Barrett Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Barrett Meaning
Barrett origins
are unclear. One line of thinking is
that the word was derived from the Old French barat and
barater meaning
“commerce” or “dealings” and described a
market trader; or possibly it could have been a nickname for someone
quarrelsome. Alternative suggestions
have been the French barrette
meaning “cap” or a
Norman personal name of similar sound.
The name was brought to
Ireland during the Anglo-Norman invasion.
The Gaelic rendering was Baroid in
the south (in county Cork) and Baireid
in Connacht (Mayo and Galway). The similarity of these two names
may have been coincidental. The Barretts of Cork were said to
have derived their name
from the
Norman-French Barat or Barratt;
while the Barretts of Mayo and
Galway picked up the Gaelic name Bairéad which
meant “quarrelsome” or “warlike.”

Barrett Resources on

Barrett Ancestry

Ireland. The two Barrett
in Ireland may nor may not
have been related. Both came with the
Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170 and both originated from the Pendyne
region of Carmarthenshire
in Wales.

. One
branch claimed Norman origins, from a
knight named Baret who had come to England with William the Conqueror
in 1066. These Barretts, initially called
settled in county Cork where their name was rendered as Baroid. They
influential in the part of central Cork which became known as Barrett’s
Country and they were large landowners there
until 1691.

Their castle at Castlemore had been damaged by
Cromwell’s forces in 1645, but not pulled down, and they managed to
retain their
lands at that time. In 1691, however, the
then head
of their family, Colonel John Barrett, had Castlemore destroyed and had
12,000 acres of
land taken away for having raised a regiment of infantry for
King James’s Irish

Mayo/Galway. The
second line of Barretts established themselves in the
Connacht counties of Mayo and Galway, where their name was Gaelicized
as Bareid. Although
the pedigree produced in 1588 claimed a noble lineage, the alternative
version was that they had just been hired mercenaries at the time of
the invasion. They were consequently known as “the
Welshmen of
Tirawley,” having

the barony of
the mountainous part of Mayo/Galway.

These Barretts
came to form a clan in
the Gaelic fashion, the head of which was known as Mac
Bhaitin Baireid
(Mac Watten Barrett), and over time they
assimilated fully into Irish culture.

England. Baret was an early
spelling of the name in England. Baret
was recorded as owning lands in Yorkshire at the time of Edward the
while a Baret may have arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066. Barets and later Barrets and Barretts were later to be
found primarily in SW and SE England.

SW England.
Barets were cloth manufacturers in Gloucester
in the mid/late 1300’s. Richard Baret
often traded these cloths to Wales.

1394 a certain band of ruffians,
planning to murder one Robert Sage on the road through Monmouth and
Usk, by
mistake assaulted Baret instead, leaving him for dead. He did,
however, survive
to represent Gloucester in three more Parliaments.”

were also Barretts at Penquite in
Cornwall. They were Royalist and had
their lands confiscated by Cromwell in 1651.
But Hearcey (Hercie) Barrett, said to have been of this family,
was part
of Cromwell’s invasion force in Jamaica, remained there, and was the
forebear of the
Barretts of

SE England.
There was a Barret line in
Kent where Valentine Barret was sheriff of Kent in the early 1400’s. His brother John established the family at
Aveley Belhus in Essex where they were to remain for the next 250
years. According
to family tradition Queen Elizabeth stayed at Belhus on her way to
review the
troops at Tilbury Fort in 1588.
later became the Barrett-Lennard baronets.

Other Barets/Barretts were to be found in
Norfolk. One line began with Simon
Barret who was married in Hardwick in 1385.
Another started in the village of Blythborough, just across the
in Suffolk, in the next century. It
included Christopher Barrett, mayor of Norwich in 1634.
From a Barret family in King’s Lynn came the
clergyman John Barret. He switched from
Papacy to Protestantism very rapidly after the death of Queen Mary in

Elsewhere. The
Barrett spelling had become predominant by 1600, although older
did persist. George Barret, father and son, were
18th century landscape painters and early members of the Royal Academy.

continues to be found in the Midlands and the north:

  • William Barratt founded the Barratt shoe company in Northampton
    in 1903. It has lasted as a High Street store until recently.
  • while Lawrie Barratt from Newcastle began Barratt Developments,
    one of the UK’s largest homebuilders, in the early 1960’s.

Caribbean. R.A. Barrett began his 2000 book The
Barretts of Jamaica
with the
following sentence:

May 1655, the English
fleet dropped anchor at Port Royal, Jamaica.
On board was a young lieutenant, Hercie
, and his wife and child.”

In the
years that followed, his family acquired substantial wealth and
influence in
Jamaica. They controlled much of the island’s mining and agriculture,
becoming as
well one of its leading plantation owners.

Among the more
prominent members of the family was Richard Barrett who was elected
three times
as Speaker of the House of Assembly in Spanish Town. He was cousin to
the poet
Barrett Browning
. He built Greenwood
as his home outside of Montego
Bay, a mansion which still stands.

