Tyrrell Surname Meaning, History & Origin
brought by a Norman family to England at the time of the Conquest. One source here is the place-name Tirel from
which the Norman family originated.
There was also an early name reference to Thurold, a Danish
most common today are Tyrrell and
Terrell. Tyrell remains the main spelling in England
and Ireland. However, family branches
coming to America tended to spell themselves Terrell.
Now US Terrells outnumber English Tyrrells.
Tyrrell/Terrell Resources on
- Tyrrell Family History Society
- Tyrrell, Tirrell, Terrell
Tyrrells in Ireland.
- Terrell Society Terrell
Society of America.
- The Tyrrell Family Wine Story
Tyrrells in Australia.
The progenitor of the Tyrrells appears to have been
Ralf, sire of Tirel and Poix, in 10th century France.
He had made his home on the Seine river just
below Paris near a village named Tirel (now Triel) from which the
family got its name.
According to Cuvillier-Morel-D’Acy’s 1869 book Genealogical
History, the Tyrrells were a prominent seigneurial family in both Picardy and Normandy and Sir Walter Tyrrell accompanied William the Conqueror in his
invasion of England in 1066. The Tyrrell
line died out in France in 1417. But the
English and Irish Tyrrell lines have continued.
England. Sir Walter Tyrrell’s name was on the list of distinguished noblemen who had fought at the
Battle of Hastings in 1066. Afterwards
he was granted large tracts of land in Hampshire (in the New Forest) and in Essex. He died in 1068 and these lands
were held by his successors. His grandson Walter, who was implicated in the accidental slaying of William Rufus the king, fled to France in 1100.
Hampshire. Avon Tyrrell in the New Forest was the initial base for the Tyrrells. Some of them were early Crusaders. It was from there that Sir Hugh Tyrrell departed with Strongbow for the conquest of Ireland in 1170. However, by 1200 the family focus had switched to Essex.
Essex. James Tyrrell had married the heiress Margaret Heron in the early 1300’s and the Tyrrell estate at Heron Hall near East Horndon in Essex was to remain with the family until the early 1600’s. They were an important local and even national family at that time – their most prominent person probably being Sir John Tyrrell, Speaker of the House of Commons three times in the 1420’s. Heron Hall has long since disappeared, but the Tyrrell Chapel near Brentwood has remained.
A branch of the family moved to Gipping in Suffolk in the 1450’s.
But this line had its problems. William Tyrrell was executed for treason in 1462, as was his son James in 1502. James had allegedly confessed to the murders of the Princes in the Tower under the orders of Richard III.
Buckinghamshire. The estates of Thornton and Oakley in Buckinghamshire came into Tyrrell hands through marriage in the 1500’s:
- the Tyrrells of Thornton were baronets from 1627 until 1748.
- while two Sir Timothy Tyrrells of Oakley, father and son, acted as Master of the Hounds to Charles I. John Tyrrell then served in the Restoration navy and was made a Second Admiral by Charles II.
Berkshire. The connection to Tyrrell ancestry in Essex – possibly through William Tyrrell of Bruyn manor in Reading in the late 1500’s – is less certain here. The spelling can be different.
Robert Terrell, a clothier, was born in Reading in 1594 and his
son Richmond emigrated to Virginia in 1656.
Meanwhile Tirrells four times filled the office of the mayor of
Reading between 1668 and 1712.
There was a Tyrrell line in Reading that began
with Timothy Tyrrell who was born there in 1693.
His son Timothy moved to London and was sworn in as the 30th
Remembrancer of the City of London in 1794.
Frederick of the next generation became a professor of anatomy
and surgery in London; William a bishop in Australia.
Ireland. Sir Hugh Tyrrell came to
Strongbow in 1170 and soon afterwards was awarded land grants for the greater part of the barony of Fertullagh in
Westmeath, as well as the lordship of Castleknock in Dublin. Here the Tyrrells remained for many hundreds
of years as one of the Old English Catholic families in Ireland.
Indeed Tyrrells in Westmeath opposed the English
intrusions by Elizabeth and Cromwell and later by William of Orange. In 1597 Captain Richard Tyrrell defeated the
English in a Westmeath skirmish which was then commemorated in the
bagpipe tune of Tyrrell’s
March. Nine Tyrrells were officers in King James II’s Irish
army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The Tyrrells held Castleknock near
Dublin until the early 1500’s. According
to the Lady of the Castle legend,
Roger Tyrrell was slain after carrying
off the daughter of a Wicklow chieftain to his castle.
The family did still remain influential in
Dublin, with Walter Tyrrell being appointed mayor of the city in 1540.
Thomas Tyrrell acquired Grange Castle in Kildare
in 1735 and it remained in Tyrrell hands until 1988.
