Wright Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Wright Meaning
Wright comes from the Old English wryhta, meaning a
craftsman, and usually described a maker or user of machinery.
The name in
England could have a Norman heritage, from John Wryta of Bayeux whose
was expert in the manufacture of wooden and metallic articles and in
weapons of
war and whose sons may have accompanied William the Conqueror to
England in
Wright existed as an occupational name in its own right, or in
such as Cartwright and Wainwright. Wright was a more generic name
in the
north of England, taking over trades such as carpenters which appeared
as their
own surname in the south. Thus Thomas Wright who worked on the
roof of
Berwick castle in 1324 was by trade a carpenter..

Wright Resources on

Select Wright Ancestry

England. Some of the early Wrights were from Essex in the
southeast of England. They

  • a
    Le Wright family which was recorded in Hornchurch Priory documents in
    the late
    14th century. Sir Henry Wright of this family built Dagnam Park
    nearby in
    the 1660’s.
  • the Rev. Henry Wright who lived in South Weald in the
    From his line came John Wright who purchased Kelvedon Hall near
    Brentwood in
    1538. His descendants were to live there for nearly four hundred
    years. They stayed Catholic well into the 18th century.
  • while Nathan Wright, a
    merchant in London,
    in 1648 another Catholic house in Essex, Cranham Hall at Bishop’s

the Norfolk Wrights, said to have been a prosperous family of flock
(sheep farmers), acquired Kilverstone Hall near Thetford in 1588 and
built for
themselves a fine new manor house there.
Robert Wright married Joan Finse
at Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire in 1562. Wrights have
continued to live in Wheathampstead since that

John Wright was a steward to Henry VIII in Kent and bought
Plowland Hall in north Yorkshire in the 1530’s. His family was Catholic
and remained so. Two of its later
members, John and Kit Wright, were involved in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. A branch of the family
moved to
Bolton-le-Swale near Darlington
. There were later some other Wright
in Yorkshire and the northeast.

distribution showed the Wright name strongest on the east coast of
England, in
a line running south from Durham through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and
Anglia to Essex and London. This eastward bias comes out in the 1891 census.

The Wright name moved north
across the border and Wrights were recorded as far north as
Those from the Highland clan named McIntyre (meaning “son of the
wright”) sometimes anglicized their name to Wright to hide their
Highland origins.

Other than Aberdeen,
however, Wright has been very much a Border and Lowland name. The
appeared as early as 1296 when
Wright of Stirling and Thomas Wright of
Blakenhall in Lanarkshire rendered homage to Edward I of England in the
Ragman’s Roll.
It later was evident in Berwickshire.

Ireland. Some Scots Wrights
migrated to Ireland in the 17th century, settling primarily in
Captain John Wright from Yorkshire was with Cromwell’s army in 1649 and
granted lands in county Monaghan.

America. John Wright, a Puritan, came to New England from
Kent with the Winthrop expedition of 1630 and settled in Woburn,
Massachusetts. A
number of the other early Wright arrivals were from the Wrights of
Kelvedon Hatch
in Essex:

  • Thomas Wright came sometime in the 1630’s and settled in
    Wethersfield, Connecticut by 1639. Grandson
    Samuel, a sea captain, later moved his family to Lenox, Massachusetts. His line was covered in Gertrude Wright
    Ketcham’s 1913 book History of the Wright
  • Samuel Wright was there by 1636 and he settled in
    Massachusetts. A descendant, Dan Wright,
    fought in the Revolutionary War and moved to Vermont and later to Ohio. It was from this line, via the Rev. Milton
    Wright of the United Brethren Church, that the aviation pioneers Wilbur
    Orville Wright came.
  • while others of the line were also believed to have
    arrived by

Some early Wrights
were from the Kilverstone line in Norfolk.
Three Wright
brothers – Anthony, Peter, and Nicholas – came in the 1630’s and
first made their home at Sandwich on Cape Cod:

  • it was said that Peter united the Kilversone and Kelvedon lines
    by marrying Alice Wright in 1637. Their grandson Peter moved to
    Covington, Virginia in the 1740’s where he became renowned as a famous
    hunter and backwoodsman (he is commemorated by Peter’s Mountain there).
  • meanwhile Peter and his brothers had become Quakers and settled
    on Oyster Bay in Long Island in the 1650’s. Anthony died
    childless. Nicholas and his wife Ann raised nine children

other Wright Quakers, none more notable than James Wright, a Quaker minister first recorded in
Chester county,
Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s. He
moved with his family to the Quaker Hopewell community in the
Shenandoah valley
of Virginia in the 1730’s.

His son John Wright headed to another Quaker community in Bush
river, South Carolina in the 1760’s.
There were later family migrations to Tennessee, Ohio, and
Indiana. One line settled at Russiaville
in Howard
county, Indiana where there was a Wright family reunion in 1908.

Nathaniel Wright immigrated to Maryland from England in 1673 and
settled in Queen Anne county. His descendant Robert Wright, who
grew up on the Blakeford estate there, was Maryland Senator in 1801 and
three times Governor of Maryland. At Blakeford he was a breeder
of racehorses and fine cattle.

Canada. In the winter of 1800 Philemon Wright,
a descendant of John Wright of Woburn, led a party across frozen fields
and rivers from Massachusetts to the Ottawa valley in Canada.
They were the first permanent settlers in that region.


Wright Miscellany

The Wrights and the Gunpowder Plot.  Sometime
in the 1530’s John Wright of Kent, a steward to
Henry VIII, moved to Holderness in the North Riding of Yorkshire and
started to
acquire land there.  He and his wife
Alice made their home at Plowland Hall.
It is significant that John Wright was Catholic.
His will of 1540 made mention of a number of
well-known recusant families in the Yorkshire area.

