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Origins of Our Family: Before Ireland

“The man who has nothing to boast of but his ancestors is like a potato—the only good belonging to him is under ground.”
-- Thomas Overbury, Characters --

Our Waller family is descended from Wallers who lived in a small rural town in Cambridgeshire, England in the 1500s, through an army lieutenant who settled in Ireland after the English Civil War of 1642-1646. Although there are many people in England and North America with the surname "Waller", it is impossible to know the exact origin of the name. Some have proposed a Norman or Old French origin. Some Wallers are likely to be of Norman ancestry, with a possible origin being “de Valer,” as in “from the valley [1]. A Middle English origin is also suggested, perhaps as a derivative of walle “to furnish with walls” [2] , or an occupational name well or weallan for someone who boiled sea water [3], or derived from the Anglo-Norman-French word galler or gallear meaning to be festive. [4] Some American Wallers of Scandanavian ancestry were originally Vaaler.

The greatest proportion of American Wallers (there were 52,189 American Wallers in 1995 [5] ) has a different ancestry than those whom we know are related to us. Some can document descent from Wallers who came to America from England in the 1600s, primarily to Virginia in Staffordshire and Surry counties. [6]. They may have descended from Normans, perhaps from Alured de Valer (alleged to be a landowner in Kent in 1183) although claims of Waller companionship with William the Conqueror are unsupportable [7]. Early landowning Wallers descended from Sir Richard Waller (see below).

Fig. 1. Wallers of Groombridge   coat of arms.

Jonathan Wathen-Waller, an 18th Century baronet who assumed the Waller name and arms, placed a plaque on the wall of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Speldhurst, near Tonbridge Wells, Kent, showing a Waller descent from an Alured de Valeur who lived in the twelfth century. [8]. (Sir Jonathan was not himself of Waller descent, but married a female descended from Sir William through his son Thomas. He took the hyphenated Waller name in purchase of the baronetcy.) Without any other proof, J. Ralph Dickey in Waller: A Family History continued to promote the idea of Norman knighthood for a common Waller ancestor. He claimed that a Waller, also named Alured de Valeur, was named in the Domesday Book in Kent. Our review of the literature revealed several mentions of Alureds and Alfreds but no Waller or de Valer [9] [10] Nevertheless, some more recent history he included may be reliable, so the book may remain of interest to Waller researchers. His book is available on microfilm from the Latter Day Saints’ Family History Libraries. [11]

Notable members of the descent listed at Speldhurst include Sir Richard Waller, a soldier from the Hundred Years’ War who, according to family legend, was knighted for capturing the Duke of Orleans at Agincourt in 1415. Certainly he was a jailer of at various times of the popular Duke and his less well-known cousin John of Angouleme. [12] Ransom money helped to maintain his residence, styled Groombridge, the home of this family for about 200 years. The crest of the usual Groombridge Waller coat of arms (pictured here, Fig. 1) [13] was depicted to reflect these events. [14] The most commonly represented coat of arms associated with Wallers - although there are several including vastly different blazons - show a black (in heraldic terms, “sable”) shield with three walnut leaves. The crest has an oak tree with a small shield hanging from it (an “escutcheon pendant”) with the arms of France (three fleurs-de-lis) represented thereon.[15] Thus Sir Richard may be the earliest reliably proven Groombridge Waller ancestor.

Sir Richard Waller's descendants included Sir William Waller (1597-1668), the soldier and parliamentarian who served as general officer in the English Civil War. He was instrumental in organizing the structure of armies (a modern approach he called the “new model army”) but was relieved of his command after losing a crucial battle to the royalists. His regiment was broken up in the creation of the New Model Army. Sir William himself was put in command of the army in the West (where there was little conflict). A Presbyterian and former friend of the King’s nephew, he was probably considered somewhat suspect by Cromwell, and indeed he was later instrumental in brokering the Restoration. [16]

His cousin Sir Hardress Waller (1604-1666) was placed over Sir William's previous regiment. Sir Hardress gained notoriety as a “regicide,” one of the judges who signed the death warrant of King Charles I, and later as a marauder in Ireland. He died a prisoner after the restoration [17]. Another cousin, Edmund Waller (1606-1687), was a much-loved poet and called the “poet laureate of England” in the 17th century. (Years later he was scorned by critics as a literary lightweight. Nevertheless he was a good friend to politicians, eulogizing both Cromwell and Charles II.) [18]. We most likely do not descend from this line of Wallers, unless by an ancient descent which has long-since been forgotten. There is another possible descent from this family, also unlikely, but which will be discussed in the section Wallers in Ireland.

Our ancestors can be traced to the area of Bassingbourne, Cambs., England. Several Wallers are known to have lived nearby in Ashwell, Herts. and in Kneesworth as well. This family was known by the peculiar appellation "Warren alias Waller", which appeared both in wills and recorded pedigrees. We do not know the exact circumstance for the alias - but they adopted the Waller (or the Warren) name for reasons that are lost. The use of an alias did not have the nefarious connotation that contemporary usage would suggest. They claimed descent from the Warrens of Poynton (in Cheshire) and were granted arms reflecting the Warren checked blue and gold shield and a similar crest as the Warren family (Fig. 1) [19]. The Warrens of Poynton were a family descended from the knight Sir Edward Warren, believed to be the illegitimate son of the eighth Earl of Warenne.

The late Antonia Waller wrote a monograph [20] on our ancestry, arguing for a Warren descent for the Wallers of Bassingbourne and Ashwell, but her work does not in our opinion justify that conclusion, as it requires undocumented genealogical connections. Likewise, she postulates reasons for the alias [20] that seem quite unlikely. We believe the most likely origin of the alias is that the family was of the name Waller and someone began to assert with or without justification that they were of Warren descent. The use of the alias asserts that, to them, both names were acceptable surnames.

There are place-names in the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire area that are suggestive of Waller or Warren associations. Bassinghourn and Kneesworth in the Armingford Hundred in Cambridgeshire and Ashwell in the Odsey Hundred of Hertfordshire are within a few miles of each other. There is a Waller fen in the Isle of Ely as well as an Ashwell Moor, both in the Hundred of South Withchford. There is a Warren Hill in the Chevely Hundred of Cambridgeshire. There is a place called The Warren in the Dacorum Hundred of Herts. In the Broadwater Hundred is Warren Farm, dating originally to Richard le Warrener in 1293. While Ashwell, Bassingbourn and Kneesworth are within a few miles of each other in the adjacent counties of Cambs. and Herts., the Isle of Ely is to the north, at least thirty miles directly without considering the roads or terrain. Cheveley is thirty miles east-north-east of Bassingbourn, and the Dacorum Hundred is thirty miles south-west of Ashwell in Herts., all sufficient distances to cast considerable doubt on any place-name association of these areas with our family. There is a Warren's Green in the Weston area in the Broadwater Hundred of Herts., about six miles due south of Ashwell. This was described in a contemporary reference form 1675, which is not early enough to suggest an origin for the Warren name. Thus examining the place-names of the land our ancestors once farmed does not lead to any evidence of the source of the Waller or Warren names [33] [34].

*William Warren alias Waller [16]
  m.  ?
(~1482 - ?)
(? - ?)
Antonia Waller [20] believed that William Warren alias Waller [16] was a son of Richard Warren of Poynton.
Children of William Warren alias Waller [16]:  
*William Warren alias Waller [15]
   m.  ~1524  Maude or Margery
(1499 - ?)
( ? - ?)
Bassingbourne, Cambs. & Kneesworth, Herts., Eng.
       >William Warren alias Waller  [14] (1525 - 1613)    m. 1559  Elizabeth Hammaond    Bassingbourne, Ashwell.   Granted Warren of Poynton arms in 1572.
       >Edward Warren alias Waller   m. daughter of Thomas Snagg
       >Richard  Warren alias Waller   m. daughter of Thomas Snagg
       >Henry Warren alias Waller 
       >John  Warren alias Waller (? - 1576)  m. 1558 Katherine Lawrence (? - 1587)
 Richard Warren alias Waller   m. Alice    Bassingbourne, Cambs.
       >William  Warren alias Waller (? - 1572)  m. 1567  Margaret Paynter
       >Richard Warren alias Waller   (will dated 1557)  m. Beatrice
       >Nicholas Warren alias Waller   m.  1560 Agnes Wright
       > Henry Warren alias Waller  m.  Margaret
 Thomas Warren alias Waller
 John Warren alias Waller   m. Elizabeth (2nd sp.)
       >Robert Warren alias Waller  (from 1st sp.)  Mayor of Bedford, 1583 - 1585.  
 Anthony Warren alias Waller  (~1510 - >1556)

Descendents of William Warren alias Waller [14] and Elizabeth Hammond:
*William Warren alias Waller [14]
    m.  1559 Elizabeth Hammond
(1525 - 1613)
(? - ? ) 
Bassingbourne, Cambs., Ashwell, Herts., Eng.
Much Monden, Herts.
      William Warren alias Waller
       m. ~1582 Agnes Gray
(~1561 - 1610)
(? - 1624)
        >William Waller    (~1583 - 1635)     m. 1616 Mercye (Marcy) Dunn
        >Edward Waller
        >Henry Waller    m. ?  Marie
        >Nathaniel Waller   (>1589 - ?)
        >Thomas Waller     (? - ~1626)
        >John Waller
        >Elizabeth Waller
    *Edward Warren alias Waller [13]
       m. <1599   Margaret Gray   (1st sp.)
(1562– 1640)
(? - ? )
Bassingbourne, Cambs., & Symonds Inn. London, Eng.  Attorney.
       >Edward Warren alias Waller     (>1599 - ?)
       >Jayne Warren alia Waller
       >William Warren alias Waller    m. 1625  Agnes Nicholls (1st sp.)    m.  Ann (2nd sp.)
       >Jonathan Waller   (~1607 - 1663)   m. >1628  Mary Humberstone.   Attorney
       >Rev. Joshua Warren alias Waller
     m. 1612   Margaret Glasscock   (2nd. sp.)
      >(1). *Richard Warren Waller [12]     (1613 - 1676)   m. 1646 Dorothy      (see below)
      >(2)  Phillip Warren alias Waller    (~1614 - ?)
      >(3)  Thomas Warren alias Waller   (~1615 - ?)
      >(4)  John Warren alias Waller
        John Waller   (~1563 - 1634)   m. Margaret
        Gaween Waller  (~1565 - >1610)   M. Susan Denham
        Elizabeth Warren alias Waller   (? - ?)  m. Harley
        Mary Warren alias Waller   (? - ?)   m. John Sell
        Susan Warren alias Waller  (? - ?)   m. William Gray
        Andrew Warren alias Waller  (~1578 - ~1637)
        Henry Warren alias Waller  (>1576 - 1631)   m. Mary Seyndel.   Captain of Artillery, London

 (1).  *Richard Warren Waller [12]
           m. 1646 Dorothy ( ? )

(1613 – 1676)
(1625 - ? )

Five brothers who lived in the early 1500s were William [15] (the eldest), Thomas (who has no record of a will), John, Richard, and Anthony. The proposed connection with the Warrens suggested that they were descended from William Warren of Kneesworth, born in 1499. Further theory suggested that he was a grandson of Sir Laurence Warren (Lord Stockport). Again, we have no evidence to support this theory.

John gave his name as John Waller of Ashwell in his will dated 11th January 1566. [21] A grandson Robert became mayor of Bedford in 1603. Richard was known in his will as "Richard Warren als Waller," dated 28th March 1557. Richard was a Bassingbourn churchwarden in 1534/6. Anthony Waller of Kneesworth was born about 1510 and had a will dated 22nd January 1556. William Warren alias Waller [15] married Maud (or Maude) in about 1524. His children were William [14], Edward, Richard, Henry and John. Edward and Richard married daughters of Thomas Snagg, and John married Catherine or Katherine Lawrence. Henry’s circumstances are unknown. William [14] married Elizabeth Hammond, who according to the researches of Antonia Waller was the daughter of William Hammond (of Much Monden) in 1550. William Hammond was the son of Christopher Hammond of the Hamonds of Yorkshire, an armigerous family [22]. According to the Visitations of Cambridgeshire in 1619, Christopher Hammond descended of the Hamonds of Yorkshire. His son William Hamond "of Much Monden" in Herts. had a son William (m. Isabel Sherman of Litlington in Cambs.) whose son William (m. Margarett Brett of Norff.) had a son John Hamond of Wivelingham, Cambs., alive in 1619 and married to Elizabeth Faige.

