Select Mills Surname Genealogy

Mills was locational and described someone who lived near a mill.  In time it also came to mean someone who worked at a mill.  The mill was an important center in every medieval settlement, normally operated by an agent of the local landowner.

The root of the word is the Old English mylen, from the Latin molere meaning “to grind.”  Surname variants of Mills in Scotland are Milne and Mill.

Select Mills Resources on The Internet

Select Mills Ancestry

EnglandThe first recorded spelling of Mills as a surname was Richard de la Melle in the Sussex rolls of 1200.  Over time the surname spread across England.  By the 19th century, it was most common in SE England, in the West Midlands, and in Lancashire.

The Mills in Southampton date from the early 16th century when John Mill was a successful merchant there.  By 1613 the family was well enough established to afford an impressive memorial in Nursling church. 

“Sir Richard Mill and his wife Mary, plump and colourful in painted alabaster, lie propped up on their elbows, surveying their one-time domain.” 

By the 18th century the family had inherited Mottisfont Abbey and later became the Barker-Mill.  A Mills line from Mottisfont started with Thomas Mills, born there in 1799, and continued in Lyndhirst.  William Mills from Warwickshire acquired the ancient Bisterne house in the New Forest in 1792 and it has remained in his family since that time. 

Thomas Mills was born in Lingfield, Surrey around 1540; while Henry Mills was baptized at Coldwaltham near Pulborough in Sussex in 1609. 
George Mills was born in Coventry, Warwickshire also in 1609.  The Rev. John Mills became rector of the village of Barford in Warwickshire in 1745 and his family were later the principal landowners there.  John Mills, born in Oldham in 1584, was an early Lancashire name.  Later Mills of this family were Quakers who settled in America.

Two Mills families did well for themselves in the 18th century.  One Mills family, thought originally to be Huguenot silk weavers, made their money from textiles and property in London and made enough to buy country estates in Hertfordshire and Norfolk.  William Mills was a linen draper in Coventry and also prospered, buying into the banking house of Glyn’s. 

"William Mills, who married the heiress of Sir John Salter, the Lord Mayor of London and an East India proprietor, saved the Glyn’s bank in the panic of 1772 with £10,000, stipulating that he become a partner with his nephew Charles."

Five generations of Mills were partners in Glyn's, England's foremost private banking house, until its takeover by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1939. 

The Mills name appeared in mid-Wales, perhaps initially in villages such as Trefeglwys and Llandnwog in Montgomeryshire in the 16th century.  The Mills family of Llanidloes was a family of composers, printers and writers.  The first of the family was Henry Mills, a pioneer in Welsh congregational singing.  John Mills, born in Montgomeryshire in 1799, was the forebear of a Mills family that settled in Liverpool in the 1830’s (a branch of the family later emigrating to New Zealand).

  The Scottish name is Milne, found initially in Aberdeenshire.  A family by the name of Milne were farmers at the mill of Boyndie for generations.  Milne was often pronounced Mill in Scotland.  James Mill, the Scottish economist, was born in Angus.

.  The Mills name was brought across from either England or Scotland.  It could also come from the Gaelic
an Mhuilinn, meaning “of the mill.”  One English Mills family was based at Knockall in Roscommon from the 1740's and possibly earlier.  John Mills was an Ulster Scot who emigrated to America in 1682 and settled in North Carolina.

.   The
first Mills in America may have been Simon Mills who was said to have come to the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts on the Mary and John in 1630.   He and his family established themselves in Connecticut, first in Windsor and then in Simsbury.  Their family genealogy was undertaken most recently by Ralph Mills in his 1984 book The History of the Simon Mills Family.

Many Mills in America descend from George Mills.  It is believed that he came from Yorkshire and arrived in New England also around 1630.  More certain is the fact that he was one of the co-founders of the town of Jamaica on Long Island in 1656.  His son Samuel lived to be ninety five.  When he died in 1726 he left behind nine children, eighty grandchildren, and fifty four great grandchildren.  Hence the large number of descendants of his line in New England, New York, and, after the Revolutionary War, in Kentucky (Thomas Mills) and in Canada (Loyalists).

From Dutchess county in New York came James Mills who served as the supervisor of North Salem in Westchester county in the early 1800’s.  His son Darius joined the California Gold Rush in 1848.  He made his money in railroads and in banking, not in gold.  For a time he was California’s wealthiest citizen.  Later Mills of this family were prominent in business, politics, and in racehorse ownership and breeding.

.  Matthew Mills from London had arrived in St. Kitts in 1688.  He was shot in a duel and
his nephew Thomas started up a plantation on St. Kitts in 1720.  This plantation stayed in family hands for four generations for about a hundred years.  George Mills of this line, overcome by debts, shot himself to death in 1828.

Canada.  Jesse Mills and his family from Westchester county, New York – descendants of George Mills – were Loyalists who made the journey across the border into Canada in 1784.  They settled in Cumberland county, Nova Scotia.  David Mills, a Liberal politician in Canada in the late 1800’s, came from these Loyalist roots.  Also arriving in Canada, this time near Niagara, was John Mills and his family from New Jersey.

James Mills came to Canada in 1800 from America and was a farmer in the Hamilton area of Ontario.  His son Samuel was a businessman who did well, described at one time as “one of the three wealthiest men in Hamilton.”  Stanley Mills’ 1926 book Genealogical and Historical Records of the Mills and Gage Families tracked the family history.

Australia and New ZealandPeter Mills had a short and eventful life in Tasmania, arriving there in 1806 as a protégé of Captain Bligh but disappearing ten years later.

William Mills was an early arrival in New Zealand, coming to Wellington from Scotland in 1842 and later settling in Dunedin where he was collector of customs.  His son James Mills involved himself in coastal shipping and built up the United Steam Ship Company to be the largest shipping line in the southern hemisphere.  His company was also then New Zealand’s largest private sector employer.

Select Mills Miscellany

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

Select Mills Names

James Mill was a Scottish economist of the early 19th century, one of the founders of classical economic theory.
John Stuart Mill
, the son of James Mill, was an influential philosopher and political economist of the mid-19th century.

Darius Mills
was a prominent American banker and philanthropist.  For a time, he was California’s wealthiest citizen.
Bertram Mills
was a British circus owner who ran the Bertram Mills Circus.
John Mills
was a well-known 20th century English actor whose career spanned seven decades.

Select Mills Today
  • 70,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 54,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 41,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ausatralia)

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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