Pritchard Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Pritchard Surname Meaning

The Welsh patronymic ap Rhisiart or ap Richard (meaning “son of Richard”) translated into the English surnames Prichard and Pritchard when they began to displace Welsh-style appellations in the 16th century. These English names appeared not just in Wales but in the English counties bordering or in close proximity to Wales. 

The Pritchard spelling began to replace Prichard in Wales as the 19th century proceeded. Pritchard is now the dominant spelling.

Pritchard Surname Resources on The Internet

Pritchard and Prichard Surname Ancestry

  • from Wales, Western England and Ireland
  • to America, Canada, South Africa and Australia

Wales.  Prichard only emerged as a surname in Wales when English-style surnames developed in the 16th century. There seems to have been no regional bias to the name as it was found in both south and north Wales.

South Wales.  The English nomenclature may mask the Welsh ancestry. William ap Richard of Llanover Court in Monmouthshire, the first to adopt the name of Richard, later took the surname of Prichard.

He died in the late 1500’s and his tombstone read as follows:  “Here lieth the bodies of William Prichard esq. of Llanover and Matthew Prichard esq. of Llanover, his son and heir, lineally descended from the body of Cradock Vraiche Vras, Earl of Hereford and prince between the Wye and Severn.”  

The family fortunes fluctuated during the 17th century. Llanover manor was lost during the Civil War, the Goytre manor within the Llanover estate reclaimed after the Restoration. But this had to be sold in 1730, although Prichards did remain in the area.

Another old lineage, said to have been descended from Ifor Bach, characterized the Prichards of Llancaiach Fawr in Glamorgan. It was Dafydd ap Richard who built the manor house around 1550. His best-known descendant was Colonel Edward Prichard, the man who successfully changed sides during the Civil War.

North Wales.  Some early Prichards were churchmen. Edward Prichard was vicar of Llansannan in Conwy in 1660. William Prichard grew up in Caernarvonshire in the early 1700’s but made his mark in Anglesey as a Dissenting minister.

Meanwhile Richard Pritchard, who died in 1722, was the first to be described as of Trescawen in Anglesey. The family were local gentry. His son William Pritchard was Sheriff of Anglesey in 1786 and George Pritchard held the same title in 1879.

England. A few Welsh Prichards made it to London. Francis Prichard came in the early 1600’s and was a ropemaker in Southwark. His son William, who initially took up his father’s trade, later prospered as a merchant, was Lord Mayor of London in 1682 and then MP for the City of London. He died in 1705 with an estate in Buckinghamshire but left no male heirs.

Another Pritchard in London at this time was said to have been Stephen Pritchard, a man who may have emigrated to the island of St. Helena after the Great Fire of 1666. A descendant Henry Pritchard was responsible for monitoring Napoleon when he was exiled there in 1815.

Most Pritchards in England, however, were to be found in the border counties. Two notable Pritchards from Shropshire were:

  • Thomas Farnolls Pritchard, born in Shrewsbury in 1723, who was the man who designed the first Ironbridge. Pritchard Way in Shrewsbury commemorates him.  
  • and the Pritchard family from Broseley near Bridgenorth. John Pritchard, a victualler by trade who died in 1799, was the forebear of a successful Pritchard legal and banking family that continued until 1891 (when Lloyds acquired the bank).

The Pritchard name later extended into Staffordshire and Lancashire.  

Ireland.  The Pritchard name does occur in Ireland, presumably from either Welsh or English origins. Two Pritchards who subsequently crossed the Atlantic to America were:

  • the Pritchards of Coppingerstown in county Cork who may have been there since the 17th century. Paul Pritchard departed from there for South Carolina in the 1760’s and acquired the Charleston naval shipyard in 1788. He and his son William operated the yard building ships until 1831. 
  • and the Pritchards of Currin parish in county Monaghan who were probably 18th century Irish arrivals. James and Judith Pritchard emigrated from there to Alcove along the Gatineau river in Quebec in the 1830’s.

America.  There were two early Pritchard arrivals in America, but from England not Wales:

  • Thomas Pritchard to Virginia in 1610
  • and William Prichard to New England in the 1630’s.

Virginia. Thomas Pritchard arrived in Jamestown, probably with two brothers, on the Starr in 1610. He came from Kent, does not appear to have been Welsh, and his surname sometimes was Prickett or Pritchett.

His line extended through his son Thomas in Westmoreland county, Virginia and then onto Loudoun county. John Pritchard fought in the Revolutionary War and belatedly received his pension in 1834, by which time he had moved to Indiana. Emily Cary’s 2006 book The Pritchard Family History covered the line.

New England.  William Prichard from Suffolk was probably originally a Pritchett as well. He came to New England in the 1630’s and later was one of the original settlers of Brookfield, Massachusetts. William and his son Samuel were both slain during an Indian attack on the village in 1675.  

Samuel was outside the garrison at Brookfield when the attack began. They cut off his head, tossed it about like a ball in sight of the settlers, and then set on a pole against his dead father’s house.”  

Probably related to these Prichards was Roger Pritchard who had come to Boston in 1636 and later settled in the New Haven colony. His son Joseph was also killed in this Brookfield massacre.

