in Ontario.

Later Elliott immigration to Canada also had a Scots-Irish flavor.  The arrivals included:
  • Jeremiah and Ann Elliott from Donegal to Drummond county, Quebec in 1835
  • John Elliott and his family from Donegal to Perth county, Ontario in the late 1830's
  • and Robert and Mary Elliott from Fermanagh to Goderich, Ontario in the early 1840's.
Australia.  Richard Elliott from Westmeath in Ireland was an early convict in Australia, having been transported there in 1793.  He was initially viewed with suspicion and described as a "notorious character."  His circumstances later improved and he settled with his family in Kissing Point, NSW.  However, he met an untimely end there.

Among the later Elliott settlers were:
  • Sizar Elliott from New Brunswick in Canada (where his parents had emigrated twenty years prior).  He arrived in 1835 to join his uncle in Tasmania.  He moved onto Melbourne during the gold rush days and prospered as a merchant there.
  • Matthew Elliott on the Eden from Cumberland in 1838.  He was one of the early settlers of South Australia.
  • Robert Elliott on the Upon Castle with his family from Newcastle in 1838.  They arrived in Sydney and later moved to Gundagai, NSW.
  • Thomas and Mary Elliott from Fermanagh in the 1850's.  They settled with their children in Merino, Victoria.
  • and Joseph Elliott from Devon who came to Melbourne in 1857.  
John Roderick Elliott, originally from Scotland, left Australia in the late 1800's for Fiji where he worked as a coppersmith on the sugar mill at Ba.  He married and settled down there and Elliotts are still living there.

Select Elliott Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Elliott Names

Sir John Eliot was an early defender of the powers of Parliament against the King in the years before the Civil War.
Sir George Elliot was a successful Victorian miner owner from Durham who became adviser to Prime Minister Disraeli.
George Eliot was the pen-name of the Victorian novelist Mary Ann Evans.
T.S. Eliot came to England from America and made his reputation as a modern poet with The Waste Land in 1922.
Herb Elliott was the Australian athlete who won the Olympic 1,500 meter gold medal in 1960.

Select Elliotts Today
  • 54,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 55,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 47,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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