Origins of the Surname Christmas
The general consensus from various surname dictionaries is that the name originated as a birth forename for someone born at Christmas, similar to use of Noel as a first name. Descendants of Christmas used Christmas as their surname, much the same as the Irish surnames which developed from ‘son of….’. However, there is also an argument that Christmas became the anglicised spelling of a Norman French surname. Christmas, as a surname, would appear to be English in origin, largely found in the counties of Sussex and Essex.
The Surname Christmas in Ireland
Christmas as a surname in Ireland shows up as early as the 17th century. A quick search of the 1641 Depositions, freely published online by Trinity College Dublin, found two depositions. Richard Christmas ‘late of Cappanabagha in the County of Corke, clothwoorker’, made a deposition on 20th September 1642 and Robert Christmas ‘late of Kilpatricke in the parish of Bruny & barony of Kynalmeky & within the County of Corke yeoman’, also made a deposition in September 1642.
A search of the indexed church records, published by the Irish Family History Foundation at www.rootsireland.ie, for the surname Christmas in Ireland, revealed the Church of Ireland baptism of Elizabeth Christmas, daughter of Thomas Christmas, on 20th March 1656 in the City of Waterford.
Christmas in Genealogical Abstracts
Genealogist Gertrude Thrift’s collection of abstracts held in the National Archives of Ireland, have been digitsed online at Findmypast. This collection includes several references to a Thomas Christmas of Waterford. Thrift’s transcription of a Chancery Bill , dated December 22nd 1663, identified ‘Thomas Christmas of the City of Waterford Merchant’. In the same collection of genealogical abstracts published by Findmypast, are details of the will of Thomas Christmas of Waterford, extracted by Sir William Betham, which includes a sketch coat of arms. Betham’s extracts from the Prerogative Wills of Ireland are often the only surviving record of these documents, largely destroyed in the 1922 Public Record Office fire.
According to Betham’s notes, a Thomas Christmas of Waterford, mercht. appears to have died or authored his will on 30th May 1699. Said document named his son, Richard Christmas and Richard’s wife Susanna, daughter of Jonathan Aland and their children, Thomas and Elizabeth. Also cited in Thomas’ will was his second son, James, cousin Wm. Lisle, mother ______ Gammon of Barnstaple, son William, daughter Elizabeth Hallam, sister Alice Bille and daughter, Margaret.
Christmas in 19th Century Ireland
Using the surname search facility on John Grenham’s website we find that by the time of Griffith’s Valuation, the surname Christmas in Ireland appears in counties Waterford, Kilkenny and Louth. The largest concentration, nine households, was found in Waterford.
The first evidence of the surname Christmas in Ireland in surviving Roman Catholic records, was the baptism of Robert, the illegitimate son of Robert Christmas and Elizabeth Pepper. Robert was baptised on 6th July 1797 in the Roman Catholic parish of Ballybricken, part of Waterford City. This entry has been incorrectly transcribed on Findmypast, presumably because the Latin first name Robertum posed a difficulty for the transcriber, who came up with Cobertinn!
This brief survey of the surname Christmas in Ireland has found the earliest reference to Mary Christmas, named as a niece in the will of Elizabeth Hallam of the city of Waterford, dated 24th July 1711 and abstracted by Sir William Betham.
Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell, Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (1896)
DNA Search for Father Christmas, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4460832.stm
Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912)