Welsh Prichards.  The Prichards who began to appear in Pennsylvania and Maryland in the late 1600’s may have been the first Welsh Prichards in America.

Henry Pritchard was a Quaker who came to Philadelphia around the year 1682. Obadiah and Margaret Prichard, married in 1699, were the forebears of a line in Baltimore county, Maryland. James Prichard fought in the Revolutionary War and subsequently headed west to Kentucky to farm. His descendants formed a Prichard Association in Indiana in 1912 and Martha Johnson’s 1915 book The Prichard Family covered their family line.

Another arrival in Kentucky, in 1811, was William Prichard. Tradition has it that William was born in Wales and kidnapped and brought to Virginia with his brother John where they were apprenticed to Virginia planters.

William Pritchard was born probably in Tennessee in 1812. He died in 1864 of disease contracted during the Civil War, leaving a son Jeter aged just seven. Jeter, apprenticed out, later embarked on a political career which culminated in him becoming the US Senator for North Carolina from 1895 to 1903. His son George ran twice as Governor for North Carolina, but in each case was unsuccessful.

South Wales in the 19th century offered farming and coal mining as occupations, but at low wages. America beckoned for some:

  • John Pritchard from Treflys in Breconshire departed for Ohio in 1860 and later homesteaded in Illinois. His son Will farmed in Chelsea, Michigan. They felt fortunate to have escaped the grinding poverty back in Wales.
  • while William Pritchard from Carmarthenshire came out as a young man to Pennsylvania in 1881 and worked in the coal mines before migrating to West Virginia where he became general manager of a number of coal companies.

Canada.  James and Judith Pritchard emigrated with their family in the early 1830’s from county Monaghan in Ireland, and settled at North Wakefield (now Alcove), Quebec, some thirty kilometres up the Gatineau river from the Ottawa river.

The exact date of their arrival in Canada is a matter of some dispute.  Descendants celebrate 1832 as the year of arrival, whereas a Pioneer Memorial plaque in Wakefield puts the year as 1834.

South Africa.  Charles Pritchard, a descendant of the St. Helena Pritchards, migrated to the Cape Colony in 1838. He farmed in Langeberg and was one of the pioneers at Beaufort West. Kenneth Pritchard’s 1989 book The Pritchard Family in South Africa covered this history plus the earlier family history in St. Helena.

Australia.  Matthew and Jane Pritchard from Anglesey in north Wales came to Australia in the 1870’s, settling in Young, NSW.  Their son Hugh prospered as a real estate developer in Sydney.  The Sydney suburb of Mount Pritchard came to be named after him.

Pritchard Surname Miscellany

The Prichards of Llancaiach Fawr.  Edward Prichard, born around 1610, was born into the feuding families of the Prichards of Llancaiach Fawr and the Lewises of the Van in Glamorgan, both apparently related to a common ancestor. There was much recording of brawling between the two families which even found its way into Gelligaer church.  No fewer than eleven incidents of this brawling ended up in court.

At the start of the Civil War, Edward Pritchard was a supporter of Charles I.  The King appointed him Commissioner of Array and made him responsible for recruiting men and money for the Royalists.  But by the second half of 1645 Colonel Pritchard, like many in the Welsh gentry, changed sides and become a strong supporter of Parliament. This was after Charles I had actually visited Llancaiach Fawr in an effort to persuade not to change sides.

Prichard was then appointed by the Parliamentarians Governor of Cardiff castle.  In 1646 he successfully defended the castle against an attack by the Cavaliers and two years later he fought with some distinction in the Battle of St. Fagans.

At the end of the war Edward was one of the county commissioners for administering the Propagation Act and was a member of a group of Baptists based at Graig-yr-Allt.   He died in 1655.

He had two surviving daughters who both married and moved away.  The Llancaiach Fawr manor was subsequently rented out to tenant farmers.

The manor house has recently been restored as a museum to how it might have looked under the Prichards in 1645. It is said to be haunted.  Some say that Edward Prichard can sometimes be seen dressed in his Civil War regalia contemplating the turmoil and his support of the King.

William Prichard’s Life as a Dissenter.  Although he had had a good education and was a cultured man, William Prichard became a farmer at Glasfryn Fawr in the parish of Llangybi in Caernarvonshire.

One Sunday afternoon after church was over, he went to the village inn as usual and got so drunk that instead of returning straight home he wandered stupidly round the neighboring cottages. On reaching the last window of Caertyddyn he heard Francis Evans reading the Bible and praying for prodigals like himself. That was sufficient to sober him and send him home a reformed character.

Although he continued for some time to go to the established church, he began to associate more and more with the Dissenters at Pwllheli.  In 1742 William Prichard and his family were exiled from Glasfryn Fawr.  They went to Plas Penmynydd in Anglesey.  But the people there persecuted their new tenant inhumanly. When the landlord was induced to drive him out of the neighborhood he went to Bodlew in Llanddaniel where again he suffered persecution because of his religious views.

However, when William Bulkeley of Brynddu in Llanfechell came to realize that he was being ejected from his farms merely because he was a Nonconformist, he offered him the tenancy at Clwchdernog. There in 1749 he found his space to preach and lived there until his death in 1773.