The Tyrrells also held Ballinderry House
nearby (damaged during the 1798 Irish Rebellion) and were local
In more recent times the Tyrrells
have been building boats in Wicklow since 1864 when John Tyrrell opened
shipbuilding yard at Arklow. Among the
notable boats built by the family was the Gypsy
Moth III in which Sir Francis Chichester won the single-handed
transatlantic yacht race.
Meanwhile John Tyrrell, from Ulster farming stock, was a Belfast
alderman in the early 1900’s. His son
William was part of the British Lions rugby team that toured South
1910. Trained in medicine, he went on to have a successful career in the RAF and
became the honorary
surgeon to King George VI in 1939.
America. Early arrivals in America were Terrill and
Terrell, not Tyrrell:
- Roger Terrill from
Surrey who came to Milford, Connecticut around 1638.
He and his wife Abigail had five surviving
sons – John, Samuel, Roger, Thomas, and Daniel – some of whom took the
Terrell spelling. One line led to Tillotson Terrell, a pioneer
settler in Ridgeville, Ohio in the early 1800’s.
- and Richmond Terrell from
Berkshire who came to New Kent county, Virginia in 1656. The
forebear of the Terrell line here was the William
Terrell who married Susannah Waters in the 1680’s. He
was thought to have been either the son or nephew of Richmond.
These precedents may have contributed to Terrell
becoming the main spelling in America. Most of the Tyrrells who came later were from Ireland. Many of them became
Terrell in America.
William Terrell of the Virginia line moved south to
Georgia after the Revolutionary War and this was where the Terrell
really established itself. His grandson
William was a US Congressman after whom Terrell county in Georgia was
named. Three generations later came
Joseph Terrell, Governor of Georgia from 1902 to 1907.
Moses Terrell of this line meanwhile had moved
into Franklin county, Georgia from North Carolina in 1793 when it was
territory. His son John Terrell and family
in their forced
migration to Mississippi from Georgia in 1832.
Texas. David and
Henry Terrell became Quakers in Virginia in the 1730’s and were the
progenitors of a large number of Quaker Terrells. One line
with John Dabney Terrell ended up in Alabama in 1814. Christopher
Terrell meanwhile departed Virginia for a Quaker community in Ohio in
the early 1820’s. His son Alexander moved to Texas in 1852.
the Civil War Alexander was an important member of the Texas House of
Representatives and Terrell county in Texas was named in his honor.
George and Robert Terrell, sons of Colonel James Terrell, grew up
in Tennessee in the 1830’s. George had worked for Sam Houston
there and he and Robert followed Sam to Texas in 1839. Robert
Terrell became an early settler in Kaufman county near
Dallas and lived there
until his death in 1881. The town of Terrell, Texas was named
Canada. William Tyrrell
had been born at Grange
Castle in Kildare in 1816. He left
Ireland for Canada in 1836 and settled in Toronto where, largely
he worked as a building contractor and an architect of some talent for
fifty years. He died in 1904 at the age
of eighty eight. By this time his son
Tyrrell had made his mark as a geologist, cartographer and
consultant. Joseph lived to be ninety
Another William Tyrrell had
been born in London in 1807, the son of Timothy Tyrrell, the
the City of London. He came out to
Australia in 1837, having been posted there by the Church of England,
the first Bishop of Newcastle in Hunter Valley, NSW.
Seven years later he was joined by his nephews Lovick
and Edward who had recently lost their father Frederick.
Lovick became a priest. Edward was
the founder of Tyrrell’s Wines in
the Hunter Valley, now run by the fourth generation of descendants.
Tyrrells and Terrells Today
Walter Tyrrell Who Shot William Rufus. Walter Tyrrell was infamous for his reported involvement in the death of the king, William Rufus, in 1100.
The King had organized a hunting trip in the New
Forest. He was presented with six arrows
on the eve of the hunt. He took four for
himself and handed the other two to Tyrrell.
In their search for prey, according to chroniclers, Tyrrell let
wild shot at a passing stag. However, instead of
the stag as intended, the arrow pierced William in the chest,
lungs. Stricken with panic, Walter leapt
upon his horse and fled to France.
A version of this tale is given by William of
Malmesbury in his Chronicle of the
Kings of the English, written some thirty years later, in which
referred to as Walter Thurold:
“The day before the king died he dreamt that he
went to hell and the Devil said to him “I can’t wait for tomorrow
we can finally meet in person!”. He suddenly awoke. He commanded a
to be brought and forbade his attendants to leave him. The next day he
into the forest… He was attended by a few persons.
Walter Thurold remained
with him, while the others were on the chase.
The sun was now declining when the king, drawing his bow and
an arrow, slightly wounded a stag which passed before him.
