Rice Surname Genealogy

a surname has Welsh, Irish, English or German origins, none of them
related to
rice that grows.
In Wales Rice emerged
as a spelling variant to Rhys, Rees, or Reece, from Rhys meaning
“ardor” or
“fiery warrior.” Rhys ap Tewdor, who
died in 1093, was the last ruler of an independent Wales.
Rice has different origins in Ulster and in SE England. Rice can also be the anglicized
form of the Reis and Reiss Germans who came to America.

Rice Resources on

Rice Ancestry

Wales. The
Rice (originally Rhys) family in Wales can trace their ancestry back to
in Carmarthenshire in the early 14th century.
Sir Rhys ap Thomas fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field in
1485 and

Rice family fortunes
during Tudor times.
Based at Newton House in Llandeilo, they reached their peak of
during the 18th century. George Rice was
the Government spokesman on America at the time of the outbreak of the
War of Independence. Later Rices were
created Baron Dynevor.

The Rhys and later Rice name was said to have
come from Wales at the time of Strongbow. Peter
Rice, a wine merchant, was mayor of Waterford in 1429 and his
son James Rice
mayor on no less than eleven occasions between 1467 and 1488.

Kerry. A more
substantial Rice presence has been in
county Kerry in SW Ireland. Edward Rice,
possibly from Suffolk,
was said to have been granted lands in the Dingle area in the early
1500’s. Captain
John Rice was drowned off the Blasquets when a Spanish ship of the
Armada was wrecked
there in 1588. Stephen
Rice, Catholic, was pardoned in 1624.

Sir Stephen Rice, a notable supporter of James
II, rose to be Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland.
He managed to hold onto his estates after James’s overthrow. These Rices, having
conformed to the Protestant faith, then established themselves at
Bushmount in Kerry
in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was also a separate Spring-Rice line at

The Rice home in Dingle, built in 1750, is
still standing. Some Rices from there
had emigrated
to America. These were traced in
Kathleen Fletcher’s 2010 book The
Rice Family History
. Black Tom
Rice, a grand nephew of Sir Stephen, operated a profitable wine trading
out of Dingle with France. His son James Louis Rice, or Comte Rice as he became styled,
was an adventurer on the Continent
the late 1700’s.

Elsewhere. The Rice
surname has also appeared in the counties
of Armagh and Down in SE Ulster. Here the
Gaelic name O’Maolchraoibhe was
often anglicized as Rice. James Rice
a tenant farmer at the
Maghleralone township of Kilmore parish, county Down in the 1760’s and
remained as farmers there throughout the 19th century.
was recorded among the 1796 flax growers in Armagh and Rices were to be
found in
Mullaghbrack during the 19th

England. The Rice name in
the west country may have had
similar Rhys name origins. It was
conspicuous in the village of Tittinhull in Somerset and in and around
Tavistock in Devon (as evidenced by the Rice
birthplaces in the early 19th century)

The Rice surname also arose independently in SE England among those
with non-Celtic ancestry. The early spelling in Suffolk and Essex
was probably Ryse:

  • John Ryse
    who lived in from Bures St Mary on the Suffolk/Essex border in the late
    1400’s was believed to have been the forebear of the Rices in
  • Robert Ryece was recorded in Preston in Suffolk around the year
    1500. A later Robert Ryece was the author of a Suffolk history, The Breviary of Suffolk, written in
  • while Deacon Edmund Rice from Stanstead in Suffolk was an early
    emigrant to America.

place-name Ryse was part of the Hatfield Regis priory in Essex that was
dissolved in 1536.

The Deacon Edmund Rice who settled in Sudbury,
Massachusetts in 1638 has been one of the most tracked of early New
England arrivals. Descendants of Edmund Rice were
first traced in
Arthur H. Ward’s 1858 book A
Genealogical History of the Rice Family
and they now have their
own association and website. Another Rice website gives a list of
descendants. It includes:

  • 44 descendants with the Rice surname
  • and 68 descendants with other surnames.

is estimated that the number of known Rice descendants into the 14th
and 15th generations exceeds 200,000. The Edmund Rice DNA has
extended to a Rice line, through a son of Samuel Rice, that took the
King surname in 1667 and to Rices in
the Mohawk Indian tribe. These latter Rices were thought to have
gotten their DNA from Silas Rice who was captured by Mohawk Indians in
1704 and then adopted into their tribe.

New England. Another
New England line
began with the birth of David Rice in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1729. This line was traced in Frederic Wallace’s
2005 book Ancestors and Descendants of
the Rice Brothers in Springfield
Their most conspicuous descendant was William Marsh Rice, the Houston businessman who was
murdered for his money in 1900 by his lawyer and valet.
That money was used instead to found Rice
University in Houston.

Rice was the first settler in 1797 in what was then wilderness on the
shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York. It
became the town of Oswego. He had arrived
there with his family from their home in Connecticut by
Oswego river.
One of his grandsons was William H. Rice, a missionary
to the Hawaiian islands in 1841. He
a sugar plantation there which his son William continued

Virginia. DNA
testing has shown three
early Rice immigrants into Virginia with a sizeable number having a
similar DNA:

  • the
    first line comes from Thomas Rice, born in
    Virginia around 1660, and his wife Marcy. Thomas
    died at sea around the year 1716 while on a voyage
    back to
  • the second line comes from
    Henry Rice, born in Virginia around 1717 (although that date could
    possibly have been later). He was called
    the pioneer gristmiller, raised
    his wife, and died in Tennessee at the reported age of
    101. His story was covered in Melvin
    Little’s 2007 book The Pioneer
  • while
    a third line
    comes from James Rice, born in Virginia around 1724 (again it could
    have been later), who moved to Ohio around
    1805. Some reports have him aged 120 at
    his death.

Rice came to Virginia
from Dingle in Ireland in the early 1650’s.
He settled in Northumberland county.
Descendants migrated to Kentucky in the early 1800’s.

Some were of Welsh origin, others Irish. Early Rices in Chester
county were probably Welsh and Quaker. Edward Rice came to Bucks
county, Pennsylvania from Ulster in 1736.

But the majority of the Rices in the state came from Germany.
Bernardt Reiss arrived there in the 1740’s and made his home in
Westmoreland county. His brother Frederick was killed during the
French and Indian War. But his son Captain Frederick Rice survived
the Revolutionary War and was later a miller in Wayne county,
Ohio. Frederick’s descendants hold family reunions.

Other German Rices in Philadelphia included:

  • Zachariah Reiss/Rice who had come to Chester county by
    1750. His descendants migrated to Ohio and Indiana in the early
  • and Conrad Rees who had arrived in Lancaster county around the
    same time. His grandson Conrad fought in the Revolutionary War.

Rice was a much later arrival from Germany, coming to
Philadelphia as a young boy with his parents in 1850. He made his
mark in electronic development and founded the Electric Boast
Company (now owned by General Electric). He was also a well-known
chess player and devisor of the Rice Opening Gambit.

Canada. Jacob
Rice, a Welshman from Cardiganshire, was an early Christian
missionary to Newfoundland, serving there from 1710 to 1727.

In 1800 after the
Irish uprising, a Waterford merchant named Edmund Rice smuggled his
brother-in-law John Rice to Newfoundland in a barrel to escape
retribution. In 1836 Michael Rice was
murdered in New Ross, Wexford. Also
fearing retribution, his wife Sarah gathered their children and fled to
Newfoundland. On the voyage across they
decided to change both their name, from Rice to Vey, and their
religion, from
Catholic to Protestant.

Three Rice families – those of Ebenezer, Beriah, and
John, all descendants of Edmund Rice – left New England on the Charming Molly for the
Annapolis valley in Nova Scotia in 1760. Many of their
descendants are still in Nova Scotia today.

Australia. Some
of the early Rices in Australia were convicts, from Ireland. William Rice was an Irish rebel in Ulster
after the 1798 uprising, rounded up and transported to Australia in
1801 as a
political prisoner. Edmund Rice from
county Down was transported in 1821 for stealing three pigs. His wife and children applied to join him but
did not in the end make the trip.

Patrick Rice, born in Bendigo in 1855, was
the son of Irish parents drawn to Victoria by gold rush fever. He spent his life in mining circles,
migrating to Kalgoorlie in 1895, and living to be 101. Thomas and
Jane Rice came
to South Australia from Buckinghamshire in 1850 and settled in the
area. Their story was told in Peter
Rice’s 1993 book Thomas
and Jane Rice Family.

Rice Miscellany

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

Rice Names

Edmund Rice who
came to New England in 1638 is believed to have in excess of 200,000
descendants in America today.

George Rice was the English politician at the center of the events in
London that
precipitated the American War of Independence.
was an early 20th century American sportswriter known for his
who was a fixture in the Arsenal side of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Tim Rice is a British lyricist best known for his
collaboration in musicals with Andrew Lloyd
Condoleezza Rice served as
the US Secretary of State under George W. Bush.
Jerry Rice
is widely
considered as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history.

Select Rices Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)





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