Select Jewell Surname Genealogy

Jewell is an English surname of French Breton or Celtic Cornish origin.  The root is the Old Breton Iudicael or the Celtic Jud and hael,composed of elements meaning “lord” and “generous” or “bountiful.”  The name was borne by a 7th century saint, a king of Brittany who abdicated and then spent the last part of his life in a monastery.  

As Jule, Jewel, Jewell, or even Jekyll, it was a name found mainly in Devon and Cornwall. 

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Select Jewell Ancestry

EnglandJudhael de Totnes from Brittany, a prominent supporter of William the Conqueror, was granted a large landholding in Devon after the invasion.  He may have been the origin of many of the Jewell names in that county. 

Jewell has been mainly a name of Devon and Cornwall (which together accounted for just under half of the Jewells in the 1881 census).  Early reported Jewells from these counties
  • The name Warinfilius (son of) Juelis, recorded in Devon in 1273.
  • John Jewel, a freelance English captain who fought in Brittany in the 14th century.  His troops were defeated by a Breton army under Bertrand du Guesclin in 1364.
  • another John Jewell, born in Buden (Devon) in 1522, who became a priest.  He was persecuted by the Catholics because of his strong Protestant beliefs. He was mainly known from his writings on ecclesiastical subjects which were later collected and published as a book.
  • and George Jule or Jewell, who was born in Poughill in Cornwall, close by the Devon border, in 1567 and was the first of a Cornish Jewell family that has been traced.  These Jewells moved to the Wendron area of Cornwall in the early 1700's.
A Jewell line from Clovelly in north Devon began with Jonathan Jewell, born there around 1710.  Clovelly church records contain nineteen references to different members of this family over time.  They tended to be either farmers or seamen.  Jonathan Jewell was drowned in the great storm of 1821.  A number of Jewells emigrated to Australia and Canada in the mid-19th century.  But there were still ten Jewell families left in the village by the time of the 1871 census. 

Archie Jewell, from nearby Bude in Cornwall, was a lookout on the Titanic on its fateful voyage in 1912.  He was one of the few to survive.  Later he served aboard and survived the sinking of the Britannic. 

Jewell can be a Jewish name.  A Jewish family fled Poland at the time of Napoleon’s invasion and ended up in Jersey in the Channel Islands.  Some of these Jewells remained there, others came to London.  Joel Jewell, a furniture dealer in Paddington, died in 1892 and was buried in Balls Pond Jewish cemetery.

America.  Thomas Jewell, origin unknown, came on the Planter at the age of 27 to New England in 1635.  He was a miller but died in Braintree at a relatively young age in 1654.  His wife Grissell was to marry a further four times before her death in 1669 and two of her husbands provided financial support for her five children by Thomas.  These Jewells later established themselves at Marlboro in Middlesex county, Massachusetts.  Their lineage was covered in Pliny Jewell’s 1860 book The Jewell Register.

This Pliny Jewell, born in 1797, was the founder in Hartford, Connecticut of the largest maker of industrial leather belting in the world at the time.  His son Marshall Jewell was twice Governor of Connecticut before making his name on the national stage, first as US Minister to Russia and then as US Postmaster General.  He looked the part.  He was
distinguished by his fine "china" skin, grey eyes, and white eyebrows, and was popularly known as the ‘Porcelain Man.’”

Another line from Thomas Jewell via his son Joshua led to Eliphalet Jewell, an earlier settler in Oneida county, NY in 1814, and after whom the Jewell hamlet was named.

The Maryland Jewells started with George Jewell who was born there in 1710.  A later George Jewell migrated to Virginia, Kentucky, and then to Missouri where he started the first Baptist church at Columbia in 1820.  It was his son William – a church minister, educator, physician, and surveyor – who was to leave his mark on the town, serving as its mayor and later as a state legislator.  His legacy is the William Jewell College.  Inside the Jewell cemetery, his tombstone reads: “His work is done, he did it well and faithfully.” 

There were Jewells as well in New Jersey.  Moses Jewell was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the 1760’s.  He moved to Greene county, Pennsylvania and his descendants were to be found in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas.  Donavene Brian Liggett’s 1998 book A Jewell Family History covered this line. Another Jewell line began with Thomas Jewell, orphaned at a young age, who was born in Montgomery county, Virginia in 1765.

Australia.  The collapse of the mining industry in Cornwall in the 19th century caused many Jewells to emigrate to Australia:
  • Thomas Jewell and his family from Crowen, for instance, departed Cornwall for Australia in 1852 and settled in Geelong, Victoria.
  • a few years later Joseph Jewell and his brother Edwin left their home in Clovelly, Devon to seek their fortunes in the Victoria goldfields.  Joseph survived the wreck of the General Grant off the coast of New Zealand in 1866.
  • while John and Elizabeth Jewell left Cornwall for the Victorian goldfields on the Caduceus in 1869.  John became a mine manager in Bendigo and prospered.  
Richard Jewell had emigrated to Western Australia from Devon in 1852 to seek a better climate for his frail wife.  Trained as an architect, he designed many of the public buildings put up in Perth during the latter half of the 19th century.

Select Jewell Miscellany

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

Select Jewell Names

Judhael de Totnes, an early landowner in Devon, was probably the main source of the Jewell name in Devon.
John Jewell
, the Bishop of Salisbury during Elizabethan times, was a prolific writer on ecclesiastical matters.
Marshall Jewell
was a prominent US politician of the late 19th century, serving twice as Governor of Connecticut and later serving as US Postmaster General. 
Archie Jewell
was a lookout (and a survivor) on the Titanic on its fateful voyage in 1912.

Select Jewells Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Devon)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky) 
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Select Surnames

Abercrombie Durant Jellicoe
Mills Simon
Dyson Jewell Munro Singer
Ames Fielding Jordan Nichols Sloan
Anson Fiennes Kane Nolan Snyder
Arden Firestone Kaplan Nugent         
Astor Flynn Katz O'Hara
Bevan Fowler
Keane O'Shea Taft
Bligh Gibson Kendall Pearce Tracy
Boyd Goodyear Kenny  
Pearson Turnbull
Butterfield Gorman Knowles Phelps Ullman
Carnegie Graves Lane Presley Unwin
Costello Guthrie Lehman        
Quant Vanderbilt
Cruise Hanks Lennon
Rockefeller Vick
Cumberbatch Hart Lightfoot Rose Wagner
Dawson Hendricks      
Lincoln Rosenthal Watts
Herrick Lucas Rowland Weaver
Dickens Hurst
Maguire Rubin Webb
Doubleday Ireland McCartney Shakespeare Weir              
Douglas Ives McCormick Shapiro Wilkinson
Duke Jagger Mellon Simmons Wisdom

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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