Avery Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Avery Surname Meaning

Avery is an English surname of ambiguous origin. Some scholars believe that the name is Anglo-Norman and derived from Every or Evreux, the latter being the name of a county in Normandy.

Alternatively it might come from the Old French given name Aubri (Aubrey) or Auvery. Auvray was a fairly common name in Normandy in medieval times.

Avery Surname Resources on The Internet

Avery Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England
  • to America, Canada, and New Zealand

England. The earliest sightings of the Avery surname seem to have been in SW England. Avery was also found in SE England.

SW England. The Avery or Every name appeared at an early time at Bodmin in Cornwall. Thomas Avery was recorded there in 1310 and Nicholas Avery was mayor of Bodmin in 1544.

The progenitor of a prominent Every family was John Every, born in Bodmin in the early 1500’s. He was the father of two Every lines:

  • one line went through his son John Every of Chard in Somerset, a Serjeant-at-Arms to Queen Elizabeth. His descendant Sir Simon Every, a Royalist supporter during the Civil War, became the first of the Every baronets. These Everys made their home in Derbyshire.  
  • another line went through John’s nephews William and Alexander Every who prospered in trade and held Wycroft castle near Newton Ferrers in Devon. The pirate Henry Every of the late 1600’s was thought to have been a cousin of these Wycroft Everys.

“According to a deposition by a member of Every’s crew in 1696, Henry Every was then aged about 40 years, his mother lived near Plymouth, and his wife was a periwig seller in the East End of London.”

Henry Every disappeared at that time. Rumors abounded as to his whereabouts. But there were no reliable sightings.  

Devon had the most Averys in England by the 19th century. William Avery held the manor of Coreham in 1270. Christopher Avery was a kersey weaver at Totnes in the late 1500’s whose descendants emigrated to America. Robert Avery, gentleman of Dowland, was recorded as burying his first wife Thomasine there in 1601, his second wife Johanna there in 1612, and marrying his third wife Ann there in 1613. He himself died in 1628.

The Avery name did extend into the West Midlands. An early sighting was the Avery family in the village of Fillongley in north Warwickshire. The first Avery recorded there was William Avery, born around 1500. A branch of the family emigrated to Massachusetts in 1650. William Avery who died in 1732 left in his will a charity endowment to the village.

The Averys of Redditch in Worcestershire were needle manufacturers for three generations, dating back to William Avery in the early 1800’s. Harold Avery of this family was a well-regarded writer of children’s books in the early 1900’s.

SE England. The name has been most common here in London, Sussex and Kent.

The Avery name in Sussex was first found in the Hastings area and had become quite widespread by the 16th century:

  • Averys were yeoman farmers at Westfield in the Rother valley at this time.
  • in Hurstpierpoint, Nathaniel and Susan Avery were recorded as living at an old farmhouse known as Knowl’s Tooth
  • while Thomas Avery was the owner of Cobb’s Mill. 

Some have said that the name in Sussex might have sprung from a French pronunciation of Alfred.

There were also early Averys in Berkshire. They were in the clothing trade in Newbury during the 17th century. Amos Avery of this family was commissioner for Berkshire in the 1650’s.

Ireland. Avery in Ireland has Gaelic origins from the Mac Aimhreidh sub-sept found in Ulster and in county Down in particular. Harry Avery’s castle in Tyrone was thought to have been built in the 14th century and named after Harry Avery (Henry Aimbreidh) O’Neill, a local chief who died in 1392 

America. The most written-about Averys in America have been the so-called Groton Averys. The Rev. David Avery wrote a very early history of this family in 1800. This was followed by Elroy and Catharine Avery’s 1912 book The Groton Avery Clan.

The Groton Averys. The forebears of this family were Christopher Avery and his son Captain James Avery who arrived in America in 1630, first settling in Gloucester, Massachusetts and then in New London, Connecticut. Captain James died in the nearby township of Groton in 1700.

