Select West Surname Genealogy

The four points of the compass transposed in England into surnames.  Of these, West has been the most popular by far. 

Wests, curiously, were mainly to be found in the east of the country.  The first West surname recorded was in fact Maurice de West in the pipe rolls of Essex in 1152.  It was not where you were but where you had come from that determined your name here.

Select West Resources on The Internet

Select West Ancestry

England.  One West family in fact originated in Devon in the west country, from Thomas West of Hampton Cantilupe in the 13th century.  These Wests gained their spurs abroad, at Crecy and at Agincourt where Thomas West died in the battle. 

"A West, a la Warr and a Pelham took King John of France prisoner at Poitiers in 1356.  The West was knighted on the field of battle by the Black Prince and after receiving the honor said to the Prince, "Monseigneur, c'est Ie plus beau jour de ma vie."  The West and la Warr families were shortly afterwards united in marriage and "jour de ma vie" was adopted as the family motto."

Their home later, as Barons West and de la Warr, was Oakhanger in Hampshire.  One line made a name for themselves in Virginia across the Atlantic.  The main line eventually became the Sackville-Wests and numbered Vita Sackville-West of the Bloomsbury set.

Another notable West family began traces back to Edmund West, clergyman at St. Pauls in London in the 1550's.  The Rev. Richard West married into the well-connected Temple family and was appointed Archdeacon of Berkshire in the early 1700's.  His children were: Vice Admiral Temple West (from whom came a judge in Bombay and the private secretary to Prime Minster Gladstone); Mary West who married Admiral Hood; and the writer and minor poet Gilbert West.

One West family started with Thomas West, born in the village of Sibsey in Lincolnshire around 1470.  These Wests were yeomen farmers in the fens.  Nicholas West, the Tudor bishop and diplomat, was born in Putney.  Another family line included the scrivener John West, born in Twickenham near London in 1641.

America.  The Wests/de la Warrs came to America with Thomas West, Lord Delaware, who arrived in Virginia in 1610 but died eight years later.  Later came Colonel John West who held land at West Point along the York river and was also, like Thomas and another brother Francis, governor of colonial Virginia.

Matthew West was a Baptist tailor who came to New England in 1635 and settled with his brothers in Rhode Island.  Another West, Francis West, was also in Rhode Island by this time.  He had married Susannah Soule, daughter of one of the Mayflower passengers.  These Wests became large landowners in North Kingsdown, Rhode Island.  William West was a militia general during the Revolutionary War and later served as deputy governor of the state.    

Other early Wests in America were:
  • Anthony West of Accomac county, Virginia - thought to be related to the Wests/de la Warrs - who arrived in the colony as early as 1622.   His descendants were among the early landed gentry on the Eastern Shore.
  • and Francis West who came to Duxbury, Massachusetts in the 1630's and whose son Thomas West, a doctor, had moved to Martha's Vineyard by the 1670's.  This line was covered in Carlton West's 1987 book Descendants of Francis West of Duxbury.
Lette Brock Stone's 1928 book The West Family Register traced the early Wests in America.  Some later West arrivals included some Wests from Germany.

John West from Scotland had come via Canada to California in 1849 in search of gold.  Finding none, he moved to Oregon where he started a sawmill.  The community of Westport grew up around his sawmill.  He later started a fish cannery there and invented an automatic can-filling machine.  His name lives on in the British company John West Foods.

South Africa
.  Thomas West from Bristol, having served the Royal Navy, was an early arrival in South Africa, pre-dating even the 1820 Settlers.  He was resident in Cape Town by 1796 and married Dorothea van der Schyff there a year later.  Many of their children settled in Grahamstown on the Eastern Cape. 

.  John West came out to Tasmania with the Colonial Missionary Society in 1838.  He became pastor of a Congregational chapel there and, after some publishing experiences, became editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Thomas West from Sussex came in a different capacity, as a convict sentenced to life for burglary in 1801.  Twelve years later he received a conditional pardon in Sydney and, starting with the gift of a cow, developed a herd of cattle and extensive grazing lands.  On his death in 1848 his son Obed West expanded the family’s sizeable land holdings in NSW.

Select West Miscellany

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

Select West Names

Nicholas West
, sometime Bishop of Ely and chaplain to Catherine of Aragon, served as an English diplomatic envoy in the early 16th century.
Thomas West, Baron de la Warr, was captain general in Virginia in 1610.  The state of Delaware was named after him.
Captain John West was a Scottish emigrant to Oregon on the West Coast who started the canning and exports of salmon.  His name has continued in the John West Foods brand.
Vita Sackville-West was an English author and poet, part of the Bloomsbury set.
Rebecca West, born Cicely Fairfield, was an English writer and journalist.
Mae West was an American actress and sex symbol of the 1920's and 30's.

Select Wests Today
  • 57,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lincolnshire)
  • 71,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 23,000 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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