Select Newman Surname Genealogy

Recorded as Newman in England and Neumann in Germany, this surname derived from the Old English and Germanic neowe, meaning "new," and mann or "man."  It initially developed as a nickname for someone who was a newcomer to the area.  Some have interpreted the name as describing a trusted outsider used by a Norman baron to help him to deal with local disputes in the village.

The German Neumanns who came to America often anglicized their names to Newman.  As did many Jewish immigrants of Yiddish roots.

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England.  Newman appears to have been a west country name. 

Wiltshire  Early sightings were in Wiltshire where the Newman name at Castle Combe dates from 1340.  They were said to have held "a messuage and a half-virgate of land in the manor."  The name disappeared from Castle Combe in the late 15th century but reappeared in the 17th.  One family traces their Newmans back to William Newman, a yeoman farmer in Castle Combe in the early 18th century.

Devon  A Newman family in Devon were Dartmouth merchants, dating back to the early 1400's, first in cloth and then in French wines.  They prospered in the 16th century in the dried cod trade with Newfoundland and Portugal.  The firm of Newman and Holdsworth owned ten ships engaged in this trade at one point.  And these Newmans remained influential in Devon well into the 19th century.

Dorset  John Newman was rector of Fifehead Magdalen in Dorset in 1405.  This line continued via his brother Robert and they held Fifehead Manor through Tudor and Stuart times.  Colonel Richard Newman supported the Royalists strongly during the Civil War.

"At the battle of Warwick in 1651 he held the gates of the city to enable Charles II's retreat, a valiant feat of arms which earned his grandson a baronetcy in posthumous gratitude following the King's restoration."

Somerset  A branch of this family was to be found in North Cadbury, Somerset and then at Hendford in Yeovil.   They were also at Preston Deanery in Northampton.  Another line, through Thomas Newman of Mount Bures in Essex, included in its number Abram Newman, a grocer who became one of the richest men in London in the late 18th century.

SE England  In the southeast, one Newman family history began in Dorking, Surrey early in the 17th century and proceeded to London in the late 18th.  Henry Newman lived in the Oxfordshire village of Finmere in the mid 17th century.  Cardinal Newman's grandfather was a London grocer, originally from Cambridgeshire, and his father a London banker. 

Later Newmans included Neumanns of German origin such as Max Neumann, one of the Bletchley codebreakers during World War Two.  Max had his family name changed to Newman in 1916 because of the anti-German feeling during World War One.

The late 19th century distribution of the name showed two main clusters:
  • one in the west, from Hampshire stretching north and west into Gloucestershire
  • and the other around London, with additional Newmans in Essex and Kent.
Ireland.   Newmans in Ireland have been of English extraction and were to be found in Cork, Dublin, and Meath.  Richard Newman of the Dorset/Somerset Newmans had acquired the Newberry manor estate in Mallow, Cork in 1686 and the family established themselves there as local gentry.  Newmans from Schull parish in Cork, flax farmers, emigrated to Canada in 1832.

America.  Newmans came to America from England, Ireland, and Germany primarily.

The Newman name is prominent in East Providence, Rhode Island (Newman road, Newman cemetery, and Newman Congregational Church) because the Rev. Samuel Newman, the eminent clergyman and Bible scholar, had taken his church there in 1643 to found the new settlement of Rehoboth. 

Another early English settler was Francis Newman, Governor of the New Haven colony in 1658.  In 1775 a young Boston sexton Robert Newman achieved everlasting fame as the man who lit the lanterns to warn the patriots of the British advance.  There is even a Robert Newman Family Association today.

Walter Newman, a carpenter, came from Ireland as an indentured apprentice in 1683.  It was said of him:

"Walter Newman.  His ear mark is a hole in the right ear and a square on half crop off the fore part of the left ear.  His brand mark is a triangle on the side of the buttocks."
He settled in Pennsylvania in what is now called Newmanstown.  Descendants moved onto Virginia and Ohio. Much later, in the 1850's, Samuel Newman arrived from Cork, fought in the Civil War, and lived out his life in Boston.

German Newmans  The first Neumann/Neuman immigrants from Germany were recorded in Berks county, Pennsylvania in the 1750's.  The Newman numbers increased in the 1800's, particularly with the arrival of Jewish Newmans. 

Leopold Newman was a Jewish hero of the Civil War.  His father Charles had fought in the Mexican War and he enlisted in New York on the Unionist side, but died of battle wounds in 1863.  His tombstone read:

"His fought for his country with the army of the Potomac in every battle from Bull Run to that in which he fell leading his regiment in the storming of Morys Heights."

The abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman, born in the Lower East Side of New York in 1905, was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland who had arrived five years earlier.  Other well-known Jewish Newmans are the singer/songwriter  Randy Newman and - which may surprise some - the actor Paul Newman.

Canada.  The first Newmans in Canada were the Newmans of Dartmouth who had set up a trading post for fish in Newfoundland in 1700.  The business still prospers there.  Later came Newmans from Ireland and Germany.  There are even Newmans (originally Nyman) from Finland in Canada.  Nestor Nyman arrived in the 1890's and settled with his family in Saanich, British Columbia.

Australia and New Zealand.  Charles Newman from Dorset, who had served out in India, brought his family to Tasmania and Victoria in the late 1830's.  James Newman from Sussex arrived in Victoria with his family on the Medway in 1854 (some of these Newmans later crossed over to Tasmania to work as miners).  Another Newman who had served in India, Captain Alfred Newman, came out to New Zealand in 1853 and took up a farm at Arlington, south of Napier.  Most of these Newmans now live in the Hawkes Bay area.

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

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Colonel Richard Newman was one of the staunchest supporters of Charles I during the Civil War.
The Rev. Samuel Newman was a colonial Massachusetts clergyman and author of the highly influential Concordance of the Bible.
Cardinal John Newman was a leader of the 19th century Anglican Oxford Movement who then crossed over to Catholicism.  He was recently beatified by Pope Benedict.
Paul Newman was a highly acclaimed and popular American actor.
Randy Newman is a noted American singer/songwriter.

Select Newmans Today
  • 45,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 43,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 31,000 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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