These Barretts have long since left
Jamaica. But the Barrett name remains in
Jamaica, notably with the musicians Carly and Aston Barrett who played
with Bob
Marley and the Wailers in the 1970’s.

Two early Barretts to New England were:

  • Thomas Barrett
    and his wife Margaret who came in the late 1630’s from Suffolk to
    Massachusetts. The family moved in 1663
    to Chelmsford (where their home, the
    Barrett-Byram Homestead
    , still stands). Martha
    Barrett Sparks was accused of witchcraft in 1691 but
    released. Oliver Barrett was a
    minute-man at the time of the Revolutionary War.
  • and Humphrey Barrett who came from
    Kent to Concord, Massachusetts in 1639. His
    descendants remained there. Colonel James
    Barrett was a well-known Revolutionary leader
    in the town
    in the 1770’s. After the war Samuel
    Barrett had a gristmill there, hence the present-day Barretts Mill Road.

were early Barretts also in Virginia.
Thomas Barrett arrived in Jamestown on the Abigail
in 1620. Later
Barretts operated a ferry along the Chickahominy river which was still
functioning by the time of the Revolutionary War. Many
Barretts descend from the Rev. Robert
Barrett who came as a missionary to the Norfolk area in 1737.

John Barret was a
merchant in Richmond, Virginia and its mayor three times in the 1790’s. His
son William was a tobacco manufacturer
whose home, Barret House, has been preserved.

of the wealthiest men in Richmond, he died
when he set his dressing gown on fire while lighting his pipe.”

Barrets have continued to
live in Richmond.

Over time, more Barretts have come to America from Ireland
than from England. Many arrived poor at
the time of the Great Famine. Patrick
Barrett brought his entire family
from Mayo to Cork and thence to America in 1847. They
made it to New Orleans and then worked a
passage up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Finally,
after fleeing fire and cholera there, they were
able to make a home for themselves in the village of Catawissa in

. William Barrett, a poor
subsistence farmer
from Ballygally in Cork, joined Peter Robinson’s emigration scheme to
Canada in
1825. He settled with his family in
Peterborough in eastern Ontario. The
family history was recounted in Anthony Barrett’s 2014 book The
Tribe Within.

At the other end of the
social spectrum, Hugh Massey Barrett from county Down, a descendant of
the Cork
Barretts, brought his family to Quebec on the Bolivar
in 1830. His son
T.B. Barrett migrated to Port Dover on Lake Erie ten years later. Three Barretts of his family, Harry and his
and niece Alice, moved west to British Columbia in the 1880’s. Alice kept diaries of her time in Port Dover
and British Columbia which were published in 2002.

A Jewish immigrant to British
Columbia in the 1920’s, a fruit and vegetable peddler in Vancouver,
adopted the
name of Barrett. His youngest son Dave,
a former social worker, rose to become Premier of British Columbia in

Australia. Some
early Barretts came as convicts. Thomas Barrett had been a
Fleeter. In Australia he was accused of
stealing food from the Government storehouse and in February 1788
became the
first man to be hanged in the colony

Edward Barrett-Lennard from Essex arrived in style in
Western Australia in 1829, being one of its first settlers. He brought with him on the Marquis
of Anglesea
six servants and
some farm animals and equipment so that he could start farming on the
acreage that he had secured on the banks of the Swan river. Grandson George died on the family
in 1917, following the death of his son Forrest by accidental drowning
and his
son Douglas who fell at Gallipoli.


Barrett Miscellany

The Two Barrett Clans of Ireland.  There were two Barrett clans in Ireland, the first branch of
the clan were the Munster Barretts of county Cork and the other branch the Barrett clan of Connacht, most numerous in the Mayo-Galway mountainous
areas. The two
clans were believed to have been unrelated
But recent research has suggested otherwise. The English pipe
rolls of
the 13th century have indicated that the overlords of both the Cork and
Mayo Barretts were the same people.  The records further showed
families came from Wales.

Hercie Barrett and His Descendants in Jamaica.  Hercie
or Hersey Barrett was said to have been from an
old landed family in Cornwall.  He was a Lieutenant
in Cromwell’s army under Penn and Venables in the West Indies which
landed in
Jamaica in 1655.

had two sons – Hersey born in 1650 in England, and Samuel born in
Jamaica in
1662. He also had a property in Vere between Carlisle Bay and Milk
River called

the pioneer died in 1685, his son
Hersey in 1726.  The latter was buried
in the cathedral in Spanish Town and his tombstone can still be seen
there.  The other son Samuel Barrett had
died in the French invasion at Carlisle Bay at the age of 32.  But he did leave three children, Richard,
Samuel and Anne.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Jamaican Heritage.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born at Coxhoe Hall in Durham in 1806, the first of twelve children to Edward Moulton Barrett, a
Jamaican plantation owner, and his wife Mary.

