Emm surname

I started researching my family tree when I was in the 6th form.  Wouldn’t you with a surname like mine?

Emmposium 2014 held at Bratton, Wiltshire.      Age range 2-92

My family knew nobody called Emm apart from my uncle and his family. In the London phone book, there were 5  Emm families – we knew none of them and were too timid to phone.  The magic of genealogy means I now either know them or know who they were. They were all my cousins although we had to resort to DNA for one London branch which ultimately proved that, some ten generations ago, (circa 1750?) we have a common ancestor.  We have disconcertingly similar physical attributes; a long thin nose is quite common.

What’s amazing is that the 5 other families had the same desire to phone us.

1921 Census

According to FindmyPast (www.findmypast.co.uk) there were 329 people with the surname Emm in England and Wales in the 1921 census.  I am slowly wading my way through all of them and have already discovered that in actual fact there are 326 Emm(s) with two putative ones.  Three Findmypast Emm(s) actually have the surname Imm so aren’t in the happy band of Emm. A further two are double-barrelled and therefore I doubt if they belong to the Emm clan either.

I am currently devising a database of all Emm-ees in the 1921 census and should you wish to contact me, I am happy to share any information I have about them.  So far, I ‘ve discovered a few interesting members of the Emm family who don’t appear to be in any of my other databases.  To get in touch with me, please go to the contact page.


25 May 2019, Jubilee Hall, Bratton, Wiltshire.  2-6 pm. Emm family trees. Emms and the 1939 register.  Walk around Bratton which is where the Bratton Emm branch hail from.
26 May 2019, Broad Chalke, Wiltshire.  Emms have lived in the village of Broad Chalke from the early 18th century. There will be a walk around the village and lunch in the local pub.  TBC.

Please contact me for further details of meeting places and times.

Origin of surname Emm

Emm has an uncertain derivation.  Online and printed surname dictionaries suggest  it comes comes from Queen Emma of Normandy, William the Conqueror’s great aunt, who married 1) Ethelred of Unready fame (his actual nickname was Redeless) and 2) Cnut of ‘holding back the tide’ fame.  I don’t like this theory simply because we would be called Emmerson not Emm.

A different theory suggests, alongside Amies (like the dressmaker), Amis (as in writers Kingsley and Martin), Ames and Eames share family roots from the Norman Invasion possibly from Exmes in the Orne department of Normandy.  I don’t entirely go along with this but I’d be more inclined to accept it for Emms in Norfolk because of the s at the end of the surname.

However, as a writer, being distantly associated with Kingsley and Martin Amis somewhat appeals to me.  As to the suggestion that I, a very sloppy dresser, could have anything to do with Hardy Amies, the Queen’s couturier – that makes me laugh.

Sir Henry Emm, Stranger Knight of the Order of the Garter

Sir Henry Eam/Em was a stranger knight in the original line-up of the Order of the Garter founded by Edward III in 1348.  He’s believed to have come from Brabant in the Low Countries but very little is known about him.  His Wikipedia entry is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Eam where you can see a rather natty medieval portrait of him alongside his coat of arms.  As a founder member, his arms are incorporated into the ceiling of St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle.  Sadly, as Henry is not known to have had any children, we can’t be descended from him.

In a nutshell, no-one knows where Emm comes from but  you might be interested in the website www.surnamedb.com.

We can trace our tree back to the late 15th Century.

Famous Emm/Emms include;    

  • Richard Dawson, actor, Hogan’s Heroes, Family Feud (US version of  Family Fortunes) (1932-2012) changed his name from Colin Emm.  2nd husband of Rank starlet and actor, Diana Dors.  He is the only one on this list who is my relative
  • John Emms, chess master and prolific author of chess books
  • John Emms, artist, largely of animals, (1844-1912)   www.avictorian.com/Emms_John.html
  • Gale Emms, MBE, world champion and Olympic badminton player
  • Robert Emms, actor, War Horse and Atlantis etc.   Real name Robert MacPherson!
  • Mitchel Emms, singer/musician, The Voice, Series 2.
  • Amy Emms MBE (1904-1998), quilt maker

If you know of any other famous Emm/Emms, or are interested in your surname, please contact me via http://one-name.org.