The Pritchards in Treflys.  David Pritchard, born around 1790 in Treflys in Breconshire, was a poor farmer who at times would take work at the iron quarries to put food on the table.  His children received little schooling.  They all began servant-hood at an early age in order to support the family.  David himself was still farming in the 1861 census, even though he was over seventy years old. In the 1871 census he had finally retired and was listed as an ex-quarryman.

His son John Pritchard was listed as an 18-year-old farm servant in the 1851 Wales census. Nine years later he set off by ship for America, never to return.  He would never see his parents David and Gwen again nor maybe even ever hear from them.

John Pritchard, Revolutionary War Soldier.  John Pritchard was born in Loudoun county, Virginia in 1760 and enlisted in the Continental army at the age of eighteen. He was wounded in the leg in the Battle of Guilford Court House and was later at the siege of Yorktown. After Yorktown he was transferred to Captain Beam’s company under Colonel Alexander and was discharged in September 1782.

For the service he was belatedly granted a pension in 1834. His pension application read as follows:

“I have the record of my age in the family Bible now in the possession of my brother in Virginia.  I was residing at the Gum Springs in Loudoun county, Virginia when I was called into service and continued to reside there until the war was over. Since the Revolution, I resided in Maryland. From there I removed to near Morgantown, Virginia; from there to Kentucky and there I resided until about six years since when I removed to Decatur county in Indiana where I now reside.”

John began spelling his surname without a ‘t’ after the war. He died in Decatur county in 1841.  His tombstone bore the following epitaph:

  • “Remember friends as you pass by
  • As you are now, so once was I,
  • As I am now so you must be.
  • Prepare for death and follow me.”

The Paul Pritchard Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina.  The yard had been in operation since 1702 but became known as the Paul Pritchard shipyard when he acquired the yard in 1778.  He promptly sold it to the commissioners of the South Carolina Navy during the duration of the Revolutionary War but got the yard back when the war was over.

Paul died in 1791 and bequeathed the yard to his son William along with “all the materials at the shipyard at Hobcaw for carrying on the shipwright’s business and also all the timber and plank in the said shipyard and vessels on the stocks.”

Over the next 40 years, William Pritchard built and maintained many naval and merchant vessels, including the revenue cutter Unanimity launched in 1794.  In 1831 Hobcaw Bill finally closed his Hobcaw shipyard and sold the property. Today most of the original 340 tract has been subdivided into residential areas. 

Charles Pritchard at Beaufort West.  Charles Pritchard was the youngest son of Henry Huff Pritchard who had chaperoned Napoleon during his exile on St. Helena in 1815.  He was commissioned as an ensign in the English East India Company at the age of 18 in 1833. Three years later on the dissolution of the company he was pensioned off.  He migrated to the Cape Colony, settling in Beaufort West.

In 1840 he set off to Cape Town on horseback in order to try to adjust his company pension.  On the way he fell ill and stopped at David de Villiers’s farm near Durbanville.  It proved a fortuitous stop. He married one of his daughters, Johanna Hermina, later that year.

He and Johanna raised thirteen children in Beaufort West.  The youngest William, born in 1861, lived until 1947.  He was an evangelist and Rand pioneer.

Reader Feedback – Pritchards in Quebec.  I discovered I’m related to the Pritchard line through an ancestor on my paternal side. I’d no idea about this connection, the immigration to Ireland and subsequently to Gatineau in Quebec, Canada.

I’m from Wales originally, have lived in Canada for many years, including Ottawa for a time. I loved crossing the river to Gatineau. Of course I’d no idea there was a family connection there, albeit a little distant! It’s a remarkable voyage of discovery into the past.

Lynne Hughes Fox (

Mount Pritchard and Mount Misery in Sydney, Australia.  Hugh Pritchard had made a fortune in Sydney sub-dividing large estates and selling allotments on time payment.

At the time of his death in 1930 at the age of fifty-six he was said to have given away the equivalent to £20,000 to celebrate the end of World War One and to have donated more than £7,000 for the poor and for the spreading of religious propaganda.

One such estate in Sydney that he had sub-divided was situated west of Cabramatta Creek and Orange Grove Road.  Here in 1919 he was responsible for paying off the debts of a number of the landowners he had financed.  As a result the estate came to be known as Mount Pritchard.

Mount Pritchard was also known as Mount Misery after one of the earliest settlers and his family had tented there while travelling.  They then lost their bullocks and stayed in misery there for some three weeks until starvation compelled them to beat a retreat without their bullocks and dray.

Pritchard Names

  • William Prichard was an early Welsh nonconformist, a pioneer of dissent in the Anglesey area in the mid-18th century. 
  • Thomas Farnolla Pritchard from Shropshire is best remembered for his design of the first cast iron bridge in the world. This bridge spanned the Severn river in Shropshire and was completed in 1780. 
  • Jack Pritchard was a London-based furniture designer who was influential in England during the inter-war period of the 20th century.

Pritchard Numbers Today

  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glamorgan)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Pritchard and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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