MILLS Surname Meaning and Family History

The MILLS surname most typically originated as a name given during medieval times to someone who lived near a mill. Sometimes also used for someone who worked in a mill.
Getty / Friedrich Schmidt

The MILLS surname is a last name often bestowed originally on someone who worked in a mill (occupational) or lived near a mill (descriptive). The name derives from the Middle English mille, milne, coming from the Old English mylen and the Latin molere, meaning "to grind." The mill served a crucial role in most medieval settlements, built to pump water or grind grain.

Another possible meaning derives from the Gaelic Milidh, meaning soldier. 

See also the MILLER surname.

Surname Origin: English, Scottish


Famous People With the Surname MILLS

  • John Mills (born John Lewis Ernest Watts Mills) - Beloved English actor
  • C. Wright Mills - American sociologist
  • Hayley Mills - English actress and daughter of Sir John Mills
  • John Stuart Mill - 19th century social and political philosopher
  • James Mill (born James Milne) - Scottish philosopher, historian, and economist 
  • Darius Ogden Mills - American banker, philanthropist and Gold Rush adventurer
  • Bertram Wagstaff Mills - British owner of the Bertram Mills Circus

Where Is the MILLS Surname Most Common?

According to surname distribution from Forebears, the Mills surname today is most prevalent in the United States. Its use is fairly evenly distributed across the country, with a slightly higher incidence in some of the states where early milling was common, including North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana.

Surname maps from WorldNames PublicProfiler indicate the Mills surname is especially common in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Within the UK, Mills is found in greatest numbers in England and Northern Ireland.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname MILLS

Tips and tricks for researching your MILLS ancestors online.

Mills FamilyTreeDNA Project Website
The Mills DNA Surname Project began in October of 2002 and has a large number of participants collaborating in using DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogy research in an effort to identify their common MILLS ancestors. Men with surnames such as Mills, Miles, Mull, Milne, Desmoulins, Mullins, Meulen, Vermeulen and Moulins men are encouraged to participate in this Y-DNA surname project.

Genealogy of a Mills Family
A genealogy for one branch of the Mills family that migrated from Virginia to New Hampshire and Maine, compiled by several researchers of the Mills family.

Mills Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Mills family crest or coat of arms for the Mills surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

MILLS Family Genealogy Forum
Search this popular genealogy forum for the Mills surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Mills query.

FamilySearch - MILLS Genealogy
Explore over 4 million results from digitized historical records and lineage-linked family trees related to the Mills surname and variations on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

GeneaNet - Mills Records
GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Mills surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.

The Mills Genealogy and Family Tree Page
Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Mills surname from the website of Genealogy Today.

References: Surname Meanings & Origins

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "MILLS Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2021, Powell, Kimberly. (2021, September 2). MILLS Surname Meaning and Family History. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "MILLS Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).