Fry Surname Genealogy

Fry started out as a nickname of someone being free, that is
not a serf and not belonging to a lord. The root was the Old
English frig, meaning “free
born.” This surname appeared mainly in the west
country. Another Old English word free,
also meaning “free born,” was the derivation of the surname Freeman
that was to be found more in East Anglia and the north of England.
Fry in America has a greater likelihood of being German or Swiss rather
English. The name Frey or Frei – becoming in later generations in
America Fry – was first recorded
in Germany in the 13th century. As in England, it meant free and
reflected a freed status.
Select Fry Resources on The

Select Fry Ancestry

England. Thomas le Frye
was recorded in the Wiltshire rolls of 1273 and the region of north
Wiltshire, around Malmesbury, provided some early sightings of the

Wiltshire The
Fry chocolate family trace their roots to the Wiltshire
of Corston, according to John P. Fry’s 1906
book, Pedigree of the Family of Fry.
They became
there in the mid-17th century before starting a chocolate

in Bristol in the mid-18th and establishing a family dynasty of
extended into the 20th century:

  • Cecil Fry sold the chocolate business
    to their
    Cadbury in 1919, much to the anger of fellow-members of the family.
  • another line of these Bristol Frys, via Joseph
    started a type-foundry business in London in the 1780’s.
    This business continued into the 19th century
    with Edmund and Henry Fry.

Other Frys from Wiltshire were
be found in sizeable numbers in the villages of Lacock and
Castle Combe near Corston. One Fry family from Chippenham in
emigrated to New Zealand in 1841.

Somerset Frys from Somerset departed for America and Ireland
during the 17th and 18th centuries. William
married Ann Ogborn in Winscombe in 1770.
Charles and Ann
Fry left
Taunton on the Harry
for Australia in 1849. Another Fry family which
had farmed in the Somerset village of Rooksbridge from the late 1700’s
went to Australia in the 1850’s.

Devon The Fry
name was also long-established in Devon. The oldest line
appears to have been in Membury near Axminster, where the Frys had
masters of Yarty House in 1406. William Fry of Membury was
described in the 1580’s as “a man of large possessions and ancient
family.” These Frys built the Deer Park Mansion near Honiton
which stayed in family hands until the end of the 18th century.

SW England By
the 19th century, the Fry name had spread a bit across England, but
was still to be found mainly in the west country. The five
counties of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Devon
accounted for just about half of all the Frys recorded in the Victorian

Frybrook House was built for Henry Fry in Boyle,
Roscommon in 1753. Henry Fry from a
merchant family in Somerset had been invited to Boyle to set up a local
industry. Frys have remained at the house
that time.

America. Early Fry
arrivals to New England in the 1630’s were John and Anne Frye from
Hampshire and George
Fry and his wife
from Somerset.

A later Fry arrival
from Somerset into Virginia. Joshua Fry, made more waves. He
married into money
in 1737 and set himself up as a mapmaker, surveyor, and a landowner of
an 800 acre plantation along the Hardware river. He was friends
with the Washingtons and Jeffersons, later to become famous in American
history. His descendants
were early settlers in Kentucky. His line was covered in the Rev.
P. Slaughter’s 1890 book Memoir of
Colonel Joshua Fry.

However, the greatest Fry immigration – and the largest number of Frys
today – was in Pennsylvania. Most were of German stock.
Their Frey/Frei names would become Fry after two or three

reached Philadelphia in 1680, prior to William Penn’s
arrival, and was believed to have been the
first German immigrant to that state. He and his family are
credited with holding the first charter for the land that became
Philadelphia and for building what is considered the historical “Old
Town” section of that city.

Frey was a Swiss Mennonite
family name and more Freys began arriving in the early 18th century
because of the religious tolerance that William Penn afforded. Johannes Frey, for instance, came with his
family in 1731 and settled first in Berks county, Pennsylvania and
later in
Burke county, North Carolina. Johann
Valentine Frey arrived in 1733 and also settled in North
Carolina, this
time in Rowan

Some of these Freys became Amish Mennonite ministers. Others such
as Daniel and Catherine Fry who had married in Huntingdon county in
1822 integrated more into mainstream society. Curiously one Frey
family, whose forebear was a fifer in the Revolutionary War, changed
their name to Fry and then, much later, back to Frey.

Australia. The first Fry
to arrive in Australia was a convict, James Fry on the Pursan. He served his
sentence in Tasmania and then moved to Jamison, Victoria with his
family. Later came Fry settlers, such as:

  • William and Elizabeth Fry from
    West Farleigh in Kent in 1839
  • Francis Fry from Rooksbridge in
    Somerset in 1850, followed by brother Isaac and his family
  • John Brock Fry and his wife Harriet from Broadstairs in Kent in
    the 1850’s.

Edith Fry arrived with her sons from London in 1894 and settled in
Donnybrook, Western Australia. They acquired Crendon farm in 1904
and the family now sells farm machinery there.

Fry Miscellany

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

Fry Names

Joseph Fry was the forebear of the Fry chocolate family,
starting his chocolate factory in Bristol in 1756.
Joshua Fry was a suveyor and
mapmaker in 18th century colonial Virginia.
Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker relative to the chocolate Frys, was an
early 19th century prison reformer. She is depicted on the back
of the English £5
bank note. Charles Burgess Fry was a larger-than life cricketer, educator,
and writer of the Edwardian era.
Stephen Fry is an English comic writer
and TV personality.

Select Frys Today

  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gloucestershire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous
    in Pennsylvania)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).



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