Select Barry Surname Genealogy
The most common origin of the Barry surname is probably the French Norman de Barri name which was derived from a small village in Normandy called La Barre. After the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, a Norman knight named Odo De Barri received lands in south Wales. Barry in Wales may also be a variant of Parry, from ap Harry or “son of Harry.”
In Ireland Barry may be an anglicized form of the Gaelic Beargh (meaning plunderer) or Baire. In Scotland, where the spelling is usually Barrie, the surname derived from the place-name Barry, meaning a rough grassy hill, in Angus in eastern Scotland.
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Wales. The founder of the Barry family in Wales was a Norman knight, Odo de Barri, who was awarded lands in south Wales,
including the island of Barry in the Severn estuary near Cardiff.

On the mainland in Pembrokeshire his son William built Manorbier castle which was to be the home of the family for the next two hundred years. Some of William’s sons departed for Ireland during the Norman invasion of the late 12th century. Gerald de Barri who stayed is remembered in Wales as a medieval clergyman and chronicler of his times. There is a statue of him at Cardiff city hall and he was included in a vote on 100 Welsh heroes.

Ireland. The first bearer of the surname to arrive in Ireland was Robert de Barri, one of the original band of Norman knights
who landed in county Wexford in 1169. Robert was killed in battle in 1185. But his brother Philip had arrived by that time and was later granted large lands in east Cork by the English King Philip, who may have received these lands because of his mother’s influence, died in 1200 and he was succeeded by his son William.

Barryscourt castle in Cork was to be the seat of the Barry family
from the 12th to the 17th centuries. The nearby town of Buttevant is believed to have derived its name from the war cry of the de Barry family: boutez-en-avant, roughly translated as “kick your way through.” The Barry history in Cork was narrated in the Rev. E. Barry’s 1902 book Records of the Barrys of County Cork.

It was here that these de Barrys thrived, becoming one of that county’s major lineages – with three major branches and derivative names:

The heads of the Barryroe sept were lost at sea while on a pilgrimage to Spain. But the Barrymores flourished and intermarried with their powerful neighbors, the MacCarthy Reagh and the MacCarthys of Muskerry. By the 16th century they had become increasingly Gaelicized, even adopting a Gaelic

“At the outbreak of the Desmond rebellion, James de Barry supported the rebels and had his estates confiscated. But his son David sided with the new President of Munster in 1601 and was granted large estates forfeited by the MacCarthys.”

Garret Barry of this family served with the Irish regiment of the Spanish army for thirty years and then returned to Ireland to help lead the 1641 Irish Rebellion.

After the penal years for Catholics in the 18th century, Garrett Standish Barry of Leamlara – from an old Barry family in Cork – was to be the first Catholic MP after the Emancipation Act of 1829. And the Barry name has remained numerous in Cork and in surrounding counties. Barry’s Tea, sold from a store on Prince’s Street in Cork since 1901, is now under the third generation of Barrys. Barry’s Tea today accounts for 40 percent of all the tea sold in Ireland.

However, not all Irish Barrys have come from De Barri. Barrys were also to be found in county Fermanagh. Some Barrys got their name from the Gaelic Beargh (meaning plunderer) in Limerick or from the personal name Baire. And Barry in Ireland could also be Huguenot, from a French Protestant Barre family that came to Dublin in the 17th century.

England. One Barry family was recorded at Fordingbridge in Hampshire from the early 1500’s. They moved to London in the mid 1700’s and Walter Barry established himself there as a stationer and bookbinder. His son Charles become a well-known achitect, responsible for the remodelling of the Houses of Parliament in 1836. Charles’s sons Charles and Edward were also noted architects. Another son Alfred became Bishop of Sydney in Australia.

The main Barry numbers in England have been in London and Lancashire, as a result probably of Irish immigration. The actor Spranger Barry was an early arrival from Dublin, performing on Drury Lane for the first time in 1746. His second wife, Ann Street Barry, became more famous than him on the London stage. Considered by some to be superior to Sarah Siddons, she was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Scotland. Barrie has tended to be the surname spelling in Scotland. The main numbers have been in Angus on the east coast. The playwright J.M. Barrie – of Peter Pan fame – was born to a family of small-town weavers in Kirriemuir, Angus, just outside of Dundee, in 1860.

. Most Barrys in America are of Irish origin.  Notable among them have been:

  • John Barry from county Wexford who arrived in 1761 and made his home in Philadelphia. A seafaring man, he was an officer in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War and later in the US Navy. He is commonly considered the father of the American navy.
  • an earlier John Barry from Ulster who was to be found in Lunenburg county, Virginia by the 1740’s. His grandson William moved with his parents to Kentucky in the 1790’s where he became active in state politics. He was uncle to later Kentucky Governor Luke Blackburn.
  • and a later John Barry from Wexford who came to Georgia in the 1820’s and served as the Catholic Bishop of Savannah.

The largest numbers of Barrys in America today are in Massachusetts, reflecting later Irish immigration. John and Michael Barry were among many who left Cork for Massachusetts at the time of the potato famine. Edward Patrick Barry, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in the early 1900’s, came from a Fermanagh family.

Barry in America can be an adopted name. Examples include:

  • Jack Barry – born Jacob Belser – who sang on the radio in the 1930’s on his Jack Barry Show
  • Jack Barry – born Jack Barasch – a TV game show host of the 1950’s and Len Barry – born Leonard Borisoff – a songwriter and record producer.

Australia. Redmond Barry came to Australia from Cork in 1839.

“He sailed from London in the Calcutta on April 27, 1839 and arrived in Sydney on September 1. For part of the voyage he was confined to his cabin by the captain because of an unconcealed love affair with a married woman passenger. The matter became known to influential people in Australia and did not help his reputation or his prospects of employment in Sydney.”

Redmond settled instead in Melbourne where he made his mark as a judge and became prominent in social and political life there. He was the founder of the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Public Library. In 1846 he made the acquaintance of Mrs Louisa Barrow. Although they never married, she bore him four children who all took the Barry name.
Select Barry Miscellany
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Barry Names

Odo de Barri
, a Norman knight, was the forebear of the Barry
families in Wales and Ireland.
Ann Street Barry was a much acclaimed English actress of the late 18th century.
John Barry was an American naval officer during the Revolutionary War later to be called “the father of the American navy.”
Sir Charles Barry was a Victorian architect known for his rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament in 1836.
J.M. Barrie was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan.
John Barry has been one of the best-known composers of soundtrack music since the 1960’s, being known in particular for his work on the Bond films.
Rick Barry is considered one of the best small forwards to have played the game of basketball in America.

Select Barrys Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


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