Select Wynn Surname Genealogy

Wynn as a surname comes in many variations.  Wynn, Wynne, Winn, Gwynn, and Gwynne are all found today in varying numbers around the world.

The principal origin of the name is the Welsh name Gwyn dating back to the 8th century and meaning “white” or “fair.”  This might have been a descriptive nickname for the Anglo-Norman or Norse-Viking invader who was fair-skinned; or it simply described a child who was fair-skinned.  The Gwyn name also appeared in the Cornish language.

In England Winn could originate from the Old English word wine meaning “friend."

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Select Wynn Ancestry

Wales.  The spelling in north Wales tended to be Wynn or Wynne, in south Wales Gwynn or Gwynne.

North Wales  The Wynns of Gwydir castle in Caernarvonshire came from Welsh stock that had involved themselves in the Wars of the Roses during the 15th century.  Meredith ap Ieuan ap Robert, the founder of the Wynn dynasty, was a Lancastrian, a regional supporter of Henry VII, and had been able to purchase the fortified manor house of Gwydir around the year 1490.   It became their castle.  His grandson Morys was the first formally to adopt the name of Wynn in the 1550’s.

Sir John Wynn made the family one of the leading families of North Wales in the early 1600’s.  His book The History of the Gwydir Family was intended to assert his claim to an earlier royal ancestry.  His son Richard was a Royalist who entertained King Charles I at Gwydir in 1645. 

However, the Wynn male line came to an end in 1674.  Sir John Wynn, a cousin and a substantial landowner in his own right, lived into his nineties.  But he died without issue in 1719.  Still, there was yet another Wynn line, commencing with Thomas Wynn of Bodvean, that was long prominent in Caernarvon affairs and was elevated to the peerage in 1776

The Wynns of Bodewryd in Anglesey claimed an early lineage, although the Wynn name in their case did not get established until the early 1600’s.  They lasted at Bodewryd only another century.  The Wynnes of Copa’rieni in Flintshire became Wynnes earlier, at the time of Queen Elizabeth.  Four generations of John Wynnes followed, the last-named being an industrial pioneer who developed the town of Trelawnyd around lead mining in the early 1700’s. 

South Wales
  The Gwynne spelling occurred more in south Wales.  Gwynnes held the Taliaris estate in Carmarthenshire from the 1550’s; the Gwynnes of Llanelwedd were prominent in Radnorshire and Breconshire from the 1630’s; while the Gwynnes of Glanbran in Breconshire included Marmaduke Gwynne, an early Methodist convert.  By the late 19th century the largest numbers of Gwynnes were in Glamorgan.

.  The Wynn name from Wales extended into England, from north Wales into Shropshire, Cheshire and Lancashire primarily.  Gwynn appeared in Gloucestershire.  Nell Gwynn, the mistress of Charles II, was a famous denizen of London.

The Wynnes of Canterbury in Kent were said to have been related to John Wynne, the MP for Canterbury in 1356.  Robert Wynne was a prosperous wool draper in the town who became its mayor in 1596.  Both he and his wife Frances died of the plague in 1609, leaving all five of their young children orphans.  Their son Peter, who was able to board with the local tailor, was later made a freemen of Canterbury by his right of birth.  His son Robert emigrated to Virginia and prospered.

Winn in England may not have had any Welsh connections. This includes the Winns in Cornwall (such as those at Constantine and Wendron in the 18th century) and some of the Winns in Yorkshire:
  • the Winn baronets of Nostell Priory near Wakefield were from London (where George Winn had been draper to Queen Elizabeth) and were descended from a cadet branch of the house of Gwydir
  • while the Winns from Thornton Steward in north Yorkshire were probably home-grown.  They occupied Nappa Hall in Askrigg from the 1780’s for several generations.  
  • as were the Winns from Gargrave near Skipton, starting with Thomas Winn who was born there around 1767.
Ireland.   Some Welsh Wynne crossed the Irish Channel.  Owen Wynne from a prominent Wynne family in Merioneth acquired the Hazelwood House estate in Sligo in 1722.  They became large landowners in the county.  There were six Owen Wynnes out of seven Wynnes who held the estate from then until 1923

  The first Wynn in America is believed to have been Captain Peter Wynne who came to Jamestown on the Mary and Margaret in 1608.  But he died a year later of fever.  Robert Wynne from Canterbury arrived in Virginia in the 1650’s and settled in Charles City county.  He was a landowner and a politician, serving in the House of Burgesses.  His descendants migrated to North Carolina and Georgia.  Walter F. Winn was the long-time photographer for the Atlanta Journal.

There was an early Welsh contingent from Puleston in Flintshire that came to America, starting sometime in the 1670’s.  Dr. Thomas Wynne was a Quaker on the Welcome with William Penn in 1682.  By the early 1700’s there were Winns in Virginia as well - Minor Winn in Fauquier county, Colonel Thomas Winn in Lunenburg county, and others in Hanover county.  Charles and Louise Wynn’s 1991 book The Wynns of Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia covered these later lines.

There were various 19th century Wynne connections between Tennessee and Texas:
  • A.R. Wynne, the merchant, slave trader and land speculator, had been born in Sumner county, Tennessee in 1800 (from parents coming from Virginia).  His son James, nicknamed “Bolivar,” fought in the Mexican War and later settled in Washington county, Texas.
  • Richard Wynne moved from Tennessee to Rusk, Texas as a young boy in the 1850’s.  He later served as sheriff of Rusk county and was elected to the state Senate.
  • while Buck Wynne who also grew up in Rusk county was the forebear of the successful and flamboyant Wynne legal family of Wills Point, Texas.  Their numbers included Toddie Lee Wynne who made his fortune in oil with Clint Murchison in the 1930’s.
Canada.  Captain Edward Wynne had led an early English colony to Ferryland in Newfoundland in 1621.  The colony grew to 100 by 1625.  But then Edward Wynne disappeared from history.  William Wynn and his wife Mary were Loyalists from upstate New York who departed for New Brunswick in 1783 and later settled in the Niagara region. 

Australia.   Perhaps the best-known Wynns in Australia have been the Wynn wine merchants in Melbourne.  Shlomo Weintraub had learnt wine-making at the family business in Lodz in Poland.  He decided to escape military service there by fleeing via Bremen in Germany for a new life in Australia.  On his arrival in Melbourne in 1913 he quickly anglicized his name to Samuel Wynn.

In 1927 he established Australia Wines Ltd which, by the mid-1940's, had become the largest winemakers and retailers in Australia.  His son David took over the running of the busiess in 1948 until it was sold to Allied Breweries in 1972.

Select Wynn Miscellany

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

Select Wynn Names

John Wynn ap Maredudd who died in 1559 was the forebear of the Wynn dynasty at Gwydir castle in Caernarvonshire.
Nell Gwynn
, London born, was the long-time mistress of King Charles II.
Arthur Wynne was the British-born inventor of the modern crossword puzzle in New York in the 1910’s.
Tony Gwynne was the baseball outfielder of the San Diego Padres who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Steve Wynn
, born Stephen Weinberg, was responsible for the refurbishing and building of hotels along the Las Vegas Strip during the 1990’s

Select Wynn and Variant Names Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 11,000 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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