The stag was still running. The
king followed it a long time with his
eyes, holding up his hand to keep off the power of the sun’s rays. At
instant Walter decided to kill another stag.
Oh, gracious God! the arrow pierced the king’s breast.
On receiving the
wound the king uttered not a word, but broke off the shaft of the arrow
it had projected from his body. This accelerated his death. Walter immediately ran up, but as he found
him senseless. He leapt upon his horse
and escaped with the utmost speed. Indeed
there were none to pursue him.
Some helped his flight, others felt sorry for him.”
Abbot Suger, another
chronicler, was Thurold’s friend and sheltered him in his French exile.
“It was laid to the charge of a certain noble, Walter
Thurold, that he
had shot the king with an arrow. But I
have often heard him, when he had nothing to fear nor to hope, solemnly
that on the day in question he was not in the part of the forest where
was hunting, nor ever saw him in the forest at all.”
Tyrrell Chapel in Essex. Tyrrell Chapel, erected about
the time of Henry V, is located about a mile away from what had been the
Tyrrell country seat at East Horndon in Essex.
In the chancel floor there is an
interesting slab, dated 1422, with the following inscription:
“To Sir Thomas
Tyrrell, son and heir of Sir John Tyrrell and Alice his wife.”
There are also
monuments in the north and south chapels to other members of the family
in the vaults beneath. These include Sir
John Tyrrell who died in 1675 and his wife Martha who died in 1670. The chancel is enriched with a number of
handsomely carved bosses.
Against the south transept there is an altar tomb,
said to be a memorial of the burial here of the heart of Queen Anne
was beheaded in 1536.
Tyrrell’s March. In 1597 during the O’Neill wars, the English
marched south from Mullingar with a thousand men to crush a small Irish army of four hundred
under Captain Tyrrell, chief of Fertullagh in Westmeath.
Tyrrell intercepted them at Tyrrell’s Pass in
the south of Westmeath, then a long narrow firm passage with bogs and
on both sides.
He placed half of his little army in ambush at the
of the pass; then he retreated and drew the English on through the pass
they were caught between the two detachments.
The English army was annihilated.
Tyrrell’s March, a song commemorating the feat to be accompanied by
bagpipes, was composed
later in the year.
The first stanza ran
“By the flow’ry banks of Brosna the burning sunset fell
In many a beam and golden gleam on hill and mead and dell;
And from thy shores, bright Ennell, to the far-off mountain crest,
Over plain and leafy wild wood there was peace and quiet rest.
Brave Tyrrell sat that summer eve amid the woody hills,
With Captain Owney at his side, by Brosna’s shining rills—
Brave Tyrrell of the flying camps and Owney Oge the strong,
And round them lay their followers the forest glade along;
Four hundred men of proof they were, those warriors free and bold;
In many a group they sat around the green skirts of the wold.”
And the final stanza was;
“Hurrah! that shout it rolleth out with cadence wild and stern; ‘
Tis the triumph roar of the galloglass, and the fierce yell of the kern.
The foeman flies before their steel—but not for far he flies—
In the narrow pass, in the bogs and scrubs on either side, he dies.
Where’er he speeds death follows him like a shadow in his tracks— He meets the gleam of the fearful pike and the murderous battle-axe.
Young Barnewell was made prisoner fighting bravely in the van,
And his comrades all fell slain around him—save one single man:
That man they sped, and away he fled, unharmed by galloglass,
That he might tell how his comrades fell that morn at Tyrrell’s Pass.”
Barnewell was the leader of the English forces.
The Lady of the Castle Legend. In the
early part of the 16th century, Roger Tyrrell made the old castle of Castleknock near Dublin the terror of the neighborhood.
One summer’s evening he
carried off Eibhleen O’Brinn, the daughter of a Wicklow chieftain, and
her in the turret of his castle. At dead
of night, the maiden heard steps ascending the stone staircase that led
abode and, fearing the worst, opened a vein in her neck by means of her
breast-pin and bled to death.
Next morning the fact was divulged and there was
great indignation against Tyrrell. Turlogh O’Brinn assembled his
marched towards Castleknock. Tyrrell,
finding that he was to be attacked, declared that he would not take
behind his ramparts but would meet his enemy in the open field. A bloody battle ensued in which Tyrrell was
slain. His end was considered a just punishment for his many crimes.
of the maiden was long regretted. It was
long a popular belief, that, at the hour of midnight, a female figure
white might be seen moving slowly round the castle. This, they said,
Eibhleen and they called her “the Lady of the Castle.”
