Select Randall Surname Genealogy

Randall appears to have been an English corruption or shortening of the given name Randolph which has Norse-Viking origins.  The Norse name Rondulfr, meaning “shield” and “wolf,” became Randwulf and Randulf and later Randolph in England.  The old English Lord Randal ballad was said to have referred to the 13th century Randolph, Earl of Chester.

Randall was probably originally a first name, Randel or Randle, and later a surname.  Early surname forms were Randal and Randle.  The main variants to Randall today are Randell and Randle

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EnglandRandle was an early surname spelling - found in Gloucestershire (Cowley and Minchinhampton), but later generally restricted to Warwickshire in the West Midlands.  One Randle family in Bedworth and later in Foleshill dates back to the mid-1500’s.  Richard Randle was the town clerk at nearby Coventry from 1614 to 1636.  Notably Bedworth and Foleshill were the places with the highest number of Randles in the 1881 census.

However, Randall has been mainly a name of southern England. 

SW England.  A notable early family was the Randall family of Bath in Somerset.   This line probably started with John Randall who was born in Bath is 1545 and married Johanna Webb.  Their son Matthew was the Mayor of Bath in 1627.  From his son the Rev. Matthew Randall came John Randall who worked as a draper in London and departed for New England in 1667. 

Randalls dated from the early 1500's at Allington near Bridport in Dorset.  Phillip Randall, born there in 1574, emigrated to New England in 1630.  Meanwhile Lawrence Randall from along the Dorset coast at Lulworth was establishing at that time what was to become the Red Lion inn.  William Randall was the comic innkeeper there in John O'Keefe's play The London Hermit in the 1790's.  The Red Lion stayed with the Randall family until 1870.

There were also Randalls in Wiltshire, particularly in and around the town of Warminster.  John Randall was a clothier at Sutton Veny in the early 1700's.  His pattern and account book have survived.  The Rev. Richard Randall, the vicar at Chicklade in the 1730's, held the Dominick farm there and it remained with his family until the 1850's.   The town of Trowbridge in western Wiltshire had a large concentration of Randalls in the 1881 census.

The Randell spelling surfaced in Devon, dating back to the late 16th century.  Francis Randell from Clovelly moved to Carmarthenshire in Wales around the year 1800 and started a shipping business between Wales and SW England that spanned four generations of the family and lasted over a hundred years.  William Randell from Sidbury who emigrated to South Australia in 1837 was also a seaman.  He was a pioneer of steamboats on the Murray river.

SE EnglandRandall Manor, an imposing manor house near Gravesend in Kent, has long disappeared.  But the Randall surname can still be found in the Kentish Medway towns.  

The Randall name also appeared at an early time, in the 1560's, in the parish registers of Hedgerley and Amersham in south Buckinghamshire.  These Randalls were Baptists.  John Randall, the Puritan clergyman, was born in Great Missenden in 1570; while Giles Randall was recorded as an innkeeper there in 1587.

By the late 19th century the Randall name had spread throughout London and SE England and was more numerous than in SW England.

America.  Randalls came to New England and Maryland.

New England.   Three early Randalls here were:
  • Philip Randall from Dorset who came in 1633 and settled three years later in Windsor, Connecticut.  He died there in 1662 but left no male line. 
  • William Randall from London who arrived as a prisoner on the Conception in 1635.  Five years later he was recorded as a cordwainer in Scituate, Massachusetts.  Frank Randall's 1943 booklet Randall and Allied Families covered his line.  
  • and Robert Randall from Buckinghamshire who came to Weymouth, Massachusetts in the late 1630’s.  His line was traced in William Chaffin’s 1909 book Biographical History of Robert Randall and His Descendants.
Jacob Randall of uncertain parentage was born in Boston in 1667 and moved to New Hampshire in 1700.  His descendants were all sea captains until Benjamin, born in 1749, who made a name for himself as the organizer of the Freewill Baptists in New England.

John Randall of the Bath Randalls had come to Rhode Island in 1667 and purchased land in Stonington, Connecticut in 1680.  Here he was probably helped by the fact that his wife Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir William Molton, the founder of New London, Connecticut.   

Their son John built the farmhouse at Stonington in 1720.  It stayed with the family until the late 1800's (it is now an inn and a restaurant).  The Randall family became well-known as abolitionists in the early/mid 1800's:

"Hannah Randall, who had been born in the house in 1816, often told stories of the slaves' hiding place there.  She would roll back a hooked rug to reveal a trap door which led into a deep dark hole.  Runaways hid there by day before heading northward to Canada and freedom."

In the 1750's Sylvester Randall settled in Colchester, Connecticut and Stephen Randall moved to Long Island where he fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War.  His brother John was one of the first settlers of Durham, Maine.  

Maryland.  Christopher Randall had settled in Anne Arundel county around the year 1679.  His descendants moved to Baltimore where an area known as Randallstown has preserved their name.
This line is thought to have included James Ryder Randall, author of the famous Confederate hymn Maryland, My Maryland.

John Randall, born in 1750, had come from a planter family in the Northern Neck of Virginia.   As a young man he established himself as an architect in Annapolis and
was three times its mayor in the early 1800’s.  After his death in 1826, his son Alexander inherited his home near the Maryland statehouse and his descendants owned that house until the 1950’s.

Wisconsin.  Randall was a name in the early history of Wisconsin.  There were in fact two early Randalls there:
  • Alexander W. Randall, the son of Phineas Randall of upstate New York, arrived there in 1840.  He became Governor of Wisconsin in 1858 and was later the US Postmaster General.  His brother Edwin moved from there to Florida where he was appointed the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court in 1869.
  • while Benjamin Randall came in 1845 from Rhode Island and later served in the Wisconsin State Assembly; as did his son Barber. 
Canada.  Joseph Randall from Stonington was a Loyalist who fled with his family to Canada after the Revolutionary War.  Many of them eventually returned.  But Amos Randall did make a new home for himself in Argyle, Nova Scotia.

Two later Randall arrivals from England were poor families who had assistance - William and Ann Randall from Wiltshire who came with their family to Adelaide township in Ontario in 1832; and another William Randall, this time from Suffolk, who arrived in Quebec in 1838, married his wife Sarah there, and later settled in Elmira, Ontario.  Sarah Randall lived until 1906.

.  John Randall was tried and convicted of the theft of a watch in Manchester and transported to Australia on the Alexander in 1787, a first-fleeter.  He had been a black slave in Connecticut (probably of the Randalls of Stonington) who had enlisted in the British army during the Revolutionary War and came to England afterwards.

He became a town constable in Sydney, moved to Tasmania in 1814, but was murdered by a convict there in 1817.

Select Randall Miscellany

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Benjamin Randall was the main organizer of the Freewill Baptists in New England in the late 1700’s.
Jack Randall
, known as the Nonpareil, was the leading bare-knuckle boxer in England in the 1820’s.
James Ryder Randall
 is best remembered for his poem Maryland, My Maryland which became the war hymn of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Sir John Randall
was an English physicist who pioneered the development of cavity magnetron, an essential component of radar and later of microwave ovens.
Tony Randall, born Arthur Rosenberg, was an American actor best known for his role as Felix Unger in the TV adaptation of The Odd Couple.
Ruth Rendell
has been an English author of thrillers and psychological murder mysteries with her Chief Inspector Wexford creation.

Select Randalls Today
  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)
  • 25,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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