This Scottish and Northern English patronymic surname, derives from Alexander and is found in all provinces of Ireland although scarce in Connacht. It came to Ireland with various unrelated immigrants who settled there. One family of the name established itself in County Kerry, another descends from the Cromwellian Governor of Kinsale who obtained an estate in The Deeps, County Wexford. The townlands of Saunderscourt in East Shelmaliere Barony, County Wexford and Saundersgrove in Upper Talbotstown barony, County Wicklow were named for that family. The most prominent family descend from a Scottish settler who served as High Sheriff of County Tyrone and acquired an estate in 1630. The first people in Scotland to aquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. A notable member of the name was Howard Saunders (1835-1907) the ornithologist, born in London. He became a merchant banker and travelled widely to Brazil and Chile (1855-62) and to Switzerland and France. He became a world-renowned authority on gulls and terns and compiled a popular 'Illustrated Manuel of British Birds'. Of this family name was Sir Edwin Sandys (1561-1629) who was a founder of Virginia, the brother of the poet George Sandys (1578-1664) who was treasurer of the colony in 1621. They were born into a Lancashire family, the sons of an archbishop of York. Sir Edwin was knighted in 1603 by James I but became one of the king's leading opponents. He joined the Virginia Company in 1607, and supported the request of the Leiden group to be allowed to settle there. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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