Edited by Azizi Powell
This post is part of a continuing pancocojams series on names and naming practices in the Caribbean.
This post provides one complete article and excerpts from five online articles about popular Jamaican last names.
More comments about common (typical) Black Jamaican names are excerpted from an additional online article on more Black Caribbean last names that will be published ASAP. The link for that article will be added here.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.
I'm quoting these article to help preserve and disseminate this information.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
TYPICAL JAMAICA LAST NAMES
These article excerpts are given in no particular order. I've assigned numbers to these excerpts for referencing purposes only.
Top 50 most common surnames in Jamaica, Brown tops the list" by Denieca Brown, November 13, 2015
..."Today, Loop News is sharing with you the 50 most common surnames in Jamaica.
The list was compiled based on Information from Forbears, a website which specializes in genealogical records.
1. Brown – Is Scottish in origin, approximately 63,965 people in Jamaica have this last name
2. Williams -54,095 Jamaicans have this last name. It is the 4th most popular name in Trinidad and Tobago.
3 . Smith - It is the most prevalent surname in the US and the UK, and third most popular in Jamaica with 40,995 Jamaicans having the name.
4. Campbell – Comes from the Gaelic meaning, 'wry (or crooked) mouth,' a name probably applied to some early chief of the clan. 36,908 people in Jamaica have this name.
5. Johnson-32,643 Jamaicans have this last name, it is the third most common surname in The Bahamas
6. Thompson- This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor, it means 'the son of Thome,' i.e. Thomas. 26,521 Jamaica's have this last name.
7 .Clarke- 25,254 Jamaicans have this name which is derived from the Irish meaning "clerk".
8. Reid - This last names was most commonly given to families who lived in the woodlands, that had the occupation of clearing trees. 24,594 Jamaicans have the last name, Reid.
9. Gordon- According to some genealogists this name is derived from Gordonia, a town in Macedonia. 22,024 Jamaicans have this last name.
10. Grant-19,721 Jamaicans have this surname. It originated in Scotland and was derived from a nickname.
11. Thomas - It is the 264th most common surname in the world. 19,114 Jamaicans have this last name.
12. Robinson- 19,079 Jamaicans have this name. Originating in England, it means "son of Robin”.
13. Henry-19,025 Jamaicans have this surname, it is of Germanic origin (Haimirich) meaning home and powerful.
14. Edwards- It means 'son of Edward'. Edwards is the 14th most common surname in Wales. 16,669 Jamaicans have the surname.
15. Lewis- 16,634 Jamaicans have this last name. This Surname has several independent origins.
16. Wright- This surname is derived from an occupation. Wright often refers to a skilled workman in various materials. 16,455 Jamaicans have this surname.
17. Davis- 16,384 Jamaicans have this last name. It is the 7th most popular surname in the US.
18. Anderson- Means son of Andrew. 15,920 have this surname.
19. Francis-15,277 Jamaicans have this last name. It is of Latin origin.
20. Stewart- In Old English the word ‘stiward’ meant one who looked after the domestic animals as well as one who provides for his master's table. 14,581Jamaicans have this last name.
21 Walker - This surname is derived from an occupation. 14,260 Jamaicans have this name.
22. Green 14,046 Jamaicans have this last name. This surname is derived from a geographical locality.
22. Allen 14,046 Jamaicans have this last name
24. Wilson -14,028 Jamaicans have this last name. Approximately 1,766,181 around the world have this surname.
25. Miller- This surname is derived from an occupation. 'the miller,' one who grinds corn, a 'milner'. 13,778 Jamaicans have this last name.
26. Morgan-13,671 Jamaicans have this last name
27 Bailey- Is the 1,120th most common surname in the world. 13,653 Jamaicans have this last name.
28 Richards-13,439 Jamaicans have this last name. Richards means son of Richard.
29 James – Is a surname with many origins. 12,761 Jamaicans have this last name.
30 Taylor- comes from the occupation of 'tailor,' a cutter-out of cloth. 12,457 Jamaicans have this last name
31. Jones- is a surname of Welsh origins, meaning "John's", or son of John. 12,261 Jamaicans have this last name.
32. Powell - 12,208 Jamaicans have this last name. This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor.
33. Palmer- means a pilgrim to the Holy Land, they often brought back a palm branch as proof that they had actually made the journey. 11,779 Jamaicans have this last name.
