Perry/Parry Surname Meaning, History & Origin
The Perry and Parry surnames have two principal origins, one Welsh (Parry) and the other English (Perry):
- the Welsh derivation is the patronymic ap Harry or ap Herry (from the personal names Harry or Herry, a form of Henry). These names compressed to Parry and Perry on the Welsh borders and in north Wales. The names Harris and Harries stuck more in south Wales.
- the English (and Scottish) derivation is locational, describing someone who owned or lived by a pear tree (pirige in Old English which derives from the Latin pirum or pear). In England, the surname came out initially as Pery or Pury and later in the 17th century as Perry, in NE Scotland it was Pirie.
Perry and Parry do come from different roots. But they can get mixed up in their travels:
- In the UK, the Perry/Parry distribution goes as follows: Parry is Welsh territory; Parrys outnumber Perrys in the northwest (Cheshire and Lancashire); but the Perrys predominate elsewhere.
- Perry is also the main name outside the UK. American immigration records show an equivalent number of Perrys and Parrys during the 19th century. But once there most Parrys changed their names to Perry.
- Blanche Parry Website.
Blanche Parry in the court of Queen Elizabeth.
Parry one-name study.
- Perry and Related Surname Links.
Burrell Perry and Perrys of Virginia and North Carolina.
- Ezra Perry. Perrys of Sandwich, Massachusetts.
- Perry DNA Project. Perry DNA.
- Parry DNA Project. Parry DNA.
Wales. The first recording of this Welsh patronym was John ap Harry in 1407 in the border county of Herefordshire. The Parrys of Golden Valley in Herefordshire date from a little later. Among their number were Sir Thomas Parry and Blanche Parry, both confidantes of Elizabeth I. A related Parry family was to be found across the border at Llandefailog Tre’r Graig in Breconshire and other Parrys cropped up in nearby Monmouthshire.
Joshua Parry was a nonconformist minister in Pembrokeshire who flourished in the mid-1700’s. He moved in later life to Gloucestershire. His son Caleb was a noted physician, his grandson Sir Edward achieved renown for his 1819 expedition to the Arctic (the Parry Channel was named after him).
North Wales. Parrys were to be found in greater numbers in north Wales. Some of them became well-known as poets and musicians.
Richard Parry, the son of John ap Harri, was born in Flintshire in 1560 and became the Bishop of St. Asaph. He is known for his translations into Welsh of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
The Parrys from Henllan near Denbigh in present day Clwyd were an early family and included the 16th century diarist Robert Parry and, later, a Quaker emigrant to America:
“Thomas Parry or Thomas ap Harry, a weaver who bought this land, was the son of Harry ap Rees of Henllan parish and came to Pennsylvania from Llanelwith in Radnor, bringing a certificate of membership from the Radnor Quarterly Meeting dated May 5, 1699.”
Moses Parry lived in the village in the early 19th century. His daughter Elizabeth bore an illegitimate child who became in later life the African explorer Henry Stanley. He it was who uttered the immortal words: “Dr. Livingstone I presume!”
In the 17th century a Parry family from Shropshire had established themselves at Madryn Park on the Llyn peninsula in Caernarvonshire. They subsequently became the Love Jones-Parrys, one of whom in the 1880’s helped start up the new Welsh settlement in Patagonia.
Many Parrys migrated in the 19th century to Lancashire, while others left for more distant parts. John Parry, for instance, set off in 1849 with a hundred Welsh Mormons for the new Salt Lake settlement in Utah.
England. The west country is the home of the fermented pear drink Perry and also for many Perrys.
SW England. Perrys in Devon started with Roger Pery, a trader of Spanish wines in Exeter in the 1530’s. By the 1690’s, Micajah Perry of this family had emerged as a tobacco merchant in London (his family history is recounted in Jacob Price’s 1992 book Perry of London). When Micajah died in 1721, his firm was the leading tobacco merchant of his day. But subsequent trading and shipping losses brought down the company some thirty years later.
There were also early Pery/Pury sightings in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. By the 19th century, the largest number of Perrys in the west country were in Somerset. One family record there goes back to 1715 and the village of Kingsdon in south Somerset. Later Perrys were in and around Taunton.
