Wisdom


Select Wisdom Surname Genealogy

Wise and Wisdom derived from the Old English wis meaning “knowing” and would refer to a learned person in medieval times who would be regularly consulted on legal or other matters.  Wise emerged as a surname sometime in the 13th century, Wisdom a century later.  Wisdom is the rarer of the two surnames.  Wises outnumber Wisdoms by about ten to one.  Both names are concentrated in London and the southeast.

Wisden is a variant of the Wisdom name.

Select Wisdom Resources on The Internet

Select Wisdom Ancestry

EnglandThe Wisdom name first appeared in the west country:
  • in 1327 Robert Wisdom appeared in the Somerset rolls
  • and in 1377 Thomas Wisdom, the MP for Wilton, was recorded in the Wiltshire rolls.
However, the name is mainly to be found in London and the southeast.

The earliest Wisdom appearance in records in the southeast (as Wisdome) seems to have been in South Stoke near Arundel in Sussex in the 1550’s.  There was a more continuous line in Frant and Wadhurst from the 1650’s.  John Wisdom was recorded as a carpenter in Glynde in 1766 and William Wisdom later lived in Pear Tree Cottage.  The comedian Norman Wisdom was a descendant.

The variant spelling Wisden came later and also appears to have originated in Sussex.  John Wisden, born in Brighton in 1826, began the famous Wisdens Cricketers Almanac in 1864.


America.  There are, surprisingly, more Wisdoms in America than in England. 

The origin of these Wisdoms appears to have been Thomas Wisdom from Berkshire who came to Virginia with his wife Martha in 1662.  The main lines derive from their sons Francis and John.  Later Wisdoms moved onto Kentucky, North Carolina, and elsewhere in the South.


There is another genealogical line
posited by George W. Wisdom in his 1910 book Genealogy of the Wisdom Family.  The patriarch of this line was Abner Wisdom, an English lawyer.  Three of his sons came to America around the year 1730, initially to Virginia and later to Kentucky.  However, critics today have raised doubts as to whether this line is really valid.

One line from Jesse Wisdom of North Carolina led to Georgia and thence, a generation later, to Abner Wisdom in Chattanooga, Tennessee and John Henry Wisdom, the Paul Revere of the Confederacy. 

Francis and Nancy Wisdom migrated to Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1800’s.  Later Wisdoms of the line settled in the Missouri Ozarks (a Wisdom family lived on a farm in the Hogles Creek community from 1839 to 1967).  From Kentucky one line moved south and settled in New Orleans in the 1830’s.  John Minor Wisdom died in a blaze there in 1857, but a later Wisdom of the same name was a Louisiana judge at the time of civil rights. 

The main numbers of Wisdoms in America were first in Missouri and are now in Texas.


Canada.  Wisdoms were early arrivals in Nova Scotia, coming to Halifax from New England in 1749.  The name of John Wisdom, a carpenter, and his wife Mary can be found on a plaque commemorating the first settlers.  Later Wisdoms were also carpenters in Halifax.  Alonzo Wisdom and his wife emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860’s and settled in Cobden, South Island.

Select Wisdom Miscellany

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


Select Wisdom Names

John Wisden began the famous Wisdens Cricketers Almanac in 1864.
Norman Wisdom was an English comedian, actor and singer-songwriter of the 1950's and 60's best known for his slapstick routines. 

Select Wisdoms Today
  • 1,300 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 1,800 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  •   200 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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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