Berry Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Berry Surname Meaning

The surname Berry derived from the Old English hyrig, meaning a fortified place, or the later peri, denoting a fortified manor house.

The place-name Bury, found in Lancashire and Suffolk amongst other places, comes from the same root. Bury was recorded as Byrig in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles in 974.

Richard de Bury, born near Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk. was made Bishop of Durham in 1333 and Lord Chancellor of England in 1335.  There were the Dukes of Berry (duc de Berri), once a province in central France, but these Berrys remained in France.

Berry Surname Resources on The Internet

Berry Surname Ancestry

  • from England, Scotland and Ireland (Connacht)
  • to America, Canada and New Zealand

England.  The early appearances of the name were in the southwest of England.  Gilbert de la Beri was recorded in the pipe rolls of Cornwall in 1202.

Devon.  A Berry family was established in the 13th century as the lords of the manor of Berry Narbor near Ilfracombe on the north coast of Devon.  There were subsequent branches at Crosscombe and Chittlehampton.  

Henry and Richard Berry were among the 187 colonists from here that sailed to the Roanoke Island colony in America in 1587 and never returned.  Admiral Sir John Berry, instrumental in the founding of Newfoundland in 1675, was also from this family.  The Berry Narbor line apparently died out, without a known male heir, in 1708.

In Exeter in the mid-1700’s was the wine merchant John Berry.  His son George moved to London in 1803 and took over what became the London wine merchants of Berry Bros. & Rudd on St. James’s Street.

Yorkshire and Lancashire.  There have been more Berrys in the north, in Yorkshire and Lancashire, but less luminous.

The place-name of Berry Brow near Huddersfield may have given rise to the Berry name in that area.  The Berry family of maltsters in the town came be traced back to Robert Berry in 1700. John Berry was born in Huddersfield in 1734.  Jonas Berry married Sarah Ellis in Huddersfield in 1805.

Henry Berry was the surveyor who completed the work on the Liverpool docks in the 1750’s; while John Berry was recorded in Liverpool as an anchorsmith in 1763.  Thomas Berry was a Liverpool merchant who traded to Jamaica in the early 1800’s. Edwin Berry, a local solicitor, and his son Arthur were primarily responsible for the development of Liverpool football club in the early 1900’s. 

Wales.  The Berry newspaper barons originated in Wales.  J.M. Berry rose from humble beginnings to become mayor of Merthyr Tydfil in 1912.

His three sons – Henry, William and Gomer – were joint owners of the Daily Telegraph and were created Viscounts Buckland, Camrose, and Kemsley.  Gomer founded Kemsley Newspapers which in its time owned The Sunday Times, Daily Sketch, and Sunday Graphic amongst its titles. 

ScotlandBerrys have come from NE Fife on the east coast of Scotland:

  • Robert Berry who grew up in the parish of Leuchars emigrated to North Carolina in the 1750’s.  
  • John Berry built his home at Tayfield on the Inverdovat estate in 1788 and seven generations of Barrys have lived there since that time.
  • while James Berry was a tenant farmer at Cupar from the 1780’s until his death in 1827.  His two sons were to find fame and fortune in Australia, Alexander as a merchant and explorer and David as a cattle breeder and landowner.

The 1861 census registered 40 Berrys at Leuchars, close to 10% of the population recorded at the time.  One family there traces itself back to the marriage of Patrick and Elspeth Berry in Leuchars in 1684.

Ireland.  The surname Berry appeared in Galway and Mayo as an anglicized form of the Gaelic O’Beara or O’Beargha.  Thomas Berry was elected as the Sovereign of Tuamin Galway in 1751 and a number of Berrys were later to be found on Lettermullen Island off Galway. 

In Mayo the Berry name has been most associated with the Mayo News.  James Berry had a column there in the early 1900’s describing the tales that he had heard as a young man growing up in Mayo.  The newspaper is now owned by a Berry family.

English Berrys had come over to Ireland in the 17th century and settled initially in Westmeath. They later made their home at Eglish castle in Offaly county, from 1776 to 1876.

America.  Early Berrys in America included:

  • Johan and Susanna Berry who were Christian missionaries who came to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1631.  They returned to England.  But their son William stayed and was the first settler at Sandy Beach in Rye nearby.  
  • Henry Berry who arrived in Virginia around the year 1650 and acquired land at Occupacia Creek in Old Rappahannock county.  His descendants remained in that area until after the Revolutionary War. Washington Berry then headed west with his family to new land in what is now Dayton, Ohio.  
  • James Berry, a Puritan leader who came to Maryland from Virginia in 1652 (after a religious dispute) and bought the Seat Pleasant land along the Patuxent river.  Morris Berry moved to Kentucky in 1799.  
  • Dr. Samuel Berry who arrived in Maryland around 1700 and settled in Charles county.  A later Berry was the 19th century tobacco farmer and judge Thomas Baker Berry.  
  • while Captain John Berry who had served in Barbados was granted land in Bergen county, New Jersey in 1669 and later acted as the deputy governor of the colony. A descendant John Berry built the Yereance-Berry House which is now maintained as a museum.  

There were Berrys in Culpepper county, Virginia in the early 1700’s that spread across the South – to Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.  This lineage was traced in Lynn Hamilton’s 1980 book The Family of Elijah Berry.  Another Berry line from Virginia led to John Berry, a pioneer frontiersman in Texas who has been commemorated by the Berry Spring Park near his home in Georgetown.  His descendants meet up there annually.

Irish Berrys. James Berry came to Pennsylvania from Ireland around 1715 and settled in Augusta county, Virginia sometime in the 1740’s.  Later Berrys migrated to Kentucky, Alabama, and to Arkansas.

Arkansas was where James Henderson Berry of this line grew up.  He attended Berryville Academy in Berryville (named after a relative, Blackburn Henderson Berry).  After an adventurous Civil War where he lost his right leg and was captured by the enemy, he rose the political ranks to become the US Senator for Arkansas in 1885, a position he was to hold for the next 22 years.  

“Berry’s wartime experiences deeply affected his outlook and activities.  Until his death nearly fifty years later, he retained close ties to his fellow veterans and spoke at many Confederate gatherings and reunions.”  His cousin Campbell Berry who grew up with him in Arkansas moved to California in 1857 and served in the California State Assembly. 

The James Berry line also led to Thomas Berry in Alabama, a lieutenant in the Mexican War, a forty-niner in the California gold rush, and a captain for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  His daughter Martha was the founder of the Berry Schools for academically able but economically poor children of the rural South in the early 1900’s.

Another Irish Berry in America was Isaac Berry who came to Virginia in the 1770’s and later made his home in Kentucky.  His son Isaac moved to Lawrence county, Kentucky around 1815 (his line being covered in David Agricola’s 1978 book The Berry Family of Lawrence County, Kentucky).

Canada.  Mary Berry was a Loyalist widow who was granted land in Digby county, Nova Scotia.  She came there with her three sons in 1784.  Her line was traced in Wayne Walker’s 1992 book The Berry Family of Nova Scotia. 

Thomas Berry was a British soldier in the Revolutionary War who, on discharge in 1784, was granted land in Canada.  He settled in Coverdale, New Brunswick.  Some of his descendants later headed west to British Columbia. 

New Zealand.  Thomas Berry, who said he was descended from the French Duc de Berri, came to Nelson with his family in 1846.  He would make that claim even though he was just a brush maker in London before his departure.  Thomas died in Nelson in 1872 at the age of 76.  He was married three times and has left a large number of descendants.                        

Berry Surname Miscellany

The Berrys of Berry Narbor.  It was recorded that Ralph de Bury possessed Bury Narbor in the reign of Henry III. The name of the family and of the place was soon afterwards spelt Berry and at a later period Berrie.

Daniel Berry, a younger son of the Berrys of Berry Narbor, was vicar of Molland, as was his grandson of the same name.  Sir John Berry, the eminent naval officer in the reign of William III whose monument is to be found in Stepney, was the son of the latter.

The heiress of the main branch of the family, which continued at Berry Narbor until the death of Thomas Berrie in 1708, married Francis Kirkham who died in 1737.

The Berrys of East Leigh were descended from the second son of a Berry of Berry Narbor.  This line continued until the death of Thomas Berry in 1802.

The Berrys of Tuam.  Thomas Berry was elected as Sovereign or Mayor of Tuam in Galway in 1751 and his family remained prominent in the town as merchants for several generations.  It is not clear whether they were Protestant or Catholic.

About this time there was a Miss Berry who was very beautiful.  It was said of her:

“The Miss Berry who married John Sandford was very beautiful and turned the eyes of everyone who saw her out riding.  She turned the eyes of John Sandford who saw her when she was riding and he thereupon married her.  She must have been an accomplished horsewoman and had a horse before John Sandford married her.  This horse probably looked as fine as she did.  She belonged to a gentry family, possibly Catholic.”

Their son, born in 1755, was named Beech Berry Sandford.

Thomas Berry in New Brunswick.  Thomas Berry, a soldier in the Revolutionary War from Yorkshire, was granted land in Canada after his release from the army in 1784.  His first grant was in Coverdale in New Brunswick.  He asked for and received a second grant in Turtle Creek, but he found the ground there was stony.  Then he received his third grant in Riverview in the parish of Coverdale where he settled.  By the year 1809 he had married Rebecca Ricker and had ten children.

His son Ned left his father’s farm with all of his worldly possessions in a pack on his back, walked several miles through the woods, and built himself a small log cabin.  He began clearing land in the area which is now known as Berryton in his honor.  He married Elizabeth Price and had a family of eight children, although five of them died as small children.

There was another line through his son Mathias who settled in Turtle Creek and whose descendants migrated west to Alberta and British Columbia.

Washington Berry in Dayton, Ohio.  In 1792 Washington Berry bought the 1,000 acres where Dayton, Ohio now stands, paying 200 pounds ($1,000) and moving there with his family a year later.   The company was made up of Washington and Alice, their son, Taylor aged about nine months who rode on horseback with his mother; James, Alice’s brother, and his two slaves, Moses and Humphrey, and his young servant, Adam; Washington’s brother, John and John W Buckner.

At Brownsville near Pittsburgh, they picked up boats and started on the Monongahela river.  Moving down the Ohio river, they passed Legionville, General Anthony Wayne’s encampment below Pittsburgh where he collected his army and was training them to march against Native Americans.

At some point, Washington decided that it wasn’t safe to bring Alice and Taylor all the way to the Licking. So when they reached Limestone, she went to stay with her brother, Hubbard at Springhill in Clark county. By the time Washington was named a justice of the peace for the county in late 1794, the family was settled on their land.

In 1795 Washington Berry owned taxable property of seventeen slaves and 1,000 acres. In 1797 he was granted a license to operate a ferry service between Dayton and Columbia on the Ohio side.  He died in 1813.

John Berry, Texas Frontiersman.  John Berry was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1786.  He fought in the War of 1812 and later moved around, first to Illinois, then to Indiana, and finally, in 1831 while it was still under Mexican control, to Texas.  He brought with him his skills as a gunsmith, blacksmith, knifesmith, and furniture builder.  It was said that Davy Crockett, while travelling in Texas, stopped off at Berry’s home at Mina.  Berry repaired his famous rifle Old Betsey.

Three of Berry’s sons were Texas Rangers at the time of the Texas Revolution and fought at the Battle of Plum Creek.   Berry took refuge with his wife and small children at Fort Parker during the revolution and afterwards found their home burned to the ground.

In 1846 Berry settled on land three miles northeast of the town of Georgetown.  He built a spring-driven gristmill on what came to be called Berry Creek.  He died some twenty years later, having lived through the Civil War, and was buried in a small family cemetery on his land.  Five of Berry’s sons and three of his sons-in-law had served in the Confederate Army. 

J.M. Berry of Merthyr Tydfil.  J.M. Berry worked on the railway and as an accountant before becoming an estate agent and auctioneer in Merthyr Tydfil in 1894.  He was the mayor when King George V visited the town in 1912.  The foundation stone of a new Salvation Army Citadel in Merthyr was laid in memory of him in 1936 and he was also commemorated by the J.M. Berry Technical College which was built by his eldest son Henry.

He was born John Mathias Berry in Camrose, Pembrokeshire in 1847.  The Mathias name was well-known in Pembrokeshire (the Mathiases of Langwarren), not the Berry name.  Perhaps there was a link.  Or should the Berry have been Barry?

Berry Names

  • Sir John Berry commanded annual convoys to Newfoundland and was instrumental in the founding of the colony in 1675. 
  • Martha Berry was the founder of the Berry Schools for academically able but economically poor children of the rural South in the early 1900’s. 
  • Gomer Berry was an English newspaper publisher, the founder of Kemsley Newspapers. 
  • Wendell Berry is a prolific American novelist, poet, environmental activist, and Kentucky farmer. 
  • Chuck Berry is an American rock and roll singer and songwriter.

Berry Numbers Today

  • 40,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 47,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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