“In 1871 it was worthy of note that out of the 545 representatives of the town of Groton, 104 have borne the name of Avery and all were descendants of Captain James Avery.”

Waightstill Avery, born in Groton in 1741, migrated to North Carolina where he fought in the Revolutionary War. One of his grandsons Isaac was a colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War, another William was a member of the Confederate Congress and speaker at the North Carolina Senate.

Solomon Avery was Waightstill’s brother and wrote to him as follows after the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781.  “Eleven Averys were killed in the fort at Groton and seven wounded. Many Averys have been killed in this county, but there have been no Tories among them of our name.”  

Solomon moved to Pennsylvania in 1798. A descendant was Cyrus Avery, the so-called father of Route 66. He was a realtor in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 1900’s who promoted the road in order to link rural communities from Chicago to Kansas and onto Los Angeles.

Another line led via Cayuga county, New York to Benjamin Avery who started a blacksmith shop at Virginia in 1825. Twenty years later he established himself in Louisville, Kentucky and began making plows. By the time of his death in 1885 his company was the largest manufacturer of plows in the world.

Then there was Dr. Dudley Avery, also for a time in Cayuga county, who settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1806. He died at sea of yellow fever in 1816.

However, by that time he had given his name to Avery Island where his son Daniel was a sugar planter, judge, and state senator. During the Civil War Daniel’s son John developed a valuable salt mine on the island. The aftermath of the war found the family estate ruined. But Daniel’s son-in-law Edmund McIlhenny began making there the now famous Tabasco brand pepper sauce.

Other Averys. Other early New England Averys were:

  • Thomas Avery, a blacksmith, who came on the John and Mary in 1633. He eventually settled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
  • the Rev. John Avery, a preacher from Wiltshire, who had come to Newbury, Massachusetts in 1634 but perished in a shipwreck a year later.
  • William Avery, an apothecary from Berkshire, who came with his family in 1650 and made his home in Dedham, His grandson John was minister at the first church at Truro on Cape Cod. Later descendants were to be found in Massachusetts and Maine primarily.
  • there was also William Averill, first sighted in Ipswich in 1637. Many of his descendants in Maine and New York state became Avery.

Canada. William Avery was among the Pennsylvania Loyalists who crossed the border into Canada around the year 1785. His grandson Jefferson moved in 1871 with his family from their Avery home in Haliburton county, Ontario across the Lake of Bays to a new homestead in the district of Muskoka; and Jefferson’s son Nehemiah then made his home further north along the Muskego river where he farmed.

Samuel Avery meanwhile came to Ontario from Devon sometime in the 1860’s and settled in Bruce county. The Bruce museum there has a small booklet describing the descendants of his son Albert.

New Zealand. Averys from Kent came to New Zealand.

Thomas Avery and his family from Staplehurst were early arrivals in Wellington in 1840, sponsored by their Kent parish, and farmed at Taita in the Lower Hutt area.

Esau Avery from Benenden came to Wellington with his family in 1855 on a roundabout route that took in a five year stay in South Carolina. A later Avery, Henry, played rugby for New Zealand and founded Avery Motors, the Wellington franchise for Ford cars, in the 1920’s.

Avery Surname Miscellany

The Auvrays in Normandy.  The Auvray name was fairly common in Normandy.  William Auvray was recorded at Caen in 1463; John Auvray was living at Montivilliers in 1570; and Cyprien Avray was an alderman at Caen in 1589.

Marin Auvray was lord of Villy Bayeux and was ennobled in 1543; while John Auvray of Coutances was lord of Vivier who was ennobled in 1576.

Reader Feedback – John Every as Sergeant-at-Arms.  In the Calendar of Patent Rolls for April 3, 1571 it was stated:

“Grant for life to John Everie of the office of sergeant of arms, held by John Dawtry, deceased: wages of 12d a day from Dawtry’s death.  For his services to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and the present Queen. By P.S.”

