Select Richards Surname Genealogy

Richard comprises the elements ric meaning "powerful" and hard "ruler."  This personal name was introduced to England by the Normans.  It gained popularity in the 13th century because of the Crusader exploits of King Richard the Lion Heart. 

Richards as a surname meaning "son of Richard" took root in the west country and in Wales; while the surname Richardson is generally to be found in the north of England and in Scotland.

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Select Richards Ancestry

England.  The Richard name arrived with the Normans and has been mainly associated with the west country. Richard FitzScrob, a Norman knight, built Richard's castle on the borders between Herefordshire and Shropshire in 1050.  An early surname record was that of Thomas Richardes in Worcester in 1327.  The Richards surname subsequently appeared in border counties such as Shropshire and Staffordshire and in the southwest in Devon and Cornwall. 

Cornwall  Richards is very much a Cornish name.  Alexander Richards, born in Wendron in 1586, was the forebear of one Cornish Richards family based in St. Ives.  Another Richards family (which subsequently emigrated to New Zealand) traced itself back to Zennor and St. Ives in the mid 1700's. 

Many Richards were engaged in tin and copper mining.  William Richards was a mine captain in Camborne in the early 1800's; and Isaac Richards mine agent for Devon Great Consols (briefly the richest copper mine in Europe) in the mid 1800's.

Elsewhere  The Richards name was also to be found in Elizabethan times along the south coast in Kent and Hampshire.

Wales.  Richards only seemed to emerge as a surname in Wales in the 1700's.  Sometimes the early name was Richard and it only changed to Richards in later generations.  David Richard, for instance, was born in the Llandovery area of Carmarthenshire around 1750.  A descendant, Timothy Richards, was a Baptist missionary to China in the late 19th century.

The best known Richards was probably Sir Richard Richards of the Coed family from Dolgellau in present day Gwynedd.  He was a well-known judge who eventually became Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer.  In 1785 he secured through a propitious marriage Caerynwch Mansion which has remained with his family until the present day.  The Dolgellau area also produced Richards Quakers and Richards Baptist ministers.

Other notable Richards of the late 18th century were:
  • Edward Richard, the son of an inn-keeper from Ystradmeurig in Cardiganshire.  He was a scholar and poet and he started a school in Ystradmeurig which became famous in Wales.
  • the Rev. Thomas Richards of Darowen in Montgomeryshire.   He and his large family were all active in Welsh church and cultural affairs, in particular his eldest daughter Mary who compiled over twenty volumes of transcripts and memoranda.
  • and Walter Richards of the Richards farming family of Llanharan in Glamorgan, a well-known herbalist of his day.  His recipes have survived.
Richards has been very much a name of south Wales and this became even more so during the 19th century as industry developed there.  The name distribution in the 1891 census showed that half of all Richards in Wales were to be found in the county of Glamorgan.

Ireland.  Colonel Solomon Richards came to Ireland in the 1650's under Cromwell and was appointed governor of Wexford City in 1658.  He later was granted the Solsborough estate in Wexford and his family settled there:
  • a descendant was the Dublin doctor Solomon Richards, who had the reputation of being the fattest surgeon in Britain. 
  • later came the naval Edwin Richards and his three sons - Edwin (killed in the Crimean War), Frederick (who became Admiral of the Fleet and after whom Richards Bay in South Africa is named), and Urban (who served in the British Army and later emigrated to New Zealand).
Another Richards line in Wexford produced Elizabeth Richards, an Irish sympathizer who recorded the events of the 1798 rebellion in her diary. 

America.  Among the early Richards in New England were:
  • Thomas Richards from Somerset who came to Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630.  His son Benjamin was a merchant in Boston.
  • Edward Richards, an indentured servant from Plymouth, who crossed the Atlantic in 1633.  He trained as a carpenter in Lynn, Massachusetts.  His descendants are numerous.  One branch headed west in the 1840's to Utah and later to Wyoming.
  • and Edward and Nathaniel Richards, brothers from Southampton, who settled in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1638.
Pennsylvania  The Welsh Richards came later and entered mainly via Pennsylvania.  Some of these early Richards were Quakers, seeking relief from persecution at home:
  • Daniel Richards arrived from Dolgellau in Merionethshire in 1686 and settled in Chester county (as did Maud Richard from Carmarthen some seven years later).
  • Owen Richards from Merionethshire came around 1715 and settled in Berks county (his descendants were traced in Lewis Richards' 1882 book A Sketch of Some of the Descendants of Owen Richards).
  • while Matthias and John Richards, Pennsylvanian Congressmen after the Revolutionary War, were the sons of German immigrant Matthias Reichard.
Elsewhere  Two Richards brothers, David and Joseph, were responsible for a large influx of Welsh settlers to America in the years following the Civil War.  They began the Knoxville Iron Company in Knoxville, Tennessee and invited other Welsh immigrants to work for them in the coal mines and iron works there.

Canada.  The French Richard and Richer could become Richards in Canada.  The Richard name appeared in Acadia (Nova Scotia) with Michel Richard as early as 1650.  When the British ejected the Acadians in 1752, Richard descendants made their way to Louisiana and they formed part of the new Cajun community there. Some Richards remained in Canada, in and around Montreal and in New Brunswick.

Australia and New Zealand.  Thomas Richards, born in Dolgellau in Wales, was a ship's surgeon when he came out to Tasmania in the early 1830's and stayed.  He turned his hand there to writing and journalism and has been called "the father of the Tasmanian press."

A number of Richards came this way from Cornwall later in the 19th century, including:
  • Simon Richards, who arrived in the 1850's, married, and settled in Singleton, NSW. 
  • John Richards, who came to Victoria during the gold rush of  the 1850's.  He and his family later moved to Queensland.  Two sons, Tom and Bill, represented Australia in rugby football in the early 1900's. 
  • Richard Richards, who brought his mining skills to the Moonta mines in South Australia in the 1860's.  His son Robert became a mine union official and later a Labor politician.
  • and John Richards and his family, who came to Auckland, New Zealand in 1874.
The Rev. William Richards arrived in South Australia from Portsmouth in 1865 and helped establish the Methodist church there.

Joseph and Henry Richards came from a long line of Richards farmers in Shropshire.  Apparently their father was angry with them and sent them packing to New Zealand in 1850.  Both bought land and farmed near Christchurch, South Island.  Joseph was described in middle age as "a typical John Bull, one who could carry an enormous amount of liquor and could still still sit on his horse as it carried him home."  He weighed about twenty stone.

Select Richards Miscellany

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

Select Richards Names

Henry Brinley Richards was a 19th century pianist and composer from Carmarthen in Wales.  His best remembered piece is God Bless the Prince of Wales.
Sir Gordon Richards is thought to be Britain's finest jockey.  He finally won the Derby on Pinza in 1953.
Keith Richards is founding member and lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones.
Viv Richards is considered one of the greatest cricketers to have come out of the Caribbean.

Select Richards Today
  • 83,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 50,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

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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