The elder William Waller [14] was the grantee of arms in 1572. [23] It is noteworthy that, in the1634 Herald’s Visitation of Herts., the family was listed as “Waller alias Warren” in all three generations. William’s will was made 3 May 1599 and was proved 18 Dec 1610. His eldest son William (married to Elizabeth Hammond) predeceased him in 1610; the younger William’s children included Edward [13], who married Margarett, daughter of Richard Glasscock of Essex [24]. The Glasscocks (also spelled Glascotte, Glascote and Glascott) were an armigerous family (that is, they possessed a coat of arms) with a member who move to Ireland in the early 1600s; a female offspring years later married a Jocelyn. Their son, Richard Warren Waller [12] of Bassingbourn acquired Cully Castle (originally of the Ryan family, later rebuilt and renamed Castle Waller) and surrounding lands in the vicinity of Newport, County Tipperary, Ireland. The total grant was 1195 acres, including 614 acres of "profitable land plantation measure". The following table (Fig. 2) is copied from the Visitation of Hertfordshire, 1634 [25] :

   Fig. 2.  From the Visitation of Hertfordshire, 1634.

The description of the coat of arms (the blazon) in the pedigree of Fig. 2 suggests that there was a sixth (previously unknown) grandson of Lawrence Warren (of Poynton) who sired the Warren alias Waller family [26]. This is supported by the "bordure" (a mark of differencing of arms from a parent) as well as the fleur-de-lis (in English Heraldry, a mark of differencing among children often given to a sixth son). [27] We cannot verify any of this, but a herald was sufficiently convinced of the pedigree as to grant Warren-based arms to this Waller family. (Or it was recorded and given official approval as may happen to long-used assumed arms. Heralds could legitimize arms that were informally adopted and used for several generations.) Whether of true Warren descent or not, the Waller arms of subsequent generations have been based on this pattern. In a later generation, Richard [12] dropped the alias and called himself Richard Warren Waller.

The Warrens of Poynton have a controversial descent. They once were argued to be from Reginald, a supposed nephew of the first Earl Warenne. This was asserted by Watson [28], whose work since has been criticized as being unconvincing and a likely fabrication (It may have been done to establish a certain ancestry for his sponsor [29].) That assertion likely is false, but some still cling to his view. The now generally accepted Warren of Poynton ancestry is found in the writing of George Ormerod [30] The Poynton Warrens are descended from Sir Edward Warren, a knight. Ormerod showed convincingly that Sir Edward was the illigitimate son of John, the eighth and last Earl of Warenne, by his mistress Maud of Nerford. John was a Plantagenet, descended from Hameline Plantagenet, the fifth Earl of Warenne and Surrey. The original Warenne line had long since died out, the Honour of Warenne having been given to relatives of the royal family. At present, we do not know if the "Warren alias Waller" family were Warrens who became Wallers, or (perhaps more likely) Wallers who aspired to be Warrens. If in fact the descent is from the Warrens of Poynton, then ours would be among the very few families with a male line descent from the medieval Plantagenet Kings [31].

Our Waller family has for many generations enjoyed using names based on old genealogy. For a century or so after Richard Warren Waller's generation [12], the "Warren" name was rarely used, only to reappear as “DeWarrenne” (sic) along with other ancient names originating from the family of the Earls of Surrey such as “Gundred”. Warenne names were used not only by Wallers who remained in Ireland, but also to some extent by their American cousins. It is interesting that the name "Hardress" appears in later generations [32] even though there is no blood relation, although Richard Warren Waller [12] might have served under Sir Hardress Waller in battle. (The original use of "Hardress" as a given name comes from his mother, Mary Hardress. Similarly, the name "Jocelyn" among the men in the family appeared after the marriage of a Waller to the woman Anne Jocelyn.) Sir Hardress eventually settled in Limerick, Ireland after the wars to found the line called the Wallers of Castletown.



Note:  We have adopted a number/letter code for each generation and entry in the pedigrees that follow (see Overview), beginning with (1) *Richard Warren Waller [12], the founder of the Wallers of Ireland. Each succeeding generation is assigned alternately a number or letter, and children are labeled consecutively although not necessarily in birth order. This makes possible the coordination of all the various branches of the Waller descendents of which we have knowledge. We hope that the cumbersome nature of this system is offset by its simplicity and utility.
Direct antecedents of the authors are marked with * and the number of generations preceding the younger author is shown in italics..


[1] L. G. Pine, They Came With the Conqueror, Evans Brothers, London, 1966. Pine does not state definitively that the early Waller family is Norman, but does lend some credence at least to the family legend as possibly based in fact.
[2] P. H. Reaney, A Dictionary of British Surnames
[3] Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of American Surnames, Oxford University Press, 1988
[4] H. Amanda Robb and Andrew Chesler, Encyclopedia of American Names, HarperCollins Publishers, 1995
[5] ibid
[6] Dickey, J. Ralph, Waller: A Family History, record no. 193879 Item no. 8 LDS archive microfilm.
[7] L. G. Pine, Sons of the Conqueror, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1973.
[8] Hanks and Hodges state that the existence of Alured de Valer and David de Waller, supposed Master of the Rolls in 1327, cannot be confirmed. See L. G. Pine’s Sons of the Conqueror and certain editions of Burke’s Peerage, as well as Dickey’s work on American Waller genealogy.
[9] K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday Names: An Index of Latin Personal and Place Names in Domesday Book
[10] John Morris, general editor, and Philip Morris, editor, Domesday Book, part 1, Kent
[11] Dickey, J. Ralph, Waller: A Family History, record no. 193879 Item no. 8 LDS archive microfilm.
[12] McLeod, Enid, Charles of Orleans, Prince and Poet, London, Chatto & Windus, 1969
[13] The arms shown here are for a descendant of Sir Hardress Waller, copied from A. C. Fox-Davies’ Armorial Families 7th Edition, Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., p. 192
[14] L. G. Pine, They Came With the Conqueror, Evans Bros., London, 1954. Pine further states that there was no registry of the arms until Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller’s arms were registered, so it is uncertain when the arms in their present form came about. We have not seen a contemporary rendering of the arms or blazon before that time. It is very possible that Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller was responsible for the addition of the small escutcheon to the crest.
[15] Burke, Sir Bernard, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, 1884 Edition, Reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1967 (Burke’s General Armory).
[16] John Adair, Roundhead General, the Campaigns of Sir William Waller, Sutton, Phoenix Mill, 1997.
[17] ibid
[18] ibid
[19] For a thorough discussion of the Warren and Waller arms, see the Heraldry section.
[20] Antonia Waller, The Chequered Wallers, privately published manuscript,available from:
[21] ibid
[22] According to the Visitations of Cambridgeshire in 1619, Christopher Hammond descended from the Hamonds of Yorkshire. His son, William Hamond of Much Monden in Herts. had a son William (m. Isabel Sherman of Litlington, Cambs.) whose son William (m. Magaret Brett of Norfolk) had a son John Hamond of Wivelingham, Cambs., alive in 1619 and married to Elizabeth Paige.
[23] ibid
[24] The Glasscocks (also spelled Glascotte, Glascote and Glascott) were an armigerous family who had a member move to Ireland in the early 1600s; a female descendent years later married a Jocelyn.
[25] Walter C. Metcalfe, ed., The Visitations of Hertfordshire, from Harleian Mss. 6147 and 1546, Publication of the Harleian Society, London, 1886
[26] Antonia Waller, The Chequered Wallers (see footnote 19)
[27] Ottfried Neubecker, Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meanings, Tiger Books International PLC, Twickenham, 1997.
[28] Watson, Rev. John, Memoirs of the Earls of Warren and Surrey, 1782, published on cd-rom, available privately from Tom Burch and Ronnie Warren, copyright 1999.
[29] Rev. Thomas Watson, A History and Genealogy of the Warren Family, privately printed in 1902, available from the Higginson Book Company, Salem, MA.
[30] George Ormerod, History of the County Palatine and City Chester, E. J. Morten (Publishers), 1980.
[31] See The Royal section. Many families have Plantagenet ancestry, with probably hundreds of thousands from female lines alive today, including the British Royal family. There are few male line descents, largely because the Plantagenet Royals killed each other off in the Wars of the Roses until a new family, the Tudors, gave rise to a successor.
[32] The name Hardress is an example of a surname becoming a given name, not unlike the names De Warrenne and Jocelyn (see the section Wallers in Ireland) being used as middle names. Sir Hardress Waller's mother was Mary Hardress.
[33] Gover, J. E. B., Mawer, Allen, and Stenton, F. M., The Place-Names of Hertfordshire, English Place-Name Society, Volume XV, Cambridge University Press, 1938.
[34] Reaney, P. H., The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, English Place-Name Society, Volume XIX, Cambridge University Press, 1943.

Last updated:  January 20, 2010

Prologue       Overview        Origens of Our Family         Wallers in Ireland         Emigration         Waller-Brazier               Noble Ancestry         Royal Ancestry

    Heraldry         Jocelyn Ancestry      Prior Park        Wallers of Prior Park      Namelist