Fisher Surname Genealogy

root fiscere meaning “to
catch fish”, which gives us the occupation of fisherman, results in a
number of Fisher-type surnames around Europe – Fisher in English,
Fischer in German, Fiszer in Czech and Polish, Visser in Dutch, de
Vischer in Flemish, Fiser in Danish and Fisker in Norwegian.
Select Fisher Resources on The Internet

Fisher Ancestry

By far the largest of the Fisher numbers has been the
German Fischer
It is the fourth most common surname in Germany and there are roughly
270,000 in Germany with that surname (with most bearers of the name,
interestingly, living inland). It is also the 15th most common in
Austria and is a
Jewish surname
as well.

By contrast, the UK Fisher
numbers of 56,000 rank it
there at 138th.

The Fisher surname might suggest a place along the coast. But the
early Fishers seem to have come from inland locations (where they were
perhaps river fishermen instead).

Robert Fisher was recorded in Leicestershire as early as 1342.
His family established themselves as clergymen in Cossington village.
Geoffrey Fisher of this family became the 99th Archbishop of Canterbury
in 1945. Another Fisher family took over Packington priory near
Coventry after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540’s.
Packington Hall, which still stands, has the following inscription on
its lead roof:

“This house was built by Sir Clement
Fisher Bart. in the year 1693 and was cased with stone and enlarged by
his grandson Heneage Earl of Aylesford in the year 1772.”

Elsewhere The
Fisher name also occurred at an early date at Rolleston in
Staffordshire and Foremark in Derbyshire. St. John Fisher, the
bishop who was executed for treason in 1535, was born in Beverley in
the East Ridings of Yorkshire.

By the late 19th century, the largest number of Fishers was being
recorded in Yorkshire. A number had migrated there. Linda
Carn in her book The History of the
Fisher Family
recorded one such family who had moved from
Shelford in rural Nottinghamshire to Whitby in Yorkshire in the 1860’s.

Cumbria and Lancashire
The Fisher name became prominent in Cumbria and the Furness district of
Lancashire during the 19th century:

  • first there was Charles
    Fisher who lived in Distington Hall on the proceeds of his rail line
    which moved out the red haematite iron ore from the Cumbrian
  • then there was William Fisher the farmer who
    recorded the growth of his village of Barrow-in-Furness into an
    industrial port.
  • and finally in 1847 came James Fisher and his
    steamship company. He shipped out the iron ore from Barrow and
    was operating by the 1870’s the largest coastal fleet in the UK.

Scotland. The Fisher
name also came north to Scotland and was to be found primarily in
Glasgow and Ayrshire. Its most famous son was probably Andrew
Fisher, born into a coal mining village near Kilmarnock. He emigrated
with his brother to Australia in 1885 and rose to become Prime Minister
of that country on three separate occasions, starting in 1910.

Ireland. The English
brought the Irish name to Ireland, although the name was also sometimes
adopted by the O’Bradain sept in Connacht.

Sir Edward Fisher, an English
adventurer, received large land grants in the early 1600’s in west
Dublin and Wexford (after his death, these estates passed onto the
Chichester family). Dublin was also the home of Quaker Fishers
from Cheshire, many of whom moved onto a safer refuge in Pennsylvania,
and of Jonathan Fisher, the landscape painter.

The Fisher merchant family of Dunlavin in county Wicklow has been
traced back to the early 1700’s. Their home was burnt down by
insurgents during the 1798 rebellion. William Fisher of this
family emigrated to Nova Scotia in the 1850’s. Richard Fisher was
recorded as a saddler in the 1881 Dunlavin directory.

America. German Fischers outnumber English Fishers by about five
to one in their home country. Consequently, during the wave of
immigation to America that occurred over the 18th and 19th centuries, more Fischers
came than Fishers
. The 1850 Federal
census reported Fischers/Fishers of German origin outnumbering Fishers
of British origin by roughly three to one. However, once in
America most Fischers would anglicize their names to Fisher. The
1920 census showed more Fishers than Fischers by almost five to

New England
Early Fishers were Anthony, Cornelius and Joshua Fisher who had come in
1637 with other folk from Suffolk to settle in Dedham,
Massachusetts. John Dix Fisher who founded the Perkins
Institution for the Blind in Boston in the early 19th century was a

There were early Irish Fishers who came too. Deacon Samuel Fisher
came to New England aboard a “starved ship” around 1740. He went
to New Hampshire. Abel Fisher arrived ten years or
so later, settling first in New Jersey and then heading west to the
Pennsylvania frontier.

Pennsylvania The
main entry point for Fishers and Fischers turned out to be
Pennsylvania. The first were probably English Quakers.
There were many. But Joshua Fisher the merchant was the most
prominent of these Quakers. He wrote in 1762:

“My grandfather John Fisher removed from Clitheroe in
Lancashire in the year 1682 with all his children to Philadelphia.”

