Lawrence derives from the male name Laurentius, which itself originates from Laurentium, the "city of laurels," in Italy. The idea of the laurel as a symbol of victory was probably one factor behind the popularity of the name.
In addition Lawrence was the name borne by a saint martyred at Rome in the 3rd century
The main spellings in English have been Lawrence and Laurence, together with the abbreviated forms of Laurie and Lowrie. Elsewhere Laurent is a common name in French, Lorenzo in Italian and Spanish, Lourenco in Portuguese, and Laurenz in German.
Lawrence Resources on
- Lawrence One Name Study. Lawrence genealogy.
- Lawrences of Ashton Hall. Lawrences from Lancashire.
- Lawrences of Ballymore and Lisreaghan Lawrences in Ireland.
- The Lawrences of New York. Famous families of New York.
- Lawrence Family Lorentz/Lawrence from Germany to America.
England. The founder of the first Lawrence line in England was said to have been Robert Laurens. The story about him runs as follows:
Lancashire. The Lawrence family established themselves at Ashton Hall near Lancaster. Edmund Lawrence married Agnes de Wessington in 1390 and thus began the entwining of the Lawrence and Washington families. Lawrence Washington bought Sulgrave manor in Oxfordshire in the 17th century, the home from which George Washington's great-grandfather departed for Virginia in 1656. Meanwhile the Lawrence family - now based in St. Albans in Hertfordshire - were Royalists during the English Civil War. They later became landowners in New York.
Elsehwere. Early Lawrence lines from the 16th century show a wide distribution around the country, from Lancashire to Gloucestershire and Dorset in the southwest and from Durham and Yorkshire down the east coast as far as Suffolk and London.
The Lawrences of Suffolk have been traced back to Thomas Lawrence of
Rumburgh who died in 1471. John Lawrence emigrated to
America in 1630. Another Lawrence line extended to
Middlesex in the 16th century. Their numbers included Sir Thomas
Lawrence, goldsmith and merchant adventurer in the City of
London. He was the grandfather of the Robert Lawrence who
to Virginia in 1638.
Henry Lawrence, a Huntingdonshire landowner, was a Puritan who came
to prominence with Cromwell. He served as President of the
Council of State during the Protectorate. His younger son John
emigrated first to Barbados and then in 1676 to Jamaica where he
wealthy dynasty of plantation owners.
William Lawrence had been born in Burford, Oxfordshire in 1753 but
moved to Cirencester in Gloucestershire where he became the town's
chief surgeon and physician. His son William became an even more
famous surgeon, recognized as one of the best in the land and the
recipient of a baronetcy from Queen Victoria. His son and
grandson were both noted horticulturists.
Ireland. The St Lawrence family in Ireland descended from Christopher St Lawrence who was elevated to the peerage as Baron Howth around 1425. This Anglo-Irish family held Howth castle near Dublin. The third and fourth barons both served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
From the Lawrences of Lancashire, it was said,
came John Lawrence and his brother Walter in 1584 as Irish
serving Queen Elizabeth. John settled at
Ballymore in Clonfert parish in east Galway where he built himself a
castle. Being Catholic and Royalist, they
during the Cromwellian years.
descendants moved to Lisreaghan
the early 1700’s and made their home at Belview. The
Prince of Wales, later George IV, visited
Belview in the 1780’s.
“According to family tradition, the visit
allowed the Prince to tide himself over some domestic difficulties he
having with his father. His stay was
said to have coincided with the arrival from Italy of a bust of the
The Lawrence estate fell into decay in the late 19th century and by 1908 there were no longer any Lawrences left living at Lisreaghan.
America. Initially, the Lawrence name was to be found in New England and New York.
New England. Three Lawrences came to New England in the 1630's and were the forebears of illustrious Lawrence families in America:
- John Lawrence arrived on the Arbella in 1630 and settled in Groton, Massachusetts where he died in 1663. His descendants were to be found there for a number of generations. In the early 1800's four brothers - William, Amos, Abbot, and Samuel - made names for themselves in Boston as merchants, manufacturers and philanthropists. Amos's son, Amos Adams Lawrence, was a key figure in the abolitionist movement in America in the years leading up to the Civil War.
- William Lawrence came on the Planter
in 1635 and ten years later received a grant
from the Dutch for land in Flushing in present-day Brooklyn. He
resided at what became known as Lawrence Neck and died there in
1680. Joseph, his second son, had his mansion on Long Island
Sound and entertained lavishly, his home being frequently crowded with
society people from New York and Brooklyn.
- and Thomas Lawrence came some years later. He obtained possession of a tract of land in Newtown, Long Island in 1655 and afterwards purchased the whole of Hell-Gate Neck, from Hell-Gate Cove to Bowery Bay. He died in Newtown in 1703. Jonathan Lawrence, his great grandson, made two fortunes - one before the Revolutionary War and one after.
In Elmira in upstate New York in 1842 was born William Van Duzer Lawrence. He became a millionaire real-estate and pharmaceutical mogul who is best known for having founded Sarah Lawrence College in 1926.
Another Lawrence family was prominent in the early history of New Jersey. John Lawrence created the "Lawrence Line" when he surveyed the boundary between East and West Jersey in 1743. Lawrence’s great grandson, Captain James Lawrence, achieved lasting fame in the War of 1812.
Ironically, his Loyalist father had fled to Canada during the Revolutionary War, leaving a half-sister to raise him.
German Lawrences. Johann Philipp Lorentz departed the Rhineland Palatine for America in 1748, settling first in the Shenandoah valley and then moving to Beaver county, Pennsylvania. The spelling by this time had changed to Lawrence. Isaac Lawrence headed west to Dearborn county, Indiana in 1818 with several of his brothers and they founded the small hamlet of Lawrenceville there.
Australia. A line of Lawrences went from the Lawrences of Newtown, New York to Effingham Lawrence, a merchant in Trinity House, London after America was lost, to William Effingham Lawrence, who travelled independently to Australia on his own boat in 1822. He received large land grants in Tasmania and became one of the largest landowners in the colony.
Select Lawrence Miscellany
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Lawrence Names
Sir Thomas Lawrence was a leading English portrait painter of the early 1800's.
Amos Lawrence of Boston was a key figure in the abolition movement in America in the years leading up to the Civil War.
D.H Lawrence was an acclaimed but controversial English writer, author of such novels as Women in Love and Lady Chettersley's Lover.
T. E Lawrence, the "Lawrence of Arabia," fought for Arab independence during the First World War and wrote his account in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
David Lawrence founded in 1933 the weekly newspaper that became US News & World Report.
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