34. McKenzie- Means the son of Keneth. According to Forebears “The family boast of their descent from the great Anglo-Norman race of Fitz-Gerald in Ireland”. 11,726 Jamaicans have this last name
35. Samuels- 11,494 in Jamaica have this last name. 7,642 in Nigeria have the last name.
36. Jackson -is a common surname of English and Scottish origin. It means son of Jack. 11,119 Jamaicans have this last name.
37. Watson-10,780 Jamaicans have this last name, it is a patronymic surname of English and Scottish origin meaning "son of Walter.
38. Bennett- This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor meaning son of Bennett. 10,583 Jamaicans have this last name.
39.Daley- The meaning of this name is unknown. 10,458 Jamaicans have this surname.
40. Lawrence- It is 1,437th most common surname in the world. 10,298 Jamaicans have this last name.
41. Hall -This surname is derived from a geographical locality, 'at the hall.' 10,012 in Jamaica have this last name.
42. Hamilton-Approximately 390,095 people bear this surname. It is most popular in the Turks and Caicos Islands. 9,923 Jamaicans have this last name.
43 Graham- Is the name of an illustrious family of Anglo-Norman origin which settled in Scotland early in the twelfth century. 9,673 people in Jamaica have this last name.
44 Gayle- This last name is most popular in Jamaica. 9,655 Jamaicans have Gayle as a surname, however, the meaning of this surname is not known.
45. Scott- Means a native of Scotland. 9,566 people in Jamaica have this name.
46. Morris-9,530 Jamaicans have this last name. It is the 805th most common surname in the world. The name was introduced into Britain by the Normans among whom it was popular.
47. Barrett- This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor meaning 'the son of Berold,' the French Berraud.9,388 Jamaicans have this last name.
48.Dixon-9,316 in Jamaica have this last name, which is derived Scotland. 9,296 in South Africa have this last name.
49. Whyte- Is derived from the Old English, pre the 7th Century and was originally given as a nickname to one with fair hair or pale complexion. 8,977 Jamaicans have this last name. The surname is most prevalent in Nigeria.
50 Simpson -9,781 people have this last name in Jamaica. It is 1,454th most common surname in the world
From http://www.my-island-jamaica.com/jamaican_surnames.html by Wellesley Gayle
..."It was not the custom in Jamaica to automatically give the slave the surname of the owner, and certainly not to give the slave the name of the estate. Slaves chose, adopted, or were given at baptism, various surnames.
Some chose the name of the property owner, or perhaps of a bookkeeper, or some merely chose the name of someone who they liked, or who had been good to them, or who was famous.
It is said that some old baptismal records contains both the old slave name and the new name.
Now here is a list of what I consider to be the top 30 most popular surnames in Jamaica! Alphabetized.
Notice the ones in bold [Smith,Williams & Clarke], they have to stand out.
I have no reference but from my own estimation, those three probably account for over 20% of the entire island- seriously, no kidding :-)
Of course my own name, Gayle, is quite popular too, but certainly not popular enough to make the top 30. :-)
The author didn't say why he wrote those three names in bold.
Here are a few selected comments from that article:
Danielle Tiny Evans, Feb 20, 2013 ·
"Without Johnson there is no list. Johnson is soooo popular."
Jemma Reid, Jan 18, 2013
"Surely Reid is very popular you cant go to Jamaica without meeting one!"
Andre Smith, Apr 3, 2012
"Is true she telling bout the Smith tho...having a first name like Andre doesn't help either.
This comment implies that the personal name "Andre" is quite common in Jamaica.
From http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/So-what-s-in-a-name-_17438845 "So what's in a name?" by Lance Neita, August 31, 2014
..."Some of the most popular family names in Jamaica today are Allen, Anderson, Bailey, Higgins, Jones, Powell, Brown, Smith, Williams, and Clarke. My name is not there, but just as well, the Neita name has its own peculiar family history. In fact, whenever I meet a Neita from whatever part of the island, I ask the magic question, "Do you know about the two brothers who came here from Cuba?" If the answer is yes, then we are related. And further, if he or she is from Glengoffe, St Catherine, or Ulster Spring, Trelawny, then we both know where the brothers settled and the family chain started.
Another interesting point about family names and connections is that sometimes an entire village is populated by relatives of the same family, no matter what the difference might be in names. So you have to be careful how you call names when you are in strange territory, for the person you are speaking about may very well be the first cousin of the person you are speaking to, and you get into trouble saying the wrong thing.
Nowhere is the family clan relationship tighter and more widespread than in South St Elizabeth where I spent a number of enjoyable years. From Junction to Bull Savannah to Ballards Valley to Southfield they not only share family names, but they bear a strong resemblance to each other as cousins or relatives twice or thrice removed. I have reached the point where I can attach a name and profile to a district and with quick thinking can identify an Elliott from Junction, a Nembhard from Stephen Run, a Blake from Lititz, a Powell and a Stephenson from deep south, and a Barnes from Lucky Valley"...
From http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120710/life/life1.html "Uncovering Secrets In Brown's Town", Published July 10, 2012
"THERE WAS a peppery smell in the air and it seemed the rain that only moments earlier had subsided, made the scent even stronger. People were walking about with energy as photographer Norman Grindley and I passed the market in Brown's Town, St Ann….
Beep! Beep! A grey stationwagon drove by.
As we struggled to stay on the narrow sidewalk, we noticed an elderly man coming our way. He had an unruly grey beard and wore spectacles with thick frames and cloudy lenses.
"Hallo! Hallo!" he said. We stopped and returned the greeting. The man gave his name as Ferly and he told us a bit about Brown's Town.
"A good amount of Brown live here, you know," he said. "People what name Brown pack up the place. It all coming from Hamilton Brown who the town name after. Yes man, dem teach it in school," said Ferly, nodding.
He told us that Hamilton Brown was buried in the graveyard at the nearby Anglican Church. "But a lot of people don't even know that. Is only long-time people like me know dem tings," he said.
It started raining again, so we had to say a quick goodbye before making a hasty retreat...
The Anglican Church sits on a hill overlooking the town centre. It's a beautiful old building with a well-manicured lawn. A middle-aged woman was standing near the back door. She wore a blue blouse and a skirt that stopped at her ankles.
"Welcome," she said. We mentioned to her that Ferly had told us that the founder of Brown's Town was buried in the graveyard. "Well, I not really sure about that you know. Even though I am here 27 years now," she said. "Maybe some other people might know about it, but I never really hear about that."
We told her we would look around in the graveyard anyway. She nodded and headed inside the church.
Now it seems most, if not all, of the graves in the yard are quite old. A lot of the tombstones are cracked and faded making it difficult to read anything written on them.
There was one, though, that stood out. It was close to the church and a little higher than the rest. I walked over to it and brushed it off with my hands. I could make out some of the words.
It read, in part:
Founder of this town
From what else I could see, Hamilton Brown represented St Ann in the House of Assembly for 22 years. There was something at the end about always being remembered, but I couldn't see exactly what it was.
So it turns out Ferly was right after all. With his help, we managed to uncover a small secret sitting almost in the middle of the town. Not bad for a day's work, I say."
Italics were added by me to highlight those sentences.
"Brown's Town - 6 miles south of Discovery Bay
A visit to Brown's Town in St. Ann is a great way to see a genuine Jamaican market town. Brown's Town is one of the most important and biggest inland town in St Ann, it market attracts farmers and vendors from all over the surrounding Blue Harbour Mountains and further afield. It is best to visit on market days (Wednesday, Friday or Saturday) to see the town at its liveliest.
In addition to the market, Brown's Town is famous for its range of educational institutions. The Brown's Town Community College offers tertiary courses from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology (UTech) and three well regarded secondary schools.
Brown's Town is named after its founder, Hamilton Brown. Hamilton Brown was an eccentric Irishman who owned a lot of land in rural St. Ann Parish. Although Brown was well respected in his community he also made a lot of enemies
One of Brown's contributions to the town was to finance the construction of the St Mark's Anglican Church. However, he abhorred the work of the Baptists and missionaries and is alleged to have orchestrated the burning-down of Baptist churches and free slave villages."
From https://www.quora.com/What-are-popular-Jamaican-surnames What are popular Jamaican surnames? by Sher Rutabel, Born, raised and live in Jamaica, Written Aug 11, 2015
"If you take up a Jamaican telephone directory you will see that the sections with these last names are the largest: Campbell, Brown, Clarke, Henry, Jackson, Johnson, Smith, Jones, McFarlane, Shaw, Thomas and Thompson. Popular among the Jamaican Indians are Singh and anything ending in 'ani' and among the Chinese are Chin and Lee."
Floretta Plummer, Written Oct 18, 2015
"Smith hall morris williams campbell wilson"
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