Surname Saturday – Sills

Howell, Hobbs, Long, Bryan, Sills Line
By Don Taylor

Sills is a variation of Sill. The English Sills surname is likely derived from the name of an ancestor, for example, Silvester, Selwyn, or Sisley. Although possibly it could have come from the German Sill, for a harness rope or the maker of harness ropes. [i]


Today, the greatest incidence of Sills is in the United States, with over 9,000 people with the name. Tiny Norfolk Island (east of Australia and Northwest of New Zealand) has the greatest frequency of Sills, with one in 765 people having the surname. In the US, the greatest incidences of the Sills surname are in Texas, California, and Florida.

Direct Surname Ancestors[ii]

    • 4th Great-grandmother: Lucretia (Sills) Bryan (1755-1829)
    • 5th Great-grandfather: Isham Sills (1728-1802)
    • 6th Great-grandfather: Lambert Sills (1690-1751)

Sills in History

Lucretia Sills married Lewis Bryan in 1788, probably in Martin County, North Carolina. Although I haven’t confirmed it, it appears that two of Lucretia’s brothers, Benjamin and William, fought in the Revolutionary War in Halifax County, North Carolina. Grey, Samuel, and William Sills also fought for Virginia during the Revolution. I need to research more to possibly connect them as related to Lucretia.

Royal Standard of France (early 17th century–1789)

Lucretia’s grandfather, Lambert, was an immigrant ancestor. He was born in France in about 1690. He immigrated to the colonies before 1714 when he married Elizabeth Brewer in Virginia. He lived in Virginia until he died in 1751.

Famous Sills

Beverly Sills, the opera star, was born Belle Silverman and is unlikely to be related. Likewise, Paul Sills, director of Chicago’s Second City, was born Paul Silverburg and is likely unrelated.

Milton Sills is probably the most famous person with the Sills surname. He was an actor in the 1910s and 1920s. His most successful films were The Flaming Youth (1923) and The Sea Hawk (1924)

Sills Descendants

I have 264 known descendants of Lambert Sills in my tree; 29 Bryan, 26 Howell, 22 Sills, 19 Long, 17 Hobbs, and 15 Valentine individuals. I have not written about John W. Bryan (1788-1865); however, I did write about his daughter, Martha.

Ancestor Photographs

Mary Lillian (Hobbs) Howell

Mary (Hobbs) Howell



[i] Common surname origins include:

      • Occupations (such as “Farmer”
      • Physical characteristics (such as “Short”)
      • Places or landmarks (such as “Hill”)
      • Patronymics, derived from father’s name (such as Johnson from ”son of John”).

[ii] I have not had the opportunity to personally research these individuals. As such, their names and dates are tentative and/or speculative.

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