The Sergeants-at-Arms were first instituted by Richard I in the 12th century and is the oldest form of guard for the Sovereign.  Originally composed of 24 Knights and Gentlemen of the highest degree and loyalty, they were an armed guard in a state of immediate readiness. They watched over the King’s tent in complete armour and arrested traitors and offenders about the Royal Court, their official authority being a mace.

These posts were only given to those whose attendance upon the Sovereign added to the dignity and splendour of the Monarchy. Whilst originally an ‘active’ post it later became purely a ceremonial one, but there is no record of at what time this change occurred.

Today there are 3 Sergeant-at-Arms whose duties include walking before the Sovereign on State occasions bearing maces of silver gilt, attending the bearers of the Crown Jewels at Coronations and escorting the Officer of Arm’s during the reading of Royal Proclamations.

Michael Neale (animalcrackers@blueyonder.co.uk)

The Pirate Henry Every.  Modern scholarship suggests that Henry Every was born in 1659 in the village of Newton Ferrers in Devon.  Parish records indicate that he may have been the son of John Evarie and his wife Anne and it is likely that he was a kinsman of the Everys of Wycroft Castle. He was a sailor as a young man on various Royal Navy vessels.  He then got involved in the Atlantic slave trade.  His pirating activity began in 1693.

He was a pirate with many aliases – John Avery, Benjamin Bridgeman, and Long Ben as his crew used to call him.  Although his career as a pirate lasted just two years, his exploits captured the public’s imagination, inspired others to take up piracy, and spawned numerous works of literature.

The most famous play about him was The Successful Pirate, a story about a pirate who supposedly retired after just one year of piracy and lived the rest of his life under a false identity as a rich man.  Contrary to a lot of stories, many people actually think that he died soon after his retirement in 1696 as a poor sailor on the streets of London. 

William Avery’s 1732 Will.  William Avery outlined the following objectives in his charity bequest to the village of Fillongley in north Warwickshire in 1732 as follows:

“The maintenance and improvement of the Fillongley Church of England school and the Arley Church of England school respectively.

The residue:

  • for assisting pupils to attend schools, institutions or classes for purposes of education other than elementary benefits for boys and girls resident in the parishes of Fillongley and Arley who are in need of financial assistance.
  • for making arrangements approved by local education authority for attending to health or physical condition of children attending any public elementary school in the parishes.
  • and for promoting education including social and physical training of boys and girls of the poorer classes in the said parishes.”

Reader Feedback – Averys in Warwickshire.  Currently I’m trying to solve a mystery concerning the inclusion of the Avery name between the forename and last name of three of my ancestors in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

James Croshaw (1774-1854) had, I believe, 13 children. They were born between 1789 and 1821.  Why were only three of these children -the ones born consecutively in 1807, 1809, and 1811 – given the middle name Avery? The following baby, born in 1813, was given the middle name Fox.

I’m now wondering if there was any family connection between these Croshaws in Nuneaton and the Averys of Follingley six miles to the west; or even the Everys of Eggington just across the border in Derbyshire. Could there be a connection with the Avery needle makers – in view of the ribbon weaving undertaken in Nuneaton around that period?

Plenty of family trees present a Mary Avery, born in Kettering, as being the wife of James Croshaw. Regrettably, no primary source evidence is supplied to support the existence of this Mary. In contrast, there is is evidence in Nuneaton that a Mary Calladine, born in Polesworth, married James Croshaw.

Martin Hill (martinmhill@yahoo.com)

PS.  I recently discovered that the office for the William Avery charity is now located on Cotton Road, about half a mile from Church Street where my Croshaw ancestors lived.  I believe that this Avery charity has supported the education of young children for centuries.

James Avery, Founder of the Groton Averys.  James Avery was the founder of the family that came to be known as the Groton Averys.  He was born in Devon and came to Massachusetts on the Arbella with his father Christopher, a weaver by trade, in 1630.

They lived at Gloucester for several years before moving to New London, Connecticut.  His dwelling in New London, once “the unadorned church and watch tower of the wilderness”, was still owned and occupied by an Avery in 1893.

