Barrett Surname Genealogy

are unclear. One line of thinking is
that the word was derived from the Old French barat and
barater meaning
“commerce” or “dealings” and described a
market trader; or possibly it could have been a nickname for someone
quarrelsome. Alternative suggestions
have been the French barrette
meaning “cap” or a
Norman personal name of similar sound.
The name was brought to
Ireland during the Anglo-Norman invasion.
The Gaelic rendering was Baroid in
the south (in county Cork) and Baireid
in Connacht (Mayo and Galway). The similarity of these two names
may have been coincidental. The Barretts of Cork were said to
have derived their name
from the
Norman-French Barat or Barratt;
while the Barretts of Mayo and
Galway picked up the Gaelic name Bairéad which
meant “quarrelsome” or “warlike.”

Barrett Resources on

Barrett Ancestry

Ireland. The two Barrett
in Ireland may nor may not
have been related. Both came with the
Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170 and both originated from the Pendyne
region of Carmarthenshire
in Wales.

. One
branch claimed Norman origins, from a
knight named Baret who had come to England with William the Conqueror
in 1066. These Barretts, initially called
settled in county Cork where their name was rendered as Baroid. They
influential in the part of central Cork which became known as Barrett’s
Country and they were large landowners there
until 1691.

Their castle at Castlemore had been damaged by
Cromwell’s forces in 1645, but not pulled down, and they managed to
retain their
lands at that time. In 1691, however, the
then head
of their family, Colonel John Barrett, had Castlemore destroyed and had
12,000 acres of
land taken away for having raised a regiment of infantry for
King James’s Irish

Mayo/Galway. The
second line of Barretts established themselves in the
Connacht counties of Mayo and Galway, where their name was Gaelicized
as Bareid. Although
the pedigree produced in 1588 claimed a noble lineage, the alternative
version was that they had just been hired mercenaries at the time of
the invasion. They were consequently known as “the
Welshmen of
Tirawley,” having

the barony of
the mountainous part of Mayo/Galway.

These Barretts
came to form a clan in
the Gaelic fashion, the head of which was known as Mac
Bhaitin Baireid
(Mac Watten Barrett), and over time they
assimilated fully into Irish culture.

England. Baret was an early
spelling of the name in England. Baret
was recorded as owning lands in Yorkshire at the time of Edward the
while a Baret may have arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066. Barets and later Barrets and Barretts were later to be
found primarily in SW and SE England.

SW England.
Barets were cloth manufacturers in Gloucester
in the mid/late 1300’s. Richard Baret
often traded these cloths to Wales.

1394 a certain band of ruffians,
planning to murder one Robert Sage on the road through Monmouth and
Usk, by
mistake assaulted Baret instead, leaving him for dead. He did,
however, survive
to represent Gloucester in three more Parliaments.”

were also Barretts at Penquite in
Cornwall. They were Royalist and had
their lands confiscated by Cromwell in 1651.
But Hearcey (Hercie) Barrett, said to have been of this family,
was part
of Cromwell’s invasion force in Jamaica, remained there, and was the
forebear of the
Barretts of

SE England.
There was a Barret line in
Kent where Valentine Barret was sheriff of Kent in the early 1400’s. His brother John established the family at
Aveley Belhus in Essex where they were to remain for the next 250
years. According
to family tradition Queen Elizabeth stayed at Belhus on her way to
review the
troops at Tilbury Fort in 1588.
later became the Barrett-Lennard baronets.

Other Barets/Barretts were to be found in
Norfolk. One line began with Simon
Barret who was married in Hardwick in 1385.
Another started in the village of Blythborough, just across the
in Suffolk, in the next century. It
included Christopher Barrett, mayor of Norwich in 1634.
From a Barret family in King’s Lynn came the
clergyman John Barret. He switched from
Papacy to Protestantism very rapidly after the death of Queen Mary in

Elsewhere. The
Barrett spelling had become predominant by 1600, although older
did persist. George Barret, father and son, were
18th century landscape painters and early members of the Royal Academy.

continues to be found in the Midlands and the north:

  • William Barratt founded the Barratt shoe company in Northampton
    in 1903. It has lasted as a High Street store until recently.
  • while Lawrie Barratt from Newcastle began Barratt Developments,
    one of the UK’s largest homebuilders, in the early 1960’s.

Caribbean. R.A. Barrett began his 2000 book The
Barretts of Jamaica
with the
following sentence:

May 1655, the English
fleet dropped anchor at Port Royal, Jamaica.
On board was a young lieutenant, Hercie
and his wife and child.”