Essex Another grouping of Perrys was in Essex. Perry was recorded as a surname from the late 16th century in villages near Colchester such as Lexden and Copford.
One family record dates from a Thomas Pery who was born in Lexden in 1593. Another Perry family (traced by James Perry in his A Perry Family from West Essex) descended from an Abraham Perry of Epping Forest in the 1660’s.
Staffordshire. But the biggest cluster of Perrys was in Staffordshire and in the neighboring county of Warwickshire. The root here may not have been the pear tree but the Latin parva meaning “small” (from which came the Perry of Perry Barr on the outskirts of Birmingham).
Perrys prominent in the 19th century from this area were:
- Thomas Perry, the founder (in 1806) of the Thomas Perry & Co ironworks in Bilston
- his son Frederick, who lived nearby at Dunston Hall
- and Thomas Perry the horticulturist, who resided at Bitham House in Warwickshire.
Ireland. Perry in Ireland is an English implant. The first Perry appears to have been a Captain George Perry of Gloucester who settled in couinty Clare in 1639.
Richard Perry arrived from Devon with Cromwell in 1658 and took up lands in Tipperary. His descendants became gentry families in Tipperary (Woodrooff and Kilboy) and in county Cork.
There were also Protestant Perrys in the north, in Tyrone and county Down. James Perry of Perrymount, born around 1670, was the progenitor of a long-lasting family in county Down.
America. Early Perrys were to be found in New England.
New England. Edmund and Sarah Perry arrived with their ten children from Devon in 1637 and settled in Sandwich on Cape Cod. One of his sons, Edward, was a Quaker and his family later moved to Rhode Island where there was greater religious tolerance.
From this family came the remarkable naval Perrys of Newport, Rhode Island. Their numbers included:
- Oliver Hazard Perry, a naval hero of the War of 1812
- and Matthew Perry, the US commodore who ended Japan’s isolation.
Other early arrivals into Massachusetts were:
- John Perry from Hertfordshire who settled in Roxbury in 1632
- another John Perry, this time from London, who came to Watertown (Bertram Adams’ 1955 book Descendants of John Perry of London traced this lineage). A descendant is the actor Matthew Perry who played Chandler in Friends.
- and Anthony Perry from Devon who arrived in 1640 and settled in Rehoboth. Later Perrys of this line were Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, with Robert Perry crossing from Vermont to Ontario after the war was over.
Parry. Thomas ap Harry or Thomas Parry was a weaver from Cardiganshire and a Quaker. He arrived at the Welsh tract in Pennsylvania in 1699. Later Parrys of his line moved to Bucks county.
New Hope in Pennsylvania grew up around the lumber mills that Benjamin Parry, the son of a Welsh Quaker, had constructed on the river banks. Benjamin built his home there, Parry Mansion, in 1784. The house stayed with his descendants until 1966.
Elsewhere. In Virginia, William Perry came there as early as 1611; and the Perry tobacco merchants of London left Perrys in Isle of Wight county (including Phillip Perry at his Whitemarsh plantation). A family tradition is that seven brothers of this family (William, Nathaniel, Francis, Joshua, Jeremiah, John, and Burrell) departed Virginia for North Carolina in the 1740’s.
There have also been Perry families in the South. One family record traces the family of Joseph Perry from North Carolina to Georgia and Florida. Another North Carolina Perry family, the descendants of Joshua Perry of Warren county, went to Texas.
Franklin Perry also ended up in Texas and his son Alexander became a wealthy landowner in Dallas. Rick Perry, recent Governor of Texas, is descended from farmers who had arrived in Texas from Alabama in the 1850’s.
Francisco Pereira de Silveira from the Portuguese Azores became Frank Silva Perry when he arrived in California sometime around 1860. His descendants have included the stage and film director Frank Perry and the singer/songwriter Katy Perry.
Canada. In 1761 Moses Perry from the Cape Cod town of Sandwich sailed on a tiny boat for eight days with friends before landing near the present site of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Mary Mitchell’s 2016 book Moses Perry: A Founding Father of Yarmouth gave an account of his life.