Edward was really a Moulton rather
than a Barrett.  His parents were Charles
and Elizabeth Moulton who had married in Jamaica.  But
his fortune had not come from his father,
who soon separated from his wife, but from his maternal grandfather,
Barrett, the owner of the Barrett family estates in Jamaica.   By 1798 all three of Edward Barrett’s
had predeceased him, thereby making his grandsons by Elizabeth Moulton,
and Samuel, his principal heirs.  A
clause in the will of his son George Barrett had made legacies for the
sons conditional on their taking and bearing ‘the surname of Barrett’
turning twenty-one.  This they duly died.

Barrett who
died in 1794 had never had a white wife, but had fathered six children
by Eliza
Peters, a mulatto slave in one of the Barrett properties.
These children were brought to England by
their grandfather in 1795 but there were not given the Barrett name and
was no likelihood that they might inherit the Barrett estates.

Barrett Browning herself believed she
had African blood through her grandfather Charles Moulton.
After abandoning his wife and children,
Moulton – a rather shadowy figure – is thought to have become a slave
in New York.  Certainly he had a string of mistresses and
illegitimate children
including his last, a Jamaican woman who bore him a son.

The Barrett-Byram Homestead in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.  In 1663 Thomas Barrett and his son, Thomas came to Chelmsford from Braintree, Massachusetts, buying a house and fifty-two acres of land there.

around a great central chimney, the house boasted a fireplace
in every room.  The ceilings were low for
the purpose of conserving heat. The original fireplace structure was
taken down to the top of its foundation around 1800 to modernize the

fireplace in the Keeping Room was the place where the cooking was
done.  It may be seen today with its iron
crane supporting heavy iron kettles hung on “S” hooks over the fire,
iron “spiders” and boiling racks, heavy tin roasting oven, reflector
oven, and flip toaster.  The Historical
Society’s collection of earthenware, woodenware and tin is also
displayed in
this room.  To the left of the fireplace, is the “beehive oven”
much of the baking was done. It would originally have been located
inside a
larger walk-in fireplace and far more dangerous for women in their long
to use.

the early days of the old house, there was a “borning room”
opening off one end of the Keeping Room where the continuous heat from
the big
fireplace kept the room fairly comfortable in times of illness or the
birth of
babies. This room was opened up and made a part of the Keeping Room by
the last
owners of the property.

house was substantially put together with beams
fastened securely by wooden pegs or trunnels (tree nails).
Gunstocks posts are still visible.  Evidence
of the long sloping room of the “saltbox” is seen in the attic where
plaster marks show against the chimney.

Reader Feedback – Dominick Barrett in Anson County, North Carolina.  Dominick Barrett,
born in Cork in 1773, came to Anson county, North Carolina in 1790 as a very
young man. Somehow he was able to amass
2-3,000 acres in Anson county.  His
brother’s name is Thomas.  How can I find
out about him in Ireland?

Laura Barrett (lbarrettoliver”

Thomas Barrett, Engraver and Convict.  In 1784 Thomas Barrett appeared at the Old Bailey in
London on a charge of being criminally at large. For three years he was
kept in
appalling conditions on a hulk in the Thames before being sent to
Australia in
the first batch of convicts on board the Charlotte as a part of
First Fleet.

When the fleet stopped to re-stock at Rio de Janeiro he was
involved in passing some forged quarter dollars at Rio de Janeiro,
made from some pewter spoons and old buttons and buckles belonging to

Dr White the surgeon on board the Charlotte
asked Barrett to make a memento of the trip out and Barrett fashioned a
out of a silver kidney dish. That medal still exists and was sold at
auction to
the National Maritime Museum in Australia in 2008 for a million dollars.  It is known as the Charlotte medal.

Thomas Barrett himself had no luck in Australia.  He
was accused of stealing food from the
Government storehouse and in February 1788 became the first man to be
hanged in
the new colony.

Matthew Barrett, International Banker.  Matthew Barrett was born and raised in Kerry in Ireland,
where his father struggled to make a living as a musician playing in local
dance halls in the 1950’s. Since the family was relatively poor,
Barrett was
encouraged by his father to enter the banking business.

In 1962, at the age of
18, he became a clerk at the London headquarters of the Bank of
Shortly afterward Barrett’s father died of a heart attack and Barrett
was left
as the sole supporter of his mother and sister.  Barrett recalled:
“It aged
me overnight. I was the man of the family.
It changed me from being a young man having a good time into a
career banker.”

Over time Barrett steadily rose through the ranks at the
Bank of Montreal and was appointed its CEO in 1989.
Ten years later he retired but then accepted
the position as CEO at Barclays Bank.


Barrett Names

Riocard Bairéad aka
Richard Barrett was
a poet and United Irishman
at the time of the 1798 Uprising.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
, born
Elizabeth Barrett,
was one of the most prominent English poets of
the Victorian era
Lawrie Barratt founded Barratt
Developments, one of the UK’s largest homebuilders, in the early 1960’s.

was a Canadian-Irish
banker who became CEO at the Bank of Montreal and Barclays Bank in the
1980’s and 1990’s

Select Barrett Numbers Today

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Essex)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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