10 Most Common Last Names in New England

Have you ever wondered what the most common last names in your state are? You might be surprised to find that the answer often has a lot to do with the history of the state.

The states of New England have an incredibly rich history, seeing as they were among the first states to exist in the United States. In fact, they were English colonies far before they even became states. Colonized by Britain in the early 17th century, the colonies’ inhabitants mostly consisted of Puritans and Pilgrims that immigrated to escape religious persecution. 

There are 6 recognized states that comprise New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Vermont and Maine were not technically included in the original 13 colonies, however their territories were.

Most Common New England Surnames

Many of the most common last names of New England date all the way back to this colonial time. Indeed, even as far as medieval England. Let’s explore the 10 most common surnames in New England and where they come from. 

1. Sullivan

The first name on the list comes directly from the Emerald Isle. This Irish surname evolved from the O’Sullivan clan and before that, from the Irish Gaelic O’Suileabhain. Sullivan is actually the 3rd most common name in Massachusetts specifically, thanks to the huge influx of Irish immigrants starting in the early 1800s. They formed what is currently the largest ethnic group in Boston, and contributed to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day all over the country. 

2. White

Although the Normans from Normandy (today part of France) did not yet have crepes suzette and croissants to contribute when they invaded England in the 11th century, they did bring along the name Le Blanc, which then translated into the current term. 

3. Wilson 

Wilson is a name brought by Vikings to medieval Scotland. Several Wilsons arrived to the American colonies, including an Andrew Wilson, who landed in Boston in 1651. Last names ending with the suffix “son” usually always meant that the person was the son of (the prefixed name). Wilson therefore means “son of William,” or “son of Wil.”

4. Miller

Miller was one of many surnames bestowed upon the person due to the profession they had, as was the custom in the time of the Anglo-Saxons. A miller was someone who worked in a mill. These millworkers spread through Scotland and England and then brought their trade skills and nomenclature to the New World. 

5. Davis

A Welsh patronymic name meaning “the son of David,” the surname increased in popularity in England. Then, many bearers of the name made the jump across the pond to colonial America, where it continued to spread. 

6. Jones

As the 5th most common last name in New England, it seems that the Joneses are rather keeping up with themselves. In fact, the name Jones sailed in on one of the world’s most influential tidal waves: Christianity. It originates from the name John, of bible eminence. 

7. Williams

Yet another medieval name, and yet another name meaning “the son of William.” There surely were a lot of Williams who had a lot of sons, and continue to do so, in fact. 

8. Johnson

You can probably guess by now that Johnson means “son of John.” It hails from England, Ireland, and Scotland, but has many foreign counterparts, like the Swedish “Johansson” and the Italian “Di Giovanni”. There are several records of Johnsons arriving to colonial New England, such as Davy Johnson to Massachusetts in 1630, Edmond Johnson in 1635, and Adam Johnson in 1738. 

9. Brown

The origins of this name aren’t quite as exhilarating as one might hope; from Norman roots, it means “a person who has brown hair or brown eyes”. Names back then were not nearly as imaginative as they’ve become today. Nevertheless, it holds the second-place slot in New England for most common. While Johnson is more prevailing in 33 other states in the rest of the country, Brown takes the silver for New England. 

10. Smith

Smith is not only the most common last name in New England, but also the most common in the entire U.S.A. Originating from England, it means exactly what you might think: someone who works with metal. It is yet another of the many professions attributed to people as a surname, but according to today’s prevalence, it seems like there was either once an extraordinary boom of metalsmith workers, or the Smiths certainly knew how to reproduce. Of course, many people are familiar with the famous John Smith of Pocahontas fame. While the real story wasn’t quite as cheery as the Disney version, Captain John Smith certainly was a notable figure in the American colonies and just one representative of the ever-frequent last name. 

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