In the
years that followed, his family acquired substantial wealth and
influence in
Jamaica. They controlled much of the island’s mining and agriculture,
becoming as
well one of its leading plantation owners.

Among the more
prominent members of the family was Richard Barrett who was elected
three times
as Speaker of the House of Assembly in Spanish Town. He was cousin to
the poet
Barrett Browning
. He built Greenwood
as his home outside of Montego
Bay, a mansion which still stands.

These Barretts have long since left
Jamaica. But the Barrett name remains in
Jamaica, notably with the musicians Carly and Aston Barrett who played
with Bob
Marley and the Wailers in the 1970’s.

Two early Barretts to New England were:

  • Thomas Barrett
    and his wife Margaret who came in the late 1630’s from Suffolk to
    Massachusetts. The family moved in 1663
    to Chelmsford (where their home, the
    Barrett-Byram Homestead
    , still stands). Martha
    Barrett Sparks was accused of witchcraft in 1691 but
    released. Oliver Barrett was a
    minute-man at the time of the Revolutionary War.
  • and Humphrey Barrett who came from
    Kent to Concord, Massachusetts in 1639. His
    descendants remained there. Colonel James
    Barrett was a well-known Revolutionary leader
    in the town
    in the 1770’s. After the war Samuel
    Barrett had a gristmill there, hence the present-day Barretts Mill Road.

were early Barretts also in Virginia.
Thomas Barrett arrived in Jamestown on the Abigail
in 1620. Later
Barretts operated a ferry along the Chickahominy river which was still
functioning by the time of the Revolutionary War. Many
Barretts descend from the Rev. Robert
Barrett who came as a missionary to the Norfolk area in 1737.

John Barret was a
merchant in Richmond, Virginia and its mayor three times in the 1790’s. His
son William was a tobacco manufacturer
whose home, Barret House, has been preserved.

of the wealthiest men in Richmond, he died
when he set his dressing gown on fire while lighting his pipe.”

Barrets have continued to
live in Richmond.

Over time, more Barretts have come to America from Ireland
than from England. Many arrived poor at
the time of the Great Famine. Patrick
Barrett brought his entire family
from Mayo to Cork and thence to America in 1847. They
made it to New Orleans and then worked a
passage up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Finally,
after fleeing fire and cholera there, they were
able to make a home for themselves in the village of Catawissa in

. William Barrett, a poor
subsistence farmer
from Ballygally in Cork, joined Peter Robinson’s emigration scheme to
Canada in
1825. He settled with his family in
Peterborough in eastern Ontario. The
family history was recounted in Anthony Barrett’s 2014 book The
Tribe Within.

At the other end of the
social spectrum, Hugh Massey Barrett from county Down, a descendant of
the Cork
Barretts, brought his family to Quebec on the Bolivar
in 1830. His son
T.B. Barrett migrated to Port Dover on Lake Erie ten years later. Three Barretts of his family, Harry and his
and niece Alice, moved west to British Columbia in the 1880’s. Alice kept diaries of her time in Port Dover
and British Columbia which were published in 2002.

A Jewish immigrant to British
Columbia in the 1920’s, a fruit and vegetable peddler in Vancouver,
adopted the
name of Barrett. His youngest son Dave,
a former social worker, rose to become Premier of British Columbia in

Australia. Some
early Barretts came as convicts. Thomas Barrett had been a
Fleeter. In Australia he was accused of
stealing food from the Government storehouse and in February 1788
became the
first man to be hanged in the colony

Edward Barrett-Lennard from Essex arrived in style in
Western Australia in 1829, being one of its first settlers. He brought with him on the Marquis
of Anglesea
six servants and
some farm animals and equipment so that he could start farming on the
acreage that he had secured on the banks of the Swan river. Grandson George died on the family
in 1917, following the death of his son Forrest by accidental drowning
and his
son Douglas who fell at Gallipoli.

Barrett Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Barrett Names

Riocard Bairéad aka
Richard Barrett was
a poet and United Irishman
at the time of the 1798 Uprising.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
, born
Elizabeth Barrett,
was one of the most prominent English poets of
the Victorian era
Lawrie Barratt founded Barratt
Developments, one of the UK’s largest homebuilders, in the early 1960’s.

was a Canadian-Irish
banker who became CEO at the Bank of Montreal and Barclays Bank in the
1980’s and 1990’s

Select Barretts Today

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Essex)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply