PARRY-L ArchivesArchiver > PARRY > 2005-07 > 1121270369
From: "Barbara Griffiths" <>
Subject: Re: [PARRY] Speculation on PARRY surname distribution
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 16:59:29 +0100
> As an Anglesey Parry, now supplying 6 (~1%) of the 576 Parrys in Kent via
> Flintshire, I could certainly subscribe to the above point of view :-)
Thanks for your comments, Nigel. I wondered what any Anglesey Parrys would make
of that suggestion!
The origins of the name is something that I have been struggling to make some
sensible comments about for a while now (yet another half written web page!).
It is too easy to churn out the "Welsh, from son of Harry" account and leave it
at that. Although I am sure that is largely correct, if that was all there was
to it, then one might expect the name to be evenly spread - there has to be some
explanation for the concentrations of the name.
> A couple of thoughts occurred to me on the frequency of the forename Harry
> in Wales:
> 1). Is it possible that there was a Welsh forename Harry/Harri that
> existed independently of the name Henry from which it supposedly derives?
I haven't come across any suggestion of there being an independent Welsh name
Harry/Harri. The Rowlands certainly include Henry in the list of Norman names
which became popular during the medieval times and which effectively pushed out
most of the Welsh names.
Reaney (an often quoted authority on surnames), gives some examples with dates,
then states "OFR Henri, OG Haimric, Henric 'home-rule', after the Conquest one
of the most popular Norman names. The English form was Herry or Harry, with
pet-forms Henn, Hann and diminutives Henkin, Hankin, Henriot, and a pet-form Hal
which may survive in Hawkins" so he also equates it with the Normans.
(I thought that "home rule" was interesting as a meaning, especially if it
became popular after the conquest. Did it just become popular because the
Normans liked it - or were the Welsh trying to tell them something!)
(A couple of online baby name sites say "ruler of the home", which could have a
different connotation. But they also agree it is Germanic in origin).
Going back to Reaney, we tend to think of Harry as a "pet form" of Henry, with
totally different pronunciations, but I wonder whether that was the case in
medieval times. Under Harry, Reaney states that it was the "regular
pronunciation" of Henry in the Middle Ages (although rarely found in documents,
where it is in its Latin form Henricus). I have come across instances of the
Herefordshire sheriff, John ap Harry (of the Poston Parrys) being referred to as
"ap Herry" around 1400 so that confirms that as a possible spelling (although I
am aware of possible circular arguments here - Reaney's conclusions could be
derived from"evidence" like that in the first place, so it would not then be
valid to say the occurrence of "ap Herry" proves Reaney is right!).
A Bloomsbury book of first names refers Harry to Henry and under Henry again
indicates a german origin meaning home-rule, brought to England by the Normans
in the French form Henri and "the French pronunciation is reflected in Harry,
which was the normal English form of the name until the seventeenth century".
So again, there is this issue of how the word was actually pronounced (Was
Norman french pronounced the way we learn in french at school these days?).
> I ask this because (i) although the Welsh surname Penry (ap Henry) occurs
> in its own right, it is fairly rare, and (ii) of the eight kings of
> England called Henry, only those closely associated with Wales (V, VII &
> VIII) seem to have been nicknamed Harry. Against this, of course, is the
> number of Harrises and Harrisons in England.
I have also noted the lower frequency of Penry - but I would suggest (given the
above re ponunciation) that it is due to the name being pronounced Harry and,
by the time surnames were used sufficiently in written documents, it had lost
its original derivation from Henry and was just written as pronounced. (but I
could be wrong - research is really needed on the Penry versions as well).
I think all ideas are worth bearing in mind. I hadn't realised about the
nicknames of those King Henrys most associated with Wales, although my own
theory (also speculation really, since I don't yet have any evidence) does
relate to the kings and their various relatives. I had realised that Henry V
was born in Monmouth but, looking at information about Grosmont castle (at
http://www.castlewales.com/grosmnt.html) earlier Henry's in the plantagenet
family also had specific dealings with that area. There seems to have been
quite an effort by the Normans to establish themselves along the north
Monmouthshire/Herefordshire/Breconshire border and then into Breconshire (I
gather Herefordshire has one of the highest concentrations of motte & bailey
castles) - and there seems to be a difference between that area and
Glamorganshire (the two Norman lords of these areas seem to have been fighting
each other as much as the Welsh).
I also find it interesting that the name Blanche occurs quite often as a women's
name in that border area - many people comment on Blanch Parry, the maidservant
of Queen Elizabeth and how other members of the Parry family were then named
after her - but I suspect that the name occurred in the area long before then.
The wife of John of Gaunt was Blanch, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, descendant
of Henry III. (and there was an earlier Blanch, grandmother of Henry of
So it seems to me possible, given what I think is a raised incidence in the area
of these two names which were connected to the Plantagenets, that perhaps the
raised incidence of PARRY in the Breconshire area is actually due to this much
But wasn't it yet another Plantagenet, Edward I, who was responsible for all
those castles in north Wales, including Beaumaris on Anglesey. He established
English towns there, didn't he? I know his son was called Edward, but his
father was Henry and it was Edward's brother Edmund whose son Henry was then the
father of Henry of Grosmont.
So I have this idea in my head that the popularity of the name initially could
have something to do with them, and the English influence in Wales around 1300.
> 2). Did the accession of Henry Tudor to the English throne result in a
> rash of Anglesey babies being named Harry in honour of a local (Pentraeth)
> boy made good? As some fixation of surnames in Wales after the English
> fashion started in the sixteenth century, this could explain why Anglesey
> looks like a Parry epicentre.
Yes, I agree that the emphasis, by the Tudors, of their Welsh descent could also
have something to do with it. And that would be the correct generation to then
have fathers called Harry, when Henry VIII's Act of Union encouraged the Welsh
to conform to the English style of surnames (1536).
Amongst my general searching, I noticed a statement that, across North Wales,
place names were frequently adopted as surnames - that again would perhaps
indicate a much stronger English influence there. And might help explain why
the surname actually settled as PARRY, as opposed to carrying on the Welsh
patronymic system but just dropping the "ap (which would have resulted
eventually with more people being surnamed HARRY).
The problem of course is proving it all!
Since parish registers, at the earliest, relate to the 1500s (and most are a lot
later), these sorts of questions will involving examining other sorts of
records, such as taxes. A lot more of that is becoming available now so,
perhaps one day, we'll be able to establish how common Harry was in the various
areas, at various times. We'll also need to establish when the "ap" system
ceased in a particular area (which is not the same as when the patronymic system
Plenty of food for thought.
|Re: [PARRY] Speculation on PARRY surname distribution by "Barbara Griffiths" <>|