John Terrell and the Cherokee Evictions. In late 1831 the US Government started to enrol the large number of Cherokee Indians, almost one thousand in total, for removal
from Georgia. John Terrell and his
family of nine, residing on the Chestatee river, were enrolled in March
1832. At that time Terrell made a claim
for the value of the property he would leave behind:
“One good hewed house; well covered good floor
door and chimney; one kitchen, negro house, one other house; one lot
one smokehouse; one double stable; one other corner crib; one outhouse;
spring house; one other lot; two small houses and sheds and two lots;
of lowland, eleven acres; one piece of highland of eleven acres; first
highland of eight acres; five acres highland; twenty six acres of rich
new leather fence; twelve first-rate peach trees and four other peach
The total value was assessed at $664.
In early April 1832 the Terrell family,
together with other emigrants, left the Cherokee agency on nine
travelling down the Tennessee river to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There they were transferred to the steamboat Thomas Yeatman, traversing the
Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas rivers until they arrived at
mouth of the Illinois river at the end of the month. The emigrants landed at Fort Gibson and the men walked
to the Woodall School house area between Fort Gibson and Tahlequah with
axes to build houses.
receive his $664 compensation from the US Government. He remained
in an area southwest of Tahlequah until his death in 1840. He and his wife Elizabeth were buried in
graves in what is now known as the Price cemetery at Metory.
Robert Terrell, Texas Pioneer. Robert Terrell had been born in 1820 in Tennessee, the seventh child of James and Penelope Terrell. He later wrote about his father:
“My father was James Terrell, born in Virginia near
Lynchburg; emigrated to Tennessee at an early day, served with General
in all his wars; commanded a regiment in the battle of the Horse-Shoe,
the famous “wedge” that surrounded the last stronghold of the Indians
in that battle. He was a brother to Dr.
Christopher J. Terrell whose two sons live in Texas – Judge Alexander
at Austin and Captain J.C. Terrell at Fort Worth.”
The Terrell family moved
around a lot in Robert’s early years, to Kentucky, Missouri, and then,
his father died, to Louisiana. In 1839
followed his older brother George to Texas.
Two years later he accompanied a
party of colonists, led by Dr. William P. King, to locate the much
land within the three forks of the Trinity river in Texas.
They arrived in an area where the town of
Kaufman now stands and initially established a fort.
Robert had been trained as a surveyor and
surveyed the area. In the process he
received land in payment for his survey work and in 1849 was said to
the second wealthiest man in Kaufman county.
He also found time to protect the new Republic of Texas. He
was sent to Mexico by Sam Houston to spy on
Santa Anna and apparently had many narrow escapes.
In 1844 he built a crude log cabin with a
dirt floor on the land he had located for himself in what is now the
Terrell. A year later he built a more
substantial cabin with a puncheon floor.
He married in 1846 and he and his wife Emily raised seven
children. He farmed there until his death
in 1881 at
the age of sixty one. An extract from
his eulogy read:
“Robert Terrell was known by every old
Texan from the Sabine to the Rio Grande. He served his country
always and not only his country but his church and his God.”
William Tyrrell in Toronto. There is a plaque on the house where William Tyrrell lived on 64 King Street in Weston in the outskirts of Toronto. It reads as follows:
building was the home of William Tyrrell for twenty seven years (from
1878). He served on the councils of the
township of York and in 1881 became the first reeve of the town of
Weston. Two of his sons, William Burr
Joseph Tyrrell, were surveyors and explored most of the west and
northwest territories. William Tyrrell
built many mills and bridges,
engineered sewer and water lines and taught apprentices in construction. An outstanding man of his age.”
Reader Feedback – Joseph Burr Tyrrell. Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1858 – 1957), the third child of William Tyrrell, was engaged by the Canadian Geographical Society to explore and document mineral deposits in Western Canada.
In 1884, while canoeing down the Red Deer river in Alberta, he discovered a large
fossilized skull protruding from the river’s cliff face. He had
discovered the first of 26 Albertosaurus fossils (a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex)
at what became one of the richest dinosaur finds in North America.
Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta – Canada’s foremost
research facility – was built and named in his honor in 1985.
Jim Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Sir Walter Tyrrell came with William the Conqueror to England in 1066 and was the progenitor of the English and Irish Tyrrells.
- Sir John Tyrrell was Speaker of the House of Commons in the early 1400’s.
- Captain Richard Tyrrell of Westmeath was regaled in
song after his victory over the English at the Battle of Tyrrell’s Pass in 1597.
- William Terrell of Virginia married Susannah Waters in the 1680’s and was the forebear of many of the Terrells in America today.
- Joseph M. Terrell was the Governor of Georgia from 1902 to 1907.
- Ernie Terrell was the WBA heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1965 to 1967. He was the older brother of Jean Terrell, the lead singer of The Supremes after Diana Ross left in 1970.
Select Tyrrell/Terrell Numbers Today
- 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)
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