RIGGS FAMILY HISTORY *The Historical Research Center
The English surname Riggs is local in origin, belonging to that category of surnames derived from the name of the place where an original bear dwelt or where he once held land. This was one of the most common means of identification in the period prior to the establishment of a formal hereditary surnames system. Riggs is, in fact, one of a set of variants, which also includes Rigge and Rigg, all of which signify “dweller by or at, or man from the ridge”, being derived from the Old Norse term “hryggr”. One of the earliest references to this name in English records dates back to the twelfth century, when we read of a William de Rigge, who is listed in the Pipe Rolls of Shropshire between 1197-1198. The 1332 Subsidy Rolls for Cumberland document a John del Riggs, and seventeenth century records mention a Thomas Riggs from Hamtonshire who was registered as a student at the University of Oxford in the year 1601.
In more recent times, notable bearers of the name have included Lynn Riggs (899-1954) the American dramatist upon whose play “Green grow the Lilacs”, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” is based, and Elias Riggs 1810-1902, the American missionary renowned for his mastery of Greek and the Semitic languages. Indeed, this surname was actually established in the United States at a very early date, as records indicate that an Edward Riggs, who was born in Lincolnshire in 1590, emigrated to the New World and settled with his wife and family at Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1633. The arms which are described below were granted to the Riggs family of Strangle Thorpe.
Blazon of Arms: Gules, a fesse ermine, between three water spaniels argent, each holding in the mouth a birdbolt or.
Translation: The fess, or horizontal band, recalls the ancient Military Belt and Girlde of Honour. Gules (red) symbolizes Mars and denotes Fortitude and Honor.
Crest: A Talbot passant gules eared or, in the mouth of a birdbolt or.