Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surname Saturday - COUNCILL

My earliest known Councill ancestor is Francis Councill, born around 1815 in Maryland. His son John Wesley Councill was my great-grandfather.

Much of my information on the earliest Councills in America is from the book A Genealogy of the Council Family in America by Emmett E. Cockrum, published in 1985. Permission is given to distribute the book, as long as there is no charge.

Excerpts from the book:

The name Council was originally Conseil (Norman French) and came to England at the time of William the Conqueror or shortly thereafter. "De gu. a la crois fleurdelisse, acc. en chef a dextre d'une rose et a sen. d'une coquille, le tout d'arg." is a description of the ancient Norman coat-of-arms. In England the family was relatively obscure, belonging chiefly to the yeoman and merchant classes. However, there is a coat-of-arms of English origin ascribed to a Counsell family. Variant spellings of the name were Conseil, Counsel, Counsell, Councill, Cownsel, Cownsell, Cownsill, Cownsil, Consil, Concell, Concill, Council, and others.

Somersetshire, Gloucestershire, County Middlesex, Devonshire, and London were the earliest locales of the family in England. John Council is the first known member of that family in America. He married his first wife, Elizabeth Drake, in Devonshire, England. She is reputed to have been a close kinswoman of Sir Francis Drake (who claimed Portsmouth, Devon, as his home). Apparently she died in England, for John Council and his grown son, Hodges Councill, commonly called Hodges Councill the Elder to differentiate him from his son of the same name, arrived in Virginia ca. 1658. Most Councils in America of whatever spelling of the surname, appear to have descended from John and Elizabeth (Drake) Council through their son, Hodges Councill the Elder. It is noted that Hodges spelled his surname with a double "l", and this spelling still survives in large parts of the family today, especially in Virginia and Maryland. 

The first Councils of America were English Episcopalians. Hardy Councill (1678=1750) was a vestryman about the year 1734 of St. Luke's, or the Old Brick Church of Isle of Wight County, Va., built 1632, our miles east of Smithfield. It is claimed to be the oldest Episcopalian Church in America still used as a house of worship.

In North Carolina and elsewhere the name Wesley Council has been noted., indicating some Methodist favor. One Benjamin Council was a Methodist minister. There were many Baptist ministers among the Councils, particularly in Virginia.

We have many of the same names running through my Councill family and the Maryland location as mentioned in the book, but I have not been able to determine the parents of Francis as of yet.


  1. I really need this book. I am Carol Council, descended from a Benjamin Council and probably from Hodges Council. show it as out of print. Can anyone tell me how to find it?

    1. Carol, you can find the book online at

      Click on Catalog and under "Search By", click on Last Names. Type in Council in the Last Name field and click the Search button. You should see 18 results. Click on the link for "A genealogy of the Council family in America" and under Notes you'll see "To view a digital version of this item click here". Click on "here" and that will open a digital copy of the book. You can download the book by clicking the Download icon in the upper right of the PDF page that comes up. Let me know if you have any problems getting to it. Kathryn