Fish Surname Genealogy
the surname Fish derived from the Old English fisc or fische which does
mean “fish.” It could signify either a
fisherman or a fish seller. That would have been the case with
Robert le Fissh
recorded in Somerset in 1327. Others see
the Fish root possibly in the old Saxon Fytche name, of uncertain meaning,
which came out in the 15th century as Fyche or Fiche.
In America Fish could be the Americanized
version of the German or Jewish Fisch or
the Scandinavian Fisk, meaning in each case
“fish.” The Fish family here includes Fish Fish of Darwen,
Lancashire and Preserved Fish of Rhode
Island and New York.
Fish Resources on
- The Fysh Family
Fysh of Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
- Windsor Fish Family History
Fish from Berkshire to South Africa.
- Fish DNA Project
Fish surname may have had its origin in an old Saxon family prior to
the Norman Conquest, but there is nothing written to that effect. In medieval times the spelling did change
from Fyche to Fysshe and Fyshe and to Fish which probably came about in
century. Simon Fish, the radical
Protestant reformer who died of the plague in 1531, was an early
example of the Fish
name. Unfortunately there are no records
of where he came from.
provided some Fish in the 1600’s. Thomas
Fishe, born in 1634, was a yeoman farmer
at Kirby Malham near Skipton; while Thomas Fysh, born in Yorkshire
around the year
1650, became the rector of St. Margaret’s, Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
Probably because of him, there were a number of
Fysh families in
the Kings Lynn area during the 18th century.
Then there was the Fish line from Market Harborough of Great Bowden
parish in Leicestershire, starting with Edward Fysh around the year
1508. This line is significant because it seems to have supplied
nearly all the early Fish who emigrated to New England. As one
American descendant put it:
throughout all quarters of our broad land are thousands of
individuals whose lives can be traced back to John and Margaret Fish of
Bowden. As a rule they are diligent and
conscientious citizens, content to fill the duty lying before them.“
But the largest Fish numbers, according to the 1881
census, were in Lancashire.
An early Fish sighting was at Over Darwen. Michael
Fisshe was recorded as living there
in 1404. The Fish family were yeoman
farmers in what is now the market town of Darwen and part of Blackburn. Thomas and Anne Fish were smallholders in
1662. One Fish family lived at Barrons
Fold in the Blacksnape section of Old Darwen. William Fish left for America in 1841. Graham Fish and Nathaniel Fish operated
cotton mills in Darwen in 1891.
America. One of the early Fish came from Sweden.
Johan Fisk (meaning “Fish” in Swedish) arrived at the New Sweden
in Delaware on the Swan in 1648.
His line continued through his son Caspar, born in the colony in
and later became Fish.
New England. The early Fish arrivals
have been all related. There were the
three brothers – Jonathan, John and Nathaniel – who came to Sandwich on
Cod in 1637; plus two of their cousins, Thomas who was in Portsmouth,
Island by 1643 and John who was in Connecticut by 1651 and later
Stonington. Lester Fish Wing’s 1948 book
The Fish Family in England and America covered these lines.
The main lines went as follows:
- from Cape Cod. Many Fish
remained there. Samuel Fish and his son
Thomas fought in the
Revolutionary War. Eliel Fish was a
captain of whaling ships in he 1850’s.
- from John in Connecticut came Asa Fish and the Fish
active in shipping
and shipbuilding in Mystic, Connecticut during the 19th century. The Asa Fish House, built in 1824, is still
- from Thomas in Rhode Island
came three Preserved Fish, the first a blacksmith and the third a
shipping entrepreneur in the whale oil market in New York City in the
1800’s. There was also a Fish line that
had moved south to Edgecombe county, North Carolina in the 1730’s.
Jonathan Fish had left Cape Cod for Long
Island in the 1650’s. From this Jonathan
came the illustrious Hamilton Fish line, the first Hamilton
being US Secretary of State from 1869 to 1877 and three latter Hamilton
all serving as US Congressmen. When Hamilton Fish III celebrated his 102nd birthday in
1990, he was the
oldest living American who had served in Congress.
Another Fish line in New England began with Captain
George Fish who arrived in Nantucket from England sometime in
1750’s. He eventually settled in what
became Kennebec county in Maine, but then died at sea.
His only son Bolton died during the War of
1812. Bolton left twelve children.
One of Bolton’s sons Randall, born in 1795,
was in later life a riverboat captain on the Potomac.
His fourth son was named Hamilton Fish (after
the politician) and was born when Randall was 75. When
Randall died five years later he ended
up in an orphanage. Known as Albert
Fish, he would become a notorious child serial killer who was
and executed in 1936.
Other Fish. Two later Fish
families that departed from
- from Darwen, William
Fish a mason and his wife Jane in 1841 on the Astracan. Jane died at sea only a few days before the
ship arrived in New York.
- and from
Accrington, another William Fish a stone cutter and his wife Winifred
in 1849. They made their home in Gambier,
William owned a quarry and helped build Christ
Church at the Quarry in 1862.
New Zealand. H.S. Fish
& Son was a painting and glazing company that Henry Fish from
established with his son when they moved to Dunedin, SI in 1863. Henry Fish jr.
had a long and
tempestuous career in politics in Dunedin over a period of thirty years.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Simon Fish was
a 16th century Protestant reformer and propagandist, best known for
spreading Tyndale’s New Testament and for authoring vehement
Preserved Fish was a prominent
New York shipping merchant of the early 19th century.
Hamilton Fish was a 19th
century American politician and statesman who served as US Secretary of State from 1869 to 1877.
Michael Fish was the BBC
weatherman who infamously dismissed advanced warnings of the Great
Storm in England in 1987.
Select Fishes Today
- 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
- 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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