Select Perry/Parry Surname Genealogy

The Perry and Parry surnames have two principal origins, one Welsh and the other English:
  • the Welsh derivation is the patronymic ap Harry or ap Herry (from the personal names Harry or Herry, a form of Henry).  These names compressed to Parry and Perry on the Welsh borders and in north Wales.  The names Harris and Harries stuck more in south Wales. 
  • the English (and Scottish) derivation is locational, describing someone who owned or lived by a pear tree (pirige in Old English which derives from the Latin pirum or pear).   In England, the surname came out initially as Pery or Pury and later in the 17th century as Perry, in NE Scotland it was Pirie.
Perry and Parry do come from different roots.  But they can get mixed up in their travels:
  • Perry is also the main name outside the UK.  American immigration records show an equivalent number of Perrys and Parrys during the 19th century.  But once there most Parrys changed their names to Perry.      

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Select Perry/Parry Ancestry

Wales.  The first recording of this Welsh patronym was John ap Harry in 1407 in the border county of Herefordshire.  The Parrys of Golden Valley in Herefordshire date from a little later.  Among their number were Sir Thomas Parry and Blanche Parry, both confidantes of Elizabeth I.  A related Parry family was to be found across the border at Llandefailog Tre'r Graig in Breconshire and other Parrys cropped up in nearby Monmouthshire.

North Wales.  Parrys were to be found in greater numbers in north Wales.  Some of them became well-known as poets and musicians.  The Parrys from Henllan near Denbigh in present day Clwyd were an early family and included the 16th century diarist Robert Parry and, later, a Quaker emigrant to America:

"Thomas Parry or Thomas ap Harry, a weaver who bought this land, was the son of Harry ap Rees of Henllan parish and came to Pennsylvania from Llanelwith in Radnor, bringing a certificate of membership from the Radnor Quarterly Meeting dated May 5, 1699."
Moses Parry lived in the village in the early 19th century.  His daughter Elizabeth bore an illegitimate child who became in later life the African explorer Henry Stanley.  He it was who uttered the immortal words: "Dr. Livingstone I presume!"
In the 17th century a Parry family from Shropshire had established themselves at Madryn Park.  They subsequently became the Love Jones-Parrys, one of whom in the 1880's helped start up the new Welsh settlement in Patagonia. 

Many Parrys migrated in the 19th century to Lancashire, while others left for more distant parts.  John Parry, for instance, set off in 1849 with a hundred Welsh Mormons for the new Salt Lake settlement in Utah.  

England.  The west country is the home of the fermented pear drink Perry and also for many Perrys. 

SW England  Perrys in Devon started with Roger Pery, a trader of Spanish wines in Exeter in the 1530's.  By the 1690's, Micajah Perry of this family had emerged as a tobacco merchant in London (his family history is recounted in Jacob Price's 1992 book Perry of London).  When Micajah died in 1721, his firm was the leading tobacco merchant of his day.  But subsequent trading and shipping losses brought down the company some thirty years later.

There were also early Pery/Pury sightings in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire.  By the 19th century, the largest number of Perrys in the west country were in Somerset.  One family record there goes back to 1715 and the village of Kingsdon in south Somerset.  Later Perrys were in and around Taunton. 

Essex  Another grouping of Perrys was in Essex.  Perry was recorded as a surname from the late 16th century in villages near Colchester such as Lexden and Copford.  One family record dates from a Thomas Pery who was born in Lexden in 1593.  Another Perry family (traced by James Perry in his A Perry Family from West Essex) descended from an Abraham Perry of Epping Forest in the 1660's.  

Staffordshire  But the biggest cluster of Perrys was in Staffordshire and in the neighboring county of Warwickshire.  The root here may not have been the pear tree but the Latin parva meaning "small" (from which came the Perry of Perry Barr on the outskirts of Birmingham).  Perrys prominent in the 19th century from this area were:
  • Thomas Perry, the founder (in 1806) of  the Thomas Perry & Co ironworks in Bilston
  • his son Frederick, who lived nearby at Dunston Hall
  • and Thomas Perry the horticulturist, who resided at Bitham House in Warwickshire.
Ireland.  Perry in Ireland is an English implant.  The first Perry appears to have been a Captain George Perry of Gloucester who settled in couinty Clare in 1639.  Richard Perry arrived from Devon with Cromwell in 1658 and took up lands in Tipperary.  His descendants became gentry families in Tipperary (Woodrooff and Kilboy) and in county Cork. 

There were also Protestant Perrys in the north, in Tyrone and county Down.  James Perry of Perrymount, born around 1670, was the progenitor of a long-lasting family in county Down.

America.  Early Perrys were to be found in New England.

New England.  Edmund and Sarah Perry arrived with their ten children from Devon in 1637 and settled in Sandwich, Massachusetts.  One of his sons, Edward, was a Quaker and his family later moved to Rhode Island where there was greater religious tolerance.  From this family came the remarkable naval Perrys of Newport, Rhode Island.  Their numbers included:
Other early arrivals into Massachusetts were John Perry who settled in Roxbury in 1632 and another John Perry in Watertown (Bertram Adams' 1955 book Descendants of John Perry of London traced this lineage). 

Elsewhere.  In Virginia, William Perry came there as early as 1611; and the Perry tobacco merchants of London left Perrys in Isle of Wight county (including Phillip Perry at his Whitemarsh plantation).  A family tradtion is that seven brothers of this family (William, Nathaniel, Francis, Joshua, Jeremiah, John, and Burrell) departed Virginia for North Carolina in the 1740's.

New Hope in Pennsylvania grew up around the lumber mills that Benjamin Parry, the son of a Welsh Quaker, had constructed on the river banks.  Benjamin built his home there, Parry Mansion, in 1784.  The house stayed with his descendants until 1966.

There have also been Perry families in the South.  One family record traces the family of Joseph Perry from North Carolina to Georgia and Florida.  Another North Carolina Perry family, the descendants of Joshua Perry of Warren county, went to Texas.  Franklin Perry also ended up in Texas and his son Alexander became a wealthy landowner in Dallas.  Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, is descended from farmers who had arrived in Texas from Alabama in the 1850's.

India.  Parry became a household name in Chennai (formerly Madras) due to Thomas Parry from north Wales who set himself up as a merchant there in the 1780's.  His name has been handed down through Parry's Corner in Chennai's central business area. 

AustraliaBoth Perrys and Parrys came to Australia as convicts and later as free settlers.  Joseph Perry arrived in Sydney in 1885 as a Salvationist but later emerged as one of the pioneers of film-making in Australia.  His three sons all became early cinema managers.  
Select Perry/Parry Miscellany

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

Select Perry/Parry Names

Blanche Parry
was lady in waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth I.
John Parry, born blind in Ruabon near Wrexham, was one of Wales's finest harpists.
Matthew Perry was the US naval commodore who with his four black ships compelled the opening of Japan in 1854.
Stephen Perry was the 19th century British inventor who developed the rubber band.
Sir Charles Parry was the English composer best known for his choral song Jerusalem.
Fred Perry from Stockport in Cheshire was three-times Wimbledon tennis champion in the 1930's.
Gaylord Perry from North Carolina won 314 games as a pitcher during his 22 year baseball career.  His 1974 autobiography was called Me and the Spitter.

Select Perrys/Parrys Today
  • 81,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cheshire)
  • 85,000 in America (most numerous in California).
  • 43,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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