Two Perry Loyalists from the same Cape Cod town made it to Nova Scotia in 1784. They had fled their homes at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Samuel to Rhode Island and Silas to Long Island. They settled in Shelburne county.
India. Parry became a household name in Chennai (formerly Madras) due to Thomas Parry from north Wales who set himself up as a merchant there in the 1780’s. His name has been handed down through Parry’s Corner in Chennai’s central business area.
Australia. Both Perrys and Parrys came to Australia as convicts and later as free settlers.
Sam Perry from a small village outside Bristol was drawn to the Victoria goldfields, so much so that he went their twice. The first time was in 1853 at the start of the Gold Rush and the second time in 1865 (this time he stayed). He may well have listened to a Perry musical variety act that toured the gold mines at that time and later became the Perry Bros Circus.
Joseph Perry arrived in Sydney in 1885 as a Salvationist but later emerged as one of the pioneers of film-making in Australia. His three sons all became early cinema managers.
Perry and Parry – UK Distribution. The table below shows the distribution of Perrys and Parrys in England and Wales in the 1891 census.
|Numbers (000’s)||Perry||Parry||Total||Parry %|
Parry is clearly a Welsh-origin name which extended into NW England (Cheshire and Lancashire). The Perry clusters were in counties such as Staffordshire and Warwickshire and in SW England.
Perry and Parry – Worldwide Distribution, The next table shows the current distribution of Perrys and Parrys in English-speaking countries.
|Numbers (000’s)||Perry||Parry||Total||Parry %|
Either the Parrys did not travel; or, more likely, many Parrys became Perrys after they had arrived in America.
Perry As A Drink. Perry is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pear juice. It is similar to cider in that it is made using a similar process and often has a similar alcoholic content (which can be as high as 8.5% alcohol). It takes only three years for a perry pear planted in the right conditions to bear fruit; but up to thirty years before it is at full maturity.
The earliest perry may have come from France. But perry-making in England has traditionally been a speciality of three English counties (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire) and of Welsh border counties. Perry pears were said to only thrive “in sight of May Hill.” But perry pears are now grown in other areas such as Somerset and East Anglia. The most common used variety is the Blakeney Red.
The Parrys of Golden Valley in Herefordshire. In the church of Turnastone in Herefordshire, there is a sculptured slab showing the figures of Thomas Parry (“Thome Apparri”) and Agnes (“Agnet”), his wife. This was erected during the lifetime of Agnes in memory of Thomas who had died in 1522.
Underneath the altar is a tablet, now badly damaged, which commemorated Richard ap Harry who died in 1626. He was the great grandson of Thomas. The James and George Parrys who gave the family details to the Herald in 1634 would have been Richard’s cousins.
The Parrys of New Court and the nearby Vaughans of Tretower intermarried in each generation, making their cross relationships puzzling. Both were proud of their believed kinship with David Gam, the hero of the battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Reader Feedback – Perrys in Gloucestershire. You should add the Hunter alias Perry family of Wotton under Edge and Winterbourne in Gloucestershire. By the late 1600’s they had dropped the Hunter part and were using only Perry as their surname. Originally from the north of England, these were a wealthy family of clothiers and overseas merchants. They were made armigerous in 1623. There is some evidence that a branch of this Perry family settled in early Virginia, migrating to the Carolinas by 1800.
Thomas Perry & Co of Bilston. In his 1893 A History of Bilston, George T. Lawley gave the following description of the Thomas Perry & Co. works in his town.
“Vast foundries – where every conceivable article of machinery and skill is made – exist in this town. The manufactured goods produced by Thomas Perry & Co. of Highfields have for excellence of material and workmanship competed with and rivalled the manufactures of the whole world. The enormous plants for the manufacture of steel armor plates for war ships and batteries have been made here. Huge engines, masterpieces of strength, size, and mechanical superiority, are also numbered among its production. The testing of the castings enables the workmen to detect any unsoundness or faults and insures to the purchaser a genuine article.