According to Ann Wharton Smith’s 1886 book Genealogy of the Fisher Family,
John Fisher arrived with his wife Margaret on the same ship, the Welcome, as William Penn. And
it would appear that his family originally came from Yorkshire (near
Wakefield), not Lancashire. Joshua’s own large mercantile
business in Philadelphia was carried on by his son Samuel.
Samuel’s daughter Deborah was an early proponent of women’s
rights. She married into the Wharton Quaker family and it was
their son Joseph who founded the Wharton School at the University of


came to New York with his wife
Susanna from the German Palatine in 1709.
Not getting any land tenure rights where they settled in New
York, they
moved in 1723 with fifteen other German families to Pennsylvania and
settled in
Tulpehocken valley in Berks county. Some
branches of the family later migrated to Virginia and Kentucky. The family history was recorded in Gertrude
Fisher Harding’s 1942 book Fisher

Meanwhile Christian
Fisher came to the new Amish settlement in Berks county in 1749.
His family line was covered in Janice Egeland’s 1972 book Descendants of Christian Fisher and Other
Amish-Mennonite Pioneer Families

Many Fishers later moved south into North Carolina.
Charles Fisher, for instance, was in Rowan county, North Carolina by
the 1760’s. Others stayed. The farmhouse which Henry Fisher built in Berks county in
1801 still stands today and proclaims itself as “Pennsylvania Deutsch.”

A Fisher family of Dutch roots was in Pennsylvania by the 1790’s,
moving from there to Ohio and Indiana and later Kansas. James
Fisher, the first settler in Chase county, Kansas, was murdered there
in 1871. David Fisher left Pennsylvania with his family in 1819
and headed west, to Ohio, Indiana and then Iowa. Descendants have
spread over the American West.

Fisher lines began in Virginia and led into Kentucky and

Canada. Early Fisher
arrivals were Empire Loyalists, although none of those below were of
British origin:

  • Lewis Fisher was probably of German origin. He had come to
    New Brunswick in 1783 from New Jersey, settling in Fredericton.
    Son Peter was known as the first historian of New Brunswick and his son
    Charles was Premier of New Brunswick in the 1850’s.
  • Jacob Fischer, of German origin, had fought for the British in
    the Seven Years’ War. He moved his family north from Pennsylvania
    in 1796 to new lands in York county, Ontario. Sharon Smith
    Troian’s 1991 book The
    Fischer-Fisher Family History
    recounts this story.
  • and three Fisher brothers of Dutch speakers – John, Michael and
    Valentine (Feltie) – left their homes in Pennsylvania for Huron county,
    Ontario. Feltie
    was one of the early settlers in Goderich and kept an
    inn there in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Some descendants later moved
    west to Saskatchewan.

There were also Fishers from Britain. James
Fisher arrived in Montreal from Scotland in the 1770’s and was one of
the early settlers of the Loyalist township of Cobourg, Ontario.
John Fisher brought his family over from Beverley in Yorkshire in the
1840’s and settled in Whitby township, Ontario.

Fred Fisher was a murky figure in the
early history of the New South Wales colony. A London shopkeeper,
he had been convicted in 1816 for the possession of forged banknotes
and transported to Australia. Move the clock forward a few years
and he was surprisingly in funds, leading a venture in Sydney to build
a new papermaking mill. Then in 1826 he was murdered.

“One evening Fred Fisher left his home
in Campbelltown and was never seen again. Four months later a
local farmer stumbled into a local hotel in a state of shock, claiming
that he had seen the ghost of Fred Foster. The ghost had been
sitting on the rail of a bridge and had pointed to a paddock down the
creek. Fred Fisher’s body was later discovered by the police in
this paddock.”

Fisher was also a name in the early history of South Australia.
Sir James Fisher had been a driving force behind its development as a
colony and served as the first mayor of Adelaide in 1840. A Fisher family
from Wales
was among its early settlers, arriving on the Dutchess of Northumberland in 1839.

The best-known Fisher in Australia, however, was Andrew Fisher, who
served as the country’s fifth Prime Minister. He had arrived as
an immigrant from Scotland in 1885.

Fisher Miscellany

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

Select Fisher Names

Saint John Fisher was a prominent
Catholic Bishop martyred by Henry VIII in 1535 for refusing to accept
the King as the head of the Church in England.
Joshua Fisher was a prominent
Quaker merchant in 18th century Philadelphia.
Andrew Fisher was Australia’s
fifth Prime Minister, holding office on three occasions from
Bud Fisher was the American
cartoonist who created Mutt and Jeff.
Bobby Fischer was briefly and
famously chess champion of the world in 1972.

Select Fishers

  • 56,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Somerset)
  • 88,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 51,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply