Terry Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Terry Meaning
English and Irish surname Terry can be traced
back to the Germanic Theodoric, meaning “people rule” from the Latin
or Terence.  It became Thierry in France
and was brought to England by the Normans in that form. The
English version of Terry began to appear
in the 13th century

Terry Resources on

Terry Ancestry

The Terry name distribution in the 19th century showed two main clusters, one in Kent in the southeast and the other in Yorkshire in the northeast.

Kent.  The earliest record in Kent appears to have been a Thierry, the son of Deorman in London, who was granted lands there by the Earl of Pembroke
in the mid-12th century.  The later surname spelling here could be either Terrey or Terry.  For instance:

  • David Terrey died at Pelham near Gravesend in 1662; and Edward Terrey appeared in the hearth tax records at Cudham near Bromley in 1664.
  • while the name John Terry was recorded at Maidstone in 1602; and William Terry appeared in the hearth tax records at Cowden near Sevenoaks in 1664.

The Terrey spelling persisted into the 19th century.   But there were only 17 Terreys left in Kent by the time of the 1881 census.

Hampshire.  There was a Terry
family at Long Sutton in
Hampshire from the early 1500’s.  Stephen
Terry made his home at Hydegate House and was a substantial landowner there in
Elizabethan times.  His son the Rev.
John Terry
was a well-known anti-Catholic writer and his
grandson John a
wealthy goldsmith in London.

But the most famous Terry family from Hampshire was of reputed Irish descent (although
it is not known where and when they came from Ireland).
The first known was Benjamin Terry, innkeeper
at the Fortune of War in Portsmouth who married Catherine
Crawford in 1812.  His son Benjamin and wife Sarah,
comic actors in a Portsmouth-based touring company, were the first of the Terry theatrical dynasty. 

A later Irish arrival, from Cork, was Paul Terry who came to Portsmouth in 1899
and worked there as a physician until his death in 1951.

Yorkshire.  Terry seems to have been a
name from the North Riding of Yorkshire.

One Terry family record began with the birth of John Terry in Askrigg in north Yorkshire
in 1705.  He was a badger by trade, a man
who bought grain and carted it to a buyer, as was his son Edward.  Later Terrys were millers.
Edward Terry unfortunately drowned at his
mill while tipsy in 1789.  After the
Napoleonic Wars, economic conditions deteriorated in the North Riding and John
Terry departed for Australia in 1818.

There was also a Terry family from Guisbrough in north Yorkshire in the early/mid 1700’s.  Thomas Terry of this
family emigrated to South Carolina in 1825.
There he organized in Fountain Inn the building of a new
Methodist church that came to be known as Terry’s Chapel.

Joseph Terry, the son of a butcher, came from the village of
Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds in east Yorkshire.
He took over Terry’s of York, the
chocolate-making company, in 1828 and it remained in family hands until 2005.

The heyday of the company was
probably in the 1920’s and 1930’s when it was run by Joseph’s grandson Noel Terry.  He it was who introduced
the famous All Gold and Chocolate Orange selections.  Goddards, close by the chocolate factory, was the home of the Terry family from 1927 until 1980

Ireland.  The Terrys of Cork were
an old Anglo-Norman family who were steadfastly Catholic at the time of Cromwell.  They first appeared in Cork
documents, generally as Tyrry, around the year 1300 and they rose to prominence
as merchants and traders in Cork city a century or so later.  Edmund Tyrry, who died in 1454, was the first
in this line of merchants.  During the
1500’s and the early 1600’s Terrys served as mayor of Cork city no
fewer than twenty times.

However, it became
untenable for them to maintain their position and their Catholic faith with
Cromwell.  In 1644 all Catholic families
were thrown out of the city.  Some Terrys
converted to Protestantism and remained in the city. Others
retained a certain presence in the
surrounding countryside.  Still others
emigrated.  Their power was broken. 

Spain and Latin America.  After the Jacobite defeat in Ireland in 1690, many Terrys sought
refuge abroad.  James Terry (whose
family was originally from Cork) fled Limerick for Spain.
His relation William Terry obtained an estate
with vineyards near Jerez in the region of Andalusia and began to produce fortified sherry there.  Terrys have
remained there in the Cadiz region.

One line of these Terrys settled across the Atlantic in Cuba where they
became powerful.   Tomas Terry made a fortune as a sugar planter
in the mid-19th century and was probably the richest man on the island
on his death in 1886.  His son Emilio served as Cuba’s Minister of
Agriculture in the early 1900’s.  Other Terrys had migrated to
Peru in the 18th century.  Fernando Terry of this line was twice
President of Peru in the mid-20th century.

America.  There were two notable early Terry lines in New England. 

New England.  Three Terry brothers –
Thomas, Robert, and
Richard – were said to have come to the Massachusetts Bay colony from
London on
the James in 1635.  The youngest
of them, Richard, was one of the thirteen original settlers of
Southold, Long
Island.  He died there in 1676.  From Long Island, his descendants seem to have scattered, some settling in Orange county, New York and others in Connecticut.

A line from Connecticut via Parshall Terry
migrated to the Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania in 1763.
One of his sons Jonathan was the founder
of Terrytown
in Bradford county, Pennsylvania in 1787.  An elder son Parshall fought in the
Revolutionary War, but later deserted and joined the British side.  After the war he decamped to Ontario in
Canada where he prospered.  He drowned in
the Don river in 1808.  A third Parshall
Terry, born near Niagara on the New York side in 1778, moved to Ontario around
1820.  Jacob Terry of this family was a
Mormon pioneer to Utah
in 1852. 

Samuel Terry, born near London, was brought to New England in 1650 by William Pynchon, the man who founded Springfield, Massachusetts.  There Samuel was apprenticed to Benjamin
Cooley as a weaver.

“Samuel’s ancestry is uncertain. Some have
him as the grandson of the Rev. John Terry, the noted anti-Catholic writer of
his time and vicar of Stockton in Wiltshire.
John was married to Mary, the sister of John White of Dorchester.  But others have disputed this linkage.” 

His eldest son Samuel settled nearby at Enfield where he started up a sawmill.

Several generations later, Charles and Huldah Terry departed this area for upstate New York.  They settled after
the Revolutionary War in Wayne county, having purchased land in the wilderness there.  Charles fought in the War of 1812
but died two years later as a result of gunshot wounds.
His son John prospered as a businessman in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Another line from Enfield via Nathaniel Terry led to Dr. Charles Terry, a pioneer physician and surgeon in Clark county, Wisconsin in the years prior to the Civil War. 

Elsewhere.  Thomas Terry, a Quaker, was one of the
original settlers of Bucks county, from lands granted him by William
Penn in 1683.  Five generations of Terrys lived
there.  But David Terry, Thomas’s great
grandson, found the Quakers no longer being tolerated there in the
early 1800’s.  He embarked on a desperate
course of action – emigration to Canada.
He and his family left Pennsylvania for
township north of Toronto in 1801. 

There were a number of early Terrys in Virginia in the 1600’s:

  • the earliest may have been William Terry from
    London who arrived in 1652.  He was
    apparently from a Terry family that transported indentured servants to the colonies.  William himself stayed and
    settled in Lunenburg county.  There were
    later Terrys of this line in South Carolina.  
  • Thomas Terry was born in 1665 in what became Caroline
    county.  His descendants were to be found
    in Edgefield, South Carolina in the late 1700’s.  Joseph
    Terry moved to Mississippi in 1836 where he bought
    land in Hinds county for a farm and general store.  His
    son William had the town of Terry named after him.
  • James Terry was born in the 1680’s
    also in Caroline county.  He moved in later life
    to North Carolina and his descendants to Alabama in the early 1800’s.  William Terry was a Methodist preacher there

Australia.  Samuel Terry’s history in
Australia was a
rags-to-riches story, from his arrival from Manchester as a convict in
in 1801 to the business empire that he had created there some twenty

He died in 1838 as the “Botany
Bay Rothschild” and possibly the wealthiest man in the colony.  But any dreams of a family dynasty were soon
to be dispelled.  Edward, his son and
principal heir, died childless soon after Terry himself.
And much of the family’s fortune was
dissipated in the speculations and bankruptcy of the mercantile firm of
& Hosking. 

John Terry arrived
from Yorkshire in 1819 with a letter of introduction to the Governor to
whom he
appeared “a good worthy man.”  He had
been a miller in Yorkshire and he established a mill along the Derwent
river in


Terry Miscellany

The Terrys of Cork.  Kevin Terry has written two books
on the Terrys of Cork, spanning the period from 1180 to 2000.

The first, although published later in 2013,
covered the period from 1180 to 1644.
Entitled Merchant Gentry, the book sought to establish
some of
the political, social and economic reasons for their rise to prominence
the 15th century, their maintenance of this position for some 250
through to their expulsion together with other old English families in

The second, published earlier in
2005, brought the story up to the present.
This book studied the settlement patterns of Terrys in Cork
city, as
well as in the baronies of Cork, Barrymore and Imokilly, between 1600
2000.  In 1900 there were 21 Terry
families recorded, all Catholic – six in Cork city, one in Cork barony,
four in
Barrymore, and ten in Imokilly.

The book
also looked at the Terrys who had emigrated from Cork and where they
went.  The main destinations were America

The Rev. John Terry of Stockton, Wiltshire.  The
following memorial of the Rev. John Terry, the
anti-Catholic writer, appeared at
the church in
Stockton, Wiltshire on his
death in 1625:

“If men should be silent,
this stone shall speak the due praise of God’s grace in John Terry, lately a faithful, painful, vigilant and fruitful
Minister of God’s truth in this church of Stockton.

He was born of substantial parentage at Long Sutton in Hampshire; bred
a well deserving member
of New College
in Oxford; freely
presented to
this charge by the Right Rev. Bishop of Winchester in 1582.

May he sleep happily in the
public cemetery of this
Church till the last trumpet shall awake him to a joyful resurrection in Christ.

He lived, he learned, he wrote, he taught, Well, much, truly, duly, he brought Home the lost sheep, which Christ’s blood bought, Against Hell’s power he stoutly fought.  Terrae Terra datur, Caelum sed spiritus ornat,  Mundus habet famam, lusa
Gehenna fremit.” 

The Terry Theatrical Family.  The Terry family was a theatrical dynasty of the late 19th century and beyond. The family included not only those members with the surname Terry, but also Neilsons, Craigs and Gielguds to whom
the Terrys were linked by marriage or by blood ties.

dynasty was founded by
the actor Benjamin Terry and his wife Sarah.  The
first member of the
family to achieve national prominence was their eldest surviving
daughter Kate.  Her
younger sister Ellen
international fame in partnership with Henry Irving.  Ellen
Terry was seen as the
greatest star of the family for many decades.  Kate’s grandson John
Gielgud became
at least as
celebrated from the 1930’s

Three other siblings – Marion,
Florence and
Fred – also became actors.  And Fred
married Julia Neilson, a prominent actress of her day.
those of the family
who did not become actors was Gordon Craig, Ellen’s
son, an
internationally-known theater
designer and

The family story was told in
Marguerite Steen’s 1962 book A Pride of Terrys.

Reader Feedback – Early Terrys in Virginia.  “There were a number of Terrys in Virginia in the 1600’s.  The earliest may have been William Terry from London who arrived in 1652.  He was apparently from a Terry family that transported indentured servants to the colonies.  William himself stayed and settled in Lunenburg county.  There were later Terrys of this line in South Carolina.”

I believe I have proof this is my grandfather. How do I confirm it?  Jeff Terry (jterry9@ford.com)

Jonathan Terry of Terrytown.  Terrytown is a small
village situated about two miles above the mouth of Wyalusing creek in Bradford county, Pennsylvania.

Captain Jonathan Terry was its
first permanent settler.  A descendant of Long Island
1640 immigrant Richard Terry, he had been
born in Connecticut in 1758.  When he was five his
family, along with other
Connecticut settlers, moved to the
Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania.  There on the frontier they
encountered many
Indian troubles.  They were indeed
fortunate to be inside Forty Fort at the time of the Indian battle and
at Wyoming in July 1778.

1787 Jonathan
built for himself a
house at Terrytown and
moved into it, thus becoming the founder of the village. He
was a typical pioneer and was also noted
for his genial

1806 he constructed his “mansion on the
after having
purchased a tract of six hundred acres.  This
he occupied throughout
his life.  The
log cabin which he constructed is still
standing and is in an excellent state of preservation.  On
Terry’s farm was erected the village’s first
grist mill, a saw
mill, tannery and
distillery.  He
also owned and operated the first ferry across the river.

A description of Terry’s
house as it appeared in
1878 ran
as follows:

is a large two-storied hewn log house, with a
huge chimney in the center of it, a small portico in the front, and in
times had large double doors
three inches thick.  It
is the oldest house in the village and well
“the Old Terry

Five generations of Terrys have lived in this home.  The story of the Terrys of Terrytown was told in C.F. Heverly’s 1913 book Terry Family Pioneers.

Terrys on the Wagon Train to Utah.  Jacob Terry and his family made their way across the
Great Plains to Salt Lake valley and the Mormon settlement there in
1852.  Annie
Frank, grand daughter of Mary Hannah –
Jacob’s eldest daughter – supplied this little incident of their journey:

Hannah was my grandmother and told an
incident in their trip across the plains.  Her
brother Parshall was a practical joker and
she was a very pretty young woman. The Pawnee Indians were at peace
with the
whites, but the Chief came down to see the immigrant train and pointing
to Mary
said, ‘Heep winow squaw.’

brother Parshall
replied, ‘You bet she is.  How
many ponies will you
give me for her?’
you know, Indians do not
joke. The Chief said he would give one pony.

no,” said Parshall.  So
they dickered until he said he would give
five ponies and Parshall said, ‘Alright, five ponies.’

chief came next day with five ponies and
insisted that he have the squaw and he followed the train for days and
they had
to hide Mary in different wagons this time until the Chief gave up and
went on
his way.”

John Terry in Tasmania.  There is a charming account by John Terry in a letter
home in 1822 of his early labors in creating a mill, farm and orchard
in the
idyllic surroundings of Tasmania:

threw off my coat and rose with the sun, wrought at all that had come
hand.  I now thank God and consider
myself and my family in a very comfortable position.
Wild duck in great numbers, as many as 300 to
400 rise at once.  Black swan and land
quail, wild pigeons colored like peacocks, and fish in great plenty.  Hunt the kangaroo.  Trees
here cast a shell of bark, not
leaves.  Wood when cut green sinks in
water like a stone.  Your shortest day is
our longest and your summer our winter.
The cuckoo cries in the night and mostly in our winter.  The man in the moon has his legs upward.”

Noel Terry and Goddards.  Noel Terry was a young man in 1910 when his father
Thomas passed away and he and his uncle Francis took over Terrys of

However, the First World War soon intervened and
Noel enlisted as an officer in
the Yorkshire Regiment and
took part in the Battle of
the Somme.  He was
wounded by a bullet to the thigh during the battle and
might have died.  It is thought that a silver
cigarette case in
his pocket took most of the impact and may have saved his life.

Back home in peacetime, Noel made a success
of his stewardship of Terrys.  He
introduced the famous
All Gold chocolate collection in 1930 and the Chocolate
Orange selection a year

By that time he had moved into
his new home at Goddards on
Tadcaster Road, close by
the chocolate factory.  The
house took its name from Francis
Goddard, the maiden name of his grandfather Sir Joseph Terry’s wife.  Completed in 1927, it
was home to Noel and his wife Kathleen
and their four
children, Peter, Kenneth, Betty and Richard.

has been described as
the finest
surviving example of the work of Walter Brierley, the Lutyens of the
north.  It still
retains many of the original fixtures,
including its Arts
and Crafts wallpapers and paneling and the staircase with its oak
carving.  The
exterior of the house features
handmade locally
produced bricks arranged in geometric patterns and decorative chimney
typical of a Brierley building.  Inside
the house was
large assortment of Georgian furniture
and clocks which Noel collected
throughout his life.

When Noel died in 1980, Goddards
passed to the National Trust.


Select Terry Names

  • Edmund Terry who died in 1454 was
    the first of the Terry merchants of Cork. 
  • Joseph Terry started the confectionary company Terry’s of
    in 1828. 
  • Samuel Terry, transported
    to Australia as a convict in 1800, was the wealthiest man in the colony by the time of his death in 1838. 
  • Tomas Terry was a Cuban sugar planter, probably the richest man on the island on his death in 1886. 
  • Ellen Terry was an English stage
    actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the leading
    Shakespearean actress of her time

Select Terry Numbers Today

  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Terry and Like Surnames.

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.




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