In the English-Dutch quarrels and in various Indian troubles James saw much military service and rose to the rank of captain. He was equally prominent in civil affairs. He was chosen selectman and held office for twenty years.  Here he gained his title of judge.  From 1658 to 1680 he was elected to the general court twelve times.

He and his wife Joanna raised nine children in New London.  In later life James acquired land in the nearby township of Groton where he died in 1700.

In 1871 Judge Wheeler published a list of representatives from Groton which had been set off from New London in 1705.

“It is worthy of note that out of the 545 representatives of the town of Groton, 104 have borne the name of Avery and all were descendants of Captain James Avery.”

Swansong of Parson Avery.  The Rev. John Avery, a preacher from Wiltshire, had come to Newbury, Massachusetts in 1634.  A year later he and his family were on the pinnace Watch and Wait making a trip along the New England coast for Marblehead.  However, three nights into the voyage, a violent storm erupted and the Rev. Avery and his eldest son were both swept overboard by a gigantic wave.

John Greenleaf Whittier described the disaster in his poem Swansong of Parson Avery.

  • “There was wailing in the shallop, woman’s wail and man’s despair,
  • A crash of breaking timbers on the rocks so sharp and bare,
  • And, through it all, the murmur of Father Avery’s prayer.
  • There a comrade heard him praying, in the pause of wave and wind,‘
  • All my own have gone before me, and I linger just behind,
  • Not for life I ask, but only for the rest thy ransomed find!’
  • The ear of God was open to his servant’s last request;
  • As the strong wave swept him downward, the sweet hymn upward pressed,
  • And the soul of Father Avery went singing to his rest.”

There was a museum dedicated to Avery and his family known as Avery’s Woe off the coast of Gloucester and Rockport on the northern coast of Massachusetts.

Avery Island.  Avery Island in Iberia parish, Louisiana is a salt dome known today as the source of Tabasco sauce.  The island was named after the Avery family who settled there in the 1830’s.

But long before that, Native Americans had found that Avery Island’s verdant flora covered those precious salt resources.  There the Indians boiled the island’s briny spring water to extract salt, which they traded to other tribes as far away as Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio.

Daniel Avery left the island with his family for Texas at the onset of the Civil War.  His oldest son enlisted in the Confederate army.  His second son developed the salt works on the island which proved to be of great value for the South.

After the war Daniel Avery returned to Avery Island, found his home in ruins, and set himself to the task of saving the remnant of his fortune. He was not that successful in that objective and his declining years were years of disappointment. He died there in 1879, one year after his wife.  Their bodies lie in the same tomb beneath the spreading oaks of Avery Island.

Thomas Avery, Sponsored Emigrant to New Zealand.  In 1840 Thomas Avery and his family, including eight children, emigrated to New Zealand arriving on board The Bolton after a voyage of five months. The passage to New Zealand was sponsored by the Staplehurst parish with the Rev, Thomas Hornbuckle bending the rules to assist his parishioners.

The following note was written a year or so later by a fellow passenger on The Bolton.

“There is a poor man close to me that came out with us.  I am very partial to him.  He comes out of Kent, has a wife and eight children and told me when he landed he had only six pence in the world.  He has now £60 in gold and has bought a piece of land to put a house on, which cost £90. He is a laborer, and his lads the same. His wife washes for hire.”

By 1882 the Avery family was reported to own almost £2,000 worth of property.

Avery Names

  • Henry Every was a famous English pirate of the late 1600’s. 
  • Waightstill Avery was an American Revolutionary War hero who served as the first attorney general of North Carolina and fought a duel with the young Andrew Jackson. 
  • Oswald T. Avery was a Canadian-born American molecular biologist who in 1943 first isolated DNA as the material from which genes and chromosomes are made. 
  • Tex Avery was an American animator and cartoonist, creating such characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Droopy.

Avery Numbers Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Avery and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.



Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *