Select Walters Surname Genealogy

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

Select Walters Resources on The Internet

Select Walters Ancestry

There are some 90,000 in Germany today with the surname Walter plus an additional 15,000 in Austria and 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 refugees from the Palatine that started arriving in the 1720’s. 

Wales.  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 mother’s surname.  

The family homes in Pembrokeshire were at Y Garn and Roch castle, although the latter was burnt down during the Civil 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 in his death. 

The Walters name extended eastward into Carmarthenshire and Glamorgan.  John Walters, the 18th century cleric and scholar, was the son of a 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 which was printed his English-Welsh dictionary.  His son John was a clergyman as well and also published poetry. 

England.  Richard 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, himself 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 benefactor to 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 Virginia a century later. 

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 flourish at Stalbridge and at Blandford in Dorset in the 17th and 18th centuries.  An account of these and other Walter families in England was given in Frederick Walters’ 1907 book The Family of Walters of Dorset and Hants. 

The name William Walters was recorded in the subsidy toll of Staffordshire in 1327. It was said that the illegitimate children of Walter de Elmedon, the rector of Weston, took the name of Walters and made their home in Pylatonhale.  Staffordshire has had subsequently sizeable Walters numbers. 

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 1690. 

The Gaelic septs of O'hUisce in Connacht and O'Fuaruisce in Donegal were two septs which sometimes anglicized their name to Waters. 

America.  Walter, 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.  

However, the largest numbers of these names in America today are Walters, suggesting that 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 presenter Barbara Walters. 

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.  

  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.  A southern Walters line began with Robert Walters from Scotland who had come to Pittsylvania county, Virginia sometime in the 1740’s and later moved to Georgia.  His family was covered in Bettye Watters’ 1993 book Walters, Watters, Waters. 

Six of his sons remained in Georgia.  But Moses migrated south to Mississippi and then in the 1830’s to Texas.  Moses’ daughter Elizabeth Walters had an illicit affair while they were in Mississippi.  His son Robert lived on Walters’ Bend on the Sabine river in Texas where he operated a ferry

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: 

"There is no more progressive and public spirited citizen than John Walter.  All in all he has probably done more for the city than any other of its residents." 

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. 
ohn 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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page