Robert, his son and heir,
eventually became Sheriff of Yorkshire and was granted a coat of arms.  He reached this position despite being
Catholic.  His second wife Ursula was in
fact was incarcerated for a total of fourteen years, chiefly in Hull
prison and
with a number of other recusant wives.

The Catholic faith extended to the next
generation.  John Wright was described as
one of the finest swordsmen of his day, but was hot-headed.  He had formed part of the entourage of the
Earl of Essex along with his friend Robert Catesby and, after the
uprising in 1601, had spent time in solitary confinement for his crime.  He was one of Robert Catesby’s first recruits
for the Gunpowder Plot.  His younger
brother Kit was later brought into the plotting.

After the failure, the
conspirators escaped north from London, eventually holing up in a house
Staffordshire.  There, after a series of
skirmishes, Catesby and the Wright brothers lay dead.
The Wright line in north Yorkshire continued
through their half-brother William.

Wright Estates in the Northeast

Date Wright Estate Location
1535 John Wright Plowland Hall Holderness, Yorkshire
1601 Rev.Francis Wright Bolton-le-Swale nearRichmond, Yorkshire
1771 Richard Wright Bradbury Sedgefield, Northumberland
1851 SirWilliam Wright Sigglesthorne Hall near Hull, Yorkshire
1869 Samuel Wright Brattleby Hall Brattleby, Lincolnshire

James Wright, Drunk in Wheathampstead.  One day
in 1838 James Wright, extremely inebriated, sat in his cottage armed with a pig
knife and threatened to do dreadful things.
His daughter, fearing the worst, ran out onto the common and
sought the
assistance of a clergyman who was passing by in his carriage.  The Reverend, who was the curate of
Wheathampstead, went to assist and was injured by the knife.

Up before the
Hertfordshire magistrate, James Wright was sentenced to 15
years transportation.  He
did spent some time in Hertford jail.
But sanity prevailed.  Following a
recommendation from the prison surgeon, he was pardoned – because of
his age
(he was 72 years old!) and because of his poor health.

Wrights in the 1891 Census

Wrights (000’s) Numbers Percent
Durham     3     3
Yorkshire    13    14
Lancashire    12    13
Lincolnshire     3     3
East Anglia    10    10
London    14    14
Elsewhere    42    43
Total   100   100

James Wright the Quaker.  The Wright name was well-known along frontier settlements in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia in the early 1700’s.  Perhaps the best-known and most recounted of these Wrights at that time was the Quaker minister James Wright.

was said to have come to Pennsylvania with
Penn’s fleet in 1682, although that may have been too early a date.  The Quaker community at East Nottingham in
Chester county was not formed until 1702 and James Wright was first
there in 1716.

1735 James Wright moved with his family to the Opeckon settlement in
the Shenandoah valley in Virginia.  This
colony was situated along what was known as the Great Wagon Road, the
road that
wound its way through the Shenandoah valley into the Carolinas.  James Wright was an elder at the Quaker
Hopewell monthly meetings there.  He was
described as follows:

“A sober honest
man, grave in manners, and solid and weighty in his conversationsHe was diligent in the attendance
of religious meetings, exemplary in humble waiting therein, and of a
sound mind
and judgment.  He was cautious of giving
just offence to any one and was earnestly concerned for the unity of
brethren and the peace of the church.”

to show more concern about matters of the church than about his own
affairs and
landholding (which remained relatively modest).

was an old man by the time
the French and Indian War broke out in the 1750’s.
Wave after wave of
well-armed Indian warriors came into the Shenandoah valley,
massacring men, women and children in their way.  In
1759 the Quaker colony where the Wrights lived was attacked.  Some reports had James and his wife Mary
fleeing their home for sanctuary elsewhere; others had them being
killed and
scalped during the attack.  In any event
Wright was dead by the end of the year.

afterwards, his son John Wright and wife and children, in frustration
and in grief,
moved to the Quaker colony in Bush river, South Carolina. 

Philemon Wright’s Trek to Canada.  Philemon Wright was a descendant of the Puritan John Wright who had come with Winthrop’s party in
1630 and settled in Woburn, Massachusetts.

In the winter of 1800, he set out from
Woburn by sleigh with his brother Thomas, Elijah Allen,
and Solomon Childs, Daniel Wyman, Henry Kendrick, Harvey Parker,
Hadley and Joel Adams, their women and children and enough household
goods and
tools to take up life in the wilderness.
They had in fact left Woburn in February so that they
could take
advantage of the frozen rivers where no roads existed.

Progress was slow as it was necessary that
men should go ahead with axes to try the strength of the river ice over
the party would be travelling; the fear being that the loss of animals
and a
sleigh with all its valuable load of humans and settlers’ effects would
disastrous in the extreme.

eventually came to the north side of the Ottawa river.
Wrightstown, now part of the new city of
Gatineau, was chosen as a better locale than the south side of the
river. The
portage route past the Chaudiere Falls was better on the north side as
was more sun and a longer stretch of favorable shoreline.

arrived Philemon Wright established his
Utopian agricultural settlement.  His
group comprised the first permanent settlers in the Ottawa area.  They received the land grants to what became
Hull township in 1802.


Select Wright Names

  • Edward Wright was a noted English mathematician and cartographer of the 16th century.
  • John Wright was the London bookseller who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623.
  • Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers, were the first to fly in 1903.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright was the renowned American architect.
  • Richard Wright was the African American writer of controversial novels dealing with racial themes.
  • Billy Wright was the English football captain in the 1950’s.
Select Wright Numbers Today
  • 171,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 163,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 96,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Wright and Like Surnames  

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.




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