Percy

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Percy Surname Genealogy

The
Percy
name came from its first bearer in England, William de Percy, who
derived his
name from the fief of Perci or Percy near Villedieu in Normandy where,
it is
thought, he originated.

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Percy Resources on
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Percy Ancestry

England. The
forebear of the Percys in England was the Norman William de Percy
who arrived in 1067
and made his base in Yorkshire. From him
has come a
prominent early line of
Percys
who became the Earls of Northumberland and a prominent
later line
who became the Dukes of Northumberland.

The Percys owed their rise to power by being the
bulwark against the marauding Scots across the border.
In 1309 Henry Percy bought the barony of Alnwick
in Northumberland. He became at a stroke
the greatest landowner of the north after the King and the owner of one
of its
most powerful fortresses, Alnwick Castle.
His son Henry added to the family holdings by acquiring
Warkworth
castle. And their main source of power
came
from their appointment as the wardens of the east March of Scotland, an
office
which they were to hold for most of the next two centuries.

But as soon as the
Scottish menace faded in the 16th century, the Percys lost their power.
The
Tudors no longer needed a viceroy in the north. The sixth earl was
ruined by
Henry VIII, the seventh executed by Elizabeth, the eighth murdered in
the Tower
and the ninth gave up on politics for chemistry and astronomy. They
were for
much of this time Catholic sympathizers who were involved in the Rising
of the
North of 1569 and, directly and indirectly, in the Gunpowder Plot of
1605.

The
male line ended when Joceline Percy died in 1670. His
daughter Elizabeth would inherit the
estate (although James
Percy, a
trunkmaker in Dublin
, did challenge her claim).
In 1682
Elizabeth married
Charles Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, and they became one of the
wealthiest
couples in England.

The Percy and
Northumberland line then reinvented itself when Elizabeth Percy nee
Seymour
married Sir Hugh Smithson in 1740. She
inherited the barony of Percy ten years later.
Her husband adopted the name of Percy, after much legal
argument, and
was created the Duke of Northumberland.
Their line, encompassing many politicians and military people
over the
years, has continued to this day. Alnwick Castle remains with
them, as does
Northumberland House and Syon House in London.

The Percy family history has been
covered in two books – Gerald Brenan in his 1902 book
A
History of the House of Percy

and Alexander Rose in his 2002 book
Kings in the North.

Percys
Elsewhere
. There was in addition a southern branch of
the Percy family which held the Petworth manor in Sussex from the 12th
century
onwards. Sir William Percy of this
family served as the MP for Sussex in the late 1300’s.
The present Petworth House was built in 1688,
but it passed out of Percy hands in the next century.

The Percy name also cropped up in the west
country:

  • it was to be found in
    Dorset and Devon and Dorset mainly. The
    Percy name
    had appeared in Shaftesbury, Dorset by the late 1400’s.
    Perhaps Percy had different origins here.
  • but
    the Percys of Worcester may have descended
    from the Northumberland Percys. Thomas
    Percy was mayor of Worcester in 1662 and a later Dr.
    Thomas Percy
    , who grew
    up in
    Shropshire, became chaplain to George III and the Bishop of Dromore
    in Ireland.

Percy
in Yorkshire often became Piercy and sometimes Pearce.
The Piercy name, possibly originally
Percehay, was to be found around Malton in east Yorkshire and dated
back to the early 1500’s
.


America.
There
were some early Percys in America, in each case related to the
Northumberland
Percys:

  • George
    Percy came to the
    Jamestown colony in 1607, served as its Governor, and was the author of
    two
    important accounts of the early colony. But
    he
    didn’t stay. He returned to England in
    1612.
  • Richard
    Percy meanwhile came to New England from Bristol on the Lion
    in 1630. He settled in Rhode Island. Some of his descendants migrated north to
    Maine.

But
the best-known Percy line in America arrived some time later. Its progenitor was an Irish Catholic
adventurer named Charles Percy, later Don
Carlos Percy
, who came to British West Florida in 1775 and
prospered
at Natchez under Spanish rule as a plantation owner growing indigo
dye.


There were many
prominent Percys

in this illustrious Southern family. The
line passed from Don Carlos Percy to:

  • his
    son Thomas G. Percy a cotton planter
    at Huntsville in Alabama. His plantation
    abutted that of his friend John Walker, one of Alabama’s first Senators. Thomas had married Maria Pope, the daughter of
    plantation owner Leroy Pope and a distant relative of the English poet
    Alexander Pope.
  • his
    grandson the heroic Colonel William Alexander Percy, the
    “Gray Eagle” of the Civil War. The
    colonel later became a railroad lawyer.
  • and
    three of the colonel’s sons – Leroy,
    William, and Walker – and their families and descendants.
    Their numbers included Leroy Percy, the US
    Senator for Mississippi in 1910, his son the writer and war hero Will
    Percy,
    and a cousin, the novelist Walker Percy.

The
family story was narrated in
Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s 1994 book The House of Percy.

It
is a tale, as the author described it, of honor, melancholy, and
imagination in
a Southern family.


New Zealand. Joseph Percy left Sherborne in Dorset for
New
Zealand in 1847. He met his wife there
and they settled in Lower Hutt near Wellington.
His descendants were still there a hundred years later. Meanwhile
Henry Percy, also from Sherborne,
had arrived there with his family five years earlier on the
Clifton.
He was aged just nine at
the time.
He later married and in 1869 moved to Wairarapa where he purchased
Thornton Park. This farm was to stay
with the Percy family until 1973
.

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Percy Miscellany

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



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Percy Names

William
de Percy
was
the progenitor of the
Percy family that became the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland.
Sir Henry Percy
, also known as Harry
Hotspur, was the schemer in Shakespeare’s plays who helped Henry IV
seize the
throne and then rebelled against him and was killed in battle.
Charles Percy
, an Irish Catholic
adventurer, was the founder of the Percy family of Louisiana, Alabama,
and
Mississippi.
William Alexander Percy from Mississippi was a
World War one hero,
lawyer, and memoirist, best known for his book Lanterns
on the Levee: Memoirs of a Planter’s Son
.


Select Percys Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Northumberland)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

 

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