Orders are executed for countries in every quarter of the globe. The “fire and thief proof sales” made by them have justly attained a wide celebrity. Several monster sales have been made
to foreign governments which are wonders of skill, strength, and
Thomas Perry & Co continued as a family firm until 1942 when it was merged with two other companies to form the British Rollmakers Corp (BRC).
William Perry of Jamestown. William Perry immigrated to Virginia in 1611 and was therefore described as an ancient planter. He survived the Indian uprising in 1622 and in early 1624 he and four others went to England to ask the Virginia Company for relief from taxes because of the losses they had sustained at that time. Perry took an Indian boy with him to England and asked for funds that could be used for rearing of the child in the Christian faith.
Perry married the widowed Isabell Pace in 1623 and eventually took up residence at her plantation, Paces Paines. William and Isabell produced a son, Henry Perry. In February 1624 Mrs. Perry and her son were living on Jamestown Island in the New Town. Sometime prior to 1629 William Perry was placed in command of the settlers living in the vicinity of Paces Paines and Smith’s Mount (formerly known as Burrows Hill) and served as that area’s burgess.
Captain William Perry made his will on August 5, 1637 and died the following day. He was interred in the graveyard of Westover
Church in Charles City.
Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan. On July 8, 1853, four black ships led by USS Powhatan and commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry anchored at Edo (Tokyo) Bay. Never before had the Japanese seen ships steaming with smoke. They thought the ships were “giant dragons puffing smoke.” They did not know that steamboats existed and were shocked by the number and size of the guns on board the ships.
Perry brought a letter from the President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, to the Emperor of Japan. He waited with his armed ships and refused to see any of the lesser dignitaries sent by the Japanese, insisting on dealing only with the highest emissaries of the Emperor.
The Japanese government realized that their country was in no
position to defend itself against a foreign power and Japan could not retain its isolation policy without risking war. On March 31,
1854, after weeks of long and tiresome talks, Perry received what he had so dearly worked for – a treaty with Japan.
After the signing of the treaty convention of Kanagawa, the Japanese invited the Americans to a feast. The Americans admired the courtesy and politeness of their hosts and thought very highly of the rich Japanese culture. Commodore Perry broke down the barriers that had separated Japan from the rest of the world.
Today the Japanese celebrate his expedition with annual black ship festivals. Perry lived in Newport, Rhode Island, which also
celebrates a Black Ship festival in July. In Perry’s honor, Newport has become Shimoda’s sister city.
Perrys and Parrys to Australia. The table below summarizes the Perrys and Parrys who came to Australia in the 19th century as convicts or as free settlers.
The current percentage of Parrys to Perrys in Australia is slightly
higher than the numbers shown above.
Perry Bros Circus in Australia. The Perry dynasty began with ex-convict George Perry and his family who toured a musical variety show in the gold mines of the 1860’s.
From this travelling entertainer upbringing, his eldest son Charles joined Ashton’s Circus as a trick rider and then later went on run a number of different circuses bearing the Perry name during the 1870’s and 80’s, most notably Perry’s Jubilee Circus. His other son William also started his own circus in 1889 which eventually bore the name Eroni Bros Circus (reflecting his wife’s maiden name Eroni).
William’s descendants have toured numerous well-known circuses across Australia over the last century. Perry Bros Circus was also the last circus in Australia to tour their iconic elephants. This show ceased touring in late 2011.
- Blanche Parry was lady in waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth I.
- John Parry, born blind in Ruabon near Wrexham, was one of Wales’s finest harpists.
- Matthew Perry was the US naval commodore who with his four black ships compelled the opening of Japan in 1854.
- Stephen Perry was the 19th century British inventor who developed the rubber band.
- Sir Charles Parry was the English composer best known for his choral song Jerusalem.
- Fred Perry from Stockport in Cheshire was three-times Wimbledon tennis champion in the 1930’s.
- Gaylord Perry from North Carolina won 314 games as a pitcher during his 22 year baseball career.
- Katy Perry is a popular America singer/songwriter.
Perry/Parry Numbers Today
- 81,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cheshire)
- 85,000 in America (most numerous in California).
- 43,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).
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