Walter and Walters are surnames of German origin, from the Old German name Waldhar (from wasl meaning “rule” and hari “an army”). The Walter surname has been common throughout Germany. Walter was also the early surname in England and Wales. The transition to the patronymic (“son of”) form of Walters began in the 14th century and somewhat later in Wales.
An alternative English spelling is Waters (probably from the medieval pronunciation of Walter as Wauter). The current breakdown of these names in the English-speaking world is Walter 18%, Walters 50%, and Waters 32%. Meanwhile the Dutch equivalent of the surname is Wouter, the French Gautier.
Walters Resources on
- Walters Genealogy Walters from Pembrokeshire and elsewhere.
- The Walter Family Walters from Germany yo Pennsylvania.
- Waters Family Genealogy History Waters genealogy and Waters in Virginia.
- The John Walter Museum John Walter in Edmonton.
- Walters DNA Project Walters DNA.
There are some 90,000 in
Germany today with the surname Walter plus an additional 15,000 in
Switzerland. An early example of Walter
appearing as a surname was Conrad Walteri in Wurzburg in 1214. The Walter name first came to England around
the time of the Norman Conquest and to America with the religious
the Palatine that started arriving in the 1720’s.
The Walters family was a
prominent family in Pembrokeshire in SW Wales for well over two hundred
years. The first in this line was John
Walter, born in 1470, who held the title of Approver and Chancellor of
the county. He apparently adopted his
The family homes in Pembrokeshire were at
Garn and Roch castle, although the latter was burnt down during the
War. William Walters lived through this
troubled time in London. His daughter Lucy Walters
became the mistress of Charles II. Their
son James, created the Duke of Monmouth,
started an ill-advised revolt against James II in 1685 which resulted
The Walters name extended
eastward into Carmarthenshire and Glamorgan.
John Walters, the 18th century cleric and scholar, was the son
timber merchant from Llanedi in Carmarthenshire who died when he was
young. John moved to Glamorgan where he
was instrumental in setting up the county’s first printing press on
printed his English-Welsh dictionary.
His son John was a clergyman as well and also published poetry.
Wartyr was a merchant in York and
recorded there as its mayor in 1436 and 1451.
A descendant was said to have been Robert Watter of Crundal,
mayor there in 1591 and 1603. He died in
1612 and the following inscription was put on his gravestone:
“Sir Richard Watter, knight, alderman and
twice lord mayor of the city. A father
to the poor, a friend to the communality of this city, and a good
this church of the Crux, who died May 12, 1612.”
Later Waters in England seem to have been
more concentrated in Shropshire and other English counties bordering
Wales. Waters at Ludlow date from the
1500’s and Waters from Shropshire were among the early settlers in
The alternative spelling
in England was Walter which, like in Wales, generally became Walters. William Walter was prominent in the affairs
of Salisbury as early as 1410; while the Walter name continued to
Stalbridge and at Blandford in Dorset in the 17th and 18th
centuries. An account of these and other
in England was given in Frederick Walters’ 1907 book The Family of
of Dorset and Hants.
William Walters was recorded in the subsidy toll of Staffordshire in
was said that the illegitimate children of Walter de Elmedon, the
Weston, took the name of Walters and made their home in Pylatonhale. Staffordshire has had subsequently sizeable
Ireland. Waters was
the spelling in Ireland. The name could
either have been brought from
England or have been an anglicization of a Gaelic name.
Waters in Cork is thought perhaps to have
been derived from the Anglo-Norman name Auters.
This Waters merchant family of Cork was expelled
from the town in the 1640’s but returned and were to be found at
Tramore in the
19th century. Eaton Walters narrated the
family history in his 1939 booklet The Waters Family of Cork. A related Waters family at Newcastle in
county Limerick fled to Paris at the time of the siege of Limerick in
The Gaelic septs of O'hUisce
O'Fuaruisce in Donegal
were two septs which sometimes anglicized
their name to Waters.
Walters, and Waters all came to America. In terms of ship arrivals, the largest numbers were
Walter, coming from Germany, followed by Waters and then Walters. There were more Waters and Walter in the 1840
US Census than Walters.
largest numbers of these names in America today are Walters, suggesting
many with the surname Walter in particular anglicized their name to
Walters. There were also later families
that adopted the Walters, such as the Jewish forebears of the TV
Waters. Edward Waters was an early arrival in Virginia, after many adventures, in 1617. He died in England in 1630 but left his family back in Virginia.
One line through John Waters settled in Maryland. A Waters home there in Montgomery county, known as Pleasant Fields, was built in 1755 and was home to five generations of Waters (they lost their home after the stock market crash in 1929). Another Waters home in the county over roughly the same time period was Belmont. The Waters line in Baltimore extended to Francis E. Waters who operated a successful lumber business in the late 19th century.
The Waters name also occurred at an early date in Salem, Massachusetts. Richard Waters, a gunsmith from London, was recorded there in 1637. His descendants, who moved to Millbury, carried on his gunmaking tradition. This line was traced in Wilson Waters’ 1882 book Ancestry of the Waters Line of Marietta, Ohio.
Walter. The early Walters in America from Germany were migrants from the Palatinate who arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s. Hans Conrad Walter, aged 58, left there with his two sons Hans and Bernard in 1732. The family settled in Northampton county and were farmers. Jacob Walter was a merchant miller there in the late 19th century and a charter director of the Easton & Northern Railroad that ran through his property.
Frederick Walter came to Philadelphia from Germany sometime in the 1760’s. His son Joseph was a bricklayer in the city, his grandson Thomas Walter the famous architect who designed the dome of the US Capitol in Washington DC in 1850 and saw it completed fifteen years later. Thomas’s grandson Thomas was also an architect, practicing in Birmingham, Alabama at the turn of the century.
Christian Walter, from the lower Rhine provinces of Holland, came to America around 1780, settling first in Pennsylvania and then migrating to Tuscawaras county, Ohio. John and Catherine Walter were another family who moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio in the early 1800’s, in this case to Stark county.
Fred Walter meanwhile had arrived in Ohio with his parents direct from Germany in 1833. He was drawn to California by the Gold Rush in 1850, prospered there as a brewer, but then in 1868 returned to Ohio where he ran a liquor business in Richland county.
Walters. One Walters line began with William Walters of uncertain origins who died in Halifax county, Virginia in 1762. Later Walters of this family migrated to Franklin county, Georgia. Moses Walters crossed into Texas in 1835.
An English Walters family came to central Pennsylvania in the 1790’s. A descendant was William T. Walters, born in 1820, who moved to Baltimore as a young man and made his fortune in the grain and railroad businesses. He and his son Henry became avid art collectors and their collection has formed the basis of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
Canada. The Walters family of Lunenburg in Nova Scotia were mariners and fishermen, starting with Captain William Walters who died in Newfoundland sometime in the 1850’s. His seafaring life was passed down to his son Elias and to his grandsons, Angus and John. Angus Walters became famous as the man who built and raced the Bluenose schooner in international competitions, winning five titles in the 1920’s.
John Walter from the Orkneys, like his father, enlisted in the Hudson Bay Company and departed for Canada. He headed for Edmonton in 1870 and stayed. He was one of the city’s pioneers, beginning with boat-building and expanding into lumber and other industries. On his death in 1920 the Strathcona Evening Chronicle wrote:
Australia and New Zealand. Aaron Walters was a seaman in 1814 on the Broxbornebury which numbered among its passengers the convict Susannah Libemont. As the vessel was approaching Sydney, Aaron for some reason jumped ship. A reward was put out for his capture. In any case he married Susannah in Sydney a year later. He went on to farm in St. Albans, NSW, raise a family there, and keep a public house known as The Industrious Settler Inn.
William and Catherine Walter were free settlers from the small village of Bradworthy in NW Devon who came to Australia in 1851 and settled in Dunkeld, Victoria. Another William, this time Walters, came to New Zealand in 1846 with his father John, a copper miner from Cornwall. William married in Auckland in 1848 and later founded the Glenora Park Stud and Takanini racecourse.
Select Walters Miscellany
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Walters Names
Lucy Walters was a mistress of Charles II who bore him the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth.
John Walters was a notable 18th century Welsh cleric who published An English–Welsh Dictionary in fifteen parts.
Thomas Ustick Walter was the architect who designed the dome of the US Capitol in Washingon DC in 1850 and finished it fifteen years later.
Catherine Walters, known as "Skittles," was one of the last great courtesans of Victorian London. Barbara Walters, from a Jewish family, is an American broadcast journalist and author.
Julie Walters is a popular English actress.
Select Walter/Walters Today
- 36,